Earnest Heed to the Message
by Robert Murray M'Cheyne
"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" (Hebrews 2:1).
COULD WE LOOK into the secret history of believers, what woeful declensions might be pointed out. How many, who began the conflict well, have fallen under the blows of Apollyon. How many are there of whom God complains: "What iniquity have ye found in me that ye are gone far from me" (Jeremiah 2:5). How many of whom Jesus complains, "I have this against thee, that thou hast left thy first love" (Revelation 2:4). The spring of all these sad declensions is to be found in "letting slip the things which we have heard."
1. Meditate on the times when Christians are in danger of letting the gospel slip.
(i) A time of worldly prosperity. An old divine says, "Quails often make a lean soul." "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls." When a man is under conviction of sin, divine things often absorb every other anxiety. That text is ever before him, "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" He becomes careless of his person, for he feels that he would be decking a body condemned to the burning. He becomes careless of his business, for the matter of his forgiveness is unsettled. He walks among the things of time, looking through them into the things of eternity. What a vain shadow is this world to an awakened soul. O! how that soul sickens at the vain companies of an unbelieving world; how he loathes their dances and wanton songs. But when that soul has found true rest in Christ, sometimes the world begins to smile again. He begin to launch out into business, or a more lucrative situation is offered to him. His attention is a little diverted from eternal things; he becomes more keen about the things of time. He begins to lose his fresh hold of Christ. He is letting slip the things which he heard. So it was with Lot. When he first came from Haran he left all for God. He followed Abraham, a simple shepherd lad with staff in hand. But when he got flocks, and herds, and tents, and when he saw the plain of Sodom well watered everywhere, he went and pitched his tent toward Sodom, Genesis 13. So it was with Demas. At one time he seemed to leave all for Christ. He became the companion of self-denying Paul. But soon his eye was caught with the glitter of gold. He lets slip the things which he heard. He bids farewell to the believerís joys and trials: "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4: 10). O my soul, "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
(ii) A time of persecution. "For every ten bodies which persecution has killed, it has slain a thousand souls." We are told of the seed that sprung up so quickly in stony places, that "when the sun was up it withered away", and Jesus explains this of those who, "when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by they are offended" (Matthew 13:21). Some people are brought to Christ with little or no persecution. They attain "to joy and peace in believing," no man forbidding them. They begin to think that the offence of the cross has ceased, and that the solemn warnings of tribulation to the believer were intended for a bye-gone generation. Suddenly their sky is overcast. They begin to be hated, and buffeted, and opposed for their attachment to Christ. An awful prospect is before them. Either they must breast the tide of scorn and reproach that is now flowing in upon them, perhaps from their dearest friends, or else they must let slip the things which they have heard. Ah! how often, in such an hour, the soul shrinks back from an open confession of Christ before men, refuses to bear the cross, and falls into unholy compromise with an unbelieving world. Storms try the vessel, and persecution tries the believer. When Peter was in peace he could say, "Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I." But when the hour of trial came, he said with oaths and curses, "I know not the man."
2. Meditate on the remedy. "We ought to give the more earnest heed," etc.
(i) Increase thy diligence in the means of grace. If you have truly found the Lord Jesus, be often at the spot where you have met with Him. Every true disciple should often resort to Gethsemane, John 18:2. If you have found Him in the Word, be faithful and diligent in meeting Him there. If you begin to let your Bible slip, you are beginning to Jet Jesus slip. If you found Him in secret prayer, give the more earnest heed to meet Him often there. It is a sweet trysting-place with Jesus, "within the vail." If you let slip the throne of grace, you let Him slip who sits thereon. Have you found Jesus in the sanctuary, then "love the habitation of his house, and the place where his honour dwelleth" (Psalm 26:8). Has He revealed Himself to you in the breaking of bread, then "continue stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer" (Acts 2:42).
(ii) Feed on Christ in the ordinances. Many love the ordinances who love not Christ. Many are occupied about the shell who never taste the kernel of the gospel. These are Sardians who "have a name to live while they are dead." These are talkers about the gospel and its ministers; but "the talk of their lips tendeth to perjury." If you have found Christ in ordinances, give earnest heed to love Him more and more. Penetrate through every vail to the living Saviour, and the living God. Do not rest in a form of prayer if you find not Christ. "Bodily service profiteth little." O my soul, abhor the cloak of formality. It is an abomination to God and man. "It is iniquity, even the solemn meeting." But O how sweet are ordinances when we can say, He brought me into his banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
(iii) Watch against occasions of letting slip. If you knew the deceitfulness, the desperate and unsearchable wickedness of your own heart, and if you knew the adversary who accuses you day and night, you would be sober and vigilant. Watch your own heart, its infirmities and tendencies; "Keep thy heart above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Watch the roaring lion; be not ignorant of his devices, 1 Peter 5:8. Watch the world, for you are in an enemy's country, "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19). Above all, keep your eye on Jesus. You cannot hold Him if He does not hold you. "Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
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