This blog is a study of Hebrews 2. Instead of one long blog, I’ve divided it into three shorter blogs so you can think more deeply about each one. It deals with the very real issue of how we should think about those who drift away from the faith and what we should do if we ourselves are the ones drifting.
I want to tell you the story of a fictitious couple by the name of George and Georgette Jingling. Georgette was born into a Christian family and believed in Jesus ever since she could remember. She was practically raised in Sunday school and was an active member of her church youth group. She went to a Christian high school and then on to a Christian college. After she graduated, she started working in an office and met a man who swept her off her feet. However, while he was not a Christian he showed some real interest in religion and started attending church with her. He made a profession of faith in Christ just before their wedding and everything seemed to be perfect. She stopped working while the kids were young but then went back after the kids were in school. All along Georgette had been very active in her church; her husband less so, but attended church because he knew it meant a lot to his wife.
After the kids we all ole enough for school, she went back to work. She made a whole new group of friends who were not believers, and for the first time her faith was challenged by their frequent questions. Some of her values were scorned and she felt increasing pressure to conform to the behavior of her office mates. She grew increasingly tired of trying to balance the pressures at work along with family and church, so she started to withdraw from her church activities. Her Sunday attendance became infrequent because it was her only personal day off.
Her husband thought it was great to have her home more and he felt less guilty about his sporadic attendance. The kids didn’t mind skipping church since they hadn’t developed many friendships there. Soon the family stopped going altogether and it didn’t even seem unnatural. One day George announced that he no longer considered himself a Christian. Georgette wanted to be shocked but knew it would be hypocritical since she had drifted so far away from her faith. And the kids? Who knows?
This little story might be a contemporary version of why the Book of Hebrews was written. We do not know who wrote the book, but whoever it was had a pastoral concern that long-time believers to whom he was writing were ignoring spiritual truth and were drifting away from their devotion to Christ. As far as we can tell, the probable cause for their deserting the faith was due to the increased persecution and social condemnation that Christians were facing under Emperor Nero (see 10:32-39). Thus our author’s challenge was to encourage, exhort, and stimulate these beleaguered believers to hold on to their commitment to Christ and endure to the end. Apparently, it is not enough to have once believed, but one must continue to do so.
I would say that Hebrews 3:14 is the theme verse of this entire book: “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” (NKJV) I have been in Pastoral ministry for 44 yrs., and I have seen many professing Christians drift away from their relationship with Christ and from the church, so I know it can happen. And there will be many of you who are reading this blog who believe that you are Christians but will not last in the faith. It is my sincere hope that God will help us all “to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith,” “to make our calling and election sure,” and challenge us to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”
What does it mean to drift away? Whatever it means, the writer of Hebrews includes himself in the danger. 2:1- “We must pay more careful attention…” Thus, the warning is to all Christians to pay greater attention (perissoteros) to Christ, who is the Word spoken by God in these latter days (1:2). The word for drifting (pararuomai) makes use of some powerful imagery. Picture yourself in a boat or canoe heading to a docking point on the shore on a very swift moving river. As you head into that spot, you need to be careful not to stop paddling or cut the motor too soon or else the current will pull you away and you will begin to drift downstream where there is the danger of rapids and a waterfall. You need to pay close attention to the docking point lest you drift away. The writer of Hebrews says that the docking point is Christ and we must be very careful that we are continuing to move toward Him and not drifting from Him, being pulled away by the currents of life.
The people for whom Hebrews was written were facing the current of persecution. Maybe you are too. People at work or school treat you as an oddity because they know you are a Christian. Georgette, in our opening story, was facing some of that ridicule as well as the current of life’s cares and worries. Maybe that is your situation. You’re just too busy, so many things to think about, so many things to do and not enough time for God. Perhaps you are facing the current of the world’s glitter and attraction, or desire for fame and fortune. These things are causing you to pay little attention to Christ because your focus is on what the world has to offer you.
Perhaps you are facing the current of rebellion; whatever someone in authority tells you makes you want to do the opposite. Your parents want you to go to church so that is the last place you want to go; they want you to love Jesus and that’s the last thing you want to do. [By the way, this is not to say that a person cannot be a Christian if they don’t attend church. However, the Scripture assumes and teaches that the church is a part of the God’s pattern for our growth and development in the faith (Hebrews 10:24, 25). One could argue that two people don’t have to live together to be married, but such a possibility would raise serious questions about the growth and development of the marriage.]
Perhaps you are facing the current of disappointment and bitterness. You feel that God has let you down, Christians in the past have hurt you, and life has basically dealt you a lousy hand. You are drifting away because you wonder what good it has done to believe in Christ or to try and follow Him.
Perhaps you are drifting in the current of guilt because you keep letting God down. You’ve tried a thousand times to change; how could God listen to one more ineffective prayer of repentance? Yes, there’s the docking point; it is Christ and we must fix our eyes upon Him. However, some of us are not paying attention (not moving toward Christ) and are in danger of drifting away from Him.
What are we to do?
(More in the next blog…)