Warning: Do Not Neglect Salvation!
If you were here last week, then you hopefully will remember that we discussed three different reasons that Jesus Christ is worthy of our worship. We first looked at how He is worthy of our worship because He is the fulfillment of God’s revelation. Then, we looked at how He is worthy of our worship because He is the exact fingerprint of God the Father. Finally, reason number three is that Jesus is far superior to the angels. And hopefully, you remember that I sent out a challenge for you to go home and read the rest of Hebrews chapter one, and write down the differences between Jesus and the angels. And before we go any further, did anyone remember to do this, and if so, what differences did you find?
The book of Hebrews is fascinating for several different reasons. One of those reasons is that it is filled with what theologians call “warning passages.” These are passages where the writer stops what he is talking about, and begins to talk about how dangerous it is to walk away from Christ, and things like that. In the thirteen chapters of Hebrews, there are five of these warning passages, and this morning’s passage is the first of those five. So to see the passage that I am talking about, I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter two, and we will be reading verses one through four of this chapter. Again, Hebrews 2:1-4.
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transaction and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?”
Let’s pray together.
The title of this morning’s sermon is “Warning: Do Not Neglect Salvation!” As you probably picked up, the theme of this morning’s sermon is the theme of salvation. And while I truly love preaching sermons on great topics like Providence and Jesus’ superiority to angels, there is no greater privilege for a preacher of God’s word to focus on the topic of salvation. And as we study these four verses, we will come across three key points that outline this theme for us. In verses one and two we will see “The Problem.” In verse three we will see “The Plan.” And finally; in verse four, we will see “The Proof.” And, as always, I encourage you to take notes from the sermon, because you never know what new lesson will jump out from God’s word that you never noticed before, even if you’ve read this passage 100 times. Let’s begin with point number one.
Point #1: The Problem
Let’s start our study by looking again at verse one of our text. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Notice that the first word of this verse is “Therefore.” Any time your Bibles use the word therefore, it is reminding you to look at the passage before it. And raise your hand if you can remember what Hebrews chapter one was all about. Ok, and what was it about? Yes, thank you. Hebrews chapter one revolved around Jesus’ worthiness because of His superiority to angels. So this verse says “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.” In other words, this verse means, “Because Jesus is superior to the angels, we should pay even more attention to what Jesus says than what angels say.”
But that raises the question, “What did Jesus say that is so important?” I mean, Jesus said a lot of things, didn’t He? In fact, at the end of the Gospel of John, John says that if everything Jesus did and said were recorded, the world itself could not contain all of the books. Well, obviously everything that Jesus says is extremely important, but the theme of this passage is the theme of salvation, so we must understand it to mean that we must pay close attention to what Jesus said about salvation. And to these Jewish readers, Jesus said some extraordinary things about salvation.
Think about how salvation was obtained in the Old Testament times. The book of 1 Samuel says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins; and for the people, that meant taking their sheep, their goats, and their cattle to the temple to be sacrificed, so that the blood of the animal could replace their own blood. Now, Romans chapter four makes it clear that salvation was not gained through the sacrifice itself, but through faith in the sacrifice; but the people in that time probably did not understand that difficult concept. For them it was, “I take a lamb, I kill the lamb, God forgives me of my sins. Every time I sin, I repeat this process, and God will cover my sin with the blood of this lamb.”
But what did Jesus say about salvation? Jesus came and said that He would be the Lamb for everybody. Jesus knew that the law was extremely rigid, and that even though God loved the world immensely, He would not look the other way and ignore mankind’s rebellion. He knew that God is love, but He also knew that God is holy, and God is just, and God is perfect. Jesus knew that the law about forgiveness coming through the shedding of blood would be a statute until the end of time. Someone always has to die because of sin. Romans six twenty-three says that the price you receive for sin is death. But Jesus said that He would be your Lamb. He said that He would die, so that you did not have to. Isn’t that the most amazing news you have ever heard? Church, that is the message of the gospel. That is what the writer of Hebrews was talking about when He said that we had to pay extremely close attention to the words of Christ. Because the day is long gone when God accepted the sacrifice of lambs, goats, and cattle. Now, God only accepts one payment for your sin, and that is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let’s move on in our passage.
Look now at the end of verse one, where there is a great phrase that I want you to notice. The Bible says, “lest at any time we should let them slip.” This is one of those times in the Bible where sometimes things are just lost in translation from the Greek to the English. In the Greek language, this verse has the idea of something floating down a stream away from the place it is supposed to be. The idea that comes to my mind is of one of those lazy rivers in a theme park, where you get on your inner tube, and let it simply take you wherever it wants to take you. You don’t have to paddle to go anywhere; and really, you have very little say over your final destination. You are simply captured in the flow. This verse says that we are like that in life. But, does this verse say that we are drifting towards God, or drifting away from God? This verse says that we are drifting away from God. What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that if you take a random human being, and you put them on the lazy river that we call “Life,” that human being is drifting farther, and farther, and farther away from the God that created him or her. In fact, some people drift so far away that they can’t even acknowledge that there is a God they are drifting away from! Some people drift so far from the Truth that they have simply stopped caring anymore, and they believe that there is nothing they can do about it.
So bear with your pastor as he attempts to create a mental image for you. This verse says that humanity (and remember, we are talking about humanity without Christ) is slowly drifting farther and farther away from God. And who can tell me what the final destination of this drifting is? Yes, death and hell. Well, in our illustration, death is going to be represented by a waterfall. And we’re going to build on this illustration again in a little bit, but for now, just imagine a man in an inner tube floating down a river, headed straight for a deadly waterfall.
Let’s quickly look at what verse two adds to this point. “For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transaction and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.” In this verse, the writer reminds the audience that every time an angel spoke a message from God, the message happened just like it was said. Whenever an angel said that judgment was going to come because of sin, judgment came. If even an angel has the authority to make these things happen, how much more so does the very Son of God!
So point number one of this sermon is that there is a problem. And not just your run-of-the-mill flat tire sort of problem, but the kind of problem that has the potential to forever ruin your life. We humans have sinned against God, and in our sinfulness we are traveling farther and farther away from the One we are supposed to follow. And there is a very steep price for our sin. The price of our sin is that we are slowly creeping towards a waterfall called death and hell. It is a terrifying problem. But guess what: this is not the end of the story. Let’s move on to point two.
Point #2: The Plan
The plan of salvation is seen in verse three of Hebrews chapter two. Verse three reads, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him;” This is one of the most famous verses in the Bible for talking about salvation. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? So the author is still playing off of this idea of drifting away from God, and his readers knew that the end of that drifting is destruction. So the writer says that there is no way of escape except through the salvation of Jesus Christ. That's not something we like to think about in our pluralistic society, is it? When the writer asked how people could escape if they ignored Christ’s salvation, he was asking a rhetorical question. He knew full and well, that there is only one way of salvation, and that is through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that there is no other name under Heaven by which people can be saved. All over the world, people are vainly crying out to Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, and a host of other false gods and goddesses, and it’s all in vain! There is only one name, and it’s Jesus!
But right here in the heart of Texas, there aren’t a whole lot of people who are calling out to Buddha or Mohammed. There are some, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just trying to say it’s not the most prevalent mistake people make around here. While very few people would actually say this, the majority of people in the United States are relying on only one person for their salvation, and that is themselves. They hope that they will be good enough. They hope that Saint Peter will look at the deeds of their lives and just open those pearly gates wide open for them. But verse one says that we are all slipping away from God. A person without Christ is not marching closer and closer to God, he is walking farther and farther away! Heaven’s entrance exam is not a 100-question test about how many old ladies you helped across the street. Heaven’s entrance exam is not some great set of scales that measures all of the bad deeds you’ve done against all of the good deeds you’ve done. Heaven’s entrance exam is one question. Is your faith in Jesus Christ? Church, if you’ve accepted Christ, then you know as well as I do that we can never be good enough. There aren’t enough old ladies or enough streets in this world to get me into Heaven. The only way that I can enter Heaven is through the forgiveness made possible by the death of Jesus Christ. So does mankind face a tremendous problem? Yes, they do. They are all heading towards a waterfall. Some of them are in motorboats speeding towards the waterfall with all of their might. Some are just coasting through life, enjoying the lazy river for as long as it lasts. And then there are some that are paddling vigorously, trying to do as many good things as possible to avoid the inevitable. But church, without Christ’s forgiveness, their destination is the same.
And church, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit that we deserve it. I know I deserve it. Before I came to Christ I consistently walked in rebellion against God. Even now, I have been unable to completely conquer sin in my life. And you know, God does not owe us any sort of warning, or any sort of salvation, but He has given it to us. Point number two is that there is a plan to save us, and point number three is going to show that God has put up signs all along the river that there is a waterfall ahead.
Point #3: The Proof
Let’s look at verse number four of our text. “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.” Verse four gives us three distinct ways that God has shown us proof that His salvation is for real. The first one we see is right there in the verse, “signs and wonders.” Now, I think that this phrase means a couple different things for believers. The first thing this means is it refers to the signs and wonders that Jesus did while He was on earth. If you think about it, this book was probably only written a couple decades after Jesus ascended to Heaven, so it is very possible that many of the original readers of this book saw Jesus with their own two eyes. So when the writer says that God bears witness of the gospel’s truth through signs and wonders, some of them probably thought, “Yeah, I was one of the 5,000 people that Jesus fed.” Or, “I was one of the mourners there when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead.” So when the writer talks about how signs and wonders serve as proof for the gospel, they knew exactly what he was talking about.
But here we are today, and we are studying this verse, seeing if we can once again prove the gospel. And is there anyone here today that was there when Jesus fed the 5,000 people? Miss Janette? So if you are here this morning, and you just aren’t sure about this whole gospel thing, you might be looking for some proof. And frankly, I can’t blame you. But did you know that there is a different type of signs and wonders besides just the miracles that Jesus did while He was on planet Earth? Since none of you were here when Jesus fed the 5,000; let me ask a different question. Raise your hand if you have ever seen a sunset. I think that’s everybody. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been amazed at how trees lose their leaves and regrow new ones every year. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been captivated at how well the human body works. Church, those are signs and wonders for us here today. When I think that some people are crazy enough to believe in evolution, it makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Laugh because of how silly it is, and cry because of what that says about their belief in God. But church, that beautiful sunset screams Creation! That new leaf sprouting in the Spring screams Creation! Your retina that constantly expands and contracts so that you can see properly screams Creation! Those signs and wonders serve as a proof for the gospel.
Look at the second proof mentioned in that verse. “Divers miracles.” Perhaps a better translation of this phrase would be “various supernatural powers.” The writer was especially referencing the mighty miracles that the Apostles did after Christ returned to Heaven, but no doubt there is application for us, as well. Whenever you hear stories about people who were willing to die for their faith in Christ, or whenever you hear about someone whose terminal cancer mysteriously vanished, you have seen the supernatural power of God. These things, just like the beauty of creation, give proof for the truth of the gospel.
Chances are, some of you are wondering what on earth this sermon has to do with you. “This pastor has been preaching an entire sermon on becoming a Christian, and I’ve been a Christian for 50 years!” Well, just in case you thought you got off easy today, let’s look at the final part of verse four. “And gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Church, what are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Well, if you were here on Sunday night about three weeks ago, we looked at some of these gifts. The gifts of the Spirit are the things you can do today that you can only do because you have the Holy Spirit within you. For me, I could never have had the boldness to speak before a crowd of people without the Spirit living in my heart. For some of you, you could never resist the urge to nail your horn at that driver that just cut you off, except the Holy Spirit helps you to just smile. For some of you it’s teaching Sunday school. For some of you, it’s serving others at a meal before you serve yourself. For some of you, it’s using your hard-earned gas to go out of your way to pick up somebody for church. However the Spirit manifests Himself in your life, He uses that manifestation as a proof for the gospel.
So let’s take this back to our illustration of the lazy river man for a second. First we talked about how mankind is like a man on an inner tube, just floating away from his Creator. Then, we talked about how at the end of this river is a massive waterfall that will annihilate anyone who goes down it. But then, we saw how Jesus Christ is ready to single-handedly pull your inner tube all the way up river, right back to God the Father. But remember, Jesus will not save you if you don’t want Him to. And just to help you know the reality of the waterfall, and the reality of Jesus Christ; God has given us signs all along the river so that we know about the waterfall and about how He can save us. First, He has given us the beauty of creation. Second, He has given us miracles, whether it be extreme acts of faith or extreme acts of healing. Finally, He has given the lost world the privilege of seeing you and I live our lives for Christ, exhibiting the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
And just so you know, being a sign for the gospel is not an optional job for Christians. Every Christian is a sign. Now, the quality of sign you are going to be is largely up to you. You can be a big, beautiful billboard for Christ that constantly shines the message of the gospel through your life; or you can be a rusty, decrepit sign that bypassers have to strain their eyes just to see Christ in you. But whether you are a billboard or a rusty old sign, you are a sign for the gospel.
And as the pianist and song leader come forward, allow me to lay down a challenge for those of you who have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Church, we have seen how your life is one of the three main ways that God proves His gospel to an unbelieving world. While obviously evangelism is a part of this, this goes well beyond simply telling others about your faith. God uses the way you act 24/7 to show the world what it looks like when a person is truly saved. But if you are here today, and you are a Christian, but you have become so trapped in sin that you don’t know up from down, I challenge you to get back to where you need to be. Live for Christ. And don’t only do it for yourself, but do it for all of those people that are looking at you, trying to determine if this whole Jesus thing is real or not. Your life will either be used to show people the reality of the gospel, or show people that Christians don’t really care about their Christ.
But if you are here today, and you have never accepted Jesus Christ, then I hope you realize that you are just like that man going down that river. You may be having fun now. Or maybe you’re absolutely miserable, and you are looking for the solution. Either way, I hope you now see the necessity of trusting in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has died for your sins, not because you deserve it, but because He loves you. But Him dying does not mean that you will go to Heaven, because you have to have faith in His death and in His Resurrection. Is placing your faith in Christ easy? Well, yes and no. Yes because in a split second you can be moved from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God. But no because sometimes being a Christian is hard. As ridiculous as it seems, sometimes you will be mocked by other people who are headed straight for that waterfall. And sometimes you may miss your old habits that God wants you to let go of. But there is no doubt in my mind that knowing Jesus Christ and having Heaven as my home has been so much better than having a little bit of sinful fun on planet earth. If you have never accepted Christ, then I pray that today will be the day you do so. We are going to open the altars in just a moment, but I hope you realize that you can place your faith in Christ right there in your pew, or on your bed at night, or in your car driving home, or wherever you are. But wherever you do it, please do it soon, because you never know how close you are to the waterfall.
So whether you desire to follow Christ more closely in your life, or whether you desire to follow Him for the first time, the altars are open for you. But before we open the altars, let’s pray.
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