Heed These Warnings
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Heed These Warnings

Hebrews 1:1–3  (ID: 1901)

Written to Jewish believers, the book of Hebrews contains glorious promises as well as strong warnings against wandering away from the Bible’s truths. When we begin to doubt the sufficiency of God’s Word, Alistair Begg cautions, backsliding is inevitable. Through continued focus on Christ’s supremacy and redemptive work, however, we can stay the course. Believers must remain vigilant so that we don’t drift away.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Hebrews, Volume 1

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ Hebrews 1:1–6:20 Series ID: 15801

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me again to Hebrews chapter 1.

Father, we pray that you will make the Book live to us, that you will show us yourself within your Word, that you will show us ourselves and show us our Savior, and make the Book live to us.[1] Amen.

I want this morning to begin a series of studies in the book of Hebrews. And you will note, if you just flip through it, that it has some thirteen chapters. It therefore holds the potential for being one of the longer running series of all time, which I would sincerely like to avoid—not because it isn’t worthy of that, but because I don’t want to deal with the book in that level of detail. However, I do want to deal with it carefully and properly, and I haven’t fully decided, but I may actually try and tackle it at both morning and evening as we’re going through. That will allow us to give to it the kind of attention that is necessary, and it will at the same time prevent it from being something that becomes unduly protracted. The tightness of the material is such that it demands fairly careful attention, even though we might be flying at some thirty thousand feet. However, having said that, we’ll simply monitor it as we’re going along.

Let me set it up for you this morning by beginning, first of all, with a quote—probably the most staggering quote that comes out of Pilgrim’s Progress. At the very end of Pilgrim’s Progress, Pilgrim—or Christian, as he is then referred to—describes a scene whereby one of the characters that he had previously met on his journey, an individual to whom he refers as Ignorance, as he describes the circumstances relating to the end of Ignorance’s pilgrimage, he says this: “Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gate of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction!”[2] “Then I saw that there was a way to hell … from the gate of heaven.”

The book of Hebrews is full of dire warnings, and it is also full of glorious promises.

Now, that demands careful thought. It is a sobering concept, and it is, as we shall see, a biblical truth. And there is perhaps no New Testament book which contains more warnings regarding this than we find in the book of Hebrews. Every Christian schoolboy knows that the book of Hebrews is full of dire warnings, and it is also full of glorious promises. And it is therefore imperative that not only do we enter into the joyful acceptance of the promises which are given, but also that we pay very careful attention to the warnings which are sounded. And the primary warning which is being sounded is a warning to men and women who are in danger of slipping away from their original commitment. It is a warning to those who are in danger of drifting. For example, in 2:1: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

Now, the writer of this book is unidentified. Despite the fact that he is, people spend a tremendous amount of time trying to work out who it is. And while there may be a measure of intrigue in that, it is marginal in its profit. If God had wanted to leave for us the record of the writer, then it would be recorded for us in Holy Scripture; it isn’t. Interestingly, nor is the destination of this letter recorded for us; that is a matter of conjecture. Nor is the group of people to whom it’s written clearly defined for us. The title of the book, “The Hebrews,” was a title which was added later in the early centuries, and clearly points to the fact that the group to whom the letter was written was a group that was largely from a Judaistic background—a largely Jewish audience who had embraced faith in Jesus Christ. But I don’t think exclusively so. And once again, the commentators go to great lengths, either to argue for an exclusively Jewish audience, or a gentile audience, or whatever else it might be. The fact is that where any plainness comes, it comes out of reading the text itself. And so we can be sure that as we go through, we will begin to build a picture of our own.

However, what we can say with clarity is that the writer confronts his readers with the serious implications of refusing to hear God’s Word and of refusing to heed God’s warnings. For example, verse 15: “As has just been said”—chapter 3, that is—“as has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’” Now, at that point he is quoting from the Ninety-fifth Psalm. And he is making reference to the journey of the people of God in the Old Testament from the liberation of bondage in Egypt to the land of Canaan, to the promised land. And as in other parts of the New Testament, this New Testament writer uses this Old Testament pilgrimage to act as a model, as a preconfigurement, of the pilgrimage that is involved in Christian living. And therefore, he says, it is vitally important that we do not follow the example of our forefathers. Because out of the great number that made such a wonderful beginning, there was a tremendous declension.

Now, this comes across clearly at the end of chapter 3, where there are these three striking questions. Verse 16, he says, “Who were they who heard and rebelled?” Who were these rebellious people? he says. “Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?” Now, we’ll come back to this, but just notice in passing. Secondly, verse 17: “And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?” Six hundred thousand people died in the wilderness, as a result of God’s intervening judgment. Thirdly: “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest?” Answer: “To those who disobeyed.” And then the explanation in verse 19: “So we see,” he says, “that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”

Here were individuals who started out on a journey, and along the journey, they began to slip and slide. They began to depart. They began to drift. The commitment that had marked them in their early days began to dwindle and diminish and to fade. “And,” says the writer to the Hebrews, “I want to warn you about the very same thing happening in your life. I want you to make sure that you don’t end up like them.”

Now, some of you are immediately a little quizzical, because you’re saying, “Have we not determined long since, in our biblical expositions in this place, that we believe in the preservation of the saints, that we believe in the perseverance of the saints? Philippians 1:6: ‘[That I am] confident … that he who began a good work in you will [bring it] to completion [at] the day of Jesus Christ.’ Is that not what we affirm in this place?” Absolutely and unequivocally! But listen carefully: such affirmations do not make a fiction out of these warnings. These are real warnings for real people who have apparently made real professions.

Now, let me try and underscore it for you in setting it up. For example, in 2:1–3: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard”—why?—“so that we do not drift away.” In other words, it’s possible to drift away. Otherwise, he would never mention it. “For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how [then] shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” That’s not an evangelistic verse for people coming to faith in Jesus Christ; that is a word of warning to those who are professing faith in Jesus Christ.

Chapter 3 and verse 6: “And we are his house”—partway through the verse. How do we know we’re his house? Answer: “If we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” Verse 12, same chapter: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” You getting the picture? He says, “You guys better look out!” Because when you read church history, you find that there was a whole crowd of people who were bold in their affirmations, who were strident in their proclamations, but they drifted. And they never entered into the promised rest. And he says, “I want to issue a warning to those of you who are reading this letter,” not only to the readers there in the contemporary issue of the day, but down through the corridors of time. He says, “And you folks in Parkside Church, you better make sure that you don’t have a sinful and unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”

These are real warnings for real people who have apparently made real professions of faith.

Chapter 6 and verse 11: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end”—why?—“in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Now, we could go on and on. Just go to chapter 12, and notice, in verse 25: “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” And he argues from the lesser to the greater. He argues from the then to the now. He argues in a compelling, striking, fearful way.

These individuals are not dissimilar to us. They were facing temptation. They knew what it was to waken up in the morning and something to hit them, and for them to say, as they went through the journey of their day, “Do I really believe this?” They understood what it was to be buffeted and beaten down by the culture around them and by the thought forms of folks who had no interest whatsoever in their affirmations of faith. And so they began to slowly leak, and they became discouraged, and they became disillusioned, and they began to sing songs that were unbelievable songs for the lips of those who’d been liberated.

For example, Exodus and chapter 15, you have them singing a song. In Exodus chapter 15, they’re singing the song of Moses and Miriam. It’s the song of redemption: “Oh, man, I’m glad we’re out of Egypt. Boy, that was rough!” And then in chapter 16 of Exodus, they’re singing another song. Halfway through the first verse, it says, “On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt,” in a very short period of time, it says in verse 2, “in the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. [And] the Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!’” “In fact, now that we think about it, Egypt was pretty nice. There were some nice restaurants in Egypt. We used to sit around the pots of meat, and we ate all the food we wanted, and now we’ve started this journey, and we’re starving to death. I think we’ll just go back. I think we would like to go back.”[3]

Now, unplug the Pharisee mode that is rising in your mind here for a moment, will you? Unplug the “Oh, never happen to me!” thing. Just take that out for a moment and be honest for once. Can you identify with this? Do you never feel like chucking it? Do you never get up in the morning and say, “You know what? I don’t think I can stick this any longer. I’ve done just about enough of this journey as I can handle”? You never faced the fiery darts of unbelief that lodge like an arrow right in your cranium and called in question things you’d held dear for long periods of your life? You never felt that issue? You never been so buffeted by the people around you, Christians that you thought were nice people, but they’re not even as nice as the people that you left behind when you used to go to the discotheque and down the pub, before you were even converted? And now you’re saying to yourself, “How did I get involved with this bunch of weirdos? I remember when we used to go down the bar. We had a nice time. We were all laughing and having fun. We had the dip and the chips and the whole thing. Man, that was great! And look at this! I think I’ll go back.”

Now, if you’re honest, you see, first of all you will admit to the propensity in your own life. The hymn writer says it—and I can sing it:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Take my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it in your courts above.[4]

In other words, “God, keep ahold of me now!”

And if we’re not prepared to identify it in ourselves, we’ll sure be able to find it in others, because there have been those along the journey of faith who taught the Word of God to us, and they don’t teach the Word anymore. They don’t even go to church anymore. We don’t even know if they’re Christians. And they were right at the forefront. They were on the charge. They were the ones who led us to Christ. Now they’ve left their wives, they’ve run off, they’re here, there, anywhere. And we’re saying to ourself, “What is this?” I tell you what it is. It is somebody who never listened to the warnings! It is somebody who said, “You know, I’m okay. I’m fine. This’ll never happen to me. Oh, no, not me! Let it happen to those silly Israelites. But it’ll never happen to me.” Listen to the warnings! The warnings are realistic. They are there in order that they would make us fearful. They are not there describing other people.

Hebrews 4:1: “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands”—now notice—“let us be careful”—“let us be careful”—so “that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.” The practical implication is clear. It is not simply the hearing of the gospel which brings final salvation, but it is the appropriation of the gospel by faith. And if it is a genuine faith, then it will be a persistent faith, and it will be a persevering faith. And one of the ways that our faith perseveres is by paying careful heed to the warnings—that the warnings that are in Scripture to act as goads and guides, like those bumper things when you go on those little deals on your vacation, and they have things around the sides that bump you right back into the middle when you’re about to careen off into oblivion. They have those things, and they bump you back in line. And the warnings of God’s Word are there to do that.

For example—and I’ve been rereading Pilgrim’s Progress here—when Ignorance speaks with Christian about Ignorance’s apparent profession of faith, he puts it like this. This is Ignorance speaking: “I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse.” Pretty good, isn’t it? That might be enough to get you through the membership application here at Parkside Church, if you just stop at that point. Unfortunately, Ignorance didn’t stop at that point. He said, “I believe … that I shall be justified before God from the curse through His gracious acceptance of my obedience to His [law].” (“I’ll be justified from the curse because God is accepting my obedience to his law as a ground for my entry into heaven.”) “Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to His Father, by virtue of His merits; and so shall I be justified.”

Now, we could spend a long time talking about this, because it is the distinction that is at the very heart of the debate in the Roman Catholic–evangelical discussions. It is, What is the nature of genuine justification? Is grace infused to a person, whereby they become good people, and then God accepts then into heaven on the basis of the good deeds that they do as a result of an infusion of grace? “No,” says Bunyan, “it is absolutely not.” And he’s very clear. And this is how Pilgrim answers him: “Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith,” says Pilgrim:

1. Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the [Bible].

2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.

3. This faith maketh not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy action’s sake, which is false.

4. Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty.[5]

“And I saw that there was a gate to hell from the very entrance of heaven.”

How then are we to ensure that we don’t drift away? That’s the question. And if I haven’t made that the question for you, either I’m not speaking or you’re not hearing. But I’m saying that the book of Hebrews has been written to drifters, to potential drifters. It has been written to us, that those of us who think that because we stand, we will never fall,[6] are greatly in need of the warnings. So how then are we to ensure that at the end of the day we finish the course, that we “press towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus”?[7]

Well, the answer is described for us there, given to us in 2:1: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” “We must pay more careful attention … to what we have heard.”

All we know about God does not come about as a result of our powers of deduction but on account of his self-disclosure.

The Word of God has been given to God’s people in order that in paying attention to it, in obeying its commands, and in accepting its promises, and in heeding its warnings, we may not drift away. Whenever an individual drifts from their professions of faith, they will always drift from the Word of God. And it often goes like this: “Well, you know, I don’t hear God’s voice anymore when I’m in worship.” And they always have explanations as to why that is: because of this person and that person and the next person. Let it be set down as unequivocally factual that a backslider backslides as he or she drifts from the Word of God. Their backsliding becomes compounded when they begin to ignore the Word of God. And their backsliding is at its most devastating when they actually begin to resist the very Word of God when it calls them back to repentance.

Now, this verse—2:1—sends us then to the opening verses of chapter 1, which, of course, you have every right to believe we ought to get to, and now we’re here. What is it we have heard? “We must pay more careful attention … to what we have heard.” Well, what had these people heard? What is it that we have heard? Well, you go right back to 1:1, and we discover that all we know about God does not come about as a result of our powers of deduction but on account of his self-disclosure. And so the writer reminds his readers: God spoke and the universe was born. And throughout history he has spoken progressively and diversely through the prophets. And the prophets were preparing the way for God’s complete and final word to us, that would come not in a series of propositions but would come in a person. Hence, verse 2: “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” In other words, in Jesus, God declares, “Here is my final word on the subject. I have nothing further to say beyond this. This is my final word.” And in his coming, Jesus ushered in the last days. And when he returns in the clouds with great glory, he will wrap up those last days.

Now, you should pay careful attention to this, because you will be meeting a succession of cranks in the next three years who will have all kinds of pamphlets and charts and diagrams for you about the last days. And they will want to tell you that they have a special word from God for the last days, and these are the last days, and you can tell them as kindly as you can, “Thank you, but no thank you, because I understand in Hebrews chapter 1 it says that in the last days in which we now find ourselves, God has spoken his final word to us.”

I have people all the time coming up to me and telling me that they have a final word from God, you know. Or they’ll ask me the other way around; they’ll say, you know, “Do you have a word from God for our day?” Now, I would say, “Yes, absolutely!” “Oh,” they say, “what is it?” I say, “Well, any one of these.” “No, no,” they say, “no, no, I don’t mean that. I mean do you have, like, a word from God for the last days?” I say, “Yeah, I do.” I said, “Any one of these at all.” If you’re running around looking for a word from God and you’re not listening to the Word of God here, you’re in great danger of slip-sliding away. You’re in danger of drifting. God says, “You want to hear my last word on the subject? Let me give it to you—not in a proposition, in a person. Here’s my last word on the subject: Jesus Christ.”

Now, the writer compresses a tremendous amount of theology—he gives us a Christology—into a few verses. And I want to run through it as best I can, and I’m pretty certain that I will return to this this evening. Who is this Jesus Christ? On the weekend where, here in Cleveland, Jesus Christ Superstar comes by for the last time in its present configuration—some terrific melody lines, some bits and pieces that would stir thoughts that might be helpful, but by and large a blasphemous treatment of the person and work of Jesus Christ. It has to be, because it does not give to him the place that is afforded him in Holy Scripture, the description that is provided for us here in these verses. There are seven things that in the first three verses we’re told concerning Christ the Son.

Number one, that he is the “heir of all things.” I just want to draw your attention to these, so that you may have a sense of the Word to which you are to pay most careful attention. “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.” In other words, as Lenski, the commentator, says, “From all eternity and thus at the very creation when … time began God made his Son the heir of all things, not according to his deity which could inherit nothing, but according to his humanity which could and did inherit all things.”[8] He is the heir of all things.

When the angel comes to Mary and declares the wonder of all that is about to take place, in Luke 1:32, the angel said, “He”—speaking of Christ—“he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him”—“give him,” he will inherit, he will become the heir of—“the Lord … will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; [and] his kingdom will never end.” When Jesus stands in his closing days of his ministry and addresses people with their questions as to who he is, he says in John 16:15, “All that belongs to the Father is mine.” He is the heir of all things. All these notions of a contemporary Christ who is a Che Guevara, who is a great world leader, who is a mystical figure, who is a kind man, who is a teacher, who is a baby in a manger, who is all these things—all of that stuff has to bow before the clear instruction of God’s Word. Who is this Christ? He is the heir of all things.

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
And the wealth in ev’ry mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and the rills,
And the sun and the stars that shine.
Wonderful Savior, only tongue can tell—
He is this Jesus and I love Him well;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills—
And I know that He cares for me.[9]

You see, this is what doctrine does for us. Because when I am weary, and I’m filled with despair, and I am crushed by the events that are surrounding me, and I am fearful of my future, and I have burdens on my heart that I cannot alleviate, to whom do I go? Well, then I go to Christ. Who is this Christ to whom I go? He is the heir of all things. He owns the whole deal! So when you read the paper and it says your Social Security won’t be worth anything to you, you say, “Well, I understand that, but I am a joint heir with Christ—Romans 8:17—and he owns the whole shooting match.” When this afternoon, and the golf tournament comes on, and you get the Shearson Lehman boys, or the Smith Barney, worrying you again about your retirement, do pay attention as best you can, but remember this: he is the heir of all things!

Secondly, he is God’s creative agent. The whole created universe of time and space was made by God through the Son. Isn’t that what it says? “Through whom he made the universe.” This is very similar to the prologue of John’s Gospel, John 1:3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” When Paul writes to the church in Colossae, he affirms the same truth. He says, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”[10]

Who took fish and bread
And hungry people fed?
Who turned water into wine?
Who made well the sick?
Who made see the blind?
Who touched earth with feet divine?
Only Jesus.[11]

Then you read the commentaries out of the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century, and they’re trying to explain how the miracles never really happened, because they don’t want sensible men and women to be stumbled by these preposterous claims that this Galilean carpenter could take five loaves and two fish and transform it into a brunch for a great company of five or ten thousand.[12] And so they have all this nonsense about, “As soon as the wee boy gave his, then people started pulling stuff out of their purse, and out of their hat, and out of everywhere. And suddenly they were all fed, and the people later on said, ‘Oh, let’s just call it a miracle. It’ll make Jesus look good.’” What a bunch of preposterous nonsense! If he is the creative agent of the whole universe, what’s brunch for five thousand out of five loaves and two fish? It doesn’t matter.

And you see, loved ones, this is where… And some of you are scientists, and some of you are going to be geneticists, and some of you have got a capacity in this realm. And you’re gonna have to bring your mind under the truth of God’s Word. This has got to be your starting point, and then all your scientific experimentation must be posited on these truths. These truths do not fight for acceptance on the basis of your scientific abilities. And at the end of the day, when the brightest scientific brains have the codes cracked for them, they will be on their knees before Christ, and they will declare him Lord of the whole universe that he has made. So let the schools say what they want to say. Don’t be buffeted by that, youngsters. Don’t be arrogant about it! Don’t be shouting and fighting and bawling and screaming. Just understand this: that the Jesus to whom you have committed your life is the heir of all things, and he is one who created the whole universe. And you know what? You know him personally. And better still, he knows your name.

Thirdly, he is “the radiance of God’s glory.” Who is this Jesus? He is the radiance of God’s glory. The glory of God was a visible expression of the presence of God. You get this in the Old Testament with frequency. Exodus chapter 33, you could read of it there. And the writer says, “Listen, all of God’s greatness and all of his majesty shines through his Son. Christ is the light of God, burning and shining.” John, in his prologue again, says in John 1:14, “And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”[13]

Fourthly, he is “the exact representation of his being.” We’re in verse 3: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” The Son, we’re told, truly and fully shows us the character of God. When we see what the Son is like, we see exactly what God is like. That’s why Jesus was able to say, “[He] who has seen me has seen the Father.”[14] In John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” You see, there’s no private side to God that is somehow obscured behind a public side that has been revealed in Christ. The true and the full character of God is made open and clear to us in the person of Jesus.

All of God’s greatness and all of his majesty shines through his Son. Christ is the light of God, burning and shining.

Fifthly, he is the sustainer of the universe. He is the one who “sustain[s] all things by his powerful word.” Not only is he the inheritor of all that he has been instrumental in making, but at the present time he is upholding everything by his powerful word. That’s Colossians 1:17: “In him all things hold together.” And the miracles in the Gospel records are just foreshadowings of this. It’s when Christ breaks into the normal course of events, and he shows this dimension of God. As they go on their wee boat, and as the storm breaks up on the Sea of Galilee, and as they all look at one another in fearfulness, and as they go to the stern and they find Jesus asleep on a pillow, we’re told.[15] And they wake him up. They say, “Lord, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?”[16] And Jesus rubs the sleep from his eyes, and he stands up, and he looks on the sea, out on the lake, and he says, “Hey! Sh! Sh! Cut it out! That’s enough!” And suddenly the sea became calm. And they looked at one another, and they said, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the [waves] obey him!”[17] Who is this? He is the one who upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Sixthly, he is the one who has “provided purification for sins”: “after he had provided purification for sins.” The emphasis shifts from creation and from sustaining. He is ceaselessly God’s glory, he is continuously sustaining all things, but when he gave himself up on the tree, it was at one moment in time. We’ll discover this when we get further on in our studies, 7:27: “Unlike the other high priests, he does[n’t] need to offer sacrifices day after day…. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” No repetition necessary, no substitution possible: he is God’s unrepeatable sacrifice for sin.

And then finally, this Jesus is seated “at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” With your finger, turn to chapter 7; you’ll note there that the Old Testament priest stood, because his sacrifice was never complete. The sacrifice he offered was a temporary one. It was only marginally significant for a time period in its benefit, but when Christ made a sacrifice for the sins of many, it was sufficient and complete.

“We must pay more careful attention,” loved ones, “to what we have heard, so … that we [don’t] drift away.” And in paying careful attention to what we have heard, we need to pay attention to what we’ve heard about Jesus. Yes, it runs absolutely counter to what people say today. In a pluralist, syncretistic world where Jesus is to be absorbed as just another new age guru, we have to stand up and say, “Sorry, I don’t believe that.” In the world of our neighborly friends, many of whom are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have to tell them, “I’m sorry, I believe that Jesus Christ is coequal and coeternal with the Father. And although you haven’t worked out your theology yet, and you don’t even know what they’re teaching you, that is a flat-out contradiction of the very basic premises of the things that underpin your life.” And we have to suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”[18] which come along with that. And so prevalent is the desire to turn us in and blow us apart and seek to cause us to slip and slide away that I’m telling you, loved ones, you gotta pay real careful attention to what you’ve heard. For the last thirteen and a half years, I along with my colleagues have labored to teach you the Word of God. Why? So that you won’t drift away.

People say, “Well can’t we just have a service where we sing all the time?” That’s why I didn’t like last Sunday night, ultimately. It was wonderful singing, but I gave up on what I really believe. It’s a three-minute thing, you know, with a little bit of talk. And it was all singing. Is there no place for all singing? Yeah, there’s a place for singing, but probably not on the Lord’s Day. Why? Because I need to take every opportunity I have to make sure that you don’t drift away. And therefore, if I preach all the rest of my life, I can’t preach the whole Bible. Therefore, I gotta preach as much as I can, as many occasions I can, for as long as I can, to make sure that you don’t drift! And that I don’t drift too. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I get a little excited from time to time as well. Because it is of eternal significance.

You see, this is not a homily, you know; this is not a sort of “blessed thought” that I came up with. This is a passionate longing. ’Cause I have friends who have drifted. I have people who taught the Word of God to me who are no more. I go back to conference centers with my wife here in America and wonder where Mr. X is, who used to do the family camp. And Mr. X is oblivion. Why? He drifted away. He wasn’t paying careful attention to what was being said. He was going, “Oh, I know that stuff. Oh, I don’t like to hear the gospel preached. Oh, I’m tired of that stuff. I’m beyond that, you know.” You think you’re beyond the preaching of the gospel? You’re in great danger!

You see, because the cosmic significance of these truths—the idea that he is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe—may create an immense sense of awe within me. But the fact that he has become Savior to me is wonderful. You see,

It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
And it took a miracle to hang the world in space.

And that is awesome.

But when He saved my soul
And He cleansed and He made me whole
That took a miracle of love and grace![19]

Especially when he knew what a drifter he was setting his hand on. Let us then pay careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Let’s pray together:

O God our Father, we hear your Word. And we want to be people who are using our minds to think clearly. We want to be those who are influenced by the direct instruction of your Spirit through your Book. So anything that is just man’s effervescence or manipulative thought, let it be banished from our recollection, and let that which is of yourself, by your Spirit, instill within us a genuine fear of becoming a drifter and a genuine desire to continue to the end.

We thank you for this lovely picture of Christ. We look forward to coming together tonight and praising the greatness of his name, and the wonder of what he has done for us in his work upon the cross. We pray in his name. Amen.

[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943).

[2] John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

[3] Exodus 16:3 (paraphrased).

[4] Robert Robinson, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (1758). Lyrics lightly altered.

[5] Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

[6] See 1 Corinthians 10:12.

[7] Philippians 3:14 (paraphrased).

[8] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James, Commentary on the New Testament (1938; repr., Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2008), 34.

[9] John W. Peterson, “He Owns the Cattle on a Thousand Hills” (1948). Lyrics lightly altered.

[10] Colossians 1:16 (NIV 1984).

[11] Betty Lou Mills, “Only Jesus.” Lyrics lightly altered.

[12] See Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14.

[13] John 1:14 (paraphrased).

[14] John 14:9 (NIV 1984).

[15] See Matthew 8:23–27; Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25.

[16] Mark 4:38 (paraphrased).

[17] Matthew 8:27 (KJV).

[18] William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.1

[19] John W. Peterson, “It Took a Miracle” (1948). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.