Pay careful attention Hebrews 1-2

On March 24, 1989, a third mate on a large ship was exhausted and rather drunk. As a result of that one man’s carelessness and inattention the ship drifted aground on Bligh’s Reef, Alaska. The oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil, and caused one of the greatest man-made ecological disasters in history. He did not mean to cause the disaster. The third mate just wasn’t paying attention!
Heb 2:1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. … 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

Drifting away. Every year we hear stories of bathers at the seaside who swim out on lilos
or other inflatable toys. But then the unseen currents take them out to sea and the Lifeboat is called out to rescue them, IF they are lucky! They never meant to go out so far – they just drifted.

The Letter to the Hebrews is a remarkable book for many reasons. One of which is that not once, not twice, but FIVE times, it warns Christians against drifting away from their faith. And if those warnings were needed then, we can be sure they can still apply to us today. And they apply as much, if not more, to mature Christians than they do to new Christians. But how will we know if we are drifting away?

One of the advantages of modern cars is they are fitted with so many warning devices. For almost anything which can go wrong on a car there is a warning light. For years there have been lights or dials warning you if the Temperature is too high or the Oil Pressure too low or the Battery is not charging or if you are running out of fuel. But nowadays some cars can talk to you. Fasten your seat belt. Turn off your lights. Turn on your lights. You are exceeding the speed limit. Some systems even tell you when your car is too close to the one in front, or when you are drifting out of the proper lane. Such sophisticated devices give us warning signs of problems ahead. And there are all kinds warning signs for our Christian faith too. Let me give you a dozen warning signs that a Christian could be drifting away:-

Loss of focus – loving things of this world more than loving God;
Loss of priorities – caring more about yourself than about others or about God – letting other things crowd God out;
Loss of passion – fading zeal, fire going out;
Loss of discipline – ceasing to make every effort to be holy;
Loss of commitment – to church attendance, to homegroups, to Christian service;
Loss of love; Loss of joy; Loss of peace
Loss of sensitivity to God – no longer hearing God speak, no longer longing to hear God speak.
Lost burden for souls; Apathy; Complacency.

There are twelve warning signs that Christians may be drifting away from God. And there are parallel warning signs for churches too – losing direction, losing focus on Christ, losing focus on the gospel and being obsessed instead by issues of programming, or organisation, or culture.

Heb 2:1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. … 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

How shall we escape if we neglect SO GREAT a SALVATION?

We need to start by recognising that we don’t need to do anything to drift away from God. It’s what we DON’T do that does the damage! This is not talking about active opposition like resisting, rejecting or violently opposing our salvation. The warning is against passive neglect. Sometimes people find it hard to understand that simply doing nothing can be so dangerous in the spiritual realm. But we find the same thing in our normal, daily experience. Relationships fall apart simply because we don’t work at them. A beautiful garden is destroyed by neglect; a house falls down around you if you don’t maintain it. Cars break down if they aren’t regularly serviced – they just stop going even if you don’t fill them up with petrol! If a person is ill they don’t usually die by killing themselves. But they can die by ignoring early symptoms and neglecting to take their medicines. And in our spiritual lives, neglect or drifting can be as disastrous as open rebellion.
Proverbs 24:33 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest; 34 So shall your poverty come like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.

We do not need to actively reject the gospel to be in danger, we have only to neglect, ignore or be careless of it. We don’t need to commit ‘great sins’ to destroy our souls. Simple neglect will do it just as efficiently. The indifferent and apathetic are in as great a need of a Saviour as the drunkard, the drug addict, the murderer and the tyrant.

Somebody once produced a simple Tract. . The title on the front cover said. “What you have to do to go to hell.” Inside the pages of the tract were totally blank. In other words – you don’t have to do anything special to go to hell. . . just continue as you are.

How shall we escape if we neglect SO GREAT a SALVATION???
Heb 2:1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

How can we make sure we do not drift away from our faith? The answer is simple! Pay more careful attention. I hesitate to take an illustration from the James Bond films, because I have been in debates over the years about whether Christians should ever watch such improper and mindless entertainment. But for me the very best bits of each film are the parts where Quartermaster Q is introducing masterspy James Bond to the latest gadgetry. Q invariably begins and punctuates his explanations with the phrase “Pay attention, double O seven!” For some strange reasons those scenes always remind me of the times as a teacher when I would seek to impart some great mystery to my classes with the words, “Pay attention, Class!”

We all need to make sure that we do pay more careful attention to the salvation we have received. Because it is SO GREAT A SALVATION! Not a mediocre salvation. Not a minimal salvation. But SO GREAT A SALVATION! And that is the point which the writer is making in the rest of the first two chapters of the Letter to the Hebrews. What a wonderful salvation we have received. What a wonderful saviour we have. Through the letter the writer will point us to the supremacy of Christ. Christ – superior to Angels. Christ – superior to Moses. Christ the greatest High Priest. But here in chapters 1 and 2 we read of the supremacy of Christ in three respects – the Incomparable PERSON of Christ; the incomparable POSITION Christ has been given, and the Incomparable SALVATION He has bought for us all! So great a salvation, so great a saviour.

So to stop us from drifting away, let US pay more careful attention to this wonderful salvation and this wonderful saviour.

1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

If we were to look for a simple summary of these two chapters, it would be this. “Jesus is the greatest! That seems an almost irreverent way of referring to our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But that’s the message! Jesus is the greatest!
Notice 7 things in Hebrews 1:2-3 alone!
Jesus is the Heir of all things – all things belong to Him
Jesus is the Creator of all things –
Jesus is Sustainer of the universe – by His powerful word.
Jesus is the Radiance of God’s glory
Jesus is the Image, the Exact representation of the Father – if we want to see God, look at Jesus.
Jesus is the Redeemer of Mankind – provided purification for sins
Jesus is the Ruler of the universe – sat down at the right hand of God.

Heir, Creator, Sustainer, Radiance, Image, Redeemer, Ruler. That is Who Jesus is!!!
Here are glorious truths which we won’t dwell on any longer tonight because we will return to them and meditate on them next week. But the opening of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of what we already know and believe about the PERSON of Jesus Christ – Pay attention! Jesus is the Greatest!!!

The POSITION of Christ
Next the writer talks to us about the POSITION which Christ has been given in the universe as Lord of ALL. Remember that marvellous declaration of faith by the Apostle Thomas in John 20 –
“My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28)
Jesus Christ is Creator and Redeemer – so worship Him!
Jesus Christ is in Control – so trust Him!
Jesus Christ is Master – so obey Him!
Jesus is indeed Lord and God. My Lord and My God.

Not only the apostle Thomas, but also the writer to the Hebrews wants us to know that the position Christ holds in the universe is higher than any other position. So he quotes from a number of Old Testament passages to show us just how great Jesus is.

We sometimes forget that Jesus did not appear out of nowhere to be our saviour. For 2000 years God had been preparing the way for Jesus to come through his chosen people Israel. Jesus came in fulfilment of prophecies, first to be the Saviour of Israel and then to be the Saviour of the whole world. So we can understand just how great Jesus is, just how high is the position he occupies over and above all created things, from the promises made concerning Him in the Old Testament.

4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Christ is so much greater than all the angels!

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son; today I have become your Father” ? (Psalm 2:7)
Or again, “I will be his Father,and he will be my Son”(2 Sam 7:14)
Christ is not a created being like the angels. Christ is God the Son, begotten not created, existing one with the Father since before the beginning of time! So Christ with the Father is to be worshipped and adored, by angels as well as by human beings.
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

8 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions.”
Christ is reigning on an eternal throne!

10 He also says,
“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.”
Christ is eternal, Lord over all Creation!

13 To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” ?

Indeed Christ’s throne is above ALL created things! This is how great He is! He holds a position above and beyond ALL else! So pay careful attention! Jesus Christ is Lord of all!

Our wonderful SALVATION

Then in Hebrews 2 the writer goes on to talk about the marvellous salvation Christ has obtained for us. How He became ONE with us sinful human beings so that He can be the perfect Saviour. How the one who was above all the angels was made for a little while below the angels, and even tasting and suffering death for us and for our salvation.

2:10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.

Hebrews 1 has pointed to the perfect deity of Christ, and the supreme position He holds above creation. Chapter 2 now points to His perfect humanity
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Christ shared in our humanity. Christ didn’t come to keep us from suffering; He came to suffer as we must suffer. He didn’t come just to keep us from being afraid; He came to be afraid as we are afraid. He didn’t come just to keep us from dying; He came to die as we must die. He didn’t come to keep us from being tempted; He came to be tempted as we are tempted!
17 … he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

What a wonderful salvation! God becoming man for us! Making atonement – paying the penalty for our sin. If you want to make sure you aren’t going to drift away from Christ, reflect on the Person of Jesus Christ, God the Son, Creator and Sustainer. Reflect on the Position Jesus Christ holds as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And above all reflect on the wonderful Salvation He has bought for us. So great a salvation. So great a saviour!

Chuck Colson tells the story of a remarkable prison in Brazil. Twenty years ago, the government gave control of the prison to two Christians. They renamed it Humaita, and began to run it on Christian principles. Apart from two full time staff, the inmates do all the work. Families outside the prison adopt an inmate to work with during and after his term. Chuck Colson once visited the prison and made this report:
“When I visited Humaita, I found the inmates smiling – particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gates and let me in. Wherever I walked I saw men at peace. I saw clean living areas, people working industriously. The walls were decorated with biblical sayings from Psalms and Proverbs….
My guide escorted me to the notorious prison cell once used for torture. Today, he told me, that block houses only a single inmate. As we reached the end of a long concrete corridor and he put the key in the lock, he paused and asked, ’Are you sure you want to go in?’
“’Of course,’ I replied. ’I’ve been in isolation cells all over the world.’ Slowly, he swung open the massive door, and I saw the single prisoner in that punishment cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved by the Humaita inmates – the prisoner Jesus, hanging on a cross.
“’He’s doing time for the rest of us,’ my guide said softly.”

This entry was posted in Hebrews.

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