…How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Overcoming neglect is urgently needed in today’s world. In a grace-based and Spirit-empowered faith we easily slip into a subtle heresy, into a way of thinking that leaves out human responsibility of choice and action. “We are saved by grace,” we believe, “Not by works!” Amen. This is true. “We are sustained by the Spirit,” we say, “Not by our own determination!” Amen, as well. True, as well. Yet if we take these positions to mean that we have no obligation to choose to believe, to surrender to the call, to follow Christ, to receive the gift of eternal life, and to trust and obey, we have entered into the realm of falsehood and lies. The biblical doctrines of grace and the Spirit’s work give us reasons to believe and urge us to trust and follow.
Neglect is seen in all areas of life. A student neglects his studies only to later regret when he sees his applications for higher learning rejected. A businessman neglects important details will likely see the competition surpass him in sales. A man who has neglected his health in his youth regrets in later years his physical condition when he sees his life span shortened and his aches and pains increased. But all of these pale in comparison to neglect in the realm of truth and faith, to the higher realms of life and existence: the person who neglects to take seriously the call of God to believe in Christ and to follow Him.
Jesus asked the disciples, when the crowds were forsaking Him, if they also would leave. Great and troubled Peter responded from his heart, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). For all of Peter’s weaknesses, in spite of his oft-troubled-spirit, Peter was a man of decisive action and leaves for us the example of one who rejected the spirit of neglect and acted in faith and in obedience to Christ. If sometimes he spoke unwisely, such as on the mount of transfiguration, he did speak, he did move, he did choose, and he left a legacy of faithful obedience.
The secret to overcoming neglect is to decide and to act, to do today what is urgent and right. Neglect says, Don’t answer the door right away when Christ calls. Sit a while longer, it will be okay. To put off and try to ignore the urgings fo God is the broad way that leads to destruction, the convenient path of life that leads to death. The Christian, however, who lives in neglect of spiritual matters will likewise migrate outwardly toward the broad way that leads to destruction; though his own life be saved he will have the stench of death about him. Often people wait for the perfect opportunity to come, but in an imperfect world perfect opportunities do not exist. Neglect has become a Satanic stronghold in many lives that needs to be renounced and torn down. Grace calls us to believe and to follow. The Spirit’s work urges us to open up our hearts for His work within and to choose and follow Christ.
The great pastor and evangelist George W. Truett, told a story from his own youth, that just weeks after deciding for Christ himself, he asked a friend named Jim in a church meeting if he would go forward during the invitation and accept Christ. Jim said to him, “Let me off tonight, George. If I feel like this tomorrow night I will go, but not tonight.” No urging could dissuade him, but the next night Jim was not there. Several days passed and the young Truett went to Jim’s house only to find he had become stricken with pneumonia and lay dying. The evening the young Jim died, Truett sat with the family and doctor tending him, hoping for another chance to encourage him to not neglect the truth. As Jim stirred restlessly moments before his death he opened his eyes in semi-delirium and said again the same words, “Let me off tonight, George. If I feel like this tomorrow night I will go, but not tonight.”
The time for receiving Christ is now. The time for following and obeying Christ is likewise now. Overcoming neglect means that we realize this truth and that we avoid every excuse for inaction and delays. Today realize the miracle of God’s shining His light into your heart and choose to follow Him. Put off neglect dirty clothes of neglect with their stench of death. Put on the new clothes of life in the Spirit with their fragrance of life.
Lord, stress upon our hearts the urgency of spiritual matters. Let us see that life on this earth is quickly passing and opportunities for growth and to be a blessing to others are also passing us by. Destroy the stronghold of neglect of spiritual things. Lead us to faith and action, toshare the gospel with our neighbor and colleague, to pick up our Bible and study, to write the letter of apology, to get on our knees and pray, to join the fellowship of the church, to follow Your leadership in Christian service, or whatever other ways You are leading us to follow You. Amen