Moms and dads are accustomed to dishing out advice. To try and guide a son or daughter through the narrow straights of life is part of the responsibility of a parent. Some guidance, if not heeded, will cost, but the price is not too severe. “Brush your teeth before you go to bed,” mom says. If you don’t take their advice then you might have to suffer the sounds of a dentist’s drill. Oh, it won’t be a walk in the park, but you will get over it. “Be sure and write down all of your homework assignments,” dad chimes in. If you fail to heed the advice then you will probably make a bad grade. No big deal, right? I mean you can make it up on the next test or maybe the teacher will let you do some work for extra credit.
Some advice is far more costly if not taken seriously and applied to life. “Save yourself for marriage. Don’t allow yourself to get in a situation where your passions control you,” mom tells her daughter, dad tells his son. If you fail to listen and heed the advice you won’t need mom or dad to say, “I told you so.” You will be reminded day-in and day-out of the decision you have made by the cries of a baby. “Don’t do drugs and get drunk,” dad tells you as you leave the house on Friday night. If you think he is just an old man who doesn’t want you to have any fun you may end up in jail, find yourself addicted to what will destroy you, or worse, in a body bag because of your failure to heed dad’s advice. “Don’t hang out with kids who lack character,” mom and dad tell you over and over again. If you think your wisdom exceeds that of your father and you go ahead and make friends with the wrong crowd you could pay with the loss of your reputation.
Preachers and counselors are accustomed to handing out advice. They try and help people make another go at a marriage gone bad. They try and help parents and children reconcile when relationships turn sour. They try and help people who’ve found themselves walking on the wild side, begin to walk on the Lord’s side. They try and instill in others what is truly meaningful in life and what is nothing more than decoration.
Teachers and coaches are quite proficient at offering advice to help young people become skilled at everything from history and biology to form tackling and free throws. They work on the little things, never overlook minor deficiencies, and praise a job well done.
Advice comes to us from all angles. There are many, many counselors and advisors all around us who are willing to give us good counsel concerning things that really matter in life. If we will pay attention and heed the advice of those who truly want to help, those who are equipped to help us, then we can experience the benefits of wise counsel. If we disregard the advice of others and try and go it alone then we are sure to find ourselves lost on the high seas of life, taking bad turns whenever we make a move, and wondering what has gone wrong.
Among all of the counselors and teachers that are provided for us there is one bit of advice, that if we fail to take it seriously, if we take it too lightly, if we decide to get around to it one day – it will cost us everything. Disregarding the advice of the wise old sage of Hebrew lore will mean nothing less than utter despair and destruction. The consequences are real. The price is far too high to consider. To miss the ship would mean to miss everything of value, everything that is precious, and all that is priceless.
Today, as we turn once again to the powerful book of Hebrews we find the most serious insight, the most pressing proposition, and the most priceless promise that will ever come our way. I pray that if you have slept through services in the past, or never paid attention before, that today you will heed the advice of the ages of wisdom and consider the cost of letting the promise drift right by you. Let’s take a look at Hebrews 2:1-4.
1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how 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. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4 NIV)
In the opening verse of Hebrews 2, the writer links what he is about to say with what he has already said in chapter 1. Just for a moment, for those who have missed one of the studies we have done on the book of Hebrews, I would like to catch you up on what we’ve been talking about.
In chapter 1, we learned that Jesus is far superior to the prophets and to the angels. Jesus is the Sovereign King, fully in control of the Universe and everything in it. He is in control because He created everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will ever be. We learned that in times past, God spoke to people through the prophets, His appointed messengers. He did this at many times and in various ways, but in these last days God has spoken to us in the clearest way possible –through His Son, Jesus. We learned that God has appointed Jesus as the heir of all things; all things in all of creation belong to Jesus. He has told us that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s own being, He is the radiance of the Father – Jesus is God Almighty.
In chapter 1 we learned that Jesus is far superior to the angels. God never called one of His angels, “My Son.” God never commanded Jesus to worship angels, but He did command the angels to worship Jesus. God never said to one of the angels, “Your throne O God will endure forever.” God never once said to any of the angels,
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:10-12 NIV)
Jesus is far superior to the angels because He fashioned them with His own hands. He created them, He alone sustains them, they will always serve the purpose He has ordained for them, and Jesus alone will rule and reign in eternity as the Sovereign King over all of creation.
With all of this knowledge, with all of this insight given to us by God Himself, we are now confronted with a choice. What will we do with the information we have been given? That may seem like a simple question, but everyday we see illustrations of how easy it is to neglect this simple bit of advice. The writer of Hebrews says, 1 “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” I don’t think it is any coincidence that the writer of Hebrews has chosen the words that are before us. As a matter of fact, I believe that his choosing of these words best describes what happens to the vast majority of us throughout our lives.
When he cautions us to heed the words we have heard in chapter 1, “so that we do not drift away” we find the perilous process of missing the boat of God’s best blessings. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I have never met anyone who has told me, “When I die I want to go to hell. I know that Jesus died for my sins, but I reject what He has done for me and I will stand before God on my own merits.” There may be a rare person who is foolish enough to say such a thing, but I’ve yet to meet them.
Larry never intended to die with his sins on his hands. He just didn’t get around to taking care of business. He was always busy with work and making sure that he did what he wanted to do when the opportunity to get right with God came around. It is not that Larry didn’t believe in God. Sure he believed in God. Larry had learned in Vacation Bible School, when he was just a boy, that it is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God. (Psalm 14:1) It wasn’t that Larry thought that Jesus was a hoax of history, he was as moved by the Easter and Christmas stories as anyone else. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the opportunity to accept Jesus and the sacrifice that He had made for his sins. Larry went to church now and then. He never missed a Christmas “Candle Light Service” and he would always go to church when things were rough in his life. Larry had even heard Billy Graham preach one time and he was moved by his invitation to receive Jesus as his Savior. Larry knew that God was calling him to step out and make the commitment, but some of his buddies were there at the time and he was afraid of what they might think.
When the day of Larry’s death came and he faced the consequences of standing before a holy and righteous God alone, he cried uncontrollably as he heard the Lord say, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.” Larry said, “But Lord, I always believed that You existed. I tried to be as good as I could. I never really hurt anybody, at least not intentionally, not very often any way.” Jesus said, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.”
Larry is like many folks in our world today. He knew the truth intellectually. He could recite a verse or two. He even knew the road that led to the church, but he had never traveled the road that leads to the cross. He was too busy. His life was all right as it was. He was moral. He didn’t cuss too much. He had never been unfaithful to his wife. He paid his taxes, well, most of what he owed. He enjoyed his pleasures and was afraid that Jesus would take them away. In the end, his negligence had carried him right past the most precious promise of God – eternal life.
Larry is much like the people who were invited to the great banquet Jesus spoke about in Luke 14. Listen and see if you can recognize the mentality that was present in Jesus’ day. Isn’t it still around today?
16Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18″But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19″Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20″Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21″The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22″‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23″Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'” (Luke 14:16-24 NIV)
Too busy to dine with the King. I’ll get around to it when I get past this hurdle, this challenge, this struggle. I’d love to but right now I’ve got other things that I need to do first. Some day. When the time is right. When I get older, but right now I’m having fun in high school hanging with the fellas, impressing the crowd, trying to hold onto my boyfriend. I will some day, just not today.
Nobody intends to miss out on God’s proposition of salvation. Surely nobody would willfully walk away from God’s gift of salvation. I will get right some day, but not today. My friends might think I was a Jesus freak if I stepped out today.
We hear the truth, we learn about salvation, we feel the Lord tugging at our hearts, and yet we turn away because now is just not a good time. Don’t you see how Satan is blinding our eyes to what is truly important in life? Don’t you see how he is distracting us and succeeding in convincing us that tomorrow would be a much better day? Tomorrow may never come.
I want to take a deeper look at verse 1 for just a few minutes and teach you about two very important words. The writer of Hebrews says, 1 “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
The first word that we need to understand to get a clear picture of the intensity we need in linking up with the Father is the Greek word, “prose,cw” (prosecho). It is a laser sharp word that is translated as “attention, give heed to, or take heed” in English. With its modifier it is translated “pay more careful attention” in the New International Version.” This powerful little word means, “to bring near, to bring a ship to land, to turn your mind to, to attach one’s self to, hold or to cleave to.”
The second word that can greatly help us in sharpening our focus is the word, “pararre,w” (pararheo). The word means, “to flow from alongside or to let slip.” In the New International Version the word is translated, “do not drift away.” The word can be used of something flowing or slipping away, as in a ring slipping off of someone’s finger or a boat that is allowed to slip past its port. It can also be used to refer to something that has carelessly been allowed to slip away.
Both of the words were used in times past to refer to nautical situations. The first word means to tie up a ship, to secure it. The second word can be used of a ship that has drifted past its destination because a sailor failed to pay attention to what he was doing. John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Hebrews,
With these meanings in mind, the verse could be translated, ‘Therefore, we must the more eagerly secure our lives to the things which we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor of salvation and be lost forever.’ The illustration is both graphic and appropriate. Most people do not deliberately, in a moment, turn their backs on God or curse Him. Most people just slowly, almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation out to eternal destruction. (MacArthur, pg. 44)
Far too many folks are drifting into church on Sunday morning and drifting right back out again. It is as if high tide occurs about 10:45 am on Sunday morning as we rush to the house of God. We sit and slumber while salvation is offered. Low tide rolls around about 12:00 or some time shortly thereafter and the tide washes us back out to sea once again. What is it that causes us to drift by the Good News when it is should be commanding our absolute, undivided attention? That is a great question. Let me share with you what I have learned. I believe that there are at least four tides of life that carry us right past the safe harbor of God’s salvation. Let me share them with you.
Familiarity with the truth. For so many folks who are here this morning, you have been going to church for so long and so often that you have become too comfortable, too familiar with the truth. You can recite Scripture and verse right along with your Sunday school teacher or preacher, but your heart has become cold and your ears have become deaf to the call of God wooing you to Himself. The invitation that will be offered in just a few minutes is for someone else, not you. It couldn’t be for you, I mean, after all, you are a deacon or Elder, you are a Sunday school teacher or Chairman of the Board, God couldn’t be calling you…could He?
Friends and family. There is a second tide that will wash you and me right by the harbor of Heaven and that is our friends and family. I have seen on many occasions how the Lord can speak so clearly to someone that they know He is calling them to make a decision, to step out of the pew and into His arms, but they are too concerned with what their friends or family members will think. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable, we don’t want to feel embarrassed, we don’t want others to think that we’ve become “religious” or some kind of “Jesus fanatic” so we harden our hearts and grip the pew like a baby holding onto his blanket. We convince ourselves that the next time our friends and family aren’t around, then we will be ready to make the commitment. My friend, if you won’t stand for Jesus around those who love you, you will never stand for Jesus around those who can’t stand you or the One you stand for.
Clinging to what is comfortable. There is a third tide that will wash us past the dock of Heaven’s divine glory and that is our persistence to cling to what is comfortable. “I like my life like it is. I don’t want to give up what I enjoy most in life. I don’t know what God will do with my life if I give it to Him. I know that my relationship with my girlfriend doesn’t honor God, but I like her and I know she likes me. I know that I’m not right with God, but if getting right with God means that I have to change then I would rather not get right with God.” All of these statements and more reflect the heart of someone who would rather cling to what is comfortable instead of casting themselves at the feet of the One who gave Himself to pay for their sins. What a tragedy! What a mistake!
The deceptions of Satan. There is another group of folks that are being swept away by the tide and missing out on God’s best blessing in life, His salvation. These folks are blinded, they are misled, and they are deceived by the Enemy who seeks to destroy them. They are lured by things that don’t matter, things that will inevitably destroy them. Satan is wise like the Eskimo hunter who sets his sight on getting a wolf. The hunter first takes a sharp knife and dips it into a bucket of blood. He lets the blood freeze and then he dips it again into the bucket of blood and allows it to freeze. He repeats this process over and over again until the knife is totally concealed beneath layer after layer of enticing blood. Then the hunter goes out into the wilderness and sticks the handle of the knife deep into the snow so that only the blood rich blade is showing. The wolf’s keen sense of smell attracts him to the blood. He can’t believe that he has found such a delicious meal. He sniffs the blood and takes a lick…then another. The wolf licks the blood faster and faster until he licks it right down to the blade. The blade begins to cut his tongue, but he doesn’t even notice because the blood tastes so good. Finally, he doesn’t realize that he is being satisfied by his own warm blood…and he bleeds to death!
You say, “I’m satisfied. I’ve got what I want.” Yes, you may have what you want, but is having what you want going to have you in the end? I’ve known far too many people who said, “I want to have control” and yet when they had complete control they lost control in the worst way. I’ve known men who’ve thought they had a raw deal with the wife of their youth and found someone who finally made them happy. Their happiness became a nightmare before it was all said and done. I’ve known folks who put everything to the side, their character, their reputation, their family, so that they could make a million. When they achieved their goal, what really mattered to them, they were all alone and still unhappy. While they headed full sail towards what they wanted they drifted right past what they needed – the salvation of Almighty God.
These are the tides of life. If you and I don’t pay careful attention we will find ourselves swept away, drifting right by the safe harbor of Heaven. I know that there are many who may think I am getting all worked up over nothing. After all, we believe that God is real, that He created us, and that He gave His Son to die for our sins. We believe that the Bible is God’s Word, that eternal life is found in Jesus alone, and that we will all have to stand before God some day. We believe all of these things to be true. We know them in our hearts, we agree intellectually with their truth, but we must do more than believe – we must receive.
The Bible teaches us that there are consequences to our actions, to our choices. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of this when he says, in verses 2-3,
2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how 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.
If the message given by the angels was binding? What message is that? The message that was binding was the Law, delivered on Mount Sinai to Moses. Luke tells us about how the Law was delivered in Acts 7,
37″This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. (Acts 7:37-38 NIV)
The Law was binding all right. The penalty for breaking God’s Law was before the people day and night. Millions of lambs have been slain at the Temple for the forgiveness of the sins committed by the people. There were some laws, that if they were broken, the violator would pay with his life. You can see what I am talking about by taking a look at John 8:3-11.
3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11″No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11 NIV)
A woman is caught in adultery and the Law of Moses calls for her to be stoned to death? Where does that come from? If you will take a look at Deuteronomy 22 you will find out. The Law is binding. Breaking the Law will break you. You cannot stand to bear the weight of the Law. This is not only true in Moses’ day, or Jesus’ day, but it is true for our day as well. If you choose to break the law and you continue to do so, eventually the law will break you.
Now let me ask you, “If Moses was inferior to Jesus, the angels are inferior to Jesus, and the Law is inferior to Jesus, then how can we who have been given so much expect God to wink His eye and dismiss our drifting?” God has given us His full revelation, He has come to us, the Cross shouts at us of the love, justice, and mercy of God. Do we, who neglect this cry expect God to wink at us and say, ‘It’s alright. Don’t worry about? How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart today? Won’t you pay careful attention to getting right with God before you leave this sanctuary this morning?