Drifters Beware

Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 5:58 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 2:1-4 (NASB).

Pay Close Attention (v. 1)

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.

In the Old Testament, God used prophets to speak his words to his people. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, for he is God. So, his words are the words of God to us, his people. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was with God the Father from the beginning. He always existed. He is our creator. He is completely sovereign and in control of all things. The things of this earth will perish, but Jesus Christ will always remain. He reigns supreme over all he created, and he is judge over all things. Although he is God, he became flesh and dwelt among humankind. As well, He died on a cross for our sins so that we could escape the punishment of hell, have the hope of heaven when we die, be delivered out of slavery to sin, be set free to walk in God’s righteousness and holiness, and so we could be given eternal life with God both now and forevermore (See Heb. 1).

Because of all these things, and so much more, we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard so we don’t drift away. So, what does it mean to “drift away”? It means: “a slow and gradual movement or change from one place, condition, etc., to another” (M-W Dictionary). “It refers to going spiritually adrift – ‘sinning by slipping away’ (from God's anchor). Pararrhyéō(‘gradually drift away’) means to ‘lapse’ into spiritual defeat, describing how we slowly move away from our moorings in Christ” (biblehub.com). Moorings: “the anchors, ropes, and cables that are used to hold a boat or ship in place” (M-W).

When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ to the sins which once enslaved us, we are born anew of the Spirit of God, and, by the Spirit who now lives within us, we now walk according to the Spirit, and we no longer conduct our lives according to (in agreement with) the flesh, but we put to death the deeds of the flesh. Our lives are completely transformed (regenerated) of the Spirit of God. We are filled with the Spirit, and we are empowered of the Spirit to walk in God’s holiness and righteousness. Yet, we still live in flesh bodies, so daily we must put off the flesh and put on the armor of God. We must die daily to sin and self (See: Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; Lu. 9:23-25).

Yet, sometimes believers in Christ drift away from their anchor (God), and slowly and gradually they move away from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ to getting caught up in the ways of the world all over again. They do this because they let go of the anchor, i.e. they forget their God who saved them, and they forget that they have been cleansed of their sins and that they are to no longer walk in sinful ways. Many of the letters in the New Testament to the churches addressed this matter of believers in Jesus Christ not walking according to the faith they professed, but going after idols of men, sinning against God, and thus needing to be reminded that they had been cleansed of their sins, so they were to no longer walk in those ways they used to walk in before they were saved, but they were to walk in a manner worthy of the calling they had received (See: Eph. 4:1-3; Rev. 2-3).

How Will We Escape? (vv. 2-4)

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

There are people in this world of ours who don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. They have rejected him. Among them, though, are many who do profess faith in Jesus Christ, but who have never been born of the Spirit of God, for they bought into a false grace message that told them that God requires nothing of them whatsoever other than to “believe,” although that belief seems to be nothing more than a mere acknowledgement or acceptance of the fact that Jesus did, indeed, die for their sins, and that he has offered us salvation and forgiveness of sins for all who believe in him.

But, to believe in Jesus is not a mere acknowledgment of what he did for us on the cross, or a mere acceptance of his forgiveness of sins, but it is to die with him to sin so that we can live to righteousness; to die to living for self so that we can live for him who gave himself up for us; and to put off our former ways of living for sin and self, to be transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and to put on our new lives, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” all in the power and working of the Spirit within us (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6-8; Lu. 9:23-25; 1 Pet. 2:24; Gal. 2:20; 2 Co. 5:15).

Certainly these, who have not truly believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, are still under the curse of the law and are bound to spend eternity in hell, without God and without hope of salvation, if they do not surrender their lives to Jesus Christ and allow the Spirit of God to crucify their flesh, to regenerate them, and to empower them from on high to conduct their lives now according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh (See: Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24). For, the Bible teaches us that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to conduct our lives according to sin, then we are liars (See: 1 Jn. 1). It also says that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of our sinful flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, Jesus said that if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self we will die, but if we lose our lives, i.e. if we die to our old lives of sin, we will live (See: Lu. 9:23-25).

Yet, I believe the context here is speaking of those who have believed in Jesus Christ, or at least of those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus, for we can’t drift away from an anchor we never took hold of, can we? If we have never believed in Jesus, we can’t gradually move away from the hope we once had. Also, to neglect something might also indicate that we abandon or we desert it, though it could also indicate that we have never valued it nor did we show concern for it at all, and that we have remained unaffected by it.

In the Heavenly Calling

Yet, going back to the context, if we read the whole of chapters 2-3, we see he is speaking to believers in Jesus, for he addressed them as “holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling.” He explained to them that because Jesus suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. And, then he said, “Therefore, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” And, then he warned them, the brothers, against having sinful, unbelieving hearts that turn away from the living God. We can’t turn away from something we never had. This “turn away” literally means: “draw away, repel, take up a position away from, withdraw from, leave, abstain from, depart, desert, fall away,” and/or “leave” (biblehub.com). So, it could, again, mean either to have never believed, or it can mean to desert or to fall away from something you had, yet the context seems to lean more toward a gradual moving away from a once held position.

So, which is it? I believe the passage indicates both the possibility of those who never received God’s gift of salvation, and those who truly had, but have since drifted away from their anchor. This is why we have the encouragement here to pay attention, to know that Jesus is able to help those who are being tempted, and that we are to fix (secure, fasten) our thoughts on Jesus. These words were written also to remind us that we are his house if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast, and to remind us that we have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first (See Heb. 2-3). In other words, I believe this is speaking to both those who make a profession of Christ only, but who are not truly saved, and those who are saved, but who are in danger of drifting away from their anchor (God) if they don’t pay attention to the salvation they have received, and if they don’t remain focused on Jesus and continue in the faith they profess.

The Bible teaches that God disciplines (judges) those he loves, and that he reproves and scourges us who are his children (See: 1 Co. 11:27-32; Heb. 12:3-12; Rev. 3:19). Some of this discipline is corrective, and others of it is for the purpose of training us in godliness, and for maturing us in our walks of faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Many are teaching today that God will not discipline us, but that he just smiles on us all the time, even when we are in the depths of sinning against him, and that he is pleased with us no matter what we do, even if we are engrossed in sin and rebellion against him. Scripture does not teach that, though. There are many, many warnings in the New Testament addressed to followers of Christ who have gone astray, or who are in danger of falling away, that divine judgment (correction, discipline) awaits them if they do not repent of their sinful ways and return to their first love (See Rev. 2-3, for example).

So, if we are guilty of having never believed in Jesus Christ, because we outright rejected him; or if we are guilty of having made a false profession of faith in him, based upon a lie, but we have never been “born again” of the Spirit of God, because we never surrendered our lives to Jesus and allowed the Spirit of God to crucify our flesh and to empower us to now conduct our lives according to (in agreement with) the Spirit, then the punishment that awaits us is eternal damnation in the fires of hell, without God, and without hope of salvation. Or, if we have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, have died to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to new lives in Christ Jesus, dead to sin and alive to righteousness, but we have since drifted away from our pure devotion to Christ, God will discipline, reprove (chastise) and scourge us in order to bring us back into fellowship with him, to renew us in faith, and to revive us in our devotion to him.

As followers of Christ, we are in the process of being conformed into the image of Christ, and divine discipline and correction is part of that process, in order to make us holy (Ro. 8:29; 1 Co. 15:49; 2 Co. 3:18; Eph. 2:21; Col. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 2:5; Heb. 10:14). Some of that discipline we cannot avoid, because it is part of this process of sanctification, yet some of it we bring upon ourselves because we have drifted away, and God will use judgment on us in order to correct us and to bring us back to him. So, don’t invite more than is necessary, and don’t waste so much of your life in that state of “drifting.” Get your hearts right with God today, and follow Jesus Christ wherever he leads you. You will be glad you did. A surrendered life to Jesus Christ is the only way to live. Amen!

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.