David Jeremiah - The Danger Of Drifting
Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, and welcome to this edition of "Turning Point". Because I live near the ocean, it's not unusual to hear a news story about a surfer or a swimmer being caught in a strong current and drifting far offshore. Stories like this remind me of a danger many Christians fight. I call it "spiritual drifting". Just as floating adrift in the turbulent ocean waters leads to certain destruction, so we can be spiritually disoriented when we drift away from the rock of our salvation. We're studying the book of Hebrews in a new series called "Jesus is Enough". The title of today's message is "The Danger of Drifting", one of several warning messages the writer to the Hebrews gives to his spiritually immature readers, but drifting away from biblical truth can happen to anyone who is not careful. I'll show you how to stay anchored to God on today's edition of "Turning Point".
Today's message is about drifting, a word which appears in the first verse. And drifting, men and women, is so quiet. It's so easy, but it is so damning. All you need to do it is to do nothing. The first four verses of Hebrews chapter 2, address words to the drifters, and the human writer of Hebrews is issuing a stern warning that needs careful attention. It is not enough for him that his readers appreciate Christ. He desires that they appropriate Christ. He doesn't want them to just know more about Jesus Christ, as he has been declaring him in chapter 1. He desires that now that they know who Christ is, they embrace him in their faith, and they make a commitment to him.
Hebrews is a book of exhortation. Exhortation is motivation to go forward. It is to go on in your faith and not get caught in the drifting tides that will lead you away from your goal. This is a call for commitment. This is a plea for decision. "Don't drift away from the harbor of salvation" is the message, and this section is, first of all, about those who are close to salvation but never, ever get into the harbor. They're drifting along, and they drift right past the Gospel, and they're lost. It is also, I believe, an application to those who are Christians who have been close to Christ and have walked with Christ, but along the way, they have found themselves drifting away from Christ. And so both those audiences are in view as we study these verses together.
And drifting is an interesting thing, is it not? Drifting is always more away from something than it is towards something, and in these four short verses, the writer of Hebrews is gonna tell us three things about drifting. First of all, drifting is irresponsible. It's irresponsible. Notice what it says in verse 1: "Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away".
The opening words of Hebrews 2, contain the first of five crucial warnings that are in the book of Hebrews, and all of these warnings are found within the context of the message of the superiority of Jesus Christ. These warnings are given to us so that we don't just take the information we are given and become smarter about Jesus, but we understand that, when you know Jesus, there is always a requirement that comes to your heart because of that knowledge, and the warnings and the exhortations of the book of Hebrews are for us not just to read about him, not just to appreciate who he is, but to do something about what we have learned.
The Hebrew Christians of the first century were vacillating between the benefits of salvation and the ritualism and sacrifices of the Mosaic law. And the writer of Hebrews is endeavoring to encourage them to make a commitment to Christ. Now, when you read the word "therefore", at the beginning of the verse, verse 1 of chapter 2, you know that you need to find out what it's there for, and it's there to show you to look back. "Therefore", therefore, what? "Therefore", what do you mean, "therefore"? Therefore, because of everything we have learned already about who Jesus Christ is, the writer of Hebrews has presented to us in chapter 1, Jesus Christ in his glorious person and in his wonderful work. He is the Creator. He is the Sustainer. He is the Redeemer. His dominion is from everlasting to everlasting, and according to the Father in heaven, he is God. He supersedes the prophets of the Old Testament. He is exalted above the angels of the Bible. How could anyone neglect this wonderful Savior?
But notice how the verse begins: "Therefore", therefore what? Therefore, because of what you know about who Jesus is. "Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard". In other words, because of who he is, don't fall asleep. Don't take for granted that you know who Jesus is and consider that that is all you need to do. Notice, it says here you're to give heed to these things. What does that mean? Well, the word "give heed" in the language of the New Testament means "to apply your mind and your heart and your life to what you have heard".
We are being urged to take the message of Jesus Christ very seriously. Here, the writer says, "take heed", because it's your responsibility to do that in light of his greatness. This means we are to apply our minds to who Jesus is, not just to know him, but to take that truth into our being. If we do not do this, according to this writer, we are in danger of drifting altogether. Now, the word "drift", in the language here, means "to float passively". It is the picture of a sailing vessel that has been cut loose from its moorings, and so it's floating, and it's just being carried along with the current or with the wind. It has no control of its own destiny. It has lost its ability to chart its own course.
Now, isn't it interesting to ponder why it is so easy to become drifters? Not just in this instance, but drifters in any way? I don't know all the answers to that, but I've got two suggestions why it's easy to drift. First of all, we drift sometimes because of presumption. We don't do what we should do because we think somebody else is already doing it. And in the relationship with God and Christ, it sort of goes like this: A.W. Tozer said, "Some say, 'God must take the initiative. I don't have to do anything'". And Tozer says, "I believe that God will always be the aggressor. By the way", he wrote, "I believe he has already taken the initiative in sending his holy Son, Jesus Christ, into this world".
And if God has taken the initiative, then our responsibility is to respond. We drift because, while we know things to be true, and we may in the back of our minds assume there's some action we should take, we rather suppose that somebody else has done it, that God is doing it, and that we're okay. We are presumptuous. But I think, more practically, for many of us here today, we drift because we're preoccupied. We're just preoccupied.
I sat down this week and tried to get a picture of what it's like in our culture today, just to function. Life is busy, is it not? Can I get a witness? Life is busy, and our young couples especially know that. All of us know it, but especially young couples with children. There's work to do. There's children to raise. There's relationships that demand attention. There are parents to care for, birthdays to celebrate, education to finish, bills to pay. It is so easy to fall prey to the busyness of life and lose our perspective on Christ. When we become preoccupied with life to the extent that we have little time to develop our spiritual core, then drifting is inevitable.
Don't ever forget, men and women, that the ambition of the devil for all of us is to keep us away from the Word of God. That's his number one priority, and because, if he does that, he's won the battle. It's not possible to be victorious in your life as a Christian if you fold this book up and never read it because this is what is the nourishment God has given us so that we can be victorious in our walk. The devil knows that, if he can keep you from God's truth, he's won the war. On the other hand, God knows that, if you will let the Holy Spirit take control of your life, what is it? It says in the book of John, "He will guide you into all truth". He will give you the things you need to go forward in your life so that you do not become a drifter.
Here's what I want you to learn from this first point: Take heed. This means it's our responsibility not to drift. If we find ourselves drifting, it's irresponsible on our part. Drifting is irresponsible. Now, notice, secondly, drifting is irreversible. Notice what it says in verse 2 and 3: "For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape If we neglect, if we drift away from so great a salvation"?
Now, listen to the argument of the writer. First of all, he appeals to the angels. We're back to the angels again. And he says, "If the word spoken through the angels", what is that word? Well, it's evidently the law that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. We're told that the angels participated in the mediation of the law. Hear the Word of God from Hebrews 10: "Anyone who has rejected Moses's law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace"?
Wow, the writer of Hebrews is trying to help us get the gravity of this and the sensitivity to it. He's saying, "If God so dealt with those who are living under the law, how will he ever be able to ignore those who trample underfoot his so great salvation"? This book is about the word "better", that everything is better. Christ is better than the prophets' message of the Old Testament. He's better than the angels. We're gonna continue to learn the betterness of Christ, but that's the point. If Christ is better than the law and if, under the law, there was a just recompense of reward, what will happen if we take that which is better and we drift away from it, and we don't allow it to bring us to faith in Christ?
Now notice it says here that, when we drift away from this opportunity, we drift away from, quote, unquote, "so great salvation". It's not just salvation. It's not just great salvation. It's "so great salvation". "So great" as what? So great as what has been written in the early book. So great about Jesus Christ and who he is. Why is salvation so great? First of all, it's so great because it's great enough for everyone. Salvation is enough for anyone. There's no other place to turn.
Did you know that God doesn't have a Plan B? He doesn't come to us in the Word and say, "Here's my so great salvation, and if you don't like this, why don't you try this"? No, his so great salvation is so great because it's the answer for all mankind, not just our culture. The Gospel is the Gospel for the whole world, and that's why it's so great a salvation. It's so great also because it's a forever salvation. It's not just for today or tomorrow, and you don't have to come back ten years from now to get it renewed. Salvation is an eternal covenant between you and God that cannot be broken, and it's also so great because of the cost which was required for it to be made available to us, the cost of the death of Jesus Christ, the bloody sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, who died on the cross to make this so great salvation available to us.
I like the word "so" in this little chapter, and it reminds me of another "so" in the Bible, in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son". Those two "sos" go together, don't they? "So great a salvation". "So loved the world". The writer of Hebrews is saying, if you miss this so great salvation, if you allow your ship of state to float pass the harbor of salvation, there's no other alternative. It's irreconcilable. There's no other place to go. This is God's plan.
You say, "Well, that sounds very politically un-correct". I don't know if it is or not. I just know it is biblically accurate that God has a plan, and that plan included the death of his own Son. If there could have been any other way, surely, he would've explored it, but he did not. He gave us his plan in Jesus, and the point is this so great salvation is God's only opportunity for you to know forgiveness of your sin and eternal life with God. And if you drift away, there's no other place to go. How shall we escape if we neglect, if we drift away from so great a salvation?
Now, the third thing he wants us to know about drifting is that drifting is irresponsible, irreversible, and it is totally irrational. Why would you drift? And he wants us to understand that in these last few verses and few words. This is what he's going to tell us. He's going to tell us that the message of salvation is, first of all, a message that was declared by Jesus Christ himself, and drifting is irrational because it dismisses the message of the Lord himself. Look at verse 3, this message of salvation, this so great salvation, notice this next phrase, "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord". This so great salvation at first began to be spoken by the Lord.
Ladies and gentlemen, who was the first gospel preacher in the history of the world? It was the Lord Jesus Christ, at least from the New Testament perspective. He's the one who declared the Gospel. He was the Gospel, and he declared the Gospel, and the writer of Hebrews says, "How are you going to escape if you neglect so great salvation, the salvation that the Lord himself spoke"? He was the original speaker. He was the salvation, and he was the speaker of salvation.
So the Lord spoke this at the beginning. Was there anybody who heard him? And that brings us to the second point. It disregards the men who heard the Lord speak. It says in verse 3, "and was confirmed to us by those who heard him". The writer of Hebrews wasn't one who was there to hear Jesus, but he heard the messages of those who were there. When Jesus spoke the Gospel when he walked upon this earth, the Bible tells us there were those who walked with him, who were with him in all of his miracles, in all of his workings, all of his speakings, and they heard him, and they gave testimony to the fact that everything he said was true.
So now you have, if you walk away from the Gospel, you're walking away from Jesus and what he says. You're walking away from everybody who knew him and walked with him and heard him, and you're saying, "I don't believe that either". And if you think we're finished, we're not quite, because there's one third thing you walk away from irrationally when you walk away from Christ. You not only dismiss the message of the Lord himself and disregard the men who heard the Lord, but you disbelieve the miracles of God.
Notice the rest of our passage today: "And was confirmed to us by those who heard him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will"? Do you know how much God wanted you to know that Jesus Christ was the Savior? He allowed him to come as the message, to speak the message, others to hear the message, and then, if you still aren't convinced, he gave to Jesus Christ the power to do signs and wonders so that every obstacle would be removed.
You see, when Christ walked upon this earth, there was no New Testament. There was no final word from God, and so the spoken word had to be authenticated by miracles, signs, and wonders, it says. The Bible says that signs are for the purpose of convincing the Jews. 1 Corinthians 1:22: "The Jews require a sign". What is a sign? A sign was a miracle that was so marvelous that there could only be one explanation and, that is, that it came from God, and that authenticated the speaker or the one who did the miracle. The gospel of John is built around seven sign miracles that Jesus did, and if you read the gospels, of John, you will find them, they start in chapter 2, with the changing water into wine, and then throughout the book, you have the feeding of the 5.000, Jesus walking on the water, the boy born blind, the paralytic at the pool.
You have all these miracles. There's seven of them, and all these miracles, we are told, were done for a purpose. Do you know what the purpose was? Well, in case anyone didn't understand it, at the end of the book of John, in the 20th chapter, we are told why these sign miracles were done. John chapter 20, listen to these words. This is like a postscript to the Gospel of John: "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name".
The writer of John's Gospel, said, "Jesus did many other miracles", but these seven are written in this book so that, when you read about how the Lord Jesus fed 5.000 people, and you read about how he walked on water, and you read about how he raised Lazarus from the dead, and you read about how he healed a paralytic, if you read all these things, you see that no one else could do this but God. These miracles were given as a sign to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be, and they were given to us that we might believe that God did this and that we might believe on Jesus Christ and, believing in him, we would have eternal life. Do you see that?
So at the end of this passage, we're told that, when we drift away from these things, it's just totally irrational to do it. We have the word of Christ, we have the word of those who walked with Christ, we have the testimony of all these signs and miracles and wonders that were done, and even at the end, it says, "and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he gave for the church". Men and women, if I'm a little excited today and a little passionate today, it's this: I realize that, if you miss this, you've missed everything. If you miss salvation in Jesus Christ, "There is salvation in no other name, for there is one name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved".