We have many strong and deceitful enemies to face in this life, however, one of the greatest of these resides inside of us—our own hearts. We are idolaters by nature (see the April 12th blog “What Golden Calf?") and apart from God’s captivating love, we would never leave our temple of idols—we have neither the desire nor the ability.
Even as children of God, we are still a divine work-in-progress. Our hearts are constantly in motion and if we do not “pay much closer attention to what we have heard” we will be crushed against the rocks. As Richard Phillips writes, “There is a current to this present evil age, pulling strongly out from the safe harbor of salvation in Christ. We do not have to actively betray Jesus or renounce our faith. Simply by not paying attention, by becoming preoccupied with the sights and sounds of this world, we can be easily drawn out until we are swept away forever.”
And this is not the only warning found in Hebrews. There are actually 5 warnings found in this letter which emphasize the dangers facing the believer and the radical attitude we need to have as we face these. The author warns of drifting hearts (Hebrews 2:1-4), deceived / hardened hearts (Hebrews 3:7-12), delayed growth or maturity (Hebrews 5:11-14), deliberate sin (Hebrews 10:26-31), and denying Him who speaks (Hebrews 12:12-17). Allowing the undertow and deceitfulness of sin to prevail in our hearts will make us unfruitful and if this continues, it may prove we were never saved in the first place (Hebrews 6:1-8). This is not a safe position to be in. It's kind of like playing chicken on the New Jersey Turnpike ... likelihood of survival—slim to none.
So we are to pay much closer attention to what we have heard. In the Greek, this is a nautical term describing the act of staying on course, taking hold of the wheel and steering the ship or anchoring the ship. This in no way is teaching that by sheer willpower we can guide and control our lives. It is directing us back to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” It is the Word of God that renews our thinking, that transforms us into the image of Christ and that sustains our hope and strength. As C. S. Lewis put it: “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in your mind. It must be fed.”
We are too casual as Christians. We have forgotten the imagery used in the New Testament which describes our new life in Christ: fight the good fight of faith; strain foward to what lies ahead; press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. As a friend and I were discussing the Hebrews 2 passage, he said it's like us as kids at the beach ... we're hanging out in the surf, having fun and before you know it, we've drifted hundreds of yards from our parents. It was so easy and we didn't even realize what had happened.