Carl B. Garner
(Originally appeared in the February 13, 1994 Bulletin)
Over seven years ago, in the ﬁrst meetings I had with brothers Moore and Worthy as their new preacher, we discussed the needs of this church so that my preaching would be most eﬀective. In those meetings we discussed where we wanted to be in the next ten years, and who would be most helpful in reaching those goals. It was not long before we realized that there were some who could not be counted on in these eﬀorts because we could not count on their proper attendance even to minimum personal obligations as Christians. About the most you could say about them was “At least they come on Sunday morning.” They did not attend Bible class, thereby rejecting a knowledge of the Bible. They seldom gave as they had been prospered, proving their lack of love for Christ and His church. They did not teach their own neighbors about Christ, indicating their lack of love for the lost. Most did not visit the sick or the shut-ins, thus showing they had little concern for the welfare of these brothers and sisters in Christ. [Note: If you question the wisdom of our making such “judgments,” read the following verses which demand that the elders “watch for our souls”: Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:28, Matthew 7:16, 12:33, 1Thessalonians5:12-14, Titus 1:5-16.]
Somewhere in the course of the spiritual development of some individuals, an idea was embraced that the sum total of being a Christian is sitting in the church house for an hour on Sunday morning and taking the Lord’s Supper. Some even have come to the point of staying just long enough to take the emblems, and then slipping out the back door and down the road to the lake or the picnic grounds. Brethren, if you have at one time or another allowed these thoughts to take shelter in your heart, then I must emphatically state that nothing could be farther from the truth. If you are a Christian, you must know that God demands your total devotion to Him, Romans 12: 1-2. If you claim to be a Christian you should remember that when you were baptized you “buried” your old lifestyle and were raised to ”walk in newness of life,” Romans 6:4. If you knew enough to become a Christian, you should also know that ”to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin,” James 4: 17. And if you have the ability to use the language of our day, you know that claiming to be a Christian while refusing the obligations that are associated with that claim is known as hypocrisy. I speak very plainly on this subject because the stakes are too high for me to beat around the bush. When the elders of any congregation plan a program for the spiritual growth and health of her members, and when an individual is a member of the congregation over which these men are shepherds, thereby they obligate themselves to “obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief,” Hebrews 13:17. Note the words “obey” and “submit,” and remember that they are words provided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not by the whims of men. When you refuse to follow these God-given mandates, you place yourself in the company of those who have rebelled against God in the past Korab, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16), Balaam (Numbers 22-31), and even Saul of Tarsus (Acts 26:9-19). The only remedy available for any of these was, and continues to be, genuine repentance.
To those who read these words, be assured that my only motivation for writing is to bring about your own salvation. Without the needed repentance, you are living in rebellion against God and such rebellion can only lead to your eternal punishment in Hell,
Matthew 25:31-46. If you have allowed yourself to fall into the habit of lax attendance, and a casual attitude toward your obligations to others and God, you must ﬁrst realize the fact of your sin, and then change that attitude, determining that you will from henceforth serve God with the diligence that God expects and that you promised when you became a child of God. That is nothing more than a description of the Bible word ”repent,” which is a change of mind leading to a change of behavior.
When the apostle John wrote the letters to the seven churches of Asia, Revelation 2-3, he wrote about their good qualities and their weaknesses as well. When addressing the church at Laodicea, he said: ”I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth,”
Revelation 3:15-16. The import of these words is obvious: knowing already the sentence against those who are “cold,” and unwilling to obey, Matthew 25:46; here we are informed that neither will God tolerate an attitude of ‘just getting by,” nor doing the “bare minimum” as a Christian. To say it in plain words, God is sickened by lukewarm, half-hearted service rendered by those who claim to be Christians.
Why not come all the way back to God. Why not dedicate yourself fully to Him. Why not now?