By Olen Holderby
While some departures from God happen more quickly than others; I have never seen what I would call a sudden departure. Most departures are gradual, a bit-by-bit process. Hebrews 2:1 appears to be a good text for this subject, and it fits perfectly with our title, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (NKJ). The Authorized Version says, “lest at any time we should let them slip”; making it appear that there might be some item of teaching which we let get away from us. Such is not the intent of the passage. The New American Standard says, “lest we drift away from it.” It can be seen, then, that it is our drifting that is under consideration, and not something that is drifting away from us. This demonstrates that how well we are anchored to God and his ways depends, largely, upon our learning of the truth and our holding on to that truth, in both teaching and practice.
The Possibility of Drifting
Our text has already established this possibility as a fact; but further reflections may help make this an indelible idea, and that it should be. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth taken heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). One may be “overtaken in a fault” (Gal. 6:1). While our drifting may be purely unintentional, and even denied, nonetheless it can happen to any of us. We know that this can happen to the “lowly” in our midst; but let us not forget that it can hap-pen even to the “mighty” of our number. When David received the news that both Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle, he said, “How are the mighty fallen in the midst of battle!” (2 Sam. 1:25). And again, “. . . for the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, and they are fallen both together” (Jer. 46:12).
At the time when our text was written, those people were drifting back to Judaism. In our time the danger is in drifting back into worldliness or into denominationalism. To recognize the slightest bit of drifting in our lives should horrify us (Heb. 4:11). It can happen! Even to you!
Reasons For Drifting
The reasons for drifting may not be as numerous as the drifters; but there may be many reasons for drifting. First, it is the easiest course to pursue (Matt. 22:5). It is easier to overlook a little neglect than to press for improvement (Heb. 2:3). It is easier to accept a little immorality in our friends or Loved ones than to condemn their sin (1 Thess. 5:21; Rom. 12:2; Matt. 19:9). It is easier to keep our mouths shut than to stand up and defend the truth (Jude 3). It is easier to make excuses than to get up and do what God said do (Heb. 5:9).
Jesus pointed out that the cares of this world could affect the productivity of the Word in our lives (Matt. 13:22). This is exactly how some start their drifting away from God. The Hebrew writer warned of the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13); and this becomes a strong current with which we may drift. Or, we simply might become “weary in well doing” (2 Thess. 3:13); and, we are urged, “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:3):
In addition to the above, there are other, and important, causes for some drifting away from God and his word. A lack of knowledge is a big factor (Hos. 4:6; Eph. 4:18). A failure to comply with 2 Timothy 2:15, 1Peter 3:15, or Ephesians 5:17 makes many people easy prey to all kinds of error and immorality; thus, their drifting away is assured.
Preachers not preaching the whole truth on some subjects is another factor in drifting away from God (2 Tim. 4:2; Mk. 16:15; Acts 20:27). Apostolic preaching was distinctive preaching on all subjects; both the positive and negative truths received appropriate attention. Compromising the truth is closely related to not preaching the whole truth; and this serves as a stimulus in drifting away from God: We may accept a little error, overlook a little error, ignore a little error, tolerate a little error, or mix a little error with the truth; and, when we do this, we have already taken one or more steps in drifting away from God. When this compromising is done with reference to morals (1 Cor. 5), the current of drifting appears to be even swifter. In proportion to our bringing every thought into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5), the drifting may be reversed.
There are those people who simply do not wish to live as Christians; they want all the advantages of Christians, but they seemingly have no interest in the attached obligations. All such need to study carefully the statement of Jesus in Matthew 16:24.
The Ruin of Drifting Away From God
If Nadab and Abihu could speak, what would be their advice (Lev. 10:1)? Do you think that the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day (Num. 15), if given a chance, would take that step again? Then, there is Moses (Num. 20), who in his anger smote the rock, and deprived himself of the promised land; his one step was one step too many.
Ananias and Sapphiras brief stint at drifting was fatal to them (Acts 5). Demas loved this present world and forsook Paul (2 Tim. 4:10). The Jews, time and again, drifted away from God. After discussing some of their departures, the Hebrew writer says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). The ruination of departing from God is so obvious that it ought not to be necessary to prove it to any concerned person.
How To Prevent Drifting Away From God
Our text says that we ought to give the “more earnest heed” to the things which we have heard, to the truth. All three of these words are necessary for us to get the full impact of the expression. The noun “heed” (prosecho) means “to hold to.” The adjective “earnest” (spoudaios) suggests “to hasten.” However, these are used in our text with the adverb “more” and literally says “more abundantly” (W.E. Vine, 551, 351-2). Surely we can see in all this some intense action, some real urgency; and, if we read the next two verses, we will see it as consistent action. As a part of this thought, we have 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always a-bounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” While these are not all that we might offer; yet, brethren, these are the basic ingredients for preventing our drifting away from God and his word. Anything less than these will make us easy prey to all sorts of departures.
The Reward for Not Drifting Away From God
This, of course, has an obvious answer(s). A crown of life (Rev. 2:1W; a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:6-8); an inheritance in heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-5) all, or each, of these are expressive of the promised reward. And, we are told that if we overcome we can share the Lords throne with him (Rev. 3:21).
Brethren, let each of us examine himself closely (2 Cor. 13:5); and, let us do so in view of the possibility of our drifting away from God. Let us understand when this has happened, and let us immediately apply the remedy. Let us be thankful for those who call such to our attention. Let us remember that we have a hell to shun and a haven to gain; and, if we avoid the former and reach the latter, we must not drift away from God and his word.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14 p. 16-17
July 15, 1993