How to increase faith. Are you anchored or just drifting?
Hebrews 2:1 – 4
There are many metaphors, pictures that are used to describe the church and one of them is the picture of the church as a boat on the water. In so many ways, it is an appropriate picture of the church through the ages sailing through the seas of history sometimes it is calm sometimes hostile and stormy.
The church to whom Hebrews was written was facing a stormy time there were waves of persecution all around them and hanging over them threatening to swamp them and toss them into the sea. Many in the church were in danger of being blown off course drifting away from the truth of Jesus Christ going back to old habits and practices.
So to anchor them the writer of Hebrews has called them to fix their eyes on Jesus. He has held high the place and position of Jesus Christ describing His ultimate supremacy above the prophets above the Law even above the Angels. This all-encompassing superiority of Jesus Christ is designed to be an anchor to hold them to their faith and He is our anchor us as well.
We live in a time when persecution against the truth of God’s Word is as great as it has ever been. It is a time that Paul warned would come:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. (1 Timothy 4:3) They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (1 Timothy 4:4)
To a world like this one with the supremacy of Christ ringing in our ears the writer of Hebrews sounds his own warning with these words:
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
Growing up, I used to go fishing with Dad and my brothers in a small tinny a small boat with an outboard motor. We’d only fish in tidal rivers or in the bay. Often, we would think that we were anchored to a spot with our lines out but after a while we would look up and notice that things were not as they should be. The anchor hadn’t held, and unaware, we were drifting towards danger.
Warning to the church
This is the kind of warning is given to the church make sure that your anchor is secure make sure that you are not drifting. Make sure that your anchor is uncompromisingly Jesus Christ and the Vision and Mission that He has given the church to love God love others and make disciples. Make sure that you are grounded on the truth of God’s Word and not just knowing the truth putting it into practice.
Warning to Christians
The image doesn’t just fit the church as a whole it is a warning that is pointed directly at us as individuals also. It is a perfect example of why we need to be well connected to a church whose anchor is firmly established. It is a reminder about why we must be growing in personal relationship with Jesus in a way that connects us with others where we are honest and accountable.
The drifting we are speaking of is pointing to the sin that so easily creeps into our lives when we fail to pay attention. It isn’t even necessarily deliberate, but that through neglect or laziness or distractions we only discover once the winds of the storm begin to pick up, that our foundation in Christ has come loose and the things of God have been left behind.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus uses a different expression to a church that seems to be all good on the surface. He says to them. ‘Yet I hold this against you; you have lost your first love.’ (Rev 2:4) And to another church He says: ‘You are neither hot nor cold… but since you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth!’ (Rev 3:15-6).
People ask, and maybe even you have at times; ‘can I be a Christian without going to church?’ This kind of question sounds reasonable, but I’m afraid it shows a great misunderstanding about what the church is all about. Firstly, part of belonging to the church, and being anchored in a local church context is because God has called and equipped us for that purpose. We are in the body to build up the body we all have gifts and if we are not connected then the church is lacking those gifts.
But secondly, we belong to the church body for another important reason, and maybe the best way to address that is to ask another question: ‘How long can a body part function healthily without being sustained and connected to the body to which it belongs?” ‘How long can you remain in Christ without remaining connected where there is a strong foundation. Where God’s Word is taught, and you are accountable to a Christ cantered gathering of believers?’
C.S. Lewis once asked: ‘If you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith, I wonder how many would tourn out to be reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?’
What causes us to drift away?
So the warning to be wary of drifting is clear, but what is it that causes us to drift away? What are the currents and tides in our lives that carry us away from our foundations and our safety?
The tide of time
The first reason is the tide of time. Simply over time we allow ourselves to drift. We might still attend church, but we forget to pay attention to those things that keep us anchored and prepared in the time of the storm. Other things crowd in and take priority in our lives, and rather that centring them as a part of our life in Christ, they become something on the side, and they begin to compete for space.
It takes time, but we have a lifetime to live, and before we know it, we can no longer see the shore and we now find ourselves in uncharted waters.
All the time – we need to keep checking on the anchor, keep looking at those landmarks to make sure that we haven’t drifted away.
The tide of familiarity with the truth
The second thing that can drag us away can be a familiarity with the truth. It is like we are stuck in a rut although that mixes the metaphors because there are no rut’s at sea it really helps to get the point across.
If my phone starts ringing right now, it will play the introduction of a song by Michael W Smith called ‘Missing Person.’ It is a great intro but it is also a reminder to keep me from drifting. The song speaks, with regret, of a person looking back on their life only to discover that they have indeed lost their ‘first love’ of Jesus they have become lukewarm.
I can relate to that feeling. I remember the fire I felt when I was in my early twenty’s. My friends and I would do some really wacky things. We’d drive up and park on a hill that was central to us and just sit in the car and pray for the city pray for the people in the houses. Pray that they would hear the Good News and put their faith in Jesus. And then we’d grab a box of bibles and go into the local shopping centre and hand them out to anyone who would take one, and be prepared to talk with anyone who wanted to stop and chat.
We were so convicted about Christ that it didn’t matter what it was we felt to do we just wanted to act to do something to serve Jesus and reach out to others with the Good News.
We need to be paying attention keeping an eye on the fire. Hopefully we get wiser in the ways that we can share the Good News. Today I’d encourage people to use the relationships we have to look for places where God is at work and look for an opportunity to share our faith with them. In fact, if you look at our Next Steps page on the website (oakleighbaptist.org/share) you will find I’ve included some really helpful ways that we can all do just that this is the mission of all of us.
I want to encourage you take an audit of your life have a look to see if the anchor is strong if you are acting and serving the Lord if you are deliberately looking for ways to share the Good News with others. We can’t leave it to others! If I’m active in my relationships, I can reach a small group of people if we are all active we can literally reach hundreds, if not thousands of people. If you are not active in your circle of relationships, it might be them that miss out on the opportunity to receive Eternal Life and it will certainly be you who misses the opportunity for blessing.
Remember, it isn’t about us being perfect it is about being willing and trusting in God because He wants them saved more than we do and it is only in His power that they can be but we are the hands and feet and lips through whom God will speak we must be willing we must be praying and we must go.
The drifting that has occurred in our lives has come through years, through a crowded and busy life and through familiarity and failing to pay attention to the anchor and the surroundings and before we know it, the storms come, the anchor has long been loosed, and we find ourselves shipwrecked. This is why the warning in Hebrews is so urgent it is a command that should be read with an exclamation.
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
But the writer goes on from this and he speaks of the binding nature of God’s Word that has been delivered through the Old Testament Scriptures:
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, (Hebrews 2:2)
He will start there but just as he did in chapter one he will build on that and move to the greater evidence that is seen in Christ Jesus.
He reasons from the Old Testament, reminding us that ‘the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation received its just punishment.
We can think of example after example where this is proven true. The warning God made to Cain, Noah preaching to the masses before the flood, the warning to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and then the fall into idolatry when the Israelites built for themselves God in their own image, in the form of a golden calf. And the list continues.
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him (Hebrews 2:3)
So if this disobedience brought appropriate punishment exclaims the writer to the Hebrews how do we expect to escape if we ignore the Salvation that is given to us in Christ. How can we possibly expect to hold fast if we let our anchor loose don’t find yourself drifting.
The warning is being delivered to us! He is not concerned here about those who have never heard he is not even concerned here about those who have heard the Gospel and rejected it this is a clear warning to those who ‘ignore’ it who sleep through it who drift away.
He is talking here about our attitude the attitude of the person who lets the greatness of Christ slip away. The person who no longer marvels at the atonement how Jesus who is God bore our sin on the Cross He suffered because He loved us and took our place. He is talking about the one who does not pray in their spirit with great expectation. The one who does not worship with all their heart and soul and mind and strength.
The church of the Hebrews is not just a theoretical church and these words are not only written to a historical group of believers they are written to us! We must not ignore Christ we must not ignore His warning we must not ignore the desperate plea to hold onto our first live and not drift into lukewarm tastelessness that is so evident in the church today.
So what do we do about this? How do we stop the tides from sweeping us away? The answer brings us back to verse 1: We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (Hebrews 2:1) In another version it says ‘we must pay much closer attention than ever to the truths that we have heard.
And what are those truths? The absolute total supremacy of Christ!
When I first started attending Bible College such a long time ago now I remember being confronted by the stories of the past in the Bible and in Church history and I remember praying God, I’m just … well … me and these were great people what is going to keep me from falling just like they did or maybe worse. And do you know what I heard? Not out loud but it was loud and clear I heard Jesus say to me, “Keep your eyes fixed on me!” [Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus]
Focus your eyes on Jesus keep your life centered on Him. Don’t break your life into segments make Jesus a part of every one of them. If Jesus can’t be a part of it then cut it off! When I play tennis I do it to glorify Jesus, I take the opportunity to talk about Him when I can but if He can’t be a part of my tennis then I must cut it off.
We must focus on our relationship with Him because we are not engaged in a religion we are growing in a relationship. So we need to pray and we need to read and study the Word of God and we need to be putting His word into action. In trying to get this point across to the Israelites, Moses put it this way:
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
These are crucial words these are truths from which we must not drift!
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 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 so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Rev. Brad Rumble
Senior Pastor – Oakleigh Baptist Community