Gospel Drift — and How to Avoid It
On Monday, we started the week by looking at the cross. That is always a great way to start the week. And we saw that the manner of Christ’s death was fitting. In that episode (in APJ 1816), Pastor John told us to underline and draw a big red circle around that word “fitting” in Hebrews 2:10, where it says, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The fittingness of Christ’s public humiliation on the cross is a profound point worth “much study and hours of meditation,” Pastor John said, because “God’s eternal decision to achieve our salvation through the sufferings of Christ is not arbitrary or whimsical or meaningless but is owing to a profound fitness and suitableness.”
This fittingness of the cross calls for intense focus from us. And we focus on the cross to resist drifting away from the gospel. That’s a major theme in the book of Hebrews. And I wanted to connect Monday’s episode with today’s sermon clip, and we do that with Hebrews 2:10. Here’s Pastor John preaching on this text in 1996, talking about gospel drift and how to avoid it.
Now the reason I call him a forerunner or a captain is because of the phrase in Hebrews 2:10: “leading many sons to glory.” Let’s read verse 10: “For it was fitting that he [God the Father], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory” — that’s what he was doing in sending Jesus to suffer, die, and be glorified: he was leading, bringing many sons to glory. It was fitting, in doing that, to “make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
Our Great Salvation
Now, there are a lot of important things in that verse. That verse could keep us for months. What an amazingly rich verse this is. But what I want to focus on right away is this phrase: God is bringing many sons to glory. The reason that’s important is because it connects way back up with verse 7, where he quotes Psalm 8 to say that the destiny of human beings is glory, honor, dominion over the creation — under God, alongside Jesus Christ. That’s your destiny. That’s your goal.
Now, we don’t yet see that as the case. Human beings suffer; they die. But what we do see is Jesus made a human for a little while, breaking into death, out of death, seated on a glorious throne, where we will one day join him — unspeakably, according to Revelation 3 — on his throne. And in doing that, what is he doing? He is leading or bringing many sons with him to glory. So, the reason the Son assumed human flesh is so that Psalm 8 — which seemed to be aborting — would be fulfilled in the first man out of the grave, and he would bring others with him. That’s the flow. That’s what’s going on here. This is our great salvation.
When he says in verse 3, “Beware lest you neglect your great salvation,” this is what he has in mind — this great coming of the Son into humanity, breaking through death, going into the Father’s presence, being crowned with glory and honor, and bringing with him many sons and daughters to glory, so that Psalm 8 will have a fulfillment. It will be fulfilled.
“The glory that Jesus now enjoys at his Father’s right hand will become our glory as well.”
It is a great salvation for several reasons. We’ve seen them. It’s great because there’s a great destiny. There will be no more cancer. There will be no more paralysis. There will be no more blindness. There will be no more arthritis. There will be no more heart disease. There will be no more depression. There will be no more violence or conflict anymore, for the former things will have passed away. Psalm 8 will be fulfilled. The glory that Jesus now enjoys at his Father’s right hand will become our glory as well, and there will be a new heavens and a new earth. And Psalm 8 will be true as you and I, vice-regents, as it were, rule the universe alongside our older brother, Jesus Christ. That’s coming. That is our great salvation.
It’s a great salvation, secondly, not just because of our goal, our destiny, but because of our Savior — he is a great Savior. His glory is our ultimate destiny. We share in the glory that he has won by his death and resurrection. And he was the Son of God coming to rescue us. No mere human could have done what Jesus Christ did. So, our salvation is great because he’s a forerunner to God, and his goal is the glory of God.
Back to Hebrews 2:1–3: “Therefore” — we’re always coming back to the therefore — “don’t neglect this great salvation.” Don’t neglect it. One of the great reasons for weakness in the American evangelical mainline churches is neglect of the greatness of our salvation. Ask yourself: How much mental energy do you expend to occupy yourself with the greatness of your salvation compared to the energy you expend on your finances or housing or job?
There is a colossal neglect of the greatness of our salvation in the church, not to mention outside the church. Well, what would be the opposite of neglect? Let me list off for you answers from the book of Hebrews.
- In Hebrews 2:1, it is to pay close attention to what we’ve heard.
- In Hebrews 3:1, it is to consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of your confession.
- In Hebrews 3:12, it is to take care lest there should be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart — but exhort one another every day.
- In Hebrews 4:16, it is to draw near to the throne of grace to get help from Jesus.
- In Hebrews 10:23, it is to hold fast our confession without wavering.
- In Hebrews 12:1, it is to run the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation.
- In Hebrews 12:25, it is not to refuse him who speaks from heaven.
“How much mental energy do you expend to occupy yourself with the greatness of your salvation?”
Not neglecting is the mental, spiritual, emotional engagement with God to behold, to taste, to see, to embrace him in his greatness and all that he wrought for us — to ponder, to think on it, and not to neglect it.
Slowly Drifting from Jesus
My dad and I were coin collectors when I was growing up. There was a sequence of years — I can’t remember the exact age — when we were coin collectors. I wonder how many have ever been coin collectors. I haven’t looked at the books for a long time, but there used to be these full open blue books with little holes, dates, place of minting. And you would push the coin in. Eventually, you’d get a book full. That was a big deal — it’s probably worth hundreds of dollars.
So, my dad is a traveling evangelist. He’d go away, and he’d talk to coin collectors. He’d save all his coins and bring them home. Then he and I would sit down together and look at them. And we’d look them up in the book and see, “Is this good, excellent, or is this fair?” And we’d push them into the book, and we’d try to finish books.
And then something happened. I cannot tell you what happened. We just started to not do it. And there were a few spurts, in the years after that, of interest. We would go down in the bottom shelf where there was a little door, and we would push the door. There they were. We’d pull one out and do it a little bit, and put it back. And longer months would pass. Today, I don’t have a clue where those books are, and they’re worth thousands of dollars.
That’s the way many people experience the Christian faith. There’s this spurt, there’s this engagement, there’s this flowering of apparent zeal and interest. And then weeks pass and no prayer, no meditation on the word. It’s easy to skip worship. “The lake home really needs some attention, and there’s good fellowship there. And the glory of God is proclaimed in the sunshine.” Little by little, you wake up one day, and it’s over. It’s not only neglected; it’s forgotten, and you’re cold. And there may be no return, according to Hebrews 12 — maybe.
That’s what this book is written to help not happen. That’s the point of the book of Hebrews. Don’t neglect it. It is a great salvation. It’s ten thousand times greater than dozens of full blue coin books. And this author is pleading with us, don’t neglect a great salvation.
He writes this book to model for us and to help us copy him in meditating on the greatness of salvation. What is the book of Hebrews? The book of Hebrews is one extended effort not to neglect the greatness of salvation. It is one long meditation on the magnificence of Jesus Christ and what he has wrought through his death and resurrection for you and me. So, if you want to know how not to neglect your great salvation, let the book of Hebrews model for you how not to neglect your great salvation. That’s what he’s doing here.