We are not sure that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews— some have suggested Barnabas, Priscilla, Clement of Rome, and my theory, Apollos. Anyway, the book was most likely written to Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem in the latter part of the first- century AD, who were seriously considering turning back to Judaism in order to escape being persecuted as Christians. The author sets forth a view of Jesus Christ which hallmarks his superiority over the law of Moses, over the Aaronic priesthood, and over the old sacrificial system. Why would anyone want to go back to the lesser after experiencing the better by comparison: A better Covenant; a better Priesthood; and better Sacrifice? We are not sure whether there had been a wholesale defection at that point or whether the letter was sent early enough to nip it in the bud. I believe it was the latter.
In addition to the beautiful portrait portraying the supremacy of Jesus Christ (comparable to Colossians 1), the author sets forth a progression of spiritual digression which needed to be confronted. In Hebrews 1-6, the author outlines this subtle and dangerous process—a slippery slope, if you will, of neglecting so great a salvation in Christ Jesus.
The first step of this process consists of drifting away through a lack of attention. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (2:1) This appropriate counsel is for all believers at all times and not just for the Hebrews. Any digression in our spiritual lives usually begins almost imperceptiblly—not as the result of catastrophic change, but through a lack of intentionality. The brakes don’t suddenly fail on your car, but slowly, over time, due to inattention. Our bodies do not fail us, typically, all at once, but after warning signs that we have ignored. That is why we schedule regular maintenance checks on our vehicles and annual physicals for our bodies. If I had not gone for my annual physical a few years ago that uncovered my early stage pancreatic cancer, I would most likely be dead by now!
And so it is with the life of the Spirit. The drift begins by a lack of intentionality and regularity in the practices of faith formation and spiritual development that are needed at every point of our lives. Sometimes this inattentiveness is due to pure apathy, but sometimes it is due to paying attention to the wrong things, like fear, bitterness, disappointment, guilt and unrepentance.
I have held onto my precious faith in the Lord Jesus for over 60 yrs, but I will easily run the danger of drifting away from him if I do not keep my eyes fixed daily upon Jesus; in his Word and in repentant prayer. Age does not make you faithful; faithfulness makes you faithful!
So what do you have in place in order to prevent or deal with the drift? It is really important that you consider this, especially during this time of social isolation and, for many people, a lack of schedule. Make one; work the program; practice the disciplines; pay attention! Stop drifting away!
Next blog we will look at the next step in the digression…
(Coming soon to this blog site… the story of Pilgrim’s Progress for kids in 6 episodes)