Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reading in Hebrews

I was reading the book of Hebrews this morning and had a couple thoughts. The first comes from Hebrews 2:1, "We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." (ESV) This verse captured me this morning. I have read through Hebrews before and I am not sure that I have noticed this little verse. I have noticed the verse, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing." But this one, has never caught my attention.

Till now. How often do we lack attention to what we have heard/learned? Confirmation here at St. Paul's is now a month in the past. We confirmed 6 young people on Palm Sunday. Year after year, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod confirms young people as well as adults. We put forward to them that it is important to remain active in their lives of faith. It is important to worship regularly, to study God's Word, to receive the Sacrament of the Altar - to be a an active Lutheran Christian.

And yet, how many of those who are confirmed begin to not pay attention to what they have heard? How many avoid worship the very next Sunday? How many begin to not attend worship, Bible Study or any other activity at their local congregation? I can hear the debate in some of your minds - Why do they have to go to church? Why do they need to worship regularly? The local church isn't the answer to all the problems. We don't need "church" to remain a Christian. We don't need to go and "play" church. Why are we so caught up in the "church"? Can't we just attend where ever we want, as long as it is Christian? Why does it need to be there, at an LC-MS congregation, even the one that they were confirmed in?

"We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away." Note what it says - pay much closer attention. When something is important to you, you pay much closer attention to it than you do that which means nothing to you. Marriages get into trouble when one or the other spouse ceases to pay much closer attention to the marriage.

So it is in the walk of faith. When we cease to pay much closer attention, we be to "drift away from it." That is exactly what happens. No one sets out to become inactive in their church. It just happens. Why? Because they ceased to pay much closer attention to that which they have heard. And yes, it does make a difference what church you go to.

While we focus on saying that we need to attend a "Christian" church, it makes a difference what church we attend. I know that I am about to go where we fear to go in our society today, but I go there anyway. The Lutheran Church does teach correctly. There are flaws in the theology of the various church bodies. We have learned that in our Sunday morning Bible class as we have studied the various Christian churches. While they teach of Jesus Christ as the way to salvation, they also come close to leaving that behind. It is not up to the individual to make the decision to follow Christ - they can't. They are sinners! They are corrupt. They are blind, dead and enemies of God. They do not seek God out! God seeks them out!

There are not steps to becoming a better Christian. The Holy Spirit makes you a better Christian through the Means of Grace. You cannot make yourself better by trying harder. That becomes works of the Law again and the works of the Law only damn you more and more. It only makes it harder to be saved. It is by grace, by the work of the Spirit, not the work of man.

I could go on and on about the differences. What happens is that as we start to pay "less close attention" we "drift away from the truth." As we begin to say, "It doesn't matter," that we find that it truly "does matter." It matters because the more we absent ourselves from hearing the truth, the more likely we will drift away from the truth. And as we drift from the truth, we begin to return to the Law. As we read in Galatians, "Do not be burdened again by the Law."
For some reason, we love the Law and despise the Gospel. I know, no one actually says that. But we return to the Law again and again and in so doing, we are turning from the wondrous gift of the Gospel. We try to "do it ourselves" instead of trusting in the One who has "done it for us."
Pay attention to this little verse. "We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." Yes, the writer to the Hebrews knew what he was writing (the Holy Spirit guided him!). We would do well to let it sink in for a change.

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