The Danger of Drifting Away (Hebrews Sermon 5 of 74)
October 03, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Fighting the Tide in the Summer of 1983
For me, personally, the summer of 1983 was a critical summer in my development as a Christian. In the fall of 1982, I gave my life to Christ through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ at MIT. And then I went on a summer project at Hampton Beach the following summer in 1983. And so the summer of 1983, I was doing beach evangelism. I learned how to do contact evangelism that summer. We read a book by David Bryant called "In the Gap." And I learned about missions, about praying for unreached people groups, and became aware of the missionary call of Christ on my life. I learned to work at a job, a secular job, as a Christian, and be able to put my faith into practice in some challenging work situations. That was the summer I did all that. That was also the summer I almost died in the Atlantic Ocean. Funny now, but it wasn't funny then.
There was a big storm, not quite a hurricane, but it whipped the ocean into a frenzy. And it looked like Hawaii, like the pipeline, Waikiki Beach, something like that. And I should have known something. My friend, Chaz Mortenson, and I, we should have known something, that in the middle of the summer, middle of the week, there was not a single person swimming. We should have thought something at that point. There's no one swimming here today, except the two of us, as we did some incredible, awesome body surfing, best of my life. Almost paid for it with my life, but the best of my life. And we were just riding these waves in, and just one wave after another, and just having a great time, until I noticed that we were getting pulled gradually and inexorably out to sea. Much further along and further down the beach, than when we started. And I said, "Uh oh." And I called over to Chaz, and I said, "We need to start going back in." And he had already seen that danger. We were in some kind of a riptide. I don't know how long it took for us to get back to the beach. I have no idea. It felt like an hour. Probably, it was like 10 minutes. But we rode a wave in, and then swam like crazy to fight the current, and then rode the next wave in. In this way, in little steps, we finally made it back to the beach exhausted.
And this became, in the years that followed, a picture to me of the issue that's in front of us in the text today. And that is the powerful forces on my soul, causing me to drift away from Jesus. And the author in Hebrews 2:1 says, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Is it possible to drift little by little, further and further away from an active, healthy, vibrant walk with Christ, our hearts becoming gradually hardened to the things of God and the dangers of sin? The Book of Hebrews says that not only is it possible, but it's the great danger of our Christian lives. In my opinion, the whole book was written as a warning to us, who are in the church, to look after our souls in our walk with Christ. And here we have, very plainly and clearly, the first of several significant warnings in the Book of Hebrews to us as Christians.
I. Such a Great Salvation
And what's in front of us, as we look at this, is the greatness of our salvation. Remember that the central message of the Book of Hebrews is that a superior mediator, Jesus Christ, greater than all other mediators, greater than all other figures in Old Testament history, this great figure, Jesus Christ, has brought us a superior covenant, the New Covenant, which results in a superior life, a life of complete forgiveness for sins, and a fruitfulness before God, of free access into the very throne room of God, a better life. This is what we have in the New Covenant.
And it talks, in Verse Three, about, "Such a great salvation," such a great salvation. Now, in our culture, the word 'great' is used too much. We have it all the time. It's used for everything. It's used for natural features, like the Great Lakes, or the Great Barrier Reef, or the great white shark. In history, there's Alexander the Great, and the Great War, World War I. In literature, you have "Great Gatsby" and "Great Expectations," which I didn't think were so great, but I got through that book, somehow survived. Someone thought they were great. Dickens, I guess. But we have that word all the time. In commercial life, you can go for a great haircut to Great Clips.
Or you can search on Google to find great wedding gifts or a great vacation spot. Perhaps, in no aspect of American life is the word so overused, as in sports. The "100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time," or Muhammad Ali calling himself, "The greatest of all times." Once, I was watching a basketball game, in which a star player scored a lot of points in one, in the fourth quarter, and won a key basketball game. And the announcer said, "You are watching what true greatness is all about." And, as a Christian, I was offended by that. I was watching a basketball game. You want to know what true greatness is all about? Look to the cross. Look to Jesus Christ, to this great salvation. The word 'great' is overblown in our lives, but it is actually an understatement, when it comes to our salvation. Amen?
It is such a great salvation that we have. And that's what we have before us in verse Three. We've already seen the greatness of the Savior. It really begins with just the greatness of Jesus. Although, it does mention that He provided a purification for sins, it really just focuses on just how great He is, as the second person of the Trinity. Verse one of our passage says, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard." And the 'therefore' points us back to the 14 verses of chapter 1. Because Jesus is so great, because of all we've seen of Jesus, these truths. We have a great salvation given by an infinitely great Savior, Jesus, the final Word, God's final Word to the human race.
"In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, He's spoken to us in His Son," Jesus, the final Word of God, greater than all the prophets. He is the heir of all things. And through Him, God made the universe. And He is the radiance of God's glory, and the exact representation of His being. He sustains all things by His powerful Word. He is the one who provided purification for sins and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven.
And so, for the rest of the chapter, the author compares Him to the angels, and He's greater than all the angels. He's inherited a name greater than theirs. Angels are merely servants of God's people, servants of God. But Jesus, the Son, is God on His throne. "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever. Righteousness will be the scepter of your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness, and therefore, God, your God has set you above your companions, by anointing you with the oil of joy." Jesus is the one who will roll up the present universe like a garment and throw them away, but will establish the new Heavens and the new Earth. How great is this person of Jesus Christ? And He is the one that brings us a great salvation, an infinitely great answer to the problem of sin. Hebrews 1:3, "After He had provided purification for sins…" He sat down, His work finished. I'll talk more about that later, in the Book of Hebrews, but a finished work once for all, sat down at the right hand of God.
Sin's power over us is broken by our rescue, our transfer from Satan's dark kingdom into the Kingdom of Jesus. Sin's practice gradually being eradicated in our lives by the indwelling spirit, and by the instruction of the Word, like this very morning. Little by little, we're learning new habits of righteousness, and unlearning old habits of wickedness and sin. One day, in glorification, it will all be finished, and we'll be done with sin forever, and we'll be done with these mortal bodies forever. We will be in resurrection bodies, surrounded by glorious beings and worshipping a glorious God. That's a great salvation, friends, magnificent salvation, justification, sanctification, glorification. How marvelous is that?
This is our great salvation, but it also arouses, from us or around us, great enemies. Satan is the enemy of our souls, the enemy of our salvation. And the world system that he has set up attacks us spiritually every day, makes it hard for us to make progress in the Christian life. And our own internal sin nature, the enemy within the walls betraying us day after day, though in our minds, we love God's law, but in our flesh, we yearn to rebel against Him. These enemies make it so very, very difficult for us, in our salvation. We have a great danger and it's listed right here in verse One, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away."
II. The Danger of Drifting Away
We come to this potent image of drifting away. I can tell you, as a pastor, there are few things sadder than this, and that's watching somebody drift away spiritually. It's of the essence of pastoral ministry. It's grievous to me. I've seen it more times than I can count. How many people were doing well at one point, and then, give it a few years, or even a few months, and they're not doing well anymore? And you try to reach out, you try to persuade them. You meet with them, you pray for them. You do all these kinds of things, but still, they drift away. It reminds me of that problem in the infant stages of an infant, failure to thrive. It's not gaining weight. There's no direct problem, it seems, but it's just anemic. It's not thriving, and it just gets weaker and weaker, until finally, it dies. And you just see it happen, and there's nothing, it seems, that you can do to stop it. It's very sad and it's happened. We've seen it again and again.
So, we have this image here of drifting away. The Greek word is a picture of a flowing system, like a river, if you could imagine, with a strong current. And you could throw a twig out, and the current just causes it to just float away from you, very, very quickly. The image I get is of a sailboat that's not properly moored to the dock, out on the ocean. The rope is just laying across. Somebody got distracted. They didn't tie it to the... They didn't moor it well. The little ebbs and flows, the rising and falling of the little chop in the wave, it doesn't make much of an impact immediately. You wouldn't even notice. Came back in five minutes, if you were attentive, you might notice that the rope had slid a little bit down the dock, been a little bit of movement, but not much. But if you were to go away and come back in 10 hours, rising and falling of the tide, and all that, the boat is gone. It's just gone. There's a sense of something drifting away.
There are actually two different ways to translate this verse and it depends on which translation you have. NIV has the sense of something drifting away, someone drifting away from Christ, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." So, here's Jesus, and we're just drifting further, and further, and further away from Jesus. KJV turns it around and says, "Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at anytime we should let them slip from us." It's a matter of perspective, but I have the feeling that Christ and the Gospel are there, and they're not moving. In any case, we are the ones moving further and further away. But from the perspective, these things that we once cherished are drifting away from us.
The second image is not one of a sailboat. I get one, an image of an earthquake victim that's down in the basement of a crushed building, like in Port-Au-Prince, and they can't move. And they've received a number of small cuts and wounds, which could be attended to, if they were able to move, and get some treatment. But they're pinned. They're paralyzed under some pilings, or some cinder blocks, and they just can't move. And they're watching themselves bleed out, and their life blood flowing, flowing, flowing, away from them, out of their arm or leg, until they're dead. Either way, you see the danger here: Either something drifting away from you or you drifting away from Christ. Either way, it's a deadly problem. And so these things that we have heard, it mentions in verse One, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard," or, "The things which we have heard," are the Gospel truths about Christ. It's the doctrine of the Gospel, biblical doctrine.
The idea is that we should be careful not to let these precious truths bleed out of our lives, little by little, so that they are gone from us. We've lost them. Joshua 1:8 says, positively, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth." It's just like the Word, just bleeding out and it's gone.
This is a great danger, friends. It's a great danger, and I've seen it again and again. I yearn, I'm pleading with you to get your attention here. I want you to look to yourselves. I want you to look in the mirror of the Word and say, "Am I drifting from Christ? Is there evidence that I'm drifting from Jesus? Am I further away from Him, than I was a year ago? Am I less zealous for Him, than I was a year ago? What is the direction of my life?" I want you to look at yourselves through the mirror of the Word. That's what I want. And I'm going to do the same myself. The Book of Hebrews, as I mentioned, is the ultimate warning book of the Bible. And the warnings are going to get more severe, as we go on in the Book of Hebrews.
The great danger here, is for you to blow it off, say, "It'll never happen to me. I don't need to hear this. Besides, I believe in, 'Once saved, always saved.' I believe in that, and so I don't think I need to heed these warnings in the Book of Hebrews. It doesn't apply to me." As a matter of fact, one very well known, and ordinarily reliable teacher of the Word of God, took this approach, even on this passage. He said this, "To whom is this warning directed? It cannot be directed to Christians." He wrote, "They can never be in danger of neglecting salvation, since they already have it. They can neglect growth and discipleship, but they cannot neglect salvation." Friends, I hope you're well enough trained to know that salvation comes to you in stages. We don't have it all yet. And if we're in the middle stage called 'sanctification,' our sense of assurance and certitude that we began with justification, is based on how sanctification's going. And if sin is just ravaging your life, how do you know you're justified? If you're living like a slave to sin, how can you know?
I tell you, if you're not growing, you're drifting. If you're not growing, you're drifting. You're going to keep... You're going to make progress toward Christ-likeness everyday or you're going to drift. Now, this man that I referred to, if I told you his name, you'd know it, but I won't say it. But I tell you, that if you take that approach to Hebrews, you'll miss the whole point of the whole book. It's written to Christians, because we need the warnings. The warnings accomplish the final salvation. And we Christians, we do well to heed the warnings, and take them seriously, and not blow them off. If you think drifting away from Christ can never happen to you, beware. 1 Corinthians 10:12, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." What does, "Take heed," mean, except, how about read the Book of Hebrews and take its warning seriously? "Take heed," that's what it says.
What Causes Drifting?
Now, what causes this drifting? Well, the immediate answer, right in the verse, is neglect of the Gospel. Neglect of the Gospel. So the opposite, we have to pay more careful attention. That's the remedy. We'll get to that. The opposite is the truth. The one who neglects the Gospel is the one who's drifting away. Or in verse three, "How should we escape, if we ignore such a great salvation?" It's a sense of ignoring the things of the soul. It certainly could refer to someone who's heard the claims of the Gospel, but has not yet made a commitment to Christ. I don't think that's the home base of these verses. He speaks in this language, "We must pay more careful... Into what we have heard, our great salvation." He's speaking like one of the group.
And so what causes it? Well, I'm going to say this later, and develop it a little bit later, but there is a voluntary drifting, and there's an involuntary drifting. Involuntary drifting is just, you get wrapped up with the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. You're just not aware of what's happening. And little, by little, by little, you're just not where you used to be. You're not making an active choice at that moment, "I'm going to turn my back on Jesus," but you are making little choices to not follow Christ, little choices, and that's where it becomes voluntary.
Hebrews 3:13 speaks of the hardening process due to sin's deceitfulness. We'll get to that next chapter, but sin is deceitful. It's not honest with us and it's not telling us everywhere that it's at work in our lives. We're not always aware. And so there's this hardening. What is the hardening? Well, the opposite is a yieldedness, a soft heart, a yielded spirit. When the Holy Spirit speaks to you through the Word, as it says in Hebrews 3:7-8, "As the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.'" It's like you hear Him speak, and He's prompting you, and telling you what to do, and you are digging in your heels. You're being stiff-necked, like the Jews in the Old Testament. You're not yielded to Him. Your heart is hard, like Pharaoh. You're not yielding to what God's saying and sin does that. It has the power to harden your heart.
What Are Some Markers Along the Way?
Well, what are some tragic milestones along the way of someone drifting from Jesus? When I was out in the Atlantic Ocean, I started noticing the hotel where we first were. We wouldn't go to that hotel, but that's where we went in and started swimming. And it was diagonal down the beach. That was a marker and I knew that we had drifted a lot at that point. What are the markers? Well, how about a loss of that initial joy over salvation? Remember in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure? In his joy, he hides a treasure, and then sells everything that he has. I mean anything, everything for Jesus. That's how it is, the devotion of those early times with Jesus. And you love Him so much, and you want to worship Him. And you want to follow Him, and you're just so excited. But then there's a loss of that: Not so excited, not so yearning to be with Jesus, not so thrilled over the Word, not so excited about corporate worship, not so thrilled to sing hymns or spiritual songs, like you used to.
And with that comes a gradual lessening of spiritual disciplines: Not spending as much time in prayer, not meeting as faithfully with the Lord in your quiet time, not reading as much, hurrying through it. And then a gradual lowering of standards of personal holiness. And why? Because your hungry heart wants to be happy, looking for something. And Jesus isn't doing it for you as much anymore, so you start to look toward the world, you start to look to other things. And so you start to lower your standards on holiness, so you can get some things from the world, growing hunger and thirst then, for worldly pleasures, and developing of habits in that direction. And with that, of course, a gradual lessening of spiritual disciplines, correspondingly.
And then irritation with spiritual disciplines starts to creep in. "What a burden," you say, like in that Book of Malachi, "That you have to go do this, you have to go to church, or you have to pray, or do these disciplined things." And it starts to feel like a burden to you, not so eager to do it. And along with that, comes a critical spirit to those that probably are doing better than you spiritually. So excited, the new converts or even old ones, that have walked well with the Lord. And you just don't like being around them. Well, they annoy you. They irritate you a bit and it starts to become a burden to just be with them.
And so Sunday morning isn't something you're really thrilled about, and start to be jealous of those people you pass on Sunday morning. They're out there unconcerned about church attendance." Oh, that I were free. Play golf like that guy or garden like that woman." And that these thoughts start creeping in, and at that point, you're pretty much ripe for changing habits on worship attendance, going from 52 times a year, to 50, to 48, to 46. And it starts 'til... You're bleeding out. You don't even know it's happening, but little by little, you're drifting. You're not where you used to be.
Along with that, comes a growing irritability in life, in general. You're not as characterized by the fruit of the Spirit anymore. Those worldly things are not really making you happy. Maybe you think, "If I do a little more of them, they'll make me happy, but this level hasn't made me happy." And so fruit of the spirit does not really characterize you much. And you have spasms of conviction. Your conscience smites you. You make some changes. You turn over a new leaf a little bit, but it isn't really availing, because you haven't gone to the root of the issue. Those are some markers along the way.
And when might it happen? Anytime. Times of prosperity, when things are going well, you can start drifting. Times of struggle, when there's an illness in the family, or might be persecution, or things going on, that can be a time when you start drifting away. Satan's at it all the time. Times of temptation are times of drifting away.
III. The Remedy to Drifting Away
Alright, so what is the remedy? Verse One, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." As I said, what we have heard is the Gospel. "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son." It's what God is speaking. It's what we've heard. The Word of God, the Gospel.
Jesus is the Gospel and He is God's final Word to the human race. And I would say, more specifically, the words of the Gospel. Remember, Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing and the hearing by the Word of Christ." And so your faith came initially by hearing with faith, hearing the Word with faith. And so your faith then gets bolstered, and strengthened, by hearing the Word with faith. Focus on what you have heard. It is by hearing the Word that your faith is renewed and given a new feast, so it gets vibrant and strong again. It's the Word.
Colossians 2:6-7, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught." Colossians 2:6-7 is saying that the way you started is the way you make progress. It's Christ. It's the Word of the cross. It's taking it in, hearing with faith. That's how you make progress. And it says, "We must pay attention." The remedy is paying attention, consider, give full heed to what's going on. Consider who's speaking to you, God. Consider carefully the matter of this message, the gravity of it, the weight of it. Allow the Gospel's seriousness and power to rest heavily on your mind.
The opposite of following this advice would be look on as a light thing, ignore it, blow it off. And it says, actually, we must pay, literally, more excellent attention to what we have heard. Pay more excellent attention. It intensifies it. Consider the matter of eternity, of Heaven and hell. Consider the Word of God and all of its power, its truth, its demands, its promises. Consider Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, did signs, and wonders, and miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, preached like no man had ever preached, so much that those who are sent to arrest him came back, and said, "No one ever spoke like this man."
This is the one who walked on water, who stilled the waves with His voice, who fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, who raised Lazarus from the dead on the fourth day. This is the one who is our substitute, who agreed in the Garden of Gethsemane to drink hell for you and me, and went and did it, who died on the cross, whose blood was shed, who stood in our place under the wrath of God, and then died, but on the third day, God raised Him from the dead. Consider these things. And for 40 days, He was with the church, instructing and teaching them, and then He ascended to Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God Almighty. At that place, He is interceding for you every day, praying for you. And from that place, He will come back to judge the living and the dead. Consider these things. Pay more careful attention to them. Get a sense of a proper appraisal of them.
Have you ever heard of Christie's of London? It's an art appraisal house and they have some of these famous art auctions, all time... Ming vase sold for a high price at Christie's. Well, who is Christie? Well, what they are, they hire the best art appraisers in the world, for something like 60 different categories. It's amazing. Antique Swiss pocket watches? Christie's is your place. The experts in the world are there. Or Rembrandt paintings. In order to develop that kind of expertise in appraisal, you have to know the history of the art, the history of the individual, like Rembrandt, you're studying. You can look at something and know right away, if it's a forgery, but more than that, you can say, "This is definitely Rembrandt, but not one of his better pieces." Why? "Well, this is what we see."
We need to be appraisers of the Gospel. Not judges or critics of it, I'm not saying that, but just students of it. Pay more excellent attention to what you've heard. Diligently study, so that you do not drift away.
IV. The Obligation to Take the Remedy
And we have an obligation here, friends, to take this remedy. "We must pay more careful attention, therefore." We must, because Jesus is great. That's what the 'therefore' means to me. Because of the greatness of Jesus, we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard. It's an obligation. And we have to take this remedy. We have to take this remedy.
I remember when we were in Haiti, one of the doctors gave a sick woman a prescription to be taken down to the pharmacy. And she took that prescription, and rolled it up, and put it in an amulet, and put it around her neck. Of course, Haiti is rife with voodoo and all kinds of mystical practices, but several days later, she came back, and she wasn't any better. Imagine our surprise, when we found out that she hadn't taken the written prescription down to the pharmacy to get the medication she needed. And even that wouldn't have been enough, she needed to take them. Here's your prescription: This is what you need to do, to not drift away, but you need to take the prescription. Don't write it on a strip of paper and put it around your neck. You need to actually do what it says.
Go home this afternoon and pay more careful attention to what you have heard. Do it again tomorrow, until you know that you're not drifting. And why? Because God told us how great this salvation is, that was first proclaimed to us by the Lord. And God testified to it "By signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to His will." Jesus was the first proclaimer of this Gospel. He stood up at the synagogue in Nazareth and they found that scroll in Isaiah, where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, and to heal all those that are sick in Zion, to rescue the captives." And he said, "Today, in your hearing, this Scripture is fulfilled." Jesus Christ preached this Gospel first, and then God testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles.
He said, "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him." Those are the apostles, I believe. And so the apostles heard Jesus, and then after Jesus ascended to Heaven, then they testified concerning it. It says in 1 John 1, "That which we have, which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim to you, concerning the Word of life." The apostles were eyewitnesses, and they handled these holy things, and they were with Jesus, and ate with Him, and saw Him. And saw Him in His resurrection, then they proclaimed. God testified by signs, and wonders, and various miracles. God, the Father, endued Christ with more wonder-working power than anyone else in history. Jesus did a river of miracles, showing the worth and value of the salvation that He came to bring. The blind saw, the lame walked, those who had leprosy were cured. The deaf heard, the dead were raised, and good news was preached to the poor. Those miracles accredited Jesus, testified to it.
And so it was also, with the apostles. They were able to do great signs and wonders. Acts 2:43, it says, "Everyone was filled with awe, and many signs, and wonders, and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a lame man at the temple gate called Beautiful. Acts 4, they prayed for power to do more miracles and more healing, "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders." Acts 5, again, the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all of these served to testify to the Gospel, that it's true. It's coming from God. This is really God testifying through Jesus and through the apostles, that this is the true salvation message. And therefore, to ignore it, or to drift away from it, is worthy of great punishment.
V. The Punishment of Ignoring Our Salvation
The author gives us a note of punishment here. Look at verse 2-3, "For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, then how shall we escape, if we ignore such a great salvation?" The Old Covenant had its penalties for disobedience... The message spoken by angels is the Old Covenant. And if you broke the Mosaic Law, in many cases, you died. The murderer was to be put to death. The adulterer was to be put to death. The blasphemer was to be put to death. The Sabbath breaker was to be put to death. It was just the death knell that came from the law. Administer death. It was a terrifying thing.
The author deals with it later in Hebrews 12, he says, "You have not come to a mountain that can be touched, Sinai, and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast with such a voice speaking words, that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: 'If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.' The sight was so terrifying, that Moses said, 'I'm trembling with fear.' "
Well, the author's saying that he Old Covenant was binding. You couldn't blow it off and it had the death penalty connected with it. How much greater, then, are we worthy of punishment, if we neglect such a great salvation, the New Covenant in Jesus? That's physical death. We're dealing here with eternal death. We're dealing with the issue of hell, eternity apart from God. The Law of Moses didn't consign anyone to hell; it just killed them physically. But failure to come to Christ results in eternity in hell.
In summation, we must pay more careful attention to the Gospel message about Christ, so that we do not drift away from Him. If we drift away, the punishment is more severe than we can possibly imagine. But paying more excellent attention to the Gospel is the remedy to this spiritual sickness.
Application: First and foremost, all I can say is come to Christ. It could be that God sovereignly brought you here and you have never made a commitment to Christ. It's one thing to drift away from Christ, it's another thing never to have come. And it could be that God brought you, for such a time as this, to hear the Gospel. You've heard of Christ crucified, now I'm making a direct appeal to you: Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus and you'll find full forgiveness for your sins. You'll find everything you need at the cross. You'll find a welcome. God, the Father, like the father of the prodigal son, standing at the foot of the driveway, saying, "Welcome home." And all of your sins will be forgiven. Purification for sin, available through the blood of Jesus.
But I'm mindful of the fact, that most of you who have come here today would call yourselves Christians. And that's why I say that this message is for you. Please don't drift away from Jesus. Please grow. Please feed your souls everyday on the Word of God. Please keep coming to church. And if you should move to another place, then find a good church, and go to that church. And I'm not getting legalistic here on church attendance. I know that there's some Sundays that you physically can't be there. I understand that. I'm just asking, when you don't go to church, what is the reason? Look at the reason. Test your hearts and see. And look at those milestones I listed. Are they happening to you? Are you drifting? Are you further from Jesus, than you were five years ago, ten years ago, five months ago? And if so, then repent, as it says in the Letter to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2. Turn around, you've forsaken your first love. Turn around, repent, and do the things you did at first. Go back and have those quiet times again. Be excited for Christian fellowship. Look at the sins that are in your life, that have drained your spiritual strength, and put them to death. They're killing you. They're waging war against your soul, it says in the Book of 1 Peter. Put them to death.
And watch out for involuntary drifting. American lifestyle, it's a busy life. Corrie ten Boom said, "Beware of the barrenness of a busy life." Any of you, that are able to testify to that? "The barrenness of a busy life." Watch out for that.
And finally, watch out for each other. See if anybody you know is drifting. It's not just the work of the elders, friends. We don't always know. Sometimes, we're among the last to know. Shepherd each other, love each other, ask questions. "How are you doing spiritually?" Take responsibility for each other's spiritual health. We'll talk more about that, much more in Chapter Three. But I'm just saying, please, notice each other, and say, "How are you doing? I haven't seen you in awhile. Are things going okay?" Many of you do that so beautifully, but keep doing it. Close with me in prayer, if you will.