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Reviving Old Dry Bones” (Hebrews) series “Are We Getting Careless?” Hebrews 2:1-4

19 Apr

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 Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV) “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. {2} For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, {3} how 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. {4} God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

We have our first of five direct “word of encouragements.” Let me paraphrase the message like this: Do not be careless with the Word! The passage begins with the phrase “for this reason,” which ties it with what has already been said in the book: Since Jesus is God’s Son, since Jesus should be worshiped, since Jesus cre­ated all things, and since Jesus reigns over all, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (v. 1).

God does not sit idly by and permit His children to rebel against Him. He will continue to speak and, when necessary, He chastens His own.

The Greek word for “neglect” (ameleo) was often used in the New Testament for people who had no appreciation for a valuable item:

  • 1 Timothy 4:14: Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you)
  • When the guests in Jesus’ parable of the banquet “made light” (ameleo) of the invita­tion (Matthew 22:5 NIV) “But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business.

Multiple examples of modern-day drifting, neglect, and carelessness could be given—along with the tragic consequences. A marriage can be destroyed because one or both of the partners neglect the marriage. Married people who become unfaithful to their mates do not necessarily plan to do so; sometimes they become careless, drifting into unscriptural relationships.

Many of these started the Christian life with enthusiasm. Then, they leave their “first love.” They no longer study as much as they once had. They did not pray as much. They start missing a few worship services. They are not as active in the service of the Lord. They began to drift . . . drift . . . drift . . . slowly . . . slowly . . . slowly . . . but surely—away from the Lord.

Salvation is too important to be thrown away. It needs to be taken seriously.

We see often indifference from the outside and apathy from inside.

It is particularly disappointing that people who often “get tired” of the Christian message do not “give up” on religion…they simply turn to substitute religions…to psychological efforts “to find themselves.”

We seek “to be all things to all people” and eventually have no message at all. We seek to accommodate and are left with no clear voice.

The author of Hebrews declares that our hope lies in taking seriously the “great salva­tion” which we have heard….the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (! Cor. 15:1ff). Remember, he was talking to first century Christians who were relatively ‘close’ to the ministry and message of Christ!

Being Careless with the Word of Christ

The emphasis in our text is on the tragedy of being careless with the gospel. This is tragic, first, because it is the Word of Christ. The writer con­trasted “the word spoken through angels” (v. 2; see Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19) (the Old Testament) with that “spoken through the Lord” (v. 3) (the New Testament).

Under “the word spoken through angels,” “every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty” (v. 2). A man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath was stoned to death (Numbers 15:32–36). When Uzzah touched the sacred ark, he was struck dead (2 Samuel 6:3–7). If such a punishment occurred in keeping with a revela­tion from angels, the writer wondered, what will happen to those who neglect the great salvation4 that was “spoken through the Lord” (v. 3)?

Being Careless with the “Guaranteed” Gospel

Second, being careless with the gospel is tragic because it is the “guaranteed” gospel. The writer emphasized that “it was confirmed to us” (v. 3).  Most of us like for products we buy to have guarantees; they instill trust. Since the Lord Himself guarantees the gospel, we can trust our eternal souls to its teaching.

He says to us, “Listen up!” He jolts us from complacency and apathy in order to get our attention so that our minds will be directed toward the gospel.

Neil R. Lightfoot noted “When they came into the assembly (see James 2:2), they should have sat on the edge of their seats, eager to hear God’s Word. Too often, when you and I come to class and worship, we are halfhearted—physically and mentally. Regarding spiritual matters, eternal matters, we need greater intensity!

He gives us two reasons for paying attention:

1) The consequences for disregarding the gospel are tragic.

2) The eternal benefits of embracing it are staggering.

Hell is undoubtedly full of people who were never actively opposed to Jesus Christ, but who simply neglected the gospel.

Punishment is always related to light. The more light we have, the more severe our punishment. Jesus was clear about this.

Matt. 11:20-24 (NIV) 20Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

There are degrees of punishment in hell. The hottest places belong to those who have rejected the most light. Listen to Jesus’ own words: Luke 12:47 (NIV) 47“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. The Lord is talking about judgment, and His point is simple: the greater the light, the greater the accountability.

The Apathetic and Bored Church Member

John S. Savage wrote a doctoral dissertation on inactive members and the steps they go through to become inactive. I believe it will be advantageous for all of us to be aware of these steps and be ready to assist our brothers and sisters if a need arises.

  1. The first step is an anxiety-provoking event. An incident which produces some type of anxiety or uncomfortable feeling in the active member (1) Conflict with the minister; (2) Conflict with another family member; (3) Conflict with another church member.
  2. The second step is the blinking red light. The member is hurting inside and wants/needs to talk.
  3. When anxiety reaches the stage of acute discomfort, the anxiety is transformed to anger.
  4. Behavioral change. The member either becomes more aggressive or withdrawn. If the problem is not resolved at this point, they move further away from active membership. They drop out of committees. They give up their Sunday or Wednesday classes, if teaching. Usually, at this point, they stop attending except on Sunday morning. They stop attending special meetings and their contributions are either cut down or cut out altogether.
  5. Holding Pattern. This lasts from six to eight weeks. During this time, they are breaking emotional ties with the folks at the church. They are waiting to see if anyone from the church will call on them. If no one comes during the holding period, then they begin to reinvest their time and energy in other organizations and clubs. Camping, or other family outings, especially on weekends, seems to become a favorite pastime of the inactive member.
  6. Out the back door. The active member has now made the journey out of the church and no longer attends or takes interest in the congregation to which he/she once gave much time and effort.

 

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Church, Encouragement

 

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