My Dear Friends,
This is my “Christmas letter”.
One of the most sobering verses in the Bible is Heb.2:3 “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians who were being tempted to turn back to some form of Judaism. Perhaps the pressure and cost of “being different” was beginning to take its toll. For whatever reason, these Jewish converts (in the main) were considering returning to the ceremonies and sacrifices of Judaism, in so doing abandoning Jesus Christ as their sole and only hope.
The author’s pastoral approach to these potentially apostate believers is two-fold: He shows them how superior the Lord Jesus Christ is to everyone and everything in Judaism and as he does this he punctuates his teaching with a number of “warning passages”. Heb.2:3 is the first of these warning passages, and what a warning it is: “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”
These words were written to professing evangelical believers. They were not written to liberals who were denying the fundamentals of the faith. They were not written to men and women who were living morally licentious lives. They were written to people who had embraced the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. But, and it is a huge “But”, they stood in danger of profaning “the blood of the covenant by which (they had been) sanctified” (10:29). How did this happen? From within the Letter it seems that these believers were under pressure, the cost of being “different” was beginning to bite and they were being seduced to consider an easier life.
There are many reasons why professing Christians turn away from Christ. For the past eleven years I have ministered here in Cambridge. During that time I have witnessed students who at one time were enthusiastic Christians drift away from Christ. For some, the cost of being different is a cost they don’t want to bear. For others, the allurements of the world appear quite compelling. For others, Christ and his church seem insignificant beside the heady intellectual movements of the age, whether it is the new atheism, or the new morality. The point is that professing evangelical Christians are not immune from the temptation to abandon Jesus Christ. Did you know that?
All I want to do in this brief pastoral letter is to set before you the one great thing that will keep you from abandoning the Lord Jesus Christ, the one great thing the writer to the Hebrews again and again brought before his readers: the supremacy, greatness, and glory of God’s Son. To turn back from Christ is to turn back from the One through who the universe was made, who is the exact representation of God, who sustains all things by his powerful word, and who made purification for sins (Heb.1:2-3). To turn back from Christ, is to turn back from the One whose throne is for ever and ever (1:8), who shared our humanity (2:14,17), who as our great high priest is able to sympathise with our weaknesses (4:15), who is able to save to the uttermost (7:25), and who ever lives to make intercession for his believing people (7:25). To turn back from Christ is to turn back from the One who appeared once for all at the end of the age to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself (9:26) and who will appear a second time to bring salvation for those who are waiting for him (9:28). It would be the greatest of all follies and stupidities to turn back from such a great, glorious and gracious Saviour.
I wonder, is this speaking to you? Are you being tempted to turn back and abandon Christ? Take nothing for granted. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor.10:13). Love, redeeming love, came down at Christmas (I told you this was my Christmas letter). Embrace afresh God’s extravagant love in the gift of his Son.
With my fondest love and greetings,