When you see a “therefore” in Scripture it’s good to pause to take note of what the therefore is there for. Such practical counsel on reading the Bible was put on my radar years and years ago, and continues to serve me well.
The writer to Hebrews has just completed his argument that Christ is so much better than the angels because He is the Son of God. But before moving on to his next argument as to Jesus’ superiority, he pauses with a therefore. So I ask myself, “Self, what’s it there for?”
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
(Hebrews 2:1 ESV)
It’s a warning about drifting away from the gospel. It’s a caution about allowing the old, old story to occupy less and less of our attention. It’s an admonition against allowing ourselves to glide by that which has become familiar to the point where it ends up becoming ineffectual.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). For everyone who believes and for every facet of our salvation. The power for our justification, having saved us from the penalty of sin for the transgressions we have committed. The power for our glorification, delivering us, one day, from the presence of sin when we are taken home to heaven. And the power of God for our sanctification, freeing us from the power of sin while we sojourn this earth as ambassadors for Christ though we’re still at war with the old nature.
And if the gospel is the power of God for our sanctification, then we must be on guard against the tendency to drift from it. Instead, rather than moving on from the gospel, we must pay much closer attention to what we know to be true.
We need to “give more earnest heed” (NKJV) to the Person of Christ or we’re in danger of living in mindless religion rather than in the dynamic of on-going transformation. We need to lean in and plumb the depths of what it means that in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son, the radiance of His glory and the exact imprint of His nature (Heb. 1:2-3a). We need to constantly be turning our minds to plumb the depths of who Christ is.
What’s more, beyond the fascination and pursuit of understanding His person, we need to become addicted with seeking to grasp the fullness of the nature and implications of His work on the cross. All that it means when we read “He made purification for sins” (Heb. 1:3b). What was it for the heir of all things and the Creator of the world to take upon Himself flesh and humble Himself unto death, even death on a cross? How do we ever really wrap our minds around that? Don’t stop trying, says the writer to the Hebrews. In fact, he says, pay much closer attention.
When the old, old story becomes old, then we lose awe. And, as pointed out in a book I’m reading about awe by Paul Tripp, we were wired for, and are motivated by, awe. And when we lose our awe of God and His gospel, we’ll replace it with awe of something else which then will shape and direct our lives. That’s the drift!
When the gospel is only seen as for our salvation past, but not our salvation present–our sanctification–then we run the danger of trying to complete in the flesh that which was begun by the Spirit. We’ll tend to rely more on our power to behave properly, than to ask the Spirit’s help in believing more deeply. But the power of the gospel is that “in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Rom. 1:17).
When we allow what we have heard to slip away, then the catalyst for response dims. While we may go through the motions, the fire in our belly to live for the One who died for us flickers and fades because we’ve stopped providing it with fuel.
Much closer attention. More than before. Now, more than ever. That’s what we need to bring when it comes to the Person and Work of the Savior.
That we might constantly be in awe of grace. That we might always be motivated to live for His glory.