Hebrews - Part 2 - The Danger of Drifting
The Danger of Drifting Hebrews 2 - Mar 7/20 Thanks to Keith who gave us the introduction to the book of Hebrews last week and launched us into chapter 1. Today we are covering Hebrews 2. I would like to remind you that this is merely a survey, not a verse-by-verse thorough examination of Hebrews. That would take us into 2025! We learned in Hebrews 1 that Jesus is Christ is the Son of God, heir of all things, creator of the universe, the exact representation of the Father and sustainer of all things by his powerful word. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, far greater than all the prophets and angels. Chapter 2 begins with the first of 5 warnings in Hebrews. If you’re like me, you’d much rather hear about all the good news, all about God’s amazing love, grace and forgiveness and patience. Today you might not walk away from the service with those warm fuzzy feelings, and that’s OK. Because we need to be kept on track and do occasional checkups. There’s a lot at stake here. So these warnings are all the more important for me and probably you too. Hebrews 2:1–4 NIV We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Craig and I have done a lot of canoeing in our lifetimes; it’s something that we have always loved. There’s something so wonderful and refreshing about dipping our paddles in the water, breathing deep of the fresh, clean air, and letting our eyes feast on the beauty of the water, rocks, trees and sky. Sometimes it’s so relaxing that we decide to just coast along, perhaps laying back to catch some sunshine on our faces. There’s only one problem with this scenario. When we come back to reality, so to speak, we can find that the canoe has drifted, perhaps in the entirely wrong direction or into a dangerous spot. Perhaps you’re at a beach with friends and you head out to the water for some relaxation time on the air mattress. You find yourself drifting off into lala land as your worries slip away and the tensions let go. If your kid or friend doesn’t shock you into wakefulness with a splash of cold water, when you do finally open your eyes enough to see what’s happening, you could be a good mile or two down the beach. There’s definitely a time and need for relaxation and rest when it comes to our physical health, but in regard to our spiritual health, drifting can be catastrophic. We must avoid the danger of drifting. Hebrews 2:1–4 The Message It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off. If the old message delivered by the angels was valid and nobody got away with anything, do you think we can risk neglecting this latest message, this magnificent salvation? First of all, it was delivered in person by the Master, then accurately passed on to us by those who heard it from him. All the while God was validating it with gifts through the Holy Spirit, all sorts of signs and miracles, as he saw fit. Did you catch that? “It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off and risk neglecting this magnificent salvation.” How do we drift away and neglect our salvation nowadays? I don’t know if it’s ever been easier to do. Satan is the master of lies. He’s a crafty, wily, sneaky genius of deceit. His messaging is subtle but relentless, and if we’re not on guard, we can easily become like the proverbial frog in water. Remember that frog? He was taking it easy in the comfy pot of water. He was so relaxed, drifting along, perfecting his backstroke that he didn’t notice the gradually rising temperature, and before he knew it, he was cooked! I have news for you. We live in Satan’s pot. Beware of the danger of drifting! Beware of the hidden, slowly rising temperature of the pot we’re living in. You don’t want to get cooked! So how can we drift nowadays? In what ways? Here are a few ways to consider: Ask yourself, “Have I become.... Careless and Complacent I really enjoyed Jerry’s message a few weeks ago about love. He suggested that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference or apathy. It’s not caring enough to do something. It’s ignoring problems and conflicts in relationships rather than doing the hard work to resolve them. Are you careless and complacent in your relationships? Maybe you notice something that a friend is doing that you know will hurt them. Do you speak out in loving concern? It’s so much easier to just hope it goes away. Do you see a need that you could fill? Perhaps no one else would even know if you stepped up to help. But then it’s going to mean you’ll have to give up some of your time or money, and you can’t be bothered. Someone else will help. This is being care-less, complacent, and frankly, selfish. Maybe your favourite game is happening during church time, or perhaps your kids or grandkids have an event whereby you miss church. The next week something else comes up, and before you know it, it’s been a month or two since you attended. Are you getting lazy or complacent? It’s really important that we meet together, learn together, do life together as a family, spiritual brothers and sisters. I’m not talking about missing church for illness or a special trip or occasion. I’m talking about getting out of the habit of regular attendance. Is this the way you are drifting? There’s safety in sharing our canoe with others who help us be watchful. What about your spiritual condition? Is your relationship with God flourishing? Everyone has highs and lows, but don’t be careless or complacent. Satan certainly isn’t. He’s on the attack all the time, prowling around and looking for someone to devour. Dig in deep to God’s life-giving, life-changing words. Lift your voice in prayer all day, every day. Here’s another area where we can fall prey to the danger of drifting: If we’re not careful, we can... Backslide into the sin we had formerly rejected I once heard it said that we especially need to be on guard when we are tired, hungry or lonely. I might add discouraged. At these times it’s ever so easy to slip back into the sins we had put behind us. Satan is relentless with dangling these temptations in front of our noses, and he loves it when we’re down and vulnerable. A little bit of lying… that’s not a big deal, right? Wrong. A little bit of cheating, a little bit of pornography, a little bit of gossip… these aren’t so bad, right? That’s Satan talking to you. Fall on your knees and ask Jesus to help you resist the temptation. What about... Compromise We need to check ourselves regularly and ask, “Whose standards am I living by? This culture’s or God’s?” As time marches on the gap has widened dramatically. What are you watching on TV or in the theatre? What are you reading? Are you concerned about what others might think of you if you stand up for what God says is true? I’m not talking about being offensive, arrogant and belligerent with truth. I’m talking about being convicted yet sensitive and winsome. When we were serving in Mexico on a mission trip a few years ago, a couple came through to visit our hosts. They described a conversation they had with a border guard when crossing back into the USA. The guard was asking them the usual questions about where they had been and how long, and the man was getting impatient. He said to the border guard, “We have been serving the poor in the name of Jesus and you should let us through right now!” He wasn’t exactly being winsome with the truth, was he? Perhaps you’ve been with coworkers or friends and opinions come up in conversation that as a believer you cannot support. Do you shrink back or speak the truth in love at risk of being called hard, intolerant, or weird? Do you choose to totter on the fence here and there with a little compromise? Let’s not be fooled into thinking being a believer is an easy road. Jesus didn’t say “If you are persecuted for my sake”, but “when you are persecuted for my sake...” Drifting is always easier than maintaining the same position or moving ahead. Back to the canoe analogy. If I neglect to watch the position of my canoe or air mattress, I can drift into danger. In the same way a Christian can drift away from Christ, if he or she doesn’t pay attention. The Greek word for “pay careful attention” is PROSECHEIN. It encourages readers to consider their ways and also to act on the truth they’ve learned. James 1:22–25 NIV Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Hebrews 2 reminds us that if the message of the Old Testament was important, how much more is Christ’s message of salvation! We cannot risk complacency. Beware of the danger of drifting! Christ’s superiority to angels v5-18 The next section of scripture, which takes us to the end of the chapter, tells us of Christ’s superiority to the angels as well as the magnificent message of salvation announced by Jesus and confirmed by the Father and Holy Spirit. The author started discussing Christ’s superiority to angels in chapter 1, and here in chapter 2 he informs us that angels are always spirit beings so they cannot do what Christ did for man. Angels serve man; but the Son became man in order to serve in a far greater capacity. Let’s read Hebrews 2:5–8 NIV It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”, In putting everything under mankind, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. In these verses the author reminds us that although human beings are mere specs of insignificance in the vast universe, we are loved by our Creator who cares deeply for us. God has crowned us with glory and honour and made creation subject to us. Unfortunately, sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden, and God took away Adam & Eve’s authority over all creation. Today everything is obviously NOT under our control. Political institutions, marriages, families, workplaces, and the environment portray the destruction and imperfection caused by sin. Hebrews 2:9 NIV But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. When Jesus took on flesh and became human he was made lower than the angels, but now He is crowned with glory & honour. He was the only one who lived the human life as intended: sinless and in perfect fellowship with the Father. He accomplished what no person could ever accomplish—sinlessness. When he gave up his life on the cross his death paid the sin price for all humanity. He was the perfect sacrifice, and now he is crowned with glory and honour. Hebrews 2:10–13 NIV In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” These verses blow my mind. God wants to bring you and I to glory! The only way that is possible is through the perfect life of Jesus Christ. He became flesh and blood. He had skin like you and when he got a cut he bled like you do. He suffered, more than you or I have ever suffered, that’s for sure. But here’s the huge difference between Jesus and you and me. He never sinned. He was perfect, and because he was, we are made holy and called his brothers and sisters. I don’t know about you, but what I see in the mirror doesn’t seem remotely worthy to be called a sister of Jesus. But because of his perfection, when the Father looks at us, he sees Jesus’ righteousness, and in him we are holy. Hebrews 2:14–15 NIV Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. The death of the perfect Jesus broke Satan’s power over us. We don’t have to be afraid of dying, because of Christ’s death and resurrection we know this life is NOT all there is! As a young person I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about death. Now that I’m slightly older, I think about it more, especially in terms of my parents, who are getting up there in age. I don’t have to worry about death being the end for them or me. There’s so much more life ahead and it’s forever. You’ve probably noticed a lot of people these days living in fear of death, with the COVID-19 virus spreading around the world. Store shelves are devoid of hand sanitizer, masks and even toilet paper. Although we would be wise to practice healthy habits such as thorough hand washing, we don’t have the same level of anxiety. Our hope and future is wonderful! Hebrews 2:16–17 NIV For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. These scriptures are a beautiful segway into our Communion service today. The Old Testament tells us an elaborate system of sacrifices and offerings that included the blood of animals being shed to pay for the sins of the people because sin has a dreadful price. Aaron, the high priest, would carefully follow God’s specific instructions on the Day of Atonement for the sacrifice that would symbolically restore unity between God and man. Jesus, as our faithful high priest, has now offered his own body and blood as the perfect offering for all mankind. He was fully human in every way. He was tempted, he suffered. And despite it all he remained perfect. I’m going to ask for the bread and wine to be distributed now as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s supper together. PRAYER Please raise the bread in your hand, and declare with me before you partake: “The body of Christ, broken for me.” Please raise the wine or juice and declare with me: “The blood of Christ, shed for me.” Jesus was the perfect atonement, the perfect sacrifice. He has reconciled us to the Father, and now we are in communion, at one with God and each other. Praise his holy name! Let’s close in prayer.