AT TIMES, WE ARE ALL WATCHMEN FOR GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist
8 SEPTEMBER 1996
By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Timothy 2:1-4
2 Peter 3:9
We’ve been talking for years about the responsibility of all Christians to be ministers of one sort or another.
If we believe, we’ve been called.
And if called, we’ve been given a job to do.
No matter how many times we talk about one of the responsibilities of ministry, specifically, to discern the difference between good and evil, someone will always say, "We're not to judge."
And that’s wrong, for we are to judge, we are to discern, but we’re not to condemn; and there’s a difference; but we are nevertheless to judge.
We are to discern evil, so that we don’t fall into its trap; and we are to discern evil, so that we can help our loved ones not to fall into its trap, either.
And since we are to love everyone, that makes us their watchmen.
The message that God gave to Ezekiel, one that He repeated twice, describes this awesome responsibility.
It’s something that each and every one of us has to realize, if we're going to mature.
Let’s listen to what God tells Ezekiel, whom He calls son of man, beginning at Ezekiel 33:7.
This is not an easy message, but it is God’s message; and I believe all Christians need to fully understand it and follow it.
7. "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth, and give them warning from Me.
Each and every one of us has heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, helping us to discern what is right and what is wrong.
This is no different from what is happening here.
8. "When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.
Here is where the awesome responsibility comes into play.
When we know that someone is doing something that they are not to do, and we don’t say something to them, we, in essence, are going along with their sin, and the responsibility for their blood, or soul, is upon us.
9. "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life.
We are indeed responsible for each other.
We are to watch out for each other, and warn each other of danger, so that we each live a Godly life.
But if we tell someone the truth, and they don’t listen, then, according to God’s word, it becomes their own responsibility.
10. "Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, "Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?" ’
This is speaking about people who acknowledge the sin in their lives.
11. "Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
Think carefully about what God says here: "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live."
Keep a place mark here, and let’s listen to what some of the New Testament writers had to say about this, for it is indeed meant for each of us.
Listen first to what Luke recorded of Peter’s sermon in Acts 3:19-21:
19. "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
20. and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,
21. whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
Peter is calling the people to repentance, salvation, and restoration, just as the Lord called Ezekiel to warn the people of his time.
And Peter reconfirms this in his second epistle, 2 Peter 3:9:
9. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
God calls to us many times.
God sends a number of warnings, either directly or through His messengers.
But what if we are some of those messengers, and we fail to deliver the message, and it was this very message that would cause someone to change their life?
We would be failing not only that person, but God, too.
Listen to what Paul tells Timothy in his first epistle to him, 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
1. First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
2. for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
3. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
4. who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
So much for picking at our elected officials and other leaders.
We’re to pray for them.
We’re to encourage them in the ways of God.
We’re to warn them and guide them into the ways of God.
However, this does not mean that we are to support their ungodly acts, or their ways that would hinder or prevent us from leading "a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."
I’ve read some of John Hollenbeck's letters to our politicians; they’re watchman’s letters sent in love.
And while we’re speaking about John, let’s go back 1900 years and look at what another John, the Apostle John, wrote in Revelation 2:20-23, when he was given a warning to deliver:
20. ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
21. ‘And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
22. ‘Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.
23. ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
God gave this warning about a church to John, and it was his responsibility, as a watchman, to deliver this message to them, and also to us, so that we would be guided by its message.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s return to our passage from Ezekiel 33, beginning at verse 12:
12. "And you, son of man, say to your fellow citizens, ‘The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he turns from his wickedness; whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin.’
This is why we need a Savior.
And all too often, I hear people say that they should go to heaven because they have led a good life; yet in the life of every one, there is some sin which would keep them out of heaven, and some repentance which would allow them into heaven.
The problem is the timing, according to the Law.
But according to Grace, it’s the heart attitude.
And most often, all it takes is someone to mention the corrective action needed, which is the job of the watchman: First, to warn, then to lead to Jesus, for that lasting grace.
This is not the same as being a policeman, nor being a member of "the God squad."
Let me give you an example: if someone drives within the speed limit, they are keeping the law; but if even just once they speed by accident, and a policeman stops them, they are issued a ticket and found guilty.
They are a speeder, they are no longer the safe driver they were all their previous days, that is, according to the law.
Now suppose you were sitting next to the driver, and you were talking, and the driver failed to see a reduced speed sign, but you saw it.
Are you not obligated to warn the driver?
What happens, if because of excessive speed the driver is unable to stop in time, and hits a child on a bicycle coming out of a driveway?
If you did not warn the driver, and he or she hits the child, are you not also guilty, because you knew of the problem but failed to warn him or her?
And if you did warn the driver and that person failed to slow down, does not the full guilt fall upon the driver?
But if the driver did slow down because of your warning, and thus was able to stop before hitting the child, have not both of you been redeemed?
This concept of being a watchman is as simple as this.
13. "When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die.
This is the example of the driver who was speeding and hit the child.
14. "But when I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness,
15. if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he will surely live; he shall not die.
16. "None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he will surely live.
This is the example of the driver who was speeding, but heeded your warning and slowed down, and was able to stop before hitting the child.
But remember, we are not just talking about speeding, but all aspects of our lives, just as Ezekiel tells us.
But there are some people who are quite stubborn and won’t accept a warning, and who insist that their evilness is acceptable.
17. "Yet your fellow citizens say ‘The way of the Lord is not right,’ when it is their own way that is not right.
18. "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it.
19. "But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them.
20. "Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways."
There are all kinds of people in this world, and unfortunately, most of them want to do their own thing.
And most people don’t want to get involved when they see something wrong, they just want to complain about it later on to someone else.
This isn’t being Godly.
This isn’t being a Christian.
We are not to be God’s policemen, but we are to be the Lord’s watchmen.
We have a responsibility because we know the truth.
Your Comments are welcome
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