How Do We Avoid the Fear of Death and How Do We Avoid Drifting Away? #316
Happy Saturday, friends! Two shortish episodes for the weekend, and we start this one with two Big Bible questions out of one passage, Hebrews 2. We’ll also be reading 2nd Kings 20, Psalms 137-138 and Hosea 13. We’re splitting our two Bible questions today, because Hebrews 2 brings up two important issues that we would do well to consider. Let’s read Hebrews 2 and be on the lookout for how to avoid the fear of death and how to avoid drifting away.
First let’s discuss drifting away. The verses that exhort us here are :
For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Two dangers are mentioned here: the first is drifting away by not paying attention to the Word, and the second, which is very related, neglecting the salvation of God. Let’s discuss drifting away first. The first chapter of Hebrews is quite interesting in that it doesn’t really have commands to the church in it, but has the one great focus: Jesus is superior, Jesus is better than the angels, God is speaking to us through Jesus. Chapter 2 directly flows from that important foundation – because Jesus, the superior one is speaking to us with the voice of God, we MUST listen, lest disaster happen. Of this, Piper says:
So the first command in this book—the first duty mentioned—is that we give heed to the Word of God in his Son. We could boil down the two chapters so far to this: “In these last days God has spoken to us by a Son … for this reason we must pay closer attention to this word that he has spoken.” In other words, God has spoken by his Son, so listen, listen very carefully.
Now here is a command that we need desperately to hear in our day. What do you listen to? Whom do you listen to? God has spoken through his Son, do you listen to him? How does your listening to him compare to your listening to other things? When we want to listen to someone, we make provisions for listening. If we want to listen to a musical group, we make sure that we have a tape player in the car and that we have the tapes. If we want to listen to the news, we make sure there is a radio in the kitchen or that we have a TV and that we have it turned on at the right time. If we want to listen to a missionary who is in a critical situation overseas, we make arrangements to have email and pick up our mail often during the day. If we want to listen to John Grisham tell his latest tale, we buy a paperback in the airport and have it with us on the airplane.
On and on it goes. We all want to listen to something. And we make plans for our listening and we buy things and go places and make sure we are not distracted. So how does all this compare to our listening to God’s Word to us in his Son? Are you listening to that? Are you making provisions for that? Are your kitchen and your car and your den and your reading devoted to that?
What Hebrews is saying here is that in the Christian life we must go on listening to God’s Word in Jesus. And we must do this with very close attention. We cannot treat this casually. We cannot act as if we already know all we need to know, or that we have nothing to gain from listening to Jesus. There is an urgency here in Hebrews 2:1. Literally it says, “It is exceedingly necessary that we give heed to what we have heard.” It is not just an option that you can do if you are especially spiritual or have a crisis in front of you or if you are at camp or if you need to prepare some lesson. This is a word to all Christians: it is “exceedingly necessary to give heed” to Jesus as the Word of God.
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
So – God is speaking through Jesus – it is exceedingly necessary that we listen, OR, says the writer of Hebrews, we will drift away to a very dangerous place. How dangerous is that drifting away? It’s life or death! On that, Spurgeon writes:
Hark: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Not if we resist it, reject it, despise it, oppose it; but if we neglect it. If a man is in business, it is not necessary that he should commit forgery in order to fail; he can fail by simply neglecting his business. If a man is sick, he need not commit suicide by taking poison; he can do it just as surely by neglecting to take proper medicines. So is it in the things of God, neglect is as ruinous as distinct and open opposition: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation;”
C. H. Spurgeon, “An Earnest Warning against Unbelief,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 56 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1910), 477.
So, our first command in Hebrews points us to the Word of God through Jesus – don’t neglect it, but take hold of it with all of your holding. In doing that, we see some exceedingly good news delivered to us, and also a primary reason why we should pay such close attention to the Word of Christ…because not only do His Words ring true, but His life and overcoming of death show that He is Himself truth. Further, His experience of death and the overcoming of death – and His invitation to all of humanity to eternal life by grace through faith give us a doorway to eternal life through Him, and deliver us from death and fear of death!
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Hebrews 2:14-16
Jesus became human so that He could experience the death that we were supposed to experience – the death of one who is separated from God and all hope by their sins. THAT is the death we should have experienced – a hopeless death. Jesus experienced a hopeless and alone death, so that we wouldn’t ever have to face such a prospect, and in doing so, He brought freedom for those who are afraid of dying. THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST WILL NEVER HAVE TO FACE DEATH SEPARATED FROM THE FATHER!
So, dear friends: On this Saturday, allow me to urge you to hold fast to the Word of God through Jesus, and to partake of the hope that is available to all who have faith in Him.