Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1-3a
Mom, didn’t you hear me? I asked you three times. Why are you ignoring me? Just posting a picture; I’ll be quick, I assure.
Just wading. Two outraged sons and two burnt pizzas later, I’m wet to the waist. I drifted. What are you doing, Hon? You’ve been at the computer awhile. Is the pizza done yet?
Just floating along, up to my neck. Checking email and reading Julia’s post and scanning who liked Jeri’s post and finding out why Jordan’s feeling amused and Gena’s feeling annoyed, popping from from site to site, post to post, pin to pin without much thought; mindless, heedless. And now it’s forty minutes since I waded in and I’m downstream drenched. I drifted.
Drifting is dangerous. It could be deadly, depending on where the river’s headed.
Life is more river than lake. It keeps flowing, but not toward heaven.
Google isn’t vested in your godliness and Facebook couldn’t care less about your faithfulness. In fact, websites want distracted drifters. They collect more “crumbs” when we float from site to site. Our drifting is better for their business. Therefore we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Drift- pararrhyéō in Greek-means float by, to flow away. Drift is what a leaf or a dead fish or a raft does in the river—it floats along. Inner-tubes crowd lazy rivers. No life, no power or strength are needed to float by.
A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it, Chesterton quipped. Just wade in, with or without a raft. Simply log in and scroll down. The news feed will take you gently down the stream. No paddles needed. Go with the flow. Drift.
The tendency to drift is not new. Dropping our guard, giving way to the lust of the eyes is old news. Since Eden, alluring sights and sounds have drawn us away from what we’ve heard.
Moses warned Israel over and over to be careful.Joshua continued, Be very carefulto love the LORD your God and walk in all his ways and keep his commands and cling to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul (Joshua 22:5). Ezekiel promised that the coming Spirit in us and Shepherd over us would cause us to walk in his ways, careful to obey (Ezekiel 36:27, 37:24). And Paul urged Be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15).
Careless drift is not new. What is new is the nearness of the stream. It’s so close now; it flows right through our homes. We can wade in and float off from the couch or the countertop. Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we’ve heard, lest we drift away.
What is it we’ve heard? What message do we heed to keep from drifting?
Hebrews chapter one is what we’ve heard: In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son. Jesus is most majestic message that we’ve heard-that we’ll ever hear. He upholds the universe with the word of his power, is far above angels; the radiant glory of God. And when he had made purification for sins, he sat down at God’s right hand. This is the message to which we must pay much closer attention, lest we drift away. In light of that message, we dare not drift, dare not neglect this great salvation. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:2-3a)
We grow in the grace and knowledge of God by hearing, reading and meditating on his Word. These require intentional, mindful attention. They’re not passive. We can’t know God when our minds drift. We won’t drift toward him. Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we’ve heard. In an article titled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Nicholos Carr describes the effect of the internet on his own reading habits:
Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text…And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in swiftly moving streams of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
Since the internet is actually designed to encourage us to browse information, not to read it slowly and digest it, we’d best be careful. Facebook status updates, new Tweets, random emails chop our attention into disconnected fragments. It affects how we read-and hear- the most crucial of all books.
That’s the rub. More time online makes me a less careful Scripture reader, a less heedful hearer and less wise walker. I multi-task what should be unitasked.
Author and blogger Tony Reinke explains:
We multitask everything, trying to think in two directions at the same time, trying to be in two places at the same time, trying to live in physical space and virtual space simultaneously.
In reality, Scripture calls us to a life of single-minded self-reflection that often gets thwarted by the hum of multitasking. If it’s important, it’s worth being unitasked. Which means there must be priorities that trump our iPhone push notifications.
Aside from neglected sons and blackened pizza, that is why I’m wary of Facebook. My attention–even to the greatest message I’ll ever hear and the most resplendent, glorious One I’ll ever see–wanes as I drift from stream to stream, post to post, pin to pin. I’m not loving the Lord with all my heart.
Matthew Henry’s commentary on Hebrews 2 bolsters the case for careful: What great loss we shall sustain if we do not pay careful attention. The [truths] will leak and run out of our heads, lips and lives. We shall be great losers by our neglect. Our minds and memories are like a leaky vessel; without much care they do not retain what is poured in them…Do not let gospel truths slip out of mind. Don’t drift. The more time I spend on the internet, the more gospel truths slip out of my mind, the less attentive I am to the flow of real life around me; kids who need time with Mom and dinner for a hungry husband. And the less I heed what I’ve heard.
That is why I’m more careful with Facebook feeds; more wary of cyber streams. Not hostile, just wary. Some of you wouldn’t be reading this without Facebook. Last week Facebook pushed me to greet three birthday girls, congratulate two new parents and send sympathy to a grieving co-worker. Facebook can be a force for good. It can prompt refreshing, life-giving works of faith and labors of love. Controlled, river current can be transformed to power.
But we live in the river of a fallen world. A river that flows to destruction. Not straining upstream inevitably means drifting dangerously downstream. We won’t transform it, but be conformed by it. We can’t stand still in this river.
If we do not listen earnestly, diligently, daily to Jesus- if we neglect so great a salvation- we will drift. Maybe some of you readers are drifting. Maybe on Facebook feeds or maybe the rut or rush of work and family. You have no urgency. You need to pay more careful attention to what you’ve heard. You need to set your eyes on Jesus and the great salvation he offers. Your soul needs an anchor.
Look to Jesus. Go deep, hope in His Word. Pray with Moses and me that God will satisfy us in the morning with his unfailing love that we sing for joy, glad all our days (Psalm 90:14).
Set the anchor. Don’t drift.
We have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.