Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Pretty powerful exhortation, eh? We are to pay “much closer attention” to the wonderful salvation found in the gospel of Jesus Christ – the Son of God who died to atone for sinners so that they would be considered righteous in God’s sight. It is a “great salvation” because Christ, the “radiance of the glory of God,” “the exact imprint of his nature,” who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” made purification for the sins of sinners such as me! (Hebrews 1:3).
Thus, the gospel is not to be a one-time message to be forgotten after conversion, but it is to flavor every aspect of our lives. As Jerry Bridges has said, we are to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday, continually facing up to our own sin, confessing and repenting of it, and looking only to Christ and claiming his blood and righteousness only.
The author of Hebrews seems to be writing directly to me in warning us to not neglect the transforming power of the gospel. It must be at the center of everything. It must be preached from pulpits instead of therapeutic self-help advice (which boils down to wrongly preaching the law as sanctification). It must be clung to above all other idols or images in our lives. The sermon this past week on the second commandment included an exhortation to not have anything less or else than God in our hearts, minds, and lives.
But here I am, just a few days later, drifting and neglecting this already. I’ve again elevated myself above God; I’ve again been unfaithful to him; the “screensaver” of my mind has again turned away from his Word and his Truth and his Gospel. How much do I need to ask God for his grace and strength to pay much closer attention to the gospel and to not neglect the great message of Christ.
It reminds me of a sincere, convicting song: “Jealous Kind” by Jars of Clay:
I built another temple to a stranger,
I gave away my heart to the rushing wind.
I set my course to run right into danger,
Sought the company of fools instead of friends.
You know I’ve been unfaithful
With lovers in lines
While you’re turning over tables
With the rage of a jealous kind.
Tried to jump away from rock that keeps on spreading
For solace in the shift of the sinking sand.
I’d rather feel the pain all too familiar
Than to be broken by a lover I don’t understand.