They are not in the intensive care unit (ICU) yet. But they have symptoms. One: not heeding God’s Word. Two: drifting off course. Three: neglecting salvation. And the worst is yet to come.
But what’s the disease? It started in the first century and became a pandemic in the fourth. It’s the virus of Casual Christianity.
The Hebrews started well. They saw signs and wonders and received charismatic gifts. They closed rank in persecution and stood with those in prison. They relinquished their rights and surrendered their possessions for Jesus’ sake (Hebrews 10:33-34).
This is the path Jesus trod: Humiliation before honour; gallows before glory; cross before crown.
But as the persecution waned, so did their zeal. The church of the Hebrews was a church in decline. What went wrong? How could they neglect so great a salvation? How could we?
Like some of us, the Hebrews apparently expected too much too soon. Their everyday experience did not line up with the extravagant promises of God. They did not see all things under Jesus’ feet, much less their own (Hebrews 2:8; Psalm 8:6). Instead of being crowned with glory and honour, they were clothed with shame and disgrace (Hebrews 10:33, 13:13).
They were being worn down by degrees (Hebrews 12:3-13). Some were even deserting the fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). Others were skirting the edge of apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Is there a cure for the pandemic of Casual Christianity? Yes. The Sermon to the Hebrews! The Preacher will take pains to remind his listeners of the path Jesus trod: Humiliation before honour; gallows before glory; cross before crown.
This pattern is normative, not only for Jesus, but for all who follow him (Mark 8:34, Luke 24:26, 1 Peter 1:11). Let’s get it right. No one leapfrogs over the Cross into the Throne Room. If we suffer with him, says Paul, we shall also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17).
We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it (Hebrews 2:1).
- Be warned. We live in a restless world of endless distractions. The Church is not spared.
Drifting from the centrality of Christ is an ever present danger. No one is exempt. We must urgently own up to our failures and repent: Have we fallen for a pop theology that breeds a superficial Christianity? Have we made converts but not disciples? Have we watered down Jesus’ conditions of discipleship? Have we promoted a shallow idea of salvation as a great escape from hell and a free pass to heaven? Have we reduced salvation to a lottery of temporal gains: Be healthy, wealthy, happy, and savvy? God has spoken. Turn to him with a crushed and contrite heart. Pray: Lord, we have often been casual and complacent about so great a salvation. We have taken your suffering and sacrifice for granted. We have not trembled at your Word (Isaiah 66:5). We repent. In your mercy, forgive us.
- Be vigilant. The Church in the First World has drifted and declined.
The trajectory is scary. From 1st generation fervency to 2nd generation complacency to 3rd generation apathy to 4th generation apostasy. Singapore must not go that route. For the sake of future generations, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard. We must steward the Message well. Ask God for a Great Awakening: A citywide movement back to the authentic Gospel. Back to the authority of God’s Word, our standard and compass. Back to Jesus, our Messiah, Master, Mentor, Model: His life, his teaching, his ministry, his obedience unto death. Watch and pray. Believe. Belong. Become.
- Be rooted. Rediscover the orthodox view of salvation presented in Hebrews: Forgiveness and cleansing (Hebrews 1:3, 9:26, 10:2,18). A clear conscience (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22). Freedom from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). A new covenant relationship with God (Hebrews 9:15-22, 10:15-18). Unlimited access to the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19). Rest in God (Hebrews 4:3). A share in God’s glory (Hebrews 2:10). An everlasting inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). Citizenship in the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 12:28). Eternal dwelling in the City of God (Hebrews 11:16, 12:22). Today, rejoice! Give thanks. Make up your mind: Never again neglect so great a salvation. Never drift from it. Never stop spreading such great news!
- Be confident. Pray: Lord, our everyday experience does not seem to line up with your extravagant promises. But we refuse to despair. You know best and you always act in our best interest. You make all things beautiful in your own good time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). You will always have the last word. You are all we need. We fix our eyes on you—lest we drift.
- Be wise. This Election, pay close attention to God’s Word:No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:6-7). Pray his Word.
Read the devotional from Day 1: God has spoken here.