September 3, 2015

Why Do So Many Walk Away from the Christian Faith? (1)

I remember vividly my early days in the church. Everything was new and fresh. There was a large young people’s group and there was a real buzz about the place. It was exciting being a Christian around people like that. It made church seem like the place to be.

But, as time went on, more and more people fell by the wayside. One by one, people I had thought were solid Christians just drifted away from the group, the church, and the faith. 20 years on and very few attend a church today. It is a great tragedy. Even the man who gave me a home out of prison and introduced me to Christ won’t talk about the gospel anymore. It is heart-breaking.

This has been our experience in Niddrie too. I tell our new interns every year to take a good look around because some of them, and the people they will meet, will be here next year and some of them will be gone. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

How does that happen to people? Why do they come for a while, confess faith in Jesus, and then they melt out of the picture?

Their early excitement is gone. Lost, seemingly, forever.

In the letter to the Hebrews, we have a group of second-generation believers who were facing pressure to look for alternatives to following Jesus. The author is desperate for these believers. He fears for them and their faith, and goes to great lengths to prove the superiority of Jesus Christ, hitting them with theological gold in chapter 1. In chapter 2, he turns to address them in a practical way.

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1 ESV)

Pay much closer attention!

People tend to drift from the faith because they allow the wrong kind of voices to influence them. That’s why we must be careful about who and what are we allowing to speak into our lives. Are we paying as careful attention to the Word of God as we do to the other voices in our lives? If I want to listen to a sermon by Alistair Begg, I find a quiet place to go and listen to him online. When we want to listen to a friend, we take them out for a drink or go around to their place so we won’t be disturbed. Are we making the same sort of provisions in our life for listening to Jesus? Are we paying careful attention to his Word?

It’s so easy to take the gospel of Jesus for granted. It’s so easy to lose our way, even in the middle of a dynamic gospel community. We get careless. And, if we’re not careful, it can start to become boring and even monotonous. We begin to think that it’s for other people. We become complacent. Slack. Lazy. The danger of the truths we proclaim week after week is that they begin to wash over us. It becomes so much second nature that it is easy to switch off our minds.

Some of us should be further on than we are! Some of us need to hear the rebuke the author of Hebrews gave his hearers:

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” (Heb. 5:11–12)

We must not lose sight of Jesus in our own lives. And in our Christian community, we must not lose sight of pushing each other toward Jesus. If we see a brother or sister stumble, then pick them up and help them march on. If they don’t want to be helped, then pray for them and move on. Do not get dragged down yourself by others. Sin is like misery, in that it loves company.

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” (Heb. 2:1 ESV)

The command here in Hebrews is strong. It is essential that we listen, not just on Sundays or at Bible study or at a special Christian retreat like the one we’ve just had at 20schemes. We mustn’t take our salvation for granted. We must pay much closer attention to the things we’ve heard.

Part 2 follows. . . .

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