Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. (Hebrews 3:1, 12-14 NASB)
Even seasoned Christians can read clear black and white warnings in Scripture and then completely disregard them.
Take, for example, a small men’s bible study I was involved in several years ago. There were about six of us in it; men whom I would call mature Christians. We met in a home two doors down from mine, making it the most convenient bible study I had ever been in.
The other men were from a church I didn’t attend and had been meeting for a while before I got invited. The invitation was providential because I was at a low point in my spiritual life. I had followed founding pastors in my last two churches, always a ministerial challenge, sort of like trying to follow Peyton Manning as quarterback for the Denver Broncos. But in my last church, I turned out to be “the unintended interim pastor” and I was in shock.
For weeks I didn’t say more than five words in that study. I just sat there and stared, every now and then grabbing a homemade cookie on the plate in the middle of the living room floor we were sitting on, like a motionless frog on a lily pad snatching flies out of thin air with its tongue. I’m an introvert by nature anyway. But an introvert in shock is impenetrable.
Over months, and then years, that bible study healed my soul. Slowly I opened up and let the Word of God and the Spirit of God and those men speak to me. The joy of ministry was returning and I began to see myself once again as an instrument of service in the hand of the Lord.
“So what do you think we should study next?” the group leader asked.
We had been meeting for a couple of years now and had just finished working through our latest book of the Bible.
“How about Hebrews?” someone randomly suggested.
No one else had any better suggestion, so Hebrews it was.
I had studied Hebrews before, of course. But this time was different. Hebrews is a book with giant warning signs in it: “DON’T FALL BACK!” “DON’T DRIFT AWAY!” It’s sort of like what what you might hear from the lifeguard running up and down the beach when there’s a dangerous undertow current shouting, “Riptide! Riptide! Everyone out of the water!”
As we wound our way through Hebrews over weeks and months, I realized that, following my pastoral disaster in my last church, I myself had been in danger of doing exactly what Hebrews was warning against: drifting away from my faith. So now, as I read the book once more, I kept thinking, “These warnings are very real. I need to listen to this.”
We didn’t realize it at the time, but our study in Hebrews would be the last for our little men’s bible study. Life’s demands were calling us in different directions, so after we finished Hebrews we dissolved it.
Over the years we’ve kept in touch. Sadly, though, two of the men with me in that bible study didn’t take the warnings in Hebrews seriously. One denied his faith and then was killed in a car accident. A second is no longer what I would call an orthodox evangelical believer.
As our passage in Hebrews says, we had encouraged each other over the years. But we live in a highly seductive culture and if we don’t fix our eyes on Jesus, we will slip away.
- In practice, how do you “fix your thoughts on Jesus”?
- Do you have regular fellowship with other believers?
- Do you think often about your heavenly calling?
- Do you know other believers who have drifted away from their faith?
- How have you responded to them?