“Pay Attention” – Hebrews 2:1-4

July 22nd, 2018

Hebrews 2:1-4

“Pay Attention”

Aux. Text: Proverbs 4:20-27

Call to Worship: Psalm 121

Service OrientationThe FWS (Fallen World Syndrome) encourages us to drift from faith in Christ.  Pay attention and use the resources God provides to not drift.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  —Hebrews 2:1-4

 

If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you’d better wake up and pay attention. —  Sister Act II

 

Background Information:

  • The opening verses of Hebrews 2 contain the first of five major warnings interspersed throughout the book–often, as here, in the middle of a discourse on one of the superiorities of Christ. It is as if the writer could only go so far without stopping to make an appeal:  “Now what are you going to do about this?”  We can know all the truth there is to know about Jesus Christ and yet go to hell if we never make Him our own–by being made His own.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 41)
  • The author establishes the unquestionable superiority of the Son to execute his first exhortation, found in 2:1-4, which consists of an “argument from lesser to greater.” This method of argumentation, often used by the rabbis, held if something is true in a lesser situation, it certainly is true in a greater, or more important, situation.  Having established Christ’s superiority to the angels, the preacher proceeds to argue in 2:1-4:  those who rejected the revelation given through the angels were severely punished; since the son is greater than the angels, it follows that those who reject the revelation given through him deserve even greater punishment.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 72)
  • (v. 1) The word “Therefore,” frequently used in the letter, introduces a fresh stage in the argument and clearly reflects on the teaching which has gone before. This parenthesis deals with the gospel of God.  It is the logical outcome of the author’s insistence on the superiority of Christ.  If Christ is all that this letter so clearly asserts, then it is essential for us to hold to his gospel.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 46)
  • (v. 1) The Greek verb used here has several pictorial or allegorical implications. One, “slipping away,” is like evaporation.  Give insufficient heed with one’s mind to the gospel and it will simply vanish into the air.  The process is not dramatic, nor sudden; rather, it is insidious and quiet. The shock comes when one returns to use the faith in a time of need and finds it has evaporated with neglect.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 66)
  • (v. 1) A look at some of the Greek words in 2:1 will help in understanding all four of the opening verses. The two key words are prosechō  (“to give attention to”) and pararhe  (“to let slip”).  With its modifier, prosechō is translated pay much closer attention to and is emphatic.  In other words, on the basis of who Christ is, we must give careful attention to what we have heard about Him.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 43)
  • (v. 1) But both of these words also have nautical connotations. Prosechō  means to moor a ship, to tie it up.  Pararheō can be used of a ship that has been allowed to drift past the harbor because a sailor forgot to attend to the steerage or to properly chart the wind, tides, and current.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 44)
  • (v. 1) The picture is not of an ignorant sailor, or a wantonly rebellious sailor, but of a careless sailor. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 44)
  • (v. 1) The word [drift away] describes the fate of a boat that has slipped its moorings during the night and has disappeared. The owner comes to the dock, fully expecting his boat to be ready for use, and finds nothing.  The post or cleat to which it was tied is still there; the area is deserted and quiet; as far as the eye can see there is absolutely no evidence of the boat or what became of it.  It simply drifted away in a flowing tide because its mooring lines had been carelessly tied.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 67)
  • (v. 2) In 2:1-4 and more broadly in Hebrews, the author often associates disobedience with an unwillingness to listen to God’s voice (e.g., 2:1; 3:7-19; 12:25). (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 84)
  • (v. 2) This verse sets out a most important principle in connection with the governmental dealings of God: that principle is that the Judge of all the earth will be absolutely just in His dealings with the wicked.  Though the direct reference be to His administration of the Law’s penalty in the past, yet, inasmuch as He changes not, it is strictly applicable to the great assize in the Day to come.  There will be degrees of punishment, and those degrees, the sentence meted out to each rebel against God, will be on this basis, that every transgression and disobedience shall receive “a just recompense of reward.”  In brief, we may say that punishment will be graded according to light and opportunity (Mt 11:20-24; Lk 12:47, 48), according to the nature of the sins committed (Jn 19:11; Mk 12:38-40; Heb 10:29), according to the number of the sins committed (Rom 2:6, etc.).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 86)
  • (v. 3) The Greek word here rendered “neglect” (ignore- NIV) is translated “made light of” in Mt 22:5. In this latter passage the reference is to the King making a marriage for His Son, and then sending forth his servants to call them which were bidden to the wedding.  But they “made light of” the King’s gracious overtures and “went their ways, one to his family, another to his merchandise.”  The parable sets forth the very sin against which the apostle was here warning the Hebrews, namely, failure to give earnest heed to the things which were spoken by the Lord, and neglecting His great salvation.  To “neglect” the Gospel, is to remain inattentive and unbelieving.  How, then, asks the apostle, shall such “escape?”  “Escape” what?  Why, the “damnation of Hell” (Mt 23:33)!  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 89)
  • (v. 3) Amelesantes, the word rendered “ignore,” is a participle appropriately translated with conditional force in the NIV. It means to neglect through apathy or not to care enough about something (1 Tm 4:14).  The word could be used of a doctor or government official who, having made a public commitment, defaulted on that commitment.  Thus, those who care so little about the word of salvation that they neglect it will find no escape from the punishment they deserve.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 85)
  • (v. 3) What is the nature of the “punishment” implied in verse 3? What would be “just” (v. 2) for one who is drifting?  Does this mean punishment in the sense of discipline for a person who still belongs to God, or is it the punishment of excommunication, or is it the punishment for an unbeliever who has never known Christ?  As we consider the other warning passages in Hebrews later in this commentary, we find that the author is notoriously ambiguous in dealing with certain issues.  My point for now, however, is to suggest that we be careful not to press our applications beyond the principles clearly revealed in the passage.  In our process of application, it is tempting to say more, or less, than a given passage warrants.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 88)
  • (v. 3) Neither the author nor the recipients of Hebrews had directly heard Jesus preach the message of salvation; they were “second generation” Christians, having received that word from “those who heard him.” The word “confirm” carries the sense of firm assurance or guarantee.  Thus, although the author and his hearers had not heard the message of salvation from the mouth of Jesus himself, it was something they could count on absolutely.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 85)
  • (v. 3) The verb “confirm” (bebaioō) is used as a legal technical term “to designate properly guaranteed security” and in this context means “the saving message was guaranteed to us” (BAG, 138). Its frequent use in a legal sense gives it great force here; i.e., there cannot be the slightest doubt about the salvation offered.  It came through Christ and that this is the salvation Christ offered is guaranteed by its apostolic attestation.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 22)
  • Those to whom this letter is addressed are evidently not far from losing their right to be acknowledged as authentic Christians because of a loss of nerve, a failure of application, or, as Chrysostom puts it, a “willful negligence” in practicing the faith they profess. Hence the need for the admonitions repeatedly given in this epistle:  “we must pay attention. . . lest we drift away;” take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (3:12); “let us strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience. . . let us hold fast our confession” (4:11, 14); “you have become dull of hearing. . . you need some one to teach you again the principles of God’s word” (5:11, 12); “let us leave the elementary doctrines. . . and go on to maturity” (6:1); “do not throw away your confidence. . . you have need of endurance” 10:35, 36); “let us lay aside every weight. . . let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1); “lift up your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (12:12); “see that you do not refuse him who is speaking” (12:25); “do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings” (13:9).  Through sheer apathy they are in grave peril of drifting away from the essentials of the gospel.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 74)
  • We believe this warning is to those who have heard the gospel, know the facts about Jesus Christ, know that He died for them, that He desires to forgive their sins, that He can give them new life, but are not willing to confess Him as Lord and Savior. This surely is the most tragic category of people in existence.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 42)
  • In what follows, to the end of the chapter, we are shown the superiority of Christ over angels. This is affirmed in v. 4, and the proofs thereof are found in vv. 5 to 14.   These proofs are all drawn from the OT Scriptures, and the completeness and perfection of the demonstration thus afforded is evidenced by their being seven in number.  Thus, centuries before He appeared on earth, the Word of Truth bore witness to the surpassing excellency of Christ and His exaltation above all creatures.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 81)
  • As an analysis and summary of what these seven passages teach concerning the superiority of Christ over the angels, we may express it thus: (1) He has obtained a more excellent name than they vv. 4, 5.  (2) He will be worshiped by them as the Firstborn v. 6.  (3) He made them v. 7.  (4) He is the Divine throne-sitter vv. 8, 9.  (5) He is anointed above them v. 9.  (6) He is the Creator of the universe, immutable and eternal vv. 10-12.  (7) He has a higher place of honor vv. 13-14.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 81)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why does the writer of Hebrews interrupt his arguments about the superiority of Jesus?

 

Answer:  Because he wants his readers to never forget the significance of what he is telling his audience so they will pay attention and not drift away.

 

The argument in verses 2-4 goes as follows:

 

  • The OT law spoken by angels was binding on God’s people.
  • Those who rejected the law received just punishment.
  • Christ, God’s Son, is far above the angels (explained in chapter 1).
  • The message of salvation that Christ brought came from God and surpasses the message of the law, for it fulfills the law and brings true forgiveness.
  • Those who reject the gospel are indifferent to this great salvation, and therefore will receive even greater punishment. They have rejected the only way of salvation.
  • Those who are indifferent to the message of salvation will not escape punishment. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,17)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Drift

 

Second Law of thermodynamics:  Everything in the universe is going from order to chaos (except biology of course!).  Which means if you want to maintain the order, you must put energy into it.  Otherwise, it will drift into disorder or chaos.

 

How does Hebrews 2:1-4 encourage us to pay attention and not drift away?:

I-  If we were anchored to the Law spoken by angels, how much more should we be anchored to the Gospel ratified by the blood of the Son of God?  (Heb 2:2-3; see also: Mt 15:10; 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35; 11:31; 16:29-31; Acts 3:17-26; 2 Cor 3:13-16; Gal 3:24; Heb 10:28-29) 

 

Beware of trusting in an anchor that is on your own deck. — C. H. Spurgeon

 

A boat might drift and be carried downstream past safe harbor if the crew members neglect to watch their position.  Just as a boat can drift away, so a Christian can drift away from Christ.  These words encouraged the readers to pay more careful attention so as to not lose their bearings.  To what were they to pay attention?  “To what we have heard,” referring to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,15)

 

He now declares what he had before in view, by comparing Christ with angels, even to secure the highest authority to his doctrine.  For if the Law given through angels could not have been received with contempt, and if its transgression was visited with severe punishment, what is to happen, he asks, to the despisers of that gospel, which has the Son of God as its author, and was confirmed by so many miracles?  The import of the whole is this, that the higher the dignity of Christ is than that of angels, the more reverence is due to the Gospel than to the Law.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 51)

 

Punishment is always related to light.  The more light we have, the more severe our punishment.  Jesus was clear about this [Mt 11:20-24].  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 47)

 

It is more blameworthy to sin against love than against Law, to ignore God’s mercy than to break his Law.  There is no escape if we ignore such a great salvation!  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 52)

 

The principle is this:  the more you know, the greater the punishment for not abiding by what you know.  Tyre and Sidon were terribly guilty of unbelief and disobedience, and throughout Scripture Sodom and Gomorrah typify gross ungodliness and immorality.  But none of these were as guilty as Capernaum or Bethsaida or Chorazin, because these three not only had the light of the OT, but the very light of God’s Messiah Himself.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 48)

 

Trifle not, therefore, with that salvation which cost Christ so much, and which He Himself brings to you with bleeding hands.  If you have until now trifled with it, and let it slip, may you now be brought to a better mind, lest by some chance, despising Christ, the “just penalty” should come upon you.  And what will that be?  I know of no punishment that can be too severe for the man who treats with contempt the Son of God, and tramples on His blood.  Every individual who hears the gospel, and yet does not receive Christ as his Savior, is committing that atrocious crime.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 25)

 

In this verse the author reminds us that we have been given a portrait of Christ’s eminence and greatness and, therefore, ought to listen to what he says.  For the higher a person stands in rank, the greater authority he exerts, and the more he demands the listener’s attention.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 56)

 

The angels mediated the Law, but Jesus was more than a mediator of the gospel.  He was the divine Son, but he was also the incarnate Son, which makes his communication infinitely superior to that of the angels.  “The good news of salvation, then, derives from the Lord, whose mediatorship is absolutely other than that of angels.”  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time” (1 Tm 2:5, 6).  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 51)

 

The initial venture into the mysteries of Christ will leave us exhilarated.  But with the repeated journeys, some become bored tourists.  Granted, some find joy in their familiarity with the mysteries of Christ.  But familiarity has both danger and its reward.  It depends on us.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 49)

 

The writer states the common teaching of contemporary Judaism and of the NT that the angels mediated the giving of the Law.  For example, Stephen, in his famous sermon, referred to Moses as being “with our fathers and with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai; and he received living words to pass on to us” (Acts 7:38; cf. 7:53; Gal 3:19).  In the midst of all the fire and lightning on Sinai, God the Father spoke through an honored angel who in turn dictated to Moses.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 50)

 

Christians neglect their anchor–Christ–and begin to quietly drift away.  There is no friction, no dramatic sense of departure.  But when the winds of trouble come, the things of Christ are left far behind, even out of sight.  The writer of Revelation uses different language, but refers to the same thing when he says to the ostensibly healthy Ephesian church, “Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love” (Rv 2:4).  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 48)

 

The first reason we should pay attention is given in chapter 1.  It is Jesus Christ.  He is called the Son and Heir of all things and the Creator of the world (1:2).  He is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact representation of the divine nature, the sustainer of the universe, the purifier from sin, and the One who sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high (v. 3).  He is worshiped and served by angels (vv. 4-7).  He is anointed above all others, the Lord of creation, the unchangeable, everlasting God (vv. 8-12).

This is who Christ is.  Who could possibly reject Him?  What kind of person could reject that kind of Christ–the Christ who came into the world as God incarnate, died on a cross to forgive our sins, paid our penalty, showed us divine love, and offers to introduce us to God and give us blessing and joy beyond imagination?  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 43)

 

An angel is neither God nor man.  His service is, as we have seen (1:14), “for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation.”  But he is not qualified to redeem them.  The mediatorial qualification of the Son, however, is infinitely superior to that of the angels, for, as both God and man, he is uniquely qualified to effect reconciliation between God and mankind.  As God, the incarnate Son is supreme in power and grace, in contrast to the importance and resourcelessness of fallen mankind.  As man, the incarnate Son is able fully to identify himself with mankind, and in particular in man’s place to endure the divine punishment of sin on the cross, thus securing for mankind eternal redemption–a theme developed in this chapter and of major importance throughout the epistle.  In Christ mediatorship is raised to an eternal category, truly bridging the gulf between heaven and earth caused by man’s sinful rebellion against the sovereignty of his Creator. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 78)

 

II-  How can you ignore a message that has been verified by  signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit?  (Heb 2:4; see also: Mt 11:20-24; Jn 10:38; Acts 2:22; 3:1-10; 5:1-11; 8:13; 10:38; 11:23; 14:1-3; 15:27; 1 Cor ch12; ch 14; 2 Cor 12:12 ) 

 

There have always been a lot of false teachers around.  How can we know that these are true?”  So God bore His apostles witness by giving them the ability to do the same things that Jesus had done–signs, wonders, and miracles.  And they did indeed perform astounding miracles.  They raised the dead and healed many diseases and afflictions, and through these wonderful works God confirmed their ministry.  To argue with an apostle about the gospel, therefore, was to argue with God.  Their preaching and teaching was divine truth, substantiated by miraculous works.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 49)

 

He designates miracles, for the sake of amplifying their importance, by three names.  They are called signs, because they rouse men’s minds, that they may think of something higher than what appears; and wonders, because they present what is rare and unusual; and miracles, because the Lord shows in them a singular and an extraordinary evidence of his power.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 54-5)

 

The triple expression “signs, wonders and miracles” was used in early Christianity to speak of God’s activity among his people, accompanying the preaching of the gospel (e.g., Acts 2:22; Rom 15:19; 2 Cor 12:12).  God’s working of such powerful acts played a significant role in the apologetics of early Christian preachers (e.g., Acts 3:1-10; 14:3-11).  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 86)

 

“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”   —Tom Stowell

 

If we ever ignore the message concerning our redemption, it is impossible for us to escape God’s wrath and subsequent punishment.  The more precious the gift, the greater the penalty if it is ignored.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 58)

 

It does not matter whether we interpret the phrase according to his will as referring to the Holy Spirit or to God the Father.  The parallel verse, 1 Cor 12:11, says that the Spirit “gives them [the gifts] to each man, just as he determines.”  Ultimately God is the one who testifies to the veracity of his Word.  If we understand the words according to his will to include signs, wonders, and miracles, then God himself is the agent who used these divine powers “for the distinct purpose of sealing the truth of the Gospel.”  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 60)

 

Repeatedly the author warns the reader not to turn away from the living God (3:12) and writes that it is dreadful “to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31), “for our God is a consuming fire” (12:29).  Neglect of the Word of God does not appear to be a great sin; yet the writer, by contrasting this sin with the disobedience of people in the OT era, teaches that ignoring God’s Word is a most serous offense.  Because God has given us his full revelation in the Old and New Testaments, it is impossible for us to escape the consequences of disobedience or neglect.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 61)

 

It is best to take signs, wonders, and miracles as belonging together rather than as indicating three different forms of manifestation.  The three terms are found in combination again in Acts 2:22, where Peter draws his audience’s attention to the “mighty works and wonders and signs” with which Jesus was attested by God, and in 2 Cor 12:12, where Paul speaks of the “signs and wonders and mighty works” which indicated that he was a true apostle.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 80)

 

“Signs and wonders” is a common expression used in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to point to symbolic actions throughout history that were given to lead the people to truth about God’s power in the present and in the days to come.  Some of them include the great events of salvation history, the exodus event, the miracles of the prophets, Jesus’ healing and nature miracles, the powerful acts of the apostles and other members of the early church, and so on (see Dt 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 29:3; Jer 32:20-21; Dn 4:2; 6:27; Jn 4:48; Acts 2:22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 1 Cor 1:22).  (Earl S. Johnson; INTERPRETATION: Hebrews, 19)

 

We hear arrogant people proclaiming the present generation as the most intelligent in the history of mankind.  What nonsense!   This is a grievously ignorant age.  We cover ourselves with filth and pretend we are clean.  We murder the unborn by the millions and spend colossal sums of money trying to save a single infant from some devastating disease.  We treat morals as dung and filthy speech as if it were a world-class treasure.  We forbid the display of the law of God in public places and then groan because of the growing lack of morality.  We arrest a patriot for flying an oversize flag and make a national hero out of a profligate who burns the flag.  We teach and encourage our children to disregard the Ten Commandments and then pretend to be outraged against the evils that result.   We destroy the family and yet wish to be known as a caring society.  How long can we expect God to overlook our times of ignorance?  (Owen Roberts; Repentance, 215)

 

The testimony was dynamic.  “Signs” pointed beyond themselves to the mighty hand of God.  “Wonders” brought awe and amazement to those who saw.  “Miracles” (literally, “powers”) showed the power of God beyond human ability.  And “gifts of the Holy Spirit” were given according to God’s will.  These four things bore weighty testimony to the authenticity of the word of Christ and the confirming word of those who heard him.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 51-2)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who has spared no expense—to not only save you, but has given us more than ample evidence and verification of the validity of the Gospel.

 

Whatever we get bored with, we perceive as smaller than us.  (Peter Kreft lecture “The Mystery of the Sea”)

 

To worship God is also to bow before his absolute, ultimate authority.  We adore not only his power, but also his holy word.  Psalm 19 praises God first for revealing himself in his mighty acts of creation and providence (vv. 1-6) and then for the perfection of his law (vv. 7-11).  When we enter his presence, overwhelmed by his majesty and power, how can we ignore what he is saying to us?  So, in worship we hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures (see Acts 15:21; 1 Tm 4:13; Col 4:16; 1 Thess 5:27; Acts 20:7; 2 Tm 4:2).  God wants us to be doers of that word, not hearers only (Rom 2:13; Jam 1:22-25; 4:11).  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 4)

 

Consider what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well:  “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship.”  Another translation says, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know.”  The Samaritans were worshiping God out of a lack of knowledge.  And when you worship out of ignorance, worship is empty.  God doesn’t just want you to worship Him; He wants you to know why you worship Him.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 102-3)

 

Now we must not worship without study, for ignorant worship is of limited value and can be very dangerous.  We may develop “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:1-2) and do great harm to ourselves and others.  But worship must be added to study to complete the renewal of our mind through a willing absorption in the radiant person who is worthy of all praise.  Study without worship is also dangerous, and the people of Jesus constantly suffer from its effects, especially in academic settings.  To handle the things of God without worship is always to falsify them.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 362-3)

 

Worship often degenerated into celebrating the believer’s dedication to God.  After a while you wake up and say, “Hey, what are we celebrating here?  Not my dedication.  We’re celebrating the work of Christ!” (Robert E. Webber; Worship is a Verb, 30)

 

Gospel Application:  The better we know and the more often we recall the Gospel, the more secure we can be in our salvation (Heb 6:11; 2 Pt 1:10).   Never forget to remember what Jesus has done for you.

 

“To know the value of an anchor you must feel the stress of the storm.”  (Bishop Kendall @  annual Conference 2009)

 

If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying! — Tim Keller

 

How could the young ruler understand his sinfulness if he completely misunderstood God’s law?  How can today’s sinners, who are totally ignorant of God’s holy law and its demands upon them, look at themselves as condemned sinners?  The idea of sin is strange because God’s law is foreign to their minds.  (Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel:  Authentic or Synthetic?, 37)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Stay true.  Stay focused.  Use the means of grace God has provided to not drift (worship, prayer, Bible study and/or memory, church, fasting, tithing, fellowship, etc.).  (Ps 17:5; 37:24, 31; 55:22; 56:13; 66:9; 73:2; 94:18; 116:8; 119:165; 121:3; 145:14;  Mt 13:1-23; Mk 4:15-19; Jam 1:22-23)

 

A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth.   (Ken Gire ; The Reflective Life, 105)

 

If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith. — Martin Luther

 

The careless heart is an easy prey to Satan in the hour of temptation; his principal batteries are raised against the heart; if he wins that, he wins all, for it commands the whole man:  and alas! how easy a conquest is a neglected heart!  It is not more difficult to surprise such a heart, than for an enemy to enter that city whose gates are opened and unguarded.  It is the watchful heart that discovers and suppresses the temptation before it comes to its strength.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 33)

 

We learn from Scripture that God will try and test our faith–because it is what makes it grow.  Faith grows with exercise, but decreases with neglect.  Satan will do all he can to keep us from faith.  Spiritual Warfare is always about Satan’s attempt to get us to doubt God and throw/cast off our confidence in Him.  That is Satan’s main job.  Satan’s attacks are always on our faith.  (Sharon Titus, “Spiritual Warfare 101″ study)

 

What is the answer for “What must I do to be lost?”  Well, the answer is nothing.  You and I belong to a lost human family.  We are not on trial.  I get a little weary of hearing that God has us on trial.  He doesn’t have us on trial; we are lost.  Today He is saving some–those who will turn to Christ. The rest are already lost.  You don’t do anything to be lost, because that is your natural condition.  (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: Hebrews 1-7, 35)

 

Remember that it is the devil’s ambition to rob us of God’s truth.  It is the Holy Spirit’s work to guide us into truth and bring this saving message constantly to our remembrance.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 47)

 

The greater number of sinners that are brought into such a church, the greater harm is done. Churches are sometimes ruined by revivals. A large number of “converts” are brought in who did not confess and forsake their sins but mistook the satisfaction they felt at making a move in the right direction for the witness of the Spirit. The great effort now is to keep these along until they become established members of the church. The preacher must “ prophesy smooth things,” the saints must be careful in their testimony; the very truth which these converts need to lead them out into the light must be suppressed; so the whole church backslides in order to nurture and encourage those who, at the first, were but partially awakened. If these converts become permanent members the worldly element gains control of the church.  If they give up, the church becomes discouraged, and its efforts to convert sinners, are feeble and spasmodic. (B.T. Roberts; Fishers Of Men, 76)

 

What a travesty to choose the early service because it won’t interfere with the next ten hours of hedonism.  Quick, get home from church, change, stuff the kids in the car, hoist in the cooler, shove in a Beach Boys tape, head for the beach, eat, watch the air show, eat, play a little football until someone gets banged up, eat, return home exhausted, and drift off into a brain-dead stupor, dreading Monday morning.  Praise the Lord!  (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 81)

 

Greater sins do sooner startle the soul, and awaken and rouse up the soul to repentance, than lesser sins do.  Little sins often slide into the soul, and breed, and work secretly and undiscernibly in the soul, till they come to be so strong, as to trample upon the soul, and to cut the throat of the soul.  There is oftentimes greatest danger to our bodies in the least diseases that hang upon us, because we are apt to make light of them, and to neglect the timely use of means for removing of them, till they are grown so strong that they prove mortal to us.  So there is most danger often in the least of sins. (Thomas Brooks; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 42)

 

Now  Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.  For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.  I know that by experience.  Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable:  but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.  This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway.  That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue:  unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with the beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.  Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change.  The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day.  That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life.  We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.  Nether this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind.  It must be fed.  And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument?  Do not most people simply drift away?  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 123-4)

 

The carelessness portrayed in the image of a boat that has slipped its moorings is so terribly costly.  The price for carefulness may at times seem burdensome and the resources scant.  But the mature Christian disciple, recognizing the long-range results of letting down, digs deep to find the resources for reaching the objective at hand.  Maturity is seeing the future results of present action and doing what is necessary to make it right, whether that means taking time or expending an extra bit of energy.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 68)

 

Two things are in view here.  First, all our attention must be focused on the supremacy of Christ:   prophetic, cosmic, Levitical, and angelic.  We need to work at this–turning from Christological passage to passage, meditating on him, asking questions, memorizing, and worshiping.  Lewis gave wise advice to a little girl:  “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you always do so.”

Second, paying closest attention to what we have heard means living in the revelation of God’s Word–and it always has.  We are all familiar with the great Shema which calls us to lovingly make God first:  “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  But we must also remember the words which follow:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates  (Dt 6:4-9).

These are crucial words and truths from which we must not drift!  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 53)

 

So What?: Your eternal destiny is at stake.  Don’t shillyshally regarding, or drift away from, such an important truth.  (Jn 3:16-18, 36; Mt 5:29-30; 25:46)

 

Signs on the Niagra river before the falls:  “Do you have an anchor?”  “Do you know how to use it?”

 

The eternal, spiritual consequences for rejecting or neglecting the Christian faith are severe, whether a person is a believer or not.  For unbelievers who completely reject Christ, the cost is eternal life itself (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:10-12).  For believers who embrace Christ but drift away from their allegiance to Him through neglect or rebellion, the cost is heavenly reward (1 Cor 3:13-15; 2 Cor 5:10).  The author of Hebrews primarily has the second category in mind–people who have professed faith in Christ but run the risk of neglecting their salvation.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 29)

 

If our listeners do not have a clear concept of the divine Word, then our teaching or preaching of this passage loses its rhetorical power.  This text cannot “speak” to them if they rest comfortably in a self-centered authority that judges all of life in light of one’s own self-actualization rather than according to the will and ways of God.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 87)

 

The book of Hebrews calls readers to pay attention to the truth they have heard so that they won’t drift away into false teachings.  How do Christians drift away?

  • We may become careless or complacent in our devotion to Christ.
  • We may backslide into sin we formerly had rejected.
  • We may compromise our morals and disobey Christ’s teaching.
  • We may neglect Christian service and thus become inactive Christians.

The currents of temptation pull strongly at Christians.  In order to resist, they must pay attention to Christ.  Listening to him means not merely hearing, but also obeying and taking action on what God calls us to do (see Jam 1:22-25).  We must listen carefully and be ready to carry out his instructions.  Don’t become a drifter. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,16)

 

How shall we escape?  This denies any way of deliverance.  No one can rescue us (see 1 Pt 4:17-18).  The punishment is certain, and this event of being punished will definitely take place.  It is an unavoidable evil.  So, how shall we escape?  We will not, there is no way out, and we do not have the ability to bear what we are liable to (Mt 23:33; 1 Pt 4:18).  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 34)

 

Some time ago a man said to me, “McGee, some day I am going to take up your offer and accept Christ.”  Right now, however, this man is drifting.  I don’t know how far along he is, but the day will come when he will be in the rapids, and then it will be too late–he will go over the falls.  He may have a heart attack or be in an accident, and his chance to receive Christ will be gone.  (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: Hebrews 1-7, 35)

 

The concern is for one’s attitude–the one who has let the greatness of Christ slip away–the one who no longer marvels at the atonement–the one who no longer has a desire for the Word–the one who really does not pray in his spirit–the one who is drifting back to where he came from and has little concern about his drifting.

To such, the writer says there is no escape from the terrible consequences.  In fact, if we think the consequences were stern for disregarding the Law, how much more catastrophic will the punishment be for ignoring the gospel?  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 52)

 

The drifting past the harbor had already begun for those Jewish Christians.  The winds of persecution and oppression were carrying them farther out to sea.  Someone had to shout out to them, to warn them to head back into port.  Then, as now, drifting away from God and his word can be such a slow, unnoticed process.  Like some tire with a leaky valve, faith can lose its air little by little till it is completely flat.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 15)

 

Such careful attention requires work, but this labor keeps believers from drifting away from Christ.  Too many people have a casual attitude toward Christian truth today.  Do we pay as close attention to Christian truth as we do to our stocks or the sports results?  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,15)

 

I fear the Dark Spectre may come too soon–

or do I mean, too late?

That I should end before I finish

or finish, but not well.

That I should stain your honor, shame your

name, grieve your loving heart.

Few, they tell me, finish well. . .

Lord, let me get home before dark.  –Robertson McQuilkin

 

During a visit to England, I gave an address at a meeting attended by the eminent historian Paul Johnson, author of Modern Times.  At the end of my talk, Johnson looked at me with his ruddy Irish face, and said, “I think the biggest problem facing the modern age is what to do about the doctrine of hell.  What do you think?”

I was taken aback; the question had nothing to do with my talk.  But as Johnson explained, I realized how right he was.  When the Church does not clearly teach the doctrine of hell, society loses an important anchor.  In a sense, hell gives meaning to our lives.  It tells us that the moral choices we make day by day have eternal significance; that our behavior has consequences lasting to eternity; that God Himself takes our choices seriously.

When people don’t believe in a final judgment, they don’t feel ultimately accountable for their actions.  There is no firm leash holding back sinful impulses.  As the book of Judges puts it, there is “no fear of God” in their hearts, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

The doctrine of hell is not just some dusty theological holdover from the Middle Ages.  It has significant social consequences.  Without a conviction of ultimate justice, people’s sense of moral obligation dissolves; social bonds are broken.

People who have no fear of God soon have no fear of man–no respect for human laws and authorities.   (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 21-2)

 

DON’T DRIFT FROM

JESUS

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