“Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him”.
The Biblical command is for all God’s people to endeavor to keep the peace in the band of unity. The prayer is offered:
“Lord, make me the instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, may I bring love,
Where there is malice, pardon,
Where there is discord, harmony,
Where there is error, truth,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, Your light,
Where there is sadness many I bring joy.
Oh Master, may I seek not so much,
To be comforted as to comfort,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in losing our lives that we shall find them,
It is in forgiving that we shall be forgiven,
It is in dying that we shall rise up to eternal life.
The Bible says that the Lord will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him. Going to Psalm 23, the Bible teaches that like a Good Shepherd, the Lord wants His sheep to know peace. Sheep are interesting creatures. For one thing, they are curious. Some want to know what the Shepherd is up to. The Bible tells the answer.
The Good Shepherd is up to leading the sheep to green gospel pastures.
The Good Shepherd is up to having them lie down beside still waters.
The Good Shepherd is up to restoring their souls.
When the sheep walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Shepherd is there to love and to comfort them. The sheep watch and can see that the Shepherd is up to preparing them a spiritual table to feast upon in the presence of the enemies of truth.
Being curious some of the sheep want to stay very close to the Shepherd and watch His every move. The Shepherd does not mind but He knows that the sheep will not always understand the ways of the Good Shepherd for a very simple reason.
Sheep are sheep and not shepherds. Not understanding sheep are prone to make mistakes. They see a rod and staff in the Shepherd’s hand and tell each other, “He is going to hurt us.” No, the rod and staff is to comfort, it is not something designed to be cruel with. The wise Shepherd will try and teach the sheep to be more trustful.
Second, sheep are frightful creatures. Their peace is fragile and easily shattered. They are easily upset and need to be constantly reminded that the Shepherd really does have their best interest at heart.
Third, sheep are gentle creatures. By nature, they do not like to fight. Unfortunately, other animals do such as wolves. Jesus said, “Beware of wolves in sheep skin.” Wolves have a wolf’s nature and it is their nature to kill sheep and if challenged by a concerned and watchful Shepherd to attack him. With snaring teeth, blood in the eyes, and the whole body determined to hurt; the wolf is ready to do battle.
The Shepherd has protection. The rod and staff meant to comfort can become a forceful weapon. In this way the rod and staff are like the Word of God. Many passages in the Word of God are designed to comfort believers as John 14:1. Other passages are designed to protect the soul by convicting of sin and condemning it.
The Biblical language of referring to believers as sheep is very instructive and very accurate.
The local church knows peace when the people act as the people of God’s pasture being
loving, and gentle while staying close to the Good Shepherd.
There is one other point about sheep. They are discerning. The sheep can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. They know it and follow Him. In like manner, the voice of the Under shepherd is recognized as he calls out, “There goes the Good Shepherd. Let us follow Him.” But where does the path lead?
For this under shepherd the path leads to doctrinal purity. The path leads to the throne of grace. The path leads to a heavenly home. “Where are we going under shepherd?” We are going back to Bethel to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are going back to dig the wells of our fore fathers and to drink the pure water. We are going home by way of the Cross. So come. Stay close. Follow me.
Now in the will and providence of the Lord, we want to shift the focus of our attention from gospel duties to the Cross of Calvary. We want to study afresh our so great salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. We want to se the old rugged cross. Like the writer of Hebrews says, we ought to give the more earnest head to the things that we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. I will suggest to you that the Christian church of the 21th century has let the gospel slip so that it is hardly recognized by the majority of professing Christians. I do not think we are over stating the case.
Many years ago, B.B. Warfield, professor of theology of Princeton, New Jersey from 1887-1921 warned of letting basic Christian doctrines slip away. He wrote an article entitled, “Christless Christianity.” The very words are disturbing. Is it not a movement towards a Christ less Christianity that teaches salvation by works? The Bible says it is not by works of righteousness which we have done by according to His mercy He saved us.
Is it not a Christless Christianity that teaches total liberty? What can we say about those in churches who recognize no spiritual authority? What should be said about those who will not receive correction and instruction in righteousness and ignore Biblical sermons delivered in love (‘scoldings’) to purify and protect the Church?
Is it not a Christless Christianity when the gospel preached demands no duties and no works of righteousness? Let the truth go forth boldly. The gospel that allows a person to take the name of God in vain, the gospel that does not write the spiritual Law of the Lord on the heart, such a gospel is a false gospel. The true gospel slipped by.
The gospel that promises health, wealth, and prosperity, the gospel founded upon self-esteem instead of self-crucifixion, the gospel that leaves a person in their sin instead of freeing them from sin is a perverted gospel. It may be the good news of hell but is not the good news of heaven. Make no mistake about it, the counterfeit gospel is well established in the hearts of multitudes because of the following facts.
First, the counterfeit gospel refuses to deal harshly with sin in self. Jesus said, ‘if thy right eyes offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” The pure gospel demands a radical dealing with sin. The counterfeit gospel excuses the violation of all or anyone of the commandments of God.
Second, the counterfeit gospel produces no passion for the Person of Christ. His virtues are not considered. His teachings are not taken too seriously. His moral example is not followed. The pure gospel loves Jesus Christ. He is never far from one’s thoughts. All the day long the soul sings, “O, how I love Jesus.”
Third, the counterfeit gospel does not really believe that the teachings of the Bible are binding upon professing believers. The pure gospel calls the Bible a delight and the Christian studies the Word of God to show Himself approved a workman that does not need to be ashamed. The truth of the matter is that the wise serpent Satan has affirmed to the religious community once again a counterfeit gospel and the religious community has embraced what Satan offers and is calling it good news.
Into the Garden of Eden, Satan walked one day and got the attention of Eve. “Eve,” said Satan, “I have some good news for you. Eve, you and Adam can be as God knowing good and evil.” Eve believed the lie in the form of good news and she placed a terrible price for it. Likewise, any poor soul that embraces a watered down gospel or a perverted gospel will die a spiritual death with as much certainty as there is a just and holy God in heaven.
If you value your immortal soul, if you have any mental reservation, if you wander why personal behavior does not match up with profession of faith then we invite you to study carefully over the next five weeks the subject of our so great salvation. Today, we merely introduce the concept that there is indeed a great salvation. Today, we merely suggest that the soul be searched and those questions pondered during the week,
“What has God done in my soul?”
“What work of grace has been performed by God?”
“What is the evidence of that work of grace?”
“Do we have a Christ less Christianity?”
I ask these questions of myself. You must ask them of yourself. Why? Because, 2 Corinthians says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test?” The answer you give will determine between heaven or hell, life or death, joy or sorrow, obedience or disobedience, blessing by God or cursing by God like the rich man of Luke 16.
Anyone who professes to be a Christian is to be taken seriously. But when the life does not match up with the lips, when the walk is contrary to the talk, when the heart is not happy in the Lord, and with judgment day honesty confesses it to be true, then it may be a person has yet to understand the pure gospel.