Avoid ‘Drifting’ From Grace

Avoid ‘Drifting’ From Grace

Chapter One

Avoid 'Drifting' From Grace
The Perils Of The 'Drifting Life'! 17 Hold Fast 25
An Obedient And Simple Lifestyle 19 Lest We Forget – We Must Keep 'Pressing On'! 26
Spiritual 'Drowsiness' Or 'Alertness'? 21 Distractions 28
Do Not Neglect 'The Means Of Grace'! 23 Discussion Questions 30

Hebrews 2:1-4

The Perils Of The 'Drifting Life'!

Someone well said, "For everyone that definitely turns his back on Christ, there are hundreds who drift from Him. Life's ocean is full of currents, anyone of which will sweep us past the harbor – mostly even when we seem nearest to it, and carry us far out to sea." (The Way Into The Holiest; F.B. Meyer's pg. 24) Taking into consideration the Greek language of the New Testament, here is William Barclay's translation of Hebrews 2:1 "Therefore, we must the more eagerly anchor our lives to the things that we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor and be wrecked."

This portion of scripture (Hebrews 2:1) definitely teaches that there is no such thing as 'automatic security' in the Christian life. There are "currents" in life – both externally in society and internally in man's soul – that oppose the progress of the Christian traveler, and which have the capability of causing spiritual shipwreck. In his letter to Timothy, Paul referred to two persons – one-time believers – who had failed to hold on to their faith in Christ and who had rejected the dictates of their conscience. These two persons – Hymenaeus and Alexander – had made "shipwreck" of their faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

Although the Scriptural portion which was our 'reading for today' does not itemize the various causes for spiritual drifting, we must scan the Scriptures and try to identify some of the main causes for such a dreadful reality – the reality of 'spiritual drifting'. During the next several days, we will look at some of those 'perils' which every earnest believer must guard against. These are serious causes of spiritual drifting.

First, procrastination because of busyness. How easy it is to become preoccupied with the concerns and the interests of time – family and friends and job and recreation – and soon lose our spiritual focus and begin to drift away from Christ and our relationship with Him! In His parable of the Four Soils, Jesus said the "thorny ground represents the hearts of people who listen to the Good News and receive it, but all too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God's message from their hearts, so that no crop is produced." (Mark 4:18-19, Living Bible) Like Martha, we can be so concerned to do a good job of serving others, that we don't take enough time to sit at the feet of Jesus to meditate and to deepen our communion with our Lord. Active church members who are rightly committed to being busy for their Lord in Christian service, must take time for regular contemplation and solitude and prayer and personal spiritual revival. On one occasion, Jesus said to His busy and over-worked disciples, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile." Take time to pray, meditate, reflect, plan!

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"Blessed Christ, help me to take time to be holy, for the world rushes on. I want to spend much time in secret with You alone. By looking to You, dear Lord, like You I will become! Then, my friends in my conduct Your likeness will see!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "If my Outgo exceeds my Intake, then my Downfall will be my Upkeep!" If I am 'too busy' to pray much, then I am much 'too busy'!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Timothy 1:18-19; 1 Timothy 6:6-10

An Obedient And Simple Lifestyle

We saw yesterday that being too busy in one's daily life or even in one's Christian service, will cause one to drift away from the heart of God! Let us continue to look at other causes for 'spiritual drifting'. Second, ignoring the message of God because of disobedience. Whenever a believer fails to obey a command of God, his conscience become less sensitive and his spiritual ears less attuned to hear the voice of God. Such disobedience leads to an attitude of indifference to the Christian message. It is no wonder that disobedience, which is not openly confessed God, leads to drifting away from God and His wonderful salvation. Wrote Paul to Timothy, "Cling tightly to your faith in Christ and always keep your conscience clear, doing what you know is right. For some people have disobeyed their conscience and have deliberately done what they knew was wrong. It isn't surprising that soon they lost their faith in Christ after defying God like that." (1 Timothy 1:19, Living Bible) The author of Hebrews warns believers against the danger of disobedience. "Although God's promise still stands – his promise that all may enter his place of rest – we ought to tremble with fear because some of you may be on the verge of failing to get there after all For this wonderful news – the message that God wants to save us – has been given to us just as it was to those who lived in the time of Moses. But it didn't do them any good because they didn't believe it. They didn't mix it with faith… let us do our best to go into that place of rest, too, being careful not to disobey God as the children of Israel did, thus failing to get in." (Hebrews 4:1-2, Hebrews 4:11)

Third, some believers drift away from Christ and His wonderful salvation because of their lust for material wealth and "creature comforts". Paul warned against this trap! "For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10, Living Bible) One young Christian whom I knew, immediately following his dramatic conversion, was "on fire" for God, attending church regularly and witnessing boldly to his unsaved friends, and spending much time daily in prayer and Bible study. Then a financial crises hit him. Not knowing how he could possibly fulfill his pressing financial obligation, he accepted a 2nd job. This job involved him in driving a tourist van as many as a thousand miles each weekend. Of course, this second job kept him away from his wife and absent from Sunday services. At his own admission, he drifted away from his original life of spiritual zeal and active involvement in church and private devotions. Only after a dangerous year away from the Christian fellowship did he finally "wake up" and repent and restore himself to a close relationship with Christ. He dropped the second job and found the "fire of holy enthusiasm" as he again became a regular church attender.

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"Father, do not allow me to become so preoccupied with meeting a 'legitimate' financial obligation that I neglect the 'means of grace' and begin to spiritually drift. Help me to stay 'on fire' for Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Godliness with contentment – and with a 'clear conscience' – brings 'great gain' to my life!

– Ron Christian –

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Romans 12:9-16

Spiritual 'Drowsiness' Or 'Alertness'?

We continue to look at the causes of spiritual drifting. Fourth, spiritual drowsiness because of a lack of alertness and zeal. We have all heard the common declaration: "Vigilance is the price of freedom!" Staying alert and active and zealous is the price of spiritual vitality! How easy it is to be lulled asleep by the routine activities of life, and find that we no longer have the mental alertness and spiritual zeal that we one time experienced. We take "for granted" the old-fashioned truths that are so familiar to us, and we no longer give heed to the warnings, and no longer give counsel to the exhortations, and no longer take daily delight in the promises of that ancient and one- time cherished message which we have long known! We have allowed ourselves to drift!

Tragically, with the passing of years, there is the fading of zeal and enthusiasm and freshness in the lives of too many believers. Seeking to live on the "spiritual capital" of the past, there is seldom any new discoveries of truth and seldom any new growth in the Christian life. Drifting can be so gradual and so slow, but it can become so destructive in our spiritual life. Like Peter, it is easy for us too to fall asleep when we should be praying. Said Jesus to his sleepy disciples in the 'Garden of Gethsemane', "Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit (of man) indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

As believers, we must not allow ourselves to drift away from the truth which we have received, because of what we consider to be over-familiarity with the message over a long period of time. We must not become lukewarm in our devotion to the Lord. We dare not lose our "first love" for the Lord and for the truth of His blessed Word (Bible). We must be "unflagging in spiritual zeal", serving the Lord enthusiastically, keeping our spiritual fervor, with heart full of devotion for the Kingdom business. We must "keep on fire" for Christ, never allowing the flames of spiritual fervor to burn out!

The author of Hebrews writes: "We are anxious that you (believers) keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward. Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won't become bored with being a Christian, nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience." (Hebrews 6:11-12, Living Bible)

"Father, You are not only the 'changeless One' in your steadfast character of love, but you are also the 'progressive One' in your innovative works of creativity. I want both to 'rest' in your character, and to 'stand on tiptoe' with anticipation of your unfolding 'surprises'!"

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God is the 'Big Creator', I will be a 'small creator'!

– Ron Christian –

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Hebrews 10:19-25

Do Not Neglect 'The Means Of Grace'!

The fifth cause of spiritual drifting is this: neglect of the "means of grace" because of a lack of personal discipline. "It is so easy – and much more pleasant – to drift. Just to lie back, and renounce effort, and let yourself go whither the waters will, as they break musically on the sides of the rocking boat. But, ah, how ineffable the remorse, how disastrous the result!" (The Way Into The Holiest; F. B. Meyers pg. 25) Someone half jokingly said, "I am as lazy as I dare to be!" A lack of discipline, taking the "path of least resistance", giving counsel to one's fears, and giving in to one's 'flesh' – these are the ways that many drift perilously to their destruction in the spiritual life! Paul wrote about the importance of rugged personal discipline and self-control: "I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I'm not just shadow boxing or playing around. Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside." (1 Corinthians 9:25, Living Bible) Paul made it very clear (as every athlete knows) that "to win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best." (1 Corinthians 9:25, Living Bible)

Serious Bible reading and study is one 'means of grace' which too many believers neglect. Admittedly, "the Bible isn't all easy to understand. Picking bits at random can be dangerous. Only serious, reverent and prayerful study secures its treasures. This takes time – and we have crowded our lives with other things. So let us resolve to know this book better, to learn to live in it, to give time to it daily, to wait on the Holy Spirit before we turn a page, to let God apply it to our soul." (Daily Readings; pg. 52, William Sangster)

Regular communion with God in prayer is another 'means of grace'. Exhorts the author of Hebrews: "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith." (10:22) "Let us come boldly to the very throne and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need." (4:16) He who regularly draws near to God in daily prayer, cannot at the same time be spiritually drifting away.

A third 'means of grace' is Christian fellowship. Exhorts the author of Hebrews: "Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." (10:25) It is difficult, if not impossible, to stay close to God and at the same time be apart for long periods of time from God's people (church). One good way to help guard yourself against the peril of the drifting life, is to remain in warm fellowship with God's people.

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"Father, You are the 'source' of life, and I am the 'recipient' of life, but I need 'channels' by which your life reaches me. Thank you for your 'channels' – the Bible, Prayer, Christian Fellowship, Holy Communion! Help me to open my life to these 'channels'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My greatest 'safeguard' against spiritual drifting is my surrendered heart which is constantly open to the cleansing blood of Jesus!

– Ron Christian –

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2 Timothy 1:1-18

Hold Fast

We live in an impatient world. We are a nation of clock watchers. If you don't believe me, listen for the beepers on Sunday mornings when the sermon goes into overtime. It's no wonder this dilemma looms on the horizon of modern life when we consider the hundreds of time choices people must make every day. The average attention span has shrunk from twenty minutes to a seven minute maximum. Distractions are everywhere. There are volumes of information to absorb daily and innumerable activities to engage in. It's so easy to leave God out of our lives.

We always assume our own generation is the busiest of all time, but I wonder as I read the letters of the Apostle Paul if he felt the same pressure points of life. He exhorted Christians to "hold fast" as if the tug of the world might wrench the faith clean out of their hearts. He encouraged Timothy to "hold fast" to sound words of faith and love. (2 Timothy 1:13) He reminded the Corinthians to "stand fast" in their faith and be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13) He cautioned the Galatians to "stand fast" in the liberty wherein Christ had made them free and not to be entangled again in the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1) Paul repeated his exhortation in the same or synonymous words on many other occasions in his letters.

As I read the correspondence of Paul, it's obvious that temptations lurked behind every street corner and shouted from every mountain. Our culture today is different, but the facts penned by an apostle in a Roman prison have not changed. We still need to "hold fast" in the profession of our faith. We still need to clear personal time in our busy schedules to draw near to God. We still need to hold on to scriptural truth when false ideologies proliferate. We still need the support of Christian fellowship. We still need the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation. We still need the courage and grace of The Living Christ so that we, like Paul, might keep the faith, finish the course, and receive the prize. "Hold on" and "hold fast" until you clear the finish line.

"Dear God, hold on to me as I hold on to faith. Let me cross the finish line with you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With heaven as my goal and Christ as my guide, victory is assured.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Deuteronomy 4:1-9

Lest We Forget – We Must Keep 'Pressing On'!

Before my mother's death, she developed Alzheimer's disease. It was very sad and difficult for me since we lived so far away and we could not visit with her often. I called her every week but, as time passed, she gradually became worse and did not know me when I called. Sometimes when we did get to visit her in person, she would have brief times of remembrance and then another time would have little or no remembrance. Sometimes she would remember times of long ago, but not the present times. It was always good to be with her, but sometimes heartbreaking. It sometimes brought deep sadness and a feeling of great loss to me when I realized that there were things we would never be able to share again together.

During her long life, my mother sang hymns while going about her daily tasks, and she would also quote scriptures to us, her loved ones. In spite of her debilitating disease, these are the things she seemed to have retained in her mind. When I and my daughters and my sister visited her on one occasion, we all went to the nursing home chapel to sing. When we tried to remember the words to some of the hymns, my mom would remember them all and would 'fill in the gaps' for us!

I am reminded of the Scripture in Psalms 110:11 which says: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee!" God's promise is true! He will never leave us or forsake us! Even though the disease had taken my mother's memory, her knowledge of the Lord and His words were recorded in her mind, bringing her comfort and joy even as she was struggling with her 'handicap'.

It is painful, indeed, when a loved one can no longer recognize you and has forgotten all the times you shared together throughout your whole life. I cannot help but realize how God must feel when we needlessly forget Him and the great sacrifice He paid on Calvary for us! My mother could not control her 'forgetfulness' (because of a physical disease), but you and I have no 'excuse' if we forget Christ and His Word! I'm sure He feels pain and loneliness when His dear children do not communicate with Him or share their concerns with Him in loving fellowship.

My daughter gave my husband and me a picture of a team of draft horses pulling a sleigh with a heavy load of hay in a fierce snow storm. The caption reads: "When the going gets tough; the tough get going." Tough times usually do not last, but tough people do. Sometimes when pushed to our limits we can go beyond what we thought ourselves capable of. Don't give up! Keep pressing on! Don't forget the Lord! Stay on course and work hard towards your goals! Give it your undivided attention!

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"Father, keep me mindful of the goals you would have me reach for in the center of your perfect will."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not falter as long as I accept my Father's guidance!

– Joyce Calkins –

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1 Samuel 5:10-23; John 10:27-29

Distractions

Recently, we attended the sheep dog trials at the Rapid City stock show. The dogs were mostly border collies and well-trained. The trainers stood alongside their dog in a marked circle at one end of the arena, while the sheep were at the opposite end in pens. There was an obstacle course the dogs were to follow and herd the sheep into another pen. The trainer, when ready, would signal the keeper of the sheep and the gate would be opened to release them into the arena. At that moment the command to the dog sent him to the far end and he began very carefully to move the sheep around the barrels in the order they were to go in accordance with the commands from his trainer, which was by voice or sometimes by a whistle.

One dog in particular was easily distracted and could not seem to keep his focus on the task at hand. He did not listen closely and did not follow the command from the trainer so eventually was disqualified as he slipped under a gate to the outside. It was very obvious his goal was not to please his master and that his interest was so divided that he went in search of other things, much to the disappointment of his master.

Another of the dogs was prone to become anxious and attacked the sheep, which was against the rules. The sheep could be very obstinate, and at times would turn to face the dog and stamp their hooves in defiance. It reminded me of some small children who sometimes defy authority. Most of the time if one would go into the chutes and pens, the rest would follow. Sometimes people are easily led and then there are those who refuse to be driven. Sometimes the sheep would split up and go in different directions and a goal can be defeated because of the division among them.

It is no wonder the Lord calls us the sheep of his pasture! We can sometimes be obstinate like the sheep and also disobedient like the dogs. Yet God is so patient! Sometimes we get our eyes off the Shepherd and we are drawn away from His goal for us, by the distractions of the world. We need to always be aware of the enemy nipping at our heels and be able to turn and face him head on and stamp our feet in resistance. James 4:7 tells us to "Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Submit yourselves therefore to God!" As the dogs, we need to always be listening for the Master's voice and be ready to obey instantly. When we grow accustomed to listening carefully to our Master, we will easily recognize the commands He gives.

In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 Moses addressed the people saying, "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and a curse if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day to go

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after other gods, which ye have not known." I believe this applies to us yet today.

"Lord, help me to be aware of your voice whenever You speak, and help me to keep my eyes upon You so that the things of this earth will grow dim in the light of Your glory and grace."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Prosperity is contingent on obedience.

– Joyce Calkins –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Tell if you believe the following statements describe a realistic (though tragically 'sad') understanding of the 'perils' of living in a 'Fallen World': "For everyone that definitely turns his back on Christ, there are hundreds who drift from Him. Life's ocean is full of currents, anyone of which will sweep us past the harbor – mostly even when we seem nearest to it, and carry us far out to sea."

  2. What are some of the 'truths' that you have been taught (from the Bible) which provide an 'anchor' for your life, to help you to avoid making spiritual 'shipwreck' of your life? (Note Hebrews 2:1)

  3. According to 1 Timothy 1:19, what must a Christian do to avoid 'spiritual shipwreck' in his life?

  4. Considering Jesus' Parable of the Soils (Mark 4:3-20), check which of the following has been the 'greatest threat' to the growth of the 'good seed' in your Christian life:

    • __ a. Cares (worries) of life.
    • __ b. Delights of wealth.
    • __ c. Search for success.
    • __ d. Pleasures of life.
  5. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Active church members who are rightly committed to being busy for their Lord in Christian service, must take time for regular contemplation and solitude and prayer and personal spiritual revival."

  6. Give your interpretation and application of the following statement: "If my Outgo exceeds my Intake, then my Downfall will be my Upkeep!"

  7. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If I am 'too busy' to pray much, then I am much 'too busy'!"

  8. According to Hebrews 4:1-2, and Hebrews 4:11, what sad consequence is incurred by the person who fails to 'mix' volitional commitment (faith and belief) to his intellectual knowledge of the truth of God's Word?

  9. According to 1 Timothy 6:10, what is the 'first step toward all kinds of sin'?

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  10. From your own personal experience, tell what it means for a believer to stay 'alert' and 'active' and 'zealous' in order that spiritual vitality might be maintained.

  11. Why is it unwise (and even 'spiritually 'disastrous') for a believer to attempt to live on the "spiritual capital" of his past, rather than to use his mind to make 'new discoveries' of truth?

  12. As an earnest believer, what can you regularly (daily) do to avoid losing your 'first love' and falling into a state of 'spiritual lukewarmness'? Tell what you personally have done, throughout the years of your 'spiritual journey', to "keep on fire" for Christ, never allowing the flames of spiritual fervor to burn out. (Note Hebrews 6:11-12, Living Bible)

  13. Because God is 'progressive' and 'innovative' and 'creative', what can you as a 'God-follower' expect yourself increasingly to become, the more you become like God?

  14. Tell to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement: "A lack of discipline, taking the 'path of least resistance', giving counsel to one's fears, and giving in to one's flesh – these are the ways that many drift perilously to their destruction in the spiritual life." (Note 1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

  15. Why is serious (systematic and regular) Bible reading and study such an important means by which Christians 'grow in grace'?

  16. Tell why you agree (or disagree) that he/she who regularly draws near to God in daily prayer, cannot at the same time be spiritually drifting away. (Note Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:22

  17. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "It is difficult, if not impossible, to stay close to God and at the same time be apart for long periods of time from God's people (Church)."

  18. Tell with what degree of 'conviction' you agree with the following statement: "My greatest 'safeguard' against spiritual drifting is my surrendered heart which is constantly open to the cleansing blood of Jesus."

  19. Why do you think that the Apostle Paul often exhorted believers to "hold fast"? (Note 2 Timothy 1:13; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1)

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  20. Why is it important, if you intend to reach your ultimate goal of entering the 'glories of heaven', for you often to 'recall' the ancient truths of God's Word? (Note Psalms 110:11)

  21. According to John 10:27, what characterizes the 'true sheep' of Christ's pastures who enjoy the protection and security of the Good Shepherd (John 10:28-29)?

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