July 10, 2016
We are constantly alerted by all sorts of warnings. Train crossings have gates that go down, lights that flash, and an approaching train sounds a warning cadence... two long blasts, followed by a short blast and a long blast. And yet cars are struck by trains regularly across the country, according to Federal Railroad Administration records. Since 2006, there has been an average of 2,261 rail crossing accidents a year and an average of 273 deaths a year. When a tornado is in the area, sirens go off warning residents to go to a safe location. Weather alerts interpret television programs and pop up on computer screens and cell phones. Praise God that no lives were lost from the tornado that went through nearby towns a couple of weeks ago; but would that be the case if no warnings were ever issued? We are informed by doctors and other health officials of the warning signs for certain medical conditions that require immediate attention. To make them even easier to remember, sometimes we use an acronym. For instance: FAST
Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.
In case you didn't know, these symptoms signal that someone is having a stroke. Ignoring the symptoms could be life-threatening. We take warning signs for medical conditions very seriously. That mole that suddenly got bigger? That lump that wasn't there before? We rush to the doctor, knowing that if we do something in time, it could save our life. If the doctor makes a false diagnosis, prescribes the wrong medication, or botches a surgery it could cost the patient their life; and the doctor his or her license, as well as possibly everything they own when they get hit with a malpractice suit.
But what about the preacher, or even the everyday Christian, who sees someone who is displaying the soul-threatening symptoms of someone destined to be lost for all eternity without the saving grace of Jesus Christ - but does nothing to offer them help? If we continue to read in Ezekiel, we hear how God was upset with the spiritual shepherds and says to them, "You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost." (34:4).
The rich man in our Gospel reading (Luke 16:19-31) begged Abraham to let him warn his brothers, but it was too late. He had his chance. But do you want your brother or sister, father or mother, son or daughter, or your best friend to curse you forever from the pits of hell because you didn't warn him or her? Or worse yet, do you want to be there yourself because you didn't listen, didn't believe, or thought you could put off doing what needed to be done to ensure your own eternal salvation?
So you say you are Christian, but have a bagful of excuses why it isn't your job to witness to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. And after all, these same people all say they are Christians, too. Anyone can say they are a Christian, especially in America where it is the accepted religion (at least for now). But let me ask you 7 questions and then we'll see...
1. Are they controlled by the Holy Spirit?
When you received Christ, the Holy Spirit came and began living inside of you. Walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit can be a tell-tale sign that something fishy is going on (Galatians 5:16-18).
2. Do they have a new nature?
When you are born again, you become a new creation with new desires, a new mind, and new heart. If there isn't evidence of any of these then, "Houston, we've got a problem!"
3. Do they have Christ's agape love for others?
"By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)
4. Do they obey God's Commandments?
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments." (1 John 2:3)
Christians won't ever become sinless this side of heaven, but we will sin less.
5. Is their fruit in their life?
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22- 23). True Christians will have these spiritual fruits in their lives.
6. Are they becoming more like Jesus?
The true marking of a Christian is that he or she is becoming like their Master. If someone isn't becoming more like Jesus, then chances are they are not a follower of Jesus.
7. Have they put their trust in Jesus for their salvation?
If it ain't Jesus, then they ain't saved.
(These 7 questions are from Peter Guirguis at www.nonashamedofthegospel.com )
This last one is the most important of all. A Christian can backslide, and it is our responsibility to help them get back on the right path. But someone who has never put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation is not a Christian. They are not going to heaven when they die. And Jesus Himself warned, "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" (Mark 8:36) There is nothing in this life that is more important than your salvation. And there is nothing greater you can do for someone else than to point them to Christ as the only means of their salvation. So sound the warning and save a soul! Amen.