Hebrews 2:1- We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
Do you know someone who can get lost no matter where they are? Even in familiar territory? Thom’s mom, aka Nana, was notorious for being directionally challenged. If she walked into a mall and took a few steps, you could spin her around and ask her to point to the way out, and she wouldn’t be able to do it. When she moved to WV to live with us, she didn’t want to drive because she didn’t think she would be able to find her way back home. Literally. Our neighborhood comes directly off of Teays Valley Road, but she didn’t trust herself to find the church or Kroger or anything else on Teays Valley Road or at least she didn’t trust herself to find her way back home.
One time, when Josh was eighteen months old, he had his tonsils and adenoids out. He stayed overnight at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital due to his young age, and just did great. He ate pancakes in the hospital right after he woke up. He was a true champion. Well, we got him home from the hospital, and it was maybe the next day after his surgery and Nana was staying with us. Josh was full of energy. Even though he had had surgery just about 36 hours before, he was wound up and wanted to go on a walk, so Nana took him. Time passed and more time passed. This was before she had a cell phone. We had no way to contact her. An hour and a half later they still weren’t home.
That little boy had just been in the hospital. He wasn’t in a stroller. He was on foot. He needed to be home and probably needed to be resting by this point. We had to call the police to get help locating them. Nana had turned down some street, probably to stop and smell some roses, and once she did, she got turned around and didn’t know which way was home. Josh wound up being fine. He was no worse for the wear. Eventually we had a good laugh. We just knew going forward that if Nana was taking the kids on a walk, we were going to need to chaperone. She needed to be with someone on the journey who could help her get back home.
Maybe you aren’t someone that gets lost easily, but maybe it can be hard for you to keep moving forward on the right path. Maybe you take side trips, not because you don’t know the way forward, but because there are times that another path seems easier or more exciting. Maybe you just are easily distracted. The writer of Hebrews warns us in this one verse about the dangers of drifting away from the faith. Whoever wrote Hebrews has an urgency to tell us that drifting is a possibility, and it isn’t a good thing. It isn’t a good thing to drift from the faith. So, the writer tells us to pay careful attention to what we have learned about the Lord. The challenge of today’s message in one sentence is simply this: Be a disciple, not a drifter.
I don’t think that most people who drift from the faith mean to. I don’t believe they purpose to. If they are people of faith, people who really have a personal relationship with Jesus, I don’t think they wake up one day and make a conscious decision to just drift away. But it happens. If you have ever been in a raft or boat and fell asleep and found yourself far away from where you started, you likely have said to yourself, “Where am I, and how did I get here?” It isn’t desirable to not know where you are. It isn’t desirable to be lost, but many people, people who grew up pursuing the Lord, are living that way. That is the consequence of drifting.
And if we become drifters, graduates, if you become a drifter, your life is going to take a whole different direction than the one that may be in your heart this moment. Plans, dreams, and goals won’t be met if you give into the drift. If you become a drifter, you will find yourself, lost in unfamiliar territory. You will likely get into all kinds of difficulty and hardship that would have been unavoidable if you had paid careful attention to the things you have learned about the Lord. This isn’t just a word for the graduates, but for all of us. I have seen people in their 60’s and 70’s start to drift. There are people who once served the Lord for decades but who have slowly drifted along with the culture and are now downstream, disconnected from God and are moving with the current of current culture. You might think, “That will never happen to me. I would never compromise my faith or walk with Christ.” “I’ll never question the authority of God’s Word.” “I’ll never fall out of fellowship with the Church.” “I’ll never stop praying or turn my back on God.” The writer of Hebrews sure thinks it is possible and wants to warn us against it. I’ve seen it happen too many times to count in my almost 30 years of ministry! Studies show that 2/3 of young people, as they head to college disconnect from their faith. Two-thirds. That ought to alarm us.
At our daughter’s college graduation, the speaker was a passionate Christ-follower named Kelly Kullberg. She is the founder of Veritas, a Christian group that meets on college campuses. They get together to discuss Truth and the foundation for life. She now has over 200 chapters around the world and a variety of learning institutions. She founded her first club at Harvard. I found her after the ceremony and asked how I could obtain a copy of her speech. She signed her manuscript and gave it to me.
One part went right through me. When I heard it, the Lord spoke to me about the message I was to share today. In her speech she said that just a few hundred years ago, Harvard College was founded “In Christi Gloriam, Veritas, Christo et Ecclessia” which means, “For the glory of Christ, Truth for Christ in the Church.”
Likewise, Yale University’s motto, Lux et Veritas, “Light and Truth” also hearkens back to a spiritual heritage. The phrase does not appear explicitly religious, but it is actually a translation of the Urim and Thummim things that were connected with the Old Testament priesthood. The motto was chosen by the founders of Yale who saw themselves as the chosen people of God in the New World. In the eighteenth century, students at Yale were taught to make their chief study the knowledge of God through Christ and to live with sobriety and devotion toward God.
Dartmouth, Princeton, and Cal Berkeley also all had charters that were intended to set a course for the schools’ missions to exalt Christ. Oh, how far each of those schools has drifted from their intended purpose. You would never look at any of those schools and be led to think their charters had a deep Christian foundation. In just a few generations, it has been eroded and is now unrecognizable. A drift has led to a shift away from their Christian purposes. Institutions that had once encouraged young people to seek God now would encourage them to question His existence. Do you see that drifting has serious consequences for those coming behind us?
Let me say that no faithful disciple of Jesus is a drifter. Disciples don’t drift. They are determined to stay connected to Christ even when it means they tirelessly must row upstream. They are watching Jesus, listening to Jesus, and are closely following Him. They are seeking to know Him by delving into the Scriptures and by dialoguing with Him daily. They are in regular fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and they are actively pursuing Christian community for worship, instruction, and encouragement. They incorporate spiritual disciplines in their lives because they know that spiritual disciplines keep them spiritually sharp and sensitive to God’s leading in their lives. They keep anchored and grounded in truth as they center their minds on Heaven and things of the Kingdom of God. It takes effort to do what Galatians 5:25 calls, “Staying in step with the Spirit.” Disciples who keep up with the Holy Spirit have to have their mind set on doing it, their heart devoted to doing it, and discipline to act accordingly.
It takes effort to be a disciple of Jesus. Drifting takes none. Drifting is the past of least resistance. It’s the path of no resistance. Drifting is the easy way but leads to the hardest place. If you are going to go somewhere in a rowboat, you had better be using some paddles. It won’t do you any good to have paddles lying in the boat. They have to be in your hands, and you have to be rowing if you will be going in the direction you desire to go. But if you want to drift, if you don’t care where you wind up, just kick back, and do what the world encourages you to do, “Go with the flow.” Just let the current decide where you end up. Oh my. Can we see where that has gotten those who have left discipleship for the drift? What a mess. What brokenness is all around us. Financial ruin, empty relationships, messed up families, lust without restraint, selfishness, greed, and loneliness that brings despair. No wonder we are warned against the dangers of drifting. If you just drift along with the current, you’ll wind up far from God’s intended purpose, far from His charter for your life. Satan doesn’t have to get God’s people to leap into some major sin in order to take control of their life. He just has to get them to drift.
Drifters don’t even try to resist the current. Disciples, however, are determined to row against the current to go where Jesus is calling. Drifters will willingly be dragged downstream, but disciples will press on to the upward call in Christ Jesus. Disciples will fight to keep Jesus in their sights. They will war and struggle against being taken in the wrong direction. They will put up a fight against those things which tempt them to compromise and cave to the cries of the culture. They will look away. They will run away. They will strive to avoid the very appearance of evil, I Thessalonians 5:22. They will call upon God to help them resist the Devil’s schemes.
I listened to a teaching last week that focused on Jesus in the wilderness temptation. Satan came to Him when He was very vulnerable. How many of you understand that Satan is never looking for a fair fight? Jesus was preparing for His earthly ministry, and to put Himself in a position where He wasn’t dependent upon Himself, but on the Spirit of God, He willingly fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He trusted God to sustain Him. It was like boot camp with the Holy Spirit.
So, Jesus was very physically weak when Satan came to tempt Him. Three times Satan tempted Jesus, and Satan tempted Him with things that would make sense, that would seem logical, that would not seem to be unreasonable for Jesus to desire and even need. Read the accounts in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Sometimes Satan tempts us with things that seem logical, they seem like an answer to a problem, an escape from our situation, a quick fix. Just go get drunk and sleep your problems away. Just go gamble and hope for a big win to fix your financial woes. Just go ahead and have sex with that person so you can “ensure” they will stay around long-term. Satan is really skilled at the way the human mind and emotions work in a moment of vulnerability.
Here was the “aha” I had about Jesus in the wilderness temptation. Satan’s end game wasn’t to get Jesus to sin. It was to get Him to switch sides. Satan isn’t just trying to get you to sin. He isn’t just trying to get you to displease God. He is trying to get you to change sides. Satan wants your allegiance. Satan wants your soul, and it starts with drifting.
Drifting may seem harmless at first, but as you let yourself be carried away by the current, you’ll find that as you move downstream, the speed of the current increases. All the sudden, you will find the pull and pace begin to speed up and by the time you hear the noise of the waterfall, there won’t be anything you can do to stop going over it into destruction. No one sets out to destroy their faith. No one sets out to destroy their relationships. No one sets out to destroy their health. No one sets out to destroy their reputation or future. It starts with drifting.
Disciples cannot drift. What does drifting look like for a Believer? Maybe we just start missing services once-in-a-while. We sleep in. We watch online. We watch online later. We meant to watch online later, but now it is next week and it is too time-consuming to catch up. We get involved in other things on the weekends. Being in church and serving the Lord cease being a priority. It becomes more of a pastime or hobby than an intentional pursuit. We begin to miss out on what is going on in people’s lives in the church. New people come into the life of the church, and we miss getting to welcome them. New ministries begin and we aren’t part of them. Before long, we feel like an outsider because we have drifted right out of fellowship, forfeiting some of the richest relationships we could ever know this side of Heaven. I’m passionate about my church family. You matter to me. I want God’s ultimate best for you. I want to be with you. I want to know what is going on in your life. I want to rejoice with you and weep with you and pray for you. I want to support and encourage you. Don’t drift.
When we stop reading the Bible devotionally, our devotion to the things of the Kingdom will begin to wane. God stuff just isn’t on our radar. We might go days without even thinking about God’s will or asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do” in my situation? Why should we not drift from the Word?
- We read the Word to help us know God and His voice.
- We read the Word to help us know the truth.
- We read the Word to help us know ourselves.
- We read the Word so that our mind and emotions which are so easily influenced by the world will become influenced instead by the Spirit of God.
- We read the Word because it has cleansing properties. We are “washed by the water of the Word,” Ephesians 5:26. When we read the Bible, whether we can remember what we read after we read it or not, whether we gain some immediate insight or not, whether we realize it or not, it washes us. It removes sinful habits from us. It shapes us as we are. It spiritually cleanses us. Our hearts become purified through exposure to the Word.
Brothers and Sisters, if we quit pursuing the knowledge of God, if we stop seeking to know the truth, if we cease trying to know ourselves correctly, if we just allow the world to tell us what to think and how to feel, and if we don’t care about purity of heart, we will find ourselves dangerously drifting away from anything good that God has for us.
When a person’s prayer life becomes no more than a once-in-a-while desperate plea for God to get them out of a fix, that person has drifted away from the purposes of prayer.
- Prayer is literally spiritual oxygen.
- Prayer is the way God transfuses our lives with His peace.
- Prayer is another way we can hear God’s voice.
- Prayer is a way that our wills get aligned with God’s will for our lives.
- Prayer is a way to exercise faith and to grow in faith.
- Prayer opens doors to supernatural miracles.
- Prayer builds intimacy with Jesus.
- Prayer reminds us where our help comes from.
For the Drifter, prayer is nothing more than just some human effort to try to control some outcome. Drifting totally downgrades every aspect of life as it minimizes the role God wants to play in our lives. Without His leadership and power, we just become victims of the drag of the drift.
You are more than your physical and emotional self. You are more than a graduation certificate or your career. You are a spiritual being first and foremost. If you drift away from that center, from who God created you to be, you will miss what matters most.
Being a Christian is about more than being saved from sin. That is certainly crucial, but being a Christian means we seek to become like Christ. Becoming like Christ is completely incompatible with drifting.
If you have taken the name, “Christian,” if you say, “I am a Christian,” what you have essentially done is taken a charter, a motto, a pattern for life that says, “My goal is to follow Christ and to become like Him.” I will seek to act like Christ. I will seek to have the attitude of Christ. I will treat people like Christ did. I will pursue a relationship with my Heavenly Father like Christ did. I will intentionally choose His life over mine and over anything this world would offer me. I will tell you, graduates, and other fellow believers, what the world needs most right now are Christians who won’t drift from our charter.
I think we are all like Nana when it comes to our spiritual journey. I think it is easy for us to lose our spiritual bearings, to get turned around, and we need people with us on our spiritual journey, people to help us walk out our faith, people to help us get back home. We all need to find strong believers to pray with, study with, interact with, and call on in times of need. Graduates, as you move into college or from college to the workforce, don’t underestimate the importance of Christian friends and fellowship to keep you moving forward in your walk with Christ. Christian friends can help you row against the drag and pull of the current. Every college campus in America will have Christian clubs you can be part of. As you graduate from high school, please don’t leave Jesus behind. Take Him with you and find other people who want to grow in their faith so that together, you can follow Him as disciples. Stay connected with us here at TVCOG whenever you can. Send us your prayer requests. Watch us online. Worship with us whenever you can get here.
Determine today to be a disciple, not a drifter. Determine to fight against the pull of the ignorance, stupidity and chaos of the culture. If I could paraphrase a phrase from Paul, “Row with me, as I row after Christ.” Be a disciple, not a drifter.