We all have been guilty of procrastination at one time or another. Likewise, spiritual procrastination will determine our eternal destination. Let us look at two forms of spiritual procrastination as we study God's word.
An example of an individual who put off his opportunity to be saved from his sins was Felix. In Acts 24:25, we read,
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."
Felix heard and believed the word, and was pricked in his heart as those were on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Unlike those on the day of Pentecost who seized the opportunity to be saved, Felix decided to put it off, believing that another opportunity would arise. As far as we know from this passage, Felix never became a Christian.
There are even those who are invited to attend worship or asked if they would be interested in studying the Bible together. I have known some who refused the offer and said things such as "I don't have time," "I'm too busy," or "When I retire from work, I will be able to come worship with you." I am reminded of the parable Jesus gave concerning this problem. In Luke 14:16-24, we read,
Then said He unto him, "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one [consent] began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel [them] to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper."
While Jesus did use this parable to teach the necessity of setting our priorities in order, it also illustrates the consequences of putting off the need to seek the Lord first.
While it is important to help others, we need to make sure our life as a Christian is right in the sight of God. In other words, before we can help others get to Heaven, we must be sure that we are walking on the right road. Paul says in Philippians 4:12,
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Working out our own salvation does not mean that we live our life as a Christian on our own terms. Rather, everything that we do and say must be in accordance with His will (Colossians 3:17). At the end of this life, we can confidently say as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith.
We have seen drastic changes in America in the past three weeks. Where there was once division we now see unity; being American is again something to be proud of. Many have spoken about the need to defend our liberties in America as they have come under attack by those who know nothing of them.
It is good for our country to be unified and to wish to preserve the liberties which have so richly blessed us. This is good and acceptable in the sight of our God, who wishes for His people to live under tranquility (1 Timothy 2:2). It is good for us as Christians to enjoy the liberties preserved under the Constitution of the United States.
Unfortunately, however, this desire to hold fast to liberties extends to the spiritual lives of Christians living in America all too often. Many Christians, when confronted when situations wherein they would have to give up a practice because a brother does not believe that it is a valid practice, will enact their American feelings and proclaim their ability to have their liberties, and that their brother can find another church more acceptable to him. We shall see from the Scriptures that this attitude is condemned.
We must first recognize that God has given us many liberties in our spiritual walk, yet not all of our liberties are beneficial, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23:
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
We must therefore be very careful with our liberties, to make sure that we do not cause offense by them. We must never have the feeling that our liberties are absolute, for only the love that we share between ourselves as Christians should be absolute, as we see in 1 John 3:23:
This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
Since we are to love one another, we should consider it a small thing to have to sacrifice for one another, seen in 1 Corinthians 6:7:
Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
It is better to be defrauded by a brother than to take him to an earthly court. Is this what we hear about American liberties? By no means! Yet it must be a part of the Christian's character.
There are two main ways that we have to take care with our liberty. Let us examine them now.
The first responsibility we hold is to not cause offense to a brother by our liberties. This is explained by Paul in Romans 14, where we are told that those who feel that a liberty exist must not judge the one who does not, and the one who does not feel that the liberty exists must not regard with contempt the one that does (Romans 14:3). This is all done so that none may be given cause to stumble, as seen in Romans 14:13:
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
Why should we need to do this? Why should we have to sacrifice liberties? The reason given by Paul is in Romans 14:15-16:
For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil.
It does not matter what the liberty is, how much sense it may make, or how good it is-- if it causes a brother to stumble, it is an evil thing. We should take every caution, therefore, to make sure that our liberty does not cause another to stumble.
Our other responsibility is to make sure that our use of liberty does not cause one who is not as well-versed in Christ to stumble. This is discussed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 8, concerning the eating of meats sacrificed to idols. Paul has this to say concerning how we cause a weaker brother to violate their conscience in 1 Corinthians 8:7-12:
However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
Did the Corinthians have a valid liberty to eat the meat sacrificed to idols, knowing that there is no such thing as an idol (verse 5)? Certainly. Would it lead to sin? Unfortunately, yes, since one with a weaker faith could be led to stumble because of the inaccurate understanding of the example of the stronger. This is a part of the responsibility that those more advanced in the faith must have in order to foster the growth of newer Christians in the light of Christ.
It is good to be American and to have the liberties we share. This attitude concerning liberty, however, must not enter the spiritual realm, for our obligation to love our brethren is much stronger than our ability to exercise liberty. We must always strive to work toward the bonds of peace and love, willing to sacrifice any liberty that may lie in the path. Finally, we must heed the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-8, to be as Christ:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Let us always empty ourselves for Christ and our brethren, that we may obtain the promise laid up for us in Heaven.
Ethan R. Longhenry
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