The Danger of Drifting Spiritually, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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26Feb  The Bible says in Hebrews 2:1-4, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”  The writer, as he is being guided by the Holy Spirit, is warning his readers about the danger of drifting spiritually.  Over the next three days, I want to look at what these verses teach us regarding this important topic.

I read recently that the Tour de France bicycle champion, Lance Armstrong, and his wife are divorcing.  The article stated that at this point, he does not have another woman in his life.  Rather, his many hours spent pursuing his bicycle career left no time for his marriage.  I would predict that 25 years from now, Armstrong will look back at his life and say, “I was a fool to sacrifice my family for my sport!”  But at this point, the fame and fortune are blinding him to the more satisfying value of a lasting, loving marriage and family relationship.

It’s easy in life to get caught up in matters that seem very important at the time, but in the light of eternity will shrink into oblivion.  Because we all have only so many hours in our day, our focus on these seemingly important matters also means that we neglect matters that are huge in light of eternity.  When these things nag at our consciences, as invariably they do, we justify our current priorities by saying, “Someday I will attend to these eternally important matters, but right now, I’m too busy.”  But such procrastination can be eternally fatal!

The one sure fact of life is death.  As George Bernard Shaw observed, “The statistics on death are quite impressive: one out of one people die!”  Since that is true, you would think that we all would live with a view of eternity, but we don’t.  Other pressing matters come up to divert our attention: “I’ve got to get through school.” “I’ve got to get established in my career.” “I’ve got to get the kids raised, and then I’ll have some time.” Many of these pressing matters are good and important, but they easily can crowd out the most important thing.  As a result . . .

Even we who know the truth of the gospel

Are always in danger of drifting spiritually.

The author of Hebrews spent the first chapter extolling the supremacy of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He does not mentioned a word of application or exhortation in the entire section.  But when he begins chapter 2, he pauses in his argument to apply what he has written.  Over the next three days we will be looking at the first of five warning sections in this letter.  These warnings are addressed to professing Christians who were in the church.  By using the first person plural pronoun, “we,” the author identifies himself with his readers.  He faced the same temptations that they faced.  He was not in an ivory tower, exempt from these pitfalls.  Like every faithful pastor, he was exhorting himself first, even as he exhorted his congregation.

The danger that he was confronting was this:

You are either drifting with regard to your salvation because of neglect,

Or you are growing because of deliberate effort and attention.

But nobody grows by accident.

The central thrust of this warning is:

Since we have encountered such a great salvation,

We must be careful not to drift away from it.

Today we will look at the first of three main points of verses 1-2.

  1. The salvation Christ offers is indescribably great.

He calls it “so great a salvation” (verse 3).  The writer gives us four reasons that this salvation is indescribably great.

  • Salvation is great because it is the one thing that every person needs more than anything else.

In church circles we toss around the word “salvation” so often that it loses its true meaning.  But verse 3 contains another word to alert us to the significance of the concept: “escape.”  An escape points to a situation of great peril.  You don’t need to be saved unless you are in grave danger of perishing.

Our soldiers in Iraq rescued Jessica Lynch from hostile enemies. They saved her so that she escaped further torture and perhaps death.  Outside of Jesus Christ, every sinner (that is, every person, since all have sinned) is under God’s just condemnation. Breaking God’s holy law incurs a just penalty (2:2), namely, eternal separation from God in hell.  The Bible reminds us in Romans 6:23,“The wages of sin is death.”  God’s wrath abides on the one who does not obey Jesus Christ (John 3:36).  As Jonathan Edwards pictured it in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” every sinner is like a spider dangling by a thread over a fire. Only God’s mercy keeps us from falling into the eternal flames.

Salvation does not mean, as one popular TV preacher put it,

“To be changed from a negative to a positive self-image.”

  • Salvation does not mean that Jesus helps you fulfill your dreams.
  • Salvation is not about Jesus improving your marriage or giving you peace and joy.
  • God’s salvation isn’t a nice thing to round out your otherwise successful and happy life.
  • Salvation is about Jesus rescuing you from the wrath to come!

And since every person is in imminent danger of facing that wrath, salvation is every person’s greatest need!

  • Salvation is great because it comes to us from none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

The “Therefore” in verse 1 points back to chapter 1, where the author has extolled the supremacy of Jesus, God’s eternal Son.

  • He is God’s final word to us, the heir of all things, and the creator of the universe.
  • He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.
  • He upholds all things by the word of His power.
  • He made purification for sins and now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:2-3).
  • He is far superior to the angels, who worship and serve Him (1:4-14).

Hebrews chapter 1 sets forth the doctrine of the exalted Person of Jesus Christ in relation to the Father and to the angels.  It is only after the author has set forth this doctrine that he gives this first exhortation.  Sound doctrine must always be the foundation for practical application.

And yet, we live in a day when many pastors are minimizing doctrine.  I’ve heard things like, “Doctrine is divisive.” Or, “People don’t need theology or biblical content. They  need to know how to get along in their marriages and how to deal with life’s problems.”

So pastors are giving sermons (if you could even call them that!) that are devoid of doctrine.  Frankly, many such sermons could easily appear in Reader’s Digest without much modification!

But the author of Hebrews wants us to see the connection between the great doctrines about Christ in chapter 1 and his exhortation in chapter two.  That is why he uses the word “therefore.”  Our salvation is indescribably great because it comes to us from none other than the eternal Son of God who left the Majesty on high to become the sacrifice for our sins.

He announced this good news during His earthly ministry (Hebrews 2:3).

His teaching shows us the way to be reconciled to God.

Having offered Himself for our sins and rising from the dead, He is now back at the right hand of God, awaiting the time when His enemies become His footstool (Hebrews 1:13).  How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!

  • Salvation is great because eyewitnesses confirmed it as true.

Salvation is only great if it is true.  If it’s just someone’s fanciful idea, with no factual basis, it may be nice, but it certainly isn’t worth suffering the loss of your property or shedding your blood for (Hebrews 10:34; 12:4).  This great salvation was not only “first began to be spoken by the Lord,” but also it “was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (2:3).  The point the writer is making is the gospel that Jesus proclaimed comes to us from those who directly witnessed His earthly ministry.

The gospel is not the best ideas of a bunch of religious philosophers speculating about how they think we can be reconciled to God. The gospel is a matter of revelation and historical fact.  Jesus really lived. His teaching and miracles are truthfully recorded

in the gospels. He died on the cross and was raised physically from the grave before He ascended bodily into heaven. Many eyewitnesses saw these things and recorded them for us. If they were fictional stories, those in that day who read these accounts would

have laughed the apostles out of town. But rather, these witnesses held to the truth about Jesus, even when cost them their lives.

  • Salvation is great because God Himself confirmed the message by miracles through the apostles.

God testifies through these witnesses “both by signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His will” (2:4).  The writer is referring to the miracles performed mostly by the apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts.  The terms, “signs, wonders, and miracles” are basically synonymous, but have different nuances.

Signs point to the fact that miracles have spiritual significance.  When a lame man is healed or a dead man is raised, it points to something beyond the bare fact.  These are pictures of how God powerfully acts to save souls.

Wonders emphasize the human response of awe and amazement when we witness God doing the humanly impossible.

Various (“manifold” or “many colored”) miracles (dynamis) focus on God’s power displayed in numerous ways.

Gifts [literally, distributions] of the Holy Spirit are given “according to His will.”  This emphasizes God’s sovereignty in bestowing spiritual gifts as He sees fit for His purposes (1 Corinthians 12:11).  As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12, not everyone has the same gifts, but as in the human body, so in the body of Christ each member has a vital function for the overall health of the body.

To sum up the first point:

Because every person desperately needs salvation,

Because it comes to us from none other than God’s exalted Son,

Because it was confirmed to us as true from those who were with Jesus,

Because God confirmed their testimony through miracles,

It is indescribably great.

Tomorrow we will continue looking at powerful truths from Hebrews 2:1-4.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

 Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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