Believe Jesus: A Great Salvation
The purpose of Hebrews is to urge us on in our believing in Jesus. The illustration that runs throughout the book is that of the people of Israel during the Exodus – a people who tended towards giving up on belief – an example we are warned not to follow. Why is it that people give up on belief? Here are three typical reasons:
1. Getting weary
It is hard to do one thing, consistently, for all your life, and in the end we give up on most things. This is the classic issue for those in their middle-years (I’m 42; I know), but it can affect all ages. Life gets into ruts and routines, and restlessness and busyness sap our enthusiasm. Passion can turn into familiarity which in turn morphs into boredom. In order to counter this we need constant reminding of how amazing Jesus is. We need to be worshippers. We need to pay much closer attention!
2. Deliberate sin
Sometimes we choose to do things we know are wrong but feel more desirable than doing what is right. All of us are vulnerable to this and it is incredible how things can come out of left-field and knock us flat – all of us know the stories of ‘strong Christian leaders’ who get taken out by sin. So we need to be perpetually vigilant. We need to pay much closer attention!
3. External pressures
The original recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were probably suffering social embarrassment and financial hardship as a result of their following Jesus. Actual, active persecution would follow on close behind. When life is made more difficult than it would be because of our belief we need a robust faith; faith that is able to withstand pressure. We need to pay much closer attention!
How, then, can we be worshippers, vigilant and robust? We need to practice the consistent application of the gospel in the context of community.
Apply the gospel!
The people of Israel had the angelically-revealed law. This was an objective standard given to them to keep. They also had the experience of God’s saving power and grace, as they had come out of Egypt by signs and wonders. Yet time and again they failed to apply what they had, and drifted from belief.
What we now have is so much more complete than what the Israelites had received. Israel had angelic revelation; we have the revelation of the Son. Israel had the word of the prophets; we have the witness of those who saw the Son. Israel had the miracles of the Exodus; we have the miracles of Jesus, and the active presence of the Holy Spirit.
What we have received is greater, so our responsibility is greater. We have the gospel! Let’s apply it! Our salvation is very great! Don’t neglect it.
The context is community
Believing Jesus is a community exercise – there really is, “No salvation outside the church.” The New Testament understanding of the church is that a solitary Christian is unthinkable. Coming to Jesus means being joined to his body!
However, it is possible to attend church but not be ‘in’ church. There can be a failure to apply the gospel, simply attending meetings, while drifting away from real belief in Jesus. So there is a congregational responsibility to stop drift. The trouble is that it is not just that individuals start to drift, but whole communities do, because what we do individually has community impact. Like Noah’s ark, the church is a refuge for life – it is the means of salvation. The church carries those who have been rescued and offers rescue to the world, and this message of salvation is ours! Just as a drifting ship gets into trouble, so do drifting Christians. So we must be vigilant and help one another apply the gospel. The way we do this is by being committed to one another, and to genuine Christian community. In other words, by being the church.
Let’s pay closer attention! Let’s listen up! We have a great salvation!