The Restoration Principle

5 — Drifting Away

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).

MOST OF US HAVE HEARD ABOUT THE “FROG IN THE KETTLE.” Finding himself in a kettle of cool water, the frog was happy. But someone built a fire under the kettle. The water warmed up so gradually, the frog didn’t notice that anything was changing. Too late, he recognized the danger of being cooked very gradually.

That’s how it goes with any kind of harmful change in our situation. If the changes are slow and subtle, we often don’t see what is happening until shocking damage has already been done and we look back and say, “How did it ever get to be this way?”

The Hebrew writer was not wasting words when he warned his readers that they would “drift away” if they didn’t concentrate their minds earnestly on “the things we have heard” — that is, the teaching of the apostles, which was intended by the Lord to be the normative standard for the church for all time (Galatians 1:6–9; 1 John 2:24).

When we’re being cooked in a kettle, we tend to deny the obvious. The classic example in the Scriptures is the frustrating effort of Malachi to get his people to see how far they had drifted since their return from Babylon. Even the priests were showing disrespect to God, but they didn’t — or wouldn’t — see it. “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?’ says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’” (Malachi 1:6).

“Drift” is a universal problem. There is no endeavor that does not immediately start to deteriorate. It takes ceaseless repair and restoration to keep anything from becoming dilapidated. And so it is with the commitment of our hearts to the apostolic truth about the Lord’s church. The degradation starts early, and without the sometimes irritating preaching of those who beg us to “give the more earnest heed,” we’re going to get cooked. As I’ve said many times before, I now say again: our salvation depends on our willingness to be warned.

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: to reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it — but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.).

Gary Henry — +

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