If you’ve ever played sports or coached any kind of team, whether little league or beyond, you’ve both heard and likely challenged the group to “Listen up.” It is so easy to drift off when it comes to our attention. Sometimes when I’m preaching to the crowd I feel like shouting out to the crowd, “Hey, listen up!” when I see people drifting off. Of course, the problem could well be that I’m the one that has helped them to drift off by both what I’m saying and how its being said.
In Hebrews 2:1-4 I feel like that is what the writer is doing. Listen to him for a moment. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Some things we hear in life aren’t all that important so that if we drift off it really doesn’t make that much difference. I’ve struggled with narcolepsy for a long time and it is really easy to be talking to someone or worse still to be trying to listen to someone and fall off to sleep. It is very difficult to explain that it had nothing to do with not being all that interested in what was being said.
Since I think the writer of Hebrews was an older preacher writing back to a church he loved but who was wondering about many things surrounding their faith in Jesus, it is really easy to imagine him telling them, folks you need to pay more attention. He likely was referring to things he had preached to them many times through the years while he was their preacher. Here is the problem when we start losing our focus on things that we have heard about Jesus and His word is that we not only begin to drift off in sleep, we begin to drift off in our spiritual life. Imagine being out in a boat fishing somewhere. You were deeply interested in what was going on and the fish being caught, but slowly your interest waned and you failed to notice how far the boat was drifting off course until you begin to look around and realize you have drifted so far from where you were that you no longer know where you are. In our spiritual life, if we lose focus, we begin to drift away from the Lord and suddenly realize we’ve drifted far away to the degree we no longer have that close, personal relationship with God. Suddenly, we awake to realize our faith has become more of ritual, more of making certain we have the cups in a row than about our relationship with Jesus as Christ and Lord.
Even the things revealed to us by angels in the Old Testament were of such grave importance before God that if we let them slip away we lost contact with God and those who left God’s will and word suffered without mercy under two or three witnesses. That was a law that was tied to animals sacrificed on an altar. How unlike the New Covenant that is based on Jesus taking on human flesh and living among us, going through all the trials and struggles that we go through.
In many ways the greatest danger we face isn’t some intentional sin or turning away from God. It is NEGLECTING such a great salvation that was first spoken to us by our Lord himself. Some messages in life are of such supreme importance that to miss them or simply overlook or neglect them seems completely beyond imagination. When we hear of a parent leaving a baby in their hot car and going inside to plop down on the couch to watch TV, while the baby dies of a heat stroke in the car, we think to ourselves, “How could they have forgotten their baby? What in the world was on their mind?” But when we overlook the great message of such a great salvation spoken first to us by Jesus and confirmed to us by those who heard him preach and watched him take our sins upon him to die for our sins on the cross for our guilt so that we could be completely saved from sin and live as innocent ones before God, it is beyond comprehension.
Besides that the message of salvation wasn’t just proclaimed to us by Jesus and by the apostles who heard his message, God himself testified to the truthfulness of his message through signs, wonders and various miracles done by those apostles and others whom they gave the power to by means of the Holy Spirit distributing them according to his will. We read in the Book of Acts of many such signs and wonders done by God’s messengers. Sometimes such signs were given to cause a man who was fighting against the message of Christ, to cause blindness to fall on him. The Spirit even caused the shadow of Peter to bring healing to those on whom it fell or the handkerchief of Paul to have healing power. Demons were cast out of people and people were given power to speak in languages they had never studied or thought of speaking before.
What is beyond that is that the Holy Spirit was given to dwell in every person who gave their lives to Christ through faith and obedience to the Lord. Paul said the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses in Romans 8:26. He intercedes for us to make our broken and faulty prayers powerfully to the throne of the almighty. The Spirit in us bears the fruit of a godly life in us all the time so that others can see God living in us. We can thus become spiritual people in the world.
So, Listen up! God has spoken to us through His Son and we mustn’t neglect such a powerful message!