Sermon: The Danger of Drifting (Hebrews 2:1-4)

The Danger of Drifting

Going to Bible College and Seminary was a great privilege.  It was the Lord’s will for me and my family.  While there we had many experiences and accomplishments through the Lord’s grace that have proven profitable to make us better prepared for ministry.  I also learned by experience what drifting is all about.

While away studying at seminary, there were times when I felt as if the Lord was miles away.  It seemed that the wonder of salvation and the person of Christ had been reduced to a theological argument rather than the wonder of the universe.  Reading my Bible became a requirement rather than a privilege.  Prayer was not effective.  Studying the Scriptures became cramming for a test.  However, given the setting the opposite should have been true.

One day while walking to class, the Lord hit me with the truth.  It was as if He said, what good is all this if in the end you have left your first love. During the next class, the professor thought I was listening to him but I was really listening to God.  At that moment, it was God’s will for me to tune the professor out and listen to the Lord.  I turned my Bible to the Book of Revelation.

Rev. 2:1-7 (ESV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

[2] ” ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.  [3] I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  [4] But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  [5] Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  [6] Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  [7] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

I had to do what the text said.  The sense of doing what this text said was so great that I felt if I didn’t do it immediately I was in grave danger.  So sitting in class I remembered and repented. I thought back to what things were like when salvation was new.  I remembered those wonderful times when I read the Scriptures and I felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit.  I remember writing things down as I read my Bible and how that my pen couldn’t keep up with my thoughts of the greatness of God.  I remembered.  Through the grace of God I remembered.  Rather than passing judgment on me, He showed me mercy.  Then I repented.  I repented for thirsting after grades more than I thirsted after the Lord.  I repented for the sin of neglecting the Lord and having idols in my life.  Seminary had become an idol.  I don’t remember much of the lecture that day, but I do remember the lecture the Lord gave me, one I pray I’ll never forget.

I had to learn to balance my workload to allow quality time with the Lord.  It took going through those times of drifting to understand what many people experience and what I will experience again if I neglect so great a salvation.  That day through the grace of God I caught Satan at his tricks.  His plan was to get me off track by convincing me that studying for seminary classes was the same as reading the Bible with wonder.  It’s not.  He will try to convince you that things you may be doing are just as good as time you might spend with the Lord.  Do not fall for his lies.  We all are in danger of drifting away.

Truth Taught: If you neglect so great a salvation, you will drift away.  

Hebrews 2:1-4 (ESV)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  [2] For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,  [3] how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,  [4] while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

1. Listen Closely (Hebrews 1:1)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

The writer of Hebrews wants us to see that the things we have heard are the truths of the Gospel.  The writer expressly pleads with the reader to not take the message of the Gospel for granted but to pay close attention to the truths of the Gospel.

The great puritan John Owen commenting on this verse wrote:

We are to consider the author of it, the matter of it, the weight of it, and the ends of it.

We must do more than listen; we must listen earnestly or closely.  The reason we must listen closely is because God, Himself is speaking to us about our condition and the remedy.  To turn a deaf ear to the message of the Gospel is to reap severe consequences in the form of judgment from God.

So many people are not listening.  So many people have devised their own gospel.  Many are trying to do good works in order to find God’s favor.  They think that doing good deeds and being a part of good causes will merit favor with God.  They are sincere and committed to what they are doing.  But their efforts are fruitless.

The fact is that everyone should continually be reminded that the Gospel has zero human works involved.  The danger comes from people not listening closely and drifting away.  The idea in the original language is that of a ship not making it to the dock of safety because of the current taking it a different route.  We must be earnest when it comes to the Gospel.  Just as the captain of a ship cannot rest until it is docked and tied down, a Christian cannot rest.  To take your eyes off Christ is to begin to drift.

Jude 1:3 (ESV)

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention. We have to be clear who the writer is addressing in this verse.  When he says we, he includes himself.  In other words, he is addressing the church and includes himself when he says we.  This is significant because it shows us the call is for Christians to pay close attention to the Gospel less we drift away from it into something else.

Often, we think that the Gospel is just useful for justification.  The writer wants us to see that it is a necessity for the Christian to mature.

Justification…Initially, we were saved from the penalty of sin.

Sanctification…Now we are being saved from the power of sin.

Glorification…Some day we will be saved from the presence of sin.

2. A Great Salvation (Hebrews 2:2-3a)

[2] For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,  [3] how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

The Pilgrim’s Progress

In these beginning words of Bunyan’s great masterpiece, we see Christian with a book in his hand and a burden on his back.  It was the Book in his hand that gave him the burden on his back.  As Christian read the law of God he was overtaken by fear of his destruction.  He is a very good example of what Paul taught when he wrote about the Law of God.
Romans 3:20 (ESV)
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
The Law of God could only condemn.
Deut. 27:26 (ESV)
” ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
When we set ourselves up against the perfection of God’s Law and understand that to break one little part is to be guilty of breaking all of it, we must cry out with the apostle,
Romans 7:24 (ESV)
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Everyone in the OT who broke God’s Law received a justified punishment.
Moses was up on Mount Sinai to receive the Law of God.  An angel delivered the Law to Moses.  The writer of Hebrews is arguing that the law delivered to Moses was done so by an angel.
Acts 7:38-39 (ESV)
This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.  [39] Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt,
This law proved true and trustworthy.
[2] For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,
His argument goes like this.  If the word spoken through angels proved true and binding and everyone who disobeyed it was justly punished, why would we think that we can escape punishment if we neglect the word delivered to us by God’s Son.
The old covenant came to us through angels.  The new covenant came to us through the Son.  He is far superior to the angels and so is His message.
The human need still remains the same.  Through out the centuries every human has needed to escape God’s judgment against sin.  This has never changed.  Today, it’s the same.  We need to find a way to escape the wrath of a just God.
[3] how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Every human must deal with this subject sooner or later.  How can I escape a righteous God’s just judgment?
That was Christian’s dilemma.  The Law of God had showed him his sin.  The Book in his hand had showed him the burden on his back.  There was no escaping the fact that he had to find an answer.
I want to ask you a question this morning.  What makes this salvation great?  It’s great on a number of levels.
– It’s great because of the greatness of the One who provided it.  Angels delivered the former but the Son of God and as we have already learned, His is superior to the angels.
-It’s great because it isn’t just a way to escape God’s wrath.  It is the way in which God becomes our Father.  Through the blood of Jesus Christ, not only is God’s wrath kept from us but His love is given to us.  The Gospel is the means by which enemies become friends.
-It’s great because it shows the greatness of God’s love and mercy.  God could have poured His wrath out upon us but instead He sent His Son.  Can you imagine the greatness of love that it would take to do something like God did for His people?
We cannot neglect such a great salvation.
Literally means to take it lightly.  We must become obsessed with this salvation.  We must become so wrapped up in it that it consumes our thoughts.  Don’t take it lightly.
3. A Great Salvation Confirmed (Hebrews 2:3b-4)

It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,  [4] while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

This is a very powerful way to prove the authenticity of the claim.
The Lord proclaimed the Gospel
Those who heard proclaimed the Gospel

As the Gospel went out, God set His stamp of approval on it by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Jesus proclaimed, the Father approved, The Spirit was given, and through the apostles it continued.  I would also add that it continues today through your telling.
Whatever you do, never take the Gospel lightly.
As we close, I want to give you some practical help.
What are some signs that perhaps you are drifting away?
– Do you find that sinning is easier than it once was?  Is your conscience and the work of the Spirit not guiding you into truth like they once were?
– Are your Bible reading, prayer, and sermons affecting you more or less than they once did?
– Are you sluggish spiritually or excited spiritually?
If you find yourself answering yes to any of these, you may be drifting away.  The remedy is given in the text.

[3] how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Drifting is the result of neglecting this great salvation and the great Savior.  Study and pray about the cross and the sacrifice and the glory of Christ.  Remember the things that used to take place when your gaze was fixed on Christ.
Also the text from Revelation 2 gives us a very practical word.
[4] But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  [5] Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Remember how things were before.  Remember the things you did before.  Begin to practice those things whether, at first, you feel like it or not.  If you’ve drifted your heart may not be in it, but do it anyway.  The peaceful refreshing work of the Holy Spirit will soon take over, your affections will return and you love for Christ will increase.
Then like with any sin the final remedy is to plead with God to grant you repentance.  Turn away from those things that had taken your gaze off of Christ.  If need be remove them from the equation.  Turn to Christ.

%d bloggers like this: