2. The danger of drifting, Tilbury EMC, Jan 14, 07
The danger of drifting.
January 14, 07 TEMC.
Intro: Last Sunday we began a series of messages in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is a book in the bible that points out to us that Jesus is better than the law. Jesus is better than the traditional systems. Hebrews points out that Jesus was God’s message to us. The Christians in the early church knew this, but they needed to be reminded. Reminders are good for us. That is partly why we are going through the book of Hebrews.
This morning, we will remind ourselves that we need to pay attention to the message of salvation that God has given us. It is easy to drift away from it and get caught up in all kinds of other things. Someone may ask: What is drifting?
In our day we have many areas of life where things are changing very fast. We live in a day and age when things are changing so fast that most of us can’t keep up anymore. But change is not bad because it is change. Everything around us is changing, always has been. People are always changing. Little people grow big. We begin jobs. And the jobs change too. We keep on changing. People grow old. The seasons change. Everything is in a constant state of change. That is not drift. Change is not drift just because it is change.
Drift, as the bible uses it is when the decisions we make are not made on the same foundation anymore. Drift in the spiritual sense is when the foundation of God’s word doesn’t have the final say anymore. Drift, the way it is used in scripture is when the focus has shifted and now we are finding ways to get along peaceably together with the enemies of the cross. Some people who once preached the cross no longer do. The goals have now changed. Instead of preaching a message of repentance, many are now preaching a message of peace where there is no peace. Instead of preaching a message of love, some preach a message of works of the flesh.
When we look around, it is clear to see that what we once believed about right and wrong, what we as a people believed about good and bad, that has changed. We have drifted far. We are a nation that is drifting.
In time to come we will not just drift. We will go over the edge like a water falls and crash on the rocks below. It will not be because God can’t help us. It will be because we refused to obey God’s commandments.
Some people call change: “ progress.” A lot of the change we see is nothing more than giving in to sinful desires. The temptations are there to follow the lusts of the flesh and we just give in more and more as time goes on. In time this leads to more and more separation from God.
Truth: Spiritual drift leads to separation from God.
God is not playing games. When he dealt with the people in the O.T. he was serious about his words through the prophets and angels. In Hebrews 1 we learned last Sunday that God has spoken in times past through his angels and prophets, but in these last times he has spoken to us through Jesus Christ. And we learned that there is no one higher than Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the final message of God to us. He is not just a messenger. He is the message. We know from the records what happened to all of those people in those days. They were destroyed for their sins.
Falling away from God doesn’t happen in one day suddenly. It happens over time. We compromise our moral values one by one and little by little. Things like lying, stealing, pride, anger, greed, - things that we used to have convictions about don’t matter anymore. Not only do these things not matter, we become proud of them. In the end we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t help ourselves anymore.
For us to remain close to God, we cannot afford drift. Drift will lead us into sin and sin is and will be punished. Hebrews 2:1-4 gives us clear instructions what God expects of us. How do we avoid drifting?
- Pay attention.
Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV) 1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
How is our attention span? How are our attention spans? Are they staying as they are, are they getting longer, or shorter? Our attention spans are getting shorter. What does ‘pay attention’ mean? Does it mean simply knowing what was said? If a mother tells her child to pay attention and listen to her, and she tells the child to clean up the room, the child heard what the mother said. But if the child doesn’t do what the mother said, the child has not paid attention, even though the child knew exactly what the mother said.
Paying attention is a real problem in our society. It is not that we are not paying attention. The qestion is: “What are we paying attention to?”
Are we paying more attention to the message from God than to the things of this world?
In the book “ Heavenly man” the writer mentions this: Our preachers normally preach for about 2 hours. Our western brothers can only speak for a half an hour and then they run out of things to say. He is right. We don’t have much to say, and our listners don’t have much to listen to. – except of course, when we are watching a movie – then we can watch for two hours and we don’t fall asleep.
Isn’t it amazing how our attention spans work? Why is it that in church, we find it hard to stay awake sometimes? I have struggled with sleeping in church too. This is not a new thing. Acts 20:7-12 we have a story of how one man fell asleep when Paul was preaching. He fell three stories down and was thought to be dead. Paul took him up and the man was alive. They brought him back upstairs and Paul continued his sermon. I am not saying that falling asleep in itself is a sin. If sin is involved, the sin itself probably happened some time earlier already.
There are people who study attention spans. They study how long a child can pay attention before the child will just tune out. They study how long adults pay attention. I remember when I first learned the importance of long attention spans – which we have for the most part lost. I remember in 1987 when my wife and I were newly married, we had just moved to Canada and were were part of a church.
This church wanted us to help with the youth. And so we did for a while. One thing we learned was that in Canada people don’t have long attention spans. ( in Mexico it has been and is changing fast too now) We were used to youth activities in Mexico. It was fairly simple. But when we came here, we went through a culture shock. I am not blaming the youth now. It is the adults who create the environment in which the youth have to grow up.
What was interesting to me was that one day, we were leading a youth event and a few of the guys were just not paying ANY attention to anything they were supposed to be doing. I couldn’t believe that this 18 year old kid was not cooperating. He was in grade 12. So I told him something like: “ You’re 18!. I wanted him to see himself. His response was ‘ We’re young.’ That was a huge eyeopner for me. O, so that is what this is about. I have since then learned that in Canada people pay attention to a lot of things that in the final end will matter nothing - like age. The stage of youth , youthful appearance is worshipped. Old age - old appearance is almost treated likea curse. Many people do all they can to pretend they are young when actually they are middle age and beyond.
This young man in our youth group believed that he didn’t need to pay attention to what anyone had to say. He believed that he was entitled to ignore and reject the guidance of the leadership. That is what happens in the physical realm, and it carries over into our spiritual life too. This fellow believed he was entitlted not to have to pay any attention. Over the years that memory has been with me.
In how many ways have we become a ME focussed culture? We have drifted in this area. When I go to work, it is because “I” want a paycheck. When we get married, it is because “I” want to enjoy the married life. Tony Campolo in one of his sermons mentions that no one should get married unless they have so much love to give that they simply can’t keep it to themselves. Anyone wanting to get married should get married when they have matured to the point when they can share and sacrifice themselves for another person totally and completely. That is the opposite of what our culture teaches us.
The writer to the Hebrews says: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore. So that we do not drift away.
Drifting away is a very present reality.
We are living in a time of spiritual drift. As a culture we are. As a community we are. Even as a church we have to ask: Are we drifting? Are we slowly becoming something different than what God wants us to be?
Is our focus so much on Jesus that nothing can change it?
I want to go back to the Old Testament and look at a story that happened that illustrates this clearly. This last week one night we had company and together with our company we listened to a sermon by Ravi Zacharias. In it he mentioned the danger of drifting. He didn’t say it quite that way, but the message was the same.
The king he mentioned was King Solomon. We have perhaps all heard of Solomon. He was the wisest king in scripture. He was the son of King David.
The story of Solomon is a story of a young king who began well, but finished poorly. Before Solomon was born, David his father one time committed adultery. He took for himself a woman who was not his wife and had her husband killed. Nathan, the prophet was sent by God to tell David that because he had committed adultery, the sword would never leave his house. God punished David severely for that.
Well, later that same woman, who he had committed adultery with, (David marrid her after he killed her husband) Bathsheba gave birth to a boy and David named him Solomon. Solomon was not the first born son of David, and as such was not really intitled to be king after David. But God directed the events so that Solomon did become King.
After Solomon became king, David instructed him how to reign and what to do. Solomon had a heart that sought after God. In a dream God came to him and asked him what he should do for him. Solomon asked for wisdom and God gave it to him. Solomon was a very successful king.
Solomon went ahead and built the Temple. It was the most beautiful structure ever built – with all of it’s gold and silver in it. But not all was well.
Solomon was a very ambitious man. He was a man who was well liked, and he had peace with his neighboring countries around him. His father David had left him a good country, rich, powerful and in good standing with the countries around him. But Solomon severely taxed the people of Israel. You can read the story in the books of Kings and Chronicles.
As his reign continued, in things God had told him to stay away from. He drifted away from God. His focus shifted away from keeping his mind on God. His mind became occupied with the things of this world. He didn’t abandon God completely. He became, as far as we know, a cynical and pessemistic man in later years. One of his faults was that he loved many foreign women. The bible tells us that he had 700 wives, and three hundred concubines. There were a thousand women at his beck and call. In Deuteronomy God had instructed the people of Israel that their kings should not have many wives.
He was a king with a huge army, horses and chariots. These too were things God had told his people not to go after. Solomon was a man who succeeded in doing anything he wanted to do. God had also instructed the people of Israel that they should not accumulate horses and chariots. There was a danger in that. They would start to trust in their own strength if they did that.
If we look around in our land, who does not trust in their own ability, or their own resources to see him or her through? Few of us have to depend on God for our next day’s meal. We have been spared poverty and hunger. But we have something that is much worse. We have self reliance.
It is not wrong to work hard, to gather things. But every time those things take the place of God, our focus has shifted and we are paying attention to something we should not be. Solomon is a clear example of what happens to a man who begins well, and then lets those blessings take his focus away from God.
Toward the end of his life, his foreign wives turned his heart away from God and he built altars to the gods of his wives.
Not much is written about Solomon after that, but that was the seed out of which grew a fruit of rebellion in the Land. The drift in Solomon’s life produced a bad fruit. After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was king and he wanted continue in his father’s footsteps. The problem was the people were tired and were not willing to put up with the taxes Solomon had taken from the people. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, he believed he was entitled to what his father had left him. The huge taxes on the people, the hard labor – the easy luxery life for himeself - these were things Rehoboam had come to believe he had a right to.
When Rehoboam couldn’t get the support from the people, the nation split into two. The nation of Israel was made up of 12 tribes – something like provinces or states. Ten left him. Rehoboam kept two tribes, and ten tribes left. They put a king over them – Jeroboam. And then the idol worship began in earnest. Jereboam made some golden calves and set them up in different locations. These calves were the idols where the people of Israel gathered to worship. Were they outright denying God? They would have said no. They still believed in God in a way. They were only using these calves as physical representations of devine power and blessing. God had told them; don’t put up any representation of anything that you will bow to. That is idol worship.
The golden calf of today is not some stone calf, or anything we bow down to, but we have our golden calves never the less. One of them is the dollar. We have to have it and we bow before it and we worship it. How much of our attention is focussed on how much money we can spend for ourselves? Working hard, making money, - that is not the issue. What our motive for it is.
When the kingdom of Judah and Israel fell furthur away from God, God raised up prophets to turn the people back to him. And from time to time a king would arise who was serious about turning the hearts of the people back to God, and for some years there was revival. But it never lasted for long.
The problem was that living like the nations around them was so tempting, it looked so attractive, they always shifted their focus away from God time after time.
This went on for several hundred years. In the end, the Kingdom of Israel, and the kingdom of Judah, they both were taken captive and deported.
They had drifted far enough away from God that no amount of repentance was enough for God to turn the judgment around. God was done.
The people had given up paying attention to God, they had given up following his commands and did what they wanted to regardless of what the prophets said.
I am wondering, how far down this path have we come as a nation? How far down this path are we today as Mennonites? How are we doing?
Simply because we don’t have much of an attention span doesn’t excuse us from the command to pay attetion.
Not paying attention has consequences. When the bible tells us to pay attention to what God is saying to us, we are not excused simply because we have a short attention span, or none at all.
Are we drifting?
I have mentioned the O.T. of the kings of the people of Israel. Lets look at home in our own back yard, and then our front yard.
About 500 years ago– our forefathers, the Mennonites were a people who were willing to give everything they had for their faith in Jesus. The Mennonites came into being because of the state church. There was much imorality, much corruption and it was tightly controlled by the church leaders. Some of our forefathers had a spiritual awakening and decided to first get back to the bible, and when that was not accepted by the church leaders – they went ahead and started fellowshipping on their own and practiced the bible the way it was written. That brought the anger of the church and the state down upon them.
Many of our forefathers were killed because they believed that their first responsibility was to Jesus, and everything else was second. What kept them spiritually awake, and aleart was the constant persecution that was always there threatening their very existence.
The interesting thing was that as our forefathers were being killed one after the other, the people in the communities where they were – those people were watching. The more our forefathers were persecuted, the more people joined them. It was unexplainable. The state church together with government tried to everything they could to root out the Mennonites, and some other like groups, but they only grew more and more.
The Mennonites didn’t want persecution, and no one does. So they would travel a lot from place to place, looking for places to hide, and where they would not be persecuted so much. They wanted to live where persecution was not so severe. In time they found some places.
The first place they found was in Prussia, now Poland. For a number of generations they lived there, but they were forbidden to make “Mennonites” out of the people in Poland. They listened. A drift began to happen. They started to pay more attention to the government than to what Jesus said; ‘ Make disciples of all nations.” That was a compromise. They had suffered badly and wanted rest. So they kept to themselves. They were hard working and Godly people – except that they were not focussed on winning their neighbors to Jesus. That was in the 16 to 17 hundreds. They grew in numbers and became rich. Not all was going well. They needed more space, and the Prussian government was not as friendly to them as they had been.
During that time. The ruler of Russia, Catharine the great, the zar of Russia was fighting a war in Southern Russia. She took land from the Turkish people and now she needed people to settle there. She knew of the Mennonites in Prussia. A man was sent from Russia to invite the Mennonites to Russia. They were invited to settle the land. They were given land, some money and material to give them a start.
In the 1770,s thereabouts, many Mennonites moved to Russia. Here they were allowed to practice their beliefs. They didn’t have to serve in the military. They didn’t have to participate in politics. But they were also told they couldn’t make ‘Mennonites” out of Russians. Sadly, they agreed to that. That was another mistake. That was another sign of drift.
Over the next hundred years or so, our forefathers worked very hard and became very wealthy land owners, factory owners. We as Mennnites were by then a very rich people. There were poor among our people too, but in comparison to many of the Russians, we were very rich. The Mennonites were the envy of the Russians. But during that time, our spiritual fire died. There was little bits of it here and there, but it was mostly gone. We had drifted away. There were little groups here and there that saw this, and did something about it. One group was led by a man named Klass Reimer. He was a leader in the church and he broke with the church – this was the very same church who only a few hundred years before had suffered such persecution – now it was mostly dead and cold. His followers were called, the “Kleine Gemeinde” They are now the Evangelical Mennonite Church.
In the 1870s the Russian governman changed its policies and wanted Mennonites to serve the government. Many of our forefathers became alarmed and again searched for places where they would not have to learn the government ways, not serve in military etc.
They found land in Canada. In 1870s many mennonites moved to Canada. My great Grandfather was a boy when this happened. They again built themselves up, but had nothing to do with anyone outside of the church. Again, in Canada, many of our forefathers were well to do farmers. But spiritually it was still not well. Please don’t understand me as judging our forefathers. I am pointing out the road they traveled through history.
In the 1920s our forefathers were again alarmed when the government of Canada wanted all Canadians to learn english in school. Our forefathers looked for another place to move to. This time it was Mexico. In 1922-24many of them moved to Mexico. The government there promised them freedom of religion and exemption from military service. And so they moved again.
In all of that, we our fathes and us -lost something very valuable and picked up something very destructive.
What we had lost was our devotion to Jesus Christ, and our compassion for the lost. But we had picked up this idea of security, self preservation and living the good life on earth. We had picked up the idea of holding on to tradition and our Mennonite Culture at the expense of neglecting our neighbors.
Faith in God had become confused and mixed up with being a Mennonite. In our minds, being a Christian was something that meant being a Mennonite. We were a very closed community. There was much good there, as far as our work habits, not getting involved in political fights in the land. But we separated ourselveds from the people around us and that has never been God’s plan.
One of the destructive things we picked up was a lust for wealth. This was a problem already way back in Russia and was growing.
Over time the moral values simply drifted away. Honesty was not a characteristic anymore. Mennonites as a whole could not be counted on anymore to speak the truth. Even in Mexico the honesty part was still very strong. We had lost our passion and burden for the lost already way back in Prussia and Russia. Now in Mexico we lost our honesty.
A lot of compromise had happened. It is continuing to this very day.
I remember having a debate by letter with an older man from Winnipeg about the Mennonites. We wrote to each other by letter. He had a high opinion of the spiritual state of the Mennonite people. I told him that I came out of that system and I knew first hand how spiritually shallow much of it was.
He seemed to believe that the Mennonites were a people who had kept their identity and were doing well. I know some groups are. I pointed out to him and asked him to show me a group that was more closed than we, the Low German Mennonite people. I asked him, “if spreading the gospel around the world depended on the Low German Mennonites, how much of it do you think would have happened?”
I am very thankful that the Mennonite Chrisitians in the world are growing. There is much good to be said for the Mennonite faith.
We are in need of focussing on something other than just how much money we can make, how well we can make life for ourselves. Our goals need to be higher. That is one reason I am so strongly in favor of church planting.
If even just those who call themselves Mennonites, if only those would want to go to church, there would not be room for even half of them in the churches that are Mennonite Churches.
Have we been faithful to Jesus in keeping him number one? If we have, what have we done for him in terms of spreading the gospel, living our faith so our neighbors, our families, our relatives and friends can see it?
What will happen to those who don’t do it? We only need to look at our own people.
2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?
If the message by angels had this kind of impact, what will happento those who don’t do what God’s son Jesus has said we should do?
In South America, there are colonies of Mennonites that have turned into nothing more than colonies of oppression. They live in fear and darkness. There is no spiritual life left. The drift is in some of them complete. They don’t know Jesus. They have no idea of how to be saved. They are taught a salvation by works. But they still call themselves the church. Satan doesn’t mind that at all. He has nothing to fear from people groups like that.
But here in Canada, we are struggling too. In some of our North American churches, there is no desire to suffer for Jesus. We are far too concerned about our own physical well being to pay any attention to the need for evangelism.
We may pride ourselves that we are saved. Is that all we are after? If my only concern is my salvation, I need to ask myself how serious my salvation is. Once we are saved, then the real journey begins. Salvation is the starting point for a Christian, not the end.
We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself. We are commanded to say no to the world and yes to Christ.
Are we guily of violating God’s commands? Ever time we focus more on ourselves than on Christ we are guilty.
In case we think we are doing fine, let me ask all of us: “ What is the difference between us and the world?
In our styles, in our fashions, we are so like the world, that there is hardly any difference. The world wastes money on clothing, do we?
The world wastes money on entertainment, do we?
The world is greedy for money, are we?
The world is never content. Are we content?
It is a sad thing when those who call themselves Christians get caught up in the things of the world. One writer mentioned it this way. We are so like the world that we can’t win the world to Christ, because there is no difference between us and them. It’s like – we as Christians have to be careful that what we are trying to win our neighbor to, is not something he already is a part of.
The consewquence for not obeying will be punishment. We don’t like to think of God as a punishing God, but that is the truth. He is love and he is just. He does what is right. He is not the problem. Our lack of obedience is the problem.
The salvation that we have been given is not given to us just so we can be saved. One man said that salvation is 1 percent of the whole picture. We don’t really know what all God has in store for us, but we do know that God saved us for a higher purpose than just to take us to heaven when we die.
This message has been repeatedly told to us. It is so clear that we have no excuse to ignore it.
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
We are a privileged people to have been given such grace. It is not for us to wish for easier lives yet. We already have it much easier than any other people group on the earth.
We must pay more careful attention therefore to what we have heard, so we don’t drift away.
Are you drifting? Is your relationship with God still as important as it once was? Have you begun to focus more on the things of this earth than on the things of God? How do you know? Look at what is important to you.
What do you do when you are in trouble? What do you do when you face a temptation? DO you give in?
There are so many ways we can drift, I can’t mention them all. But I will point out that whenever it takes something other than Jesus to give us peace, we are not in line with God.
For some people it takes a bottle of beer. For others it takes a trip to the mall and buy some clothes. For others it means dressing to get attention. For some it means buying a new or better toy. I don’t know all of the issues you are facing.
If you need something other than Jesus to give you peace and to fill your soul, - then go to Jesus and ask him to reveal himself to you.
I want to read a devotional by Charles Spurgeon.
“Ye are Christ’s.”
— 1 Corinthians 3:23
“Ye are Christ’s.” You are his by donation, for the Father gave you to the Son; his by his bloody purchase, for he counted down the price for your redemption; his by dedication, for you have consecrated yourself to him; his by relation, for you are named by his name, and made one of his brethren and joint-heirs.
Labor practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus. When tempted to sin, reply, “I cannot do this great wickedness, for I am Christ’s.” …When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say that you are Christ’s, and touch it not. Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ’s. Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, “No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ’s. ….When the … song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, “Thy music cannot charm me; I am Christ’s.” When the cause of God invites thee, give thy goods and thyself away, for thou art Christ’s. Never belie thy profession. Be thou ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like the Nazarene, whose conduct and conversation are so .. like .. heaven, that all who see you may know that you are the Savior’s, recognizing in you his features of love and his countenance of holiness…
Hebrews 2:1-3 (NIV)
Warning to Pay Attention
2 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
Is there an area of drift in your life? You know what it is. It is that which you do rather than working for Jesus. It is that which you trust more than you trust Jesus. It is that which has the power to take your focus off of Jesus.
Lets stop drifting and start focusing on Jesus.
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984
Spurgeon, Charles H.: Morning and Evening : Daily Readings. Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. Peabody, MA : Hendrickson Publishers, 2006, S. January 12 AM
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984