By Tony Ripley
Do you remember some years back when your dad took you to town to run some errands? “Oh, yeah! You could use a haircut,” he replied. Remember walking down the sidewalk? You could see that candy stripe pole for two blocks or more. And upon your arrival, you found an old tattered sign hanging by a string on a glass door, “Gone Fishin’.” Mixed emotions I guess. I don’t have to get a haircut, but I don’t get a sucker either!
There are many erring souls today who have become disinterested and have fallen away from the fold. Too many have hung out their sign, “Gone Fishin’.” I wish they really knew how much their absence hurts their brothers and sisters in Christ and how it really affects their friends and family. I wish they would notice all the tears shed on their behalf because of negligence of their spiritual duties.
I often hear excuses of “why I can’t attend.” I suppose that the oldest phrase of all time is, “There are hypocrites in that church.” Sadly enough, this is sometimes true, but the most important fact is always overlooked. The church of our Lord is perfect. He shed his blood for it, established it, and there is no greater founder than Jesus himself. On the other hand, the body of Christ is filled with imperfect people. The one pointing his finger at the hypocrites would do well to examine “self.” There are two sides to a hypocrite. One may be in the assembly and the other is out, pointing his finger. There are so many different excuses used by those who have fallen away. But by looking into the “perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25), one may examine “self” and put away all excuses.
Take time to read 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14. Gathering with the saints is for edification, instruction, building up. How can we build each other up if we are too tied up in the world’s activities to be responsible enough to care for our spiritual needs? The clue is to set our minds on heaven. Just think! Every pain will be gone, every problem relieved, every burden lifted. How wonderful to stand around the throne singing praises to God with all the saints of old. What a glorious life! It’s a wonderful gift now that we can meet with the saints on the Lord’s day, Wednesday Bible study, gospel meetings, or any other gathering of God’s people. Notice, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way or righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet. 2:20-21).
There are those who would never miss a Jaycee’s meeting, P.T.A., children’s activities, etc. Some would neglect their duty for a mere T.V. program. And of course there are those ever popular friends of the world who would just as soon miss services and do anything but attend. So many times we hear statements such as, “I’ve been busy lately” and that “Oldy but Good,” “Nowhere in the Bible does it say that I have to attend every service.” These replies I suppose are to finalize the conversation. But when honesty exposes itself and the truth is known, all statements such as these are simply glass houses to hide in. Of course it would not be fitting to proceed without mentioning something about those brethren that have withdrawn themselves from the Lord’s church all together. I guess the author of the Hebrew letter pretty well “hit the nail on the head” when he expressed his thoughts about those rejecting God. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day aproaching” (Heb. 10:25).
I realize that there are many more phrases in which we might explore such as, “I don’t fit in” or “I’m way out of my league,” just to name a few. But brethren, our task in life is not to live up to our neighbor’s expectations nor is it to stand on top the mountain tops as some do today. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “He who stands on a pedestal, has nowhere to step but off.” We as Christians must humble ourselves individually, meet with the saints to build each other up, and share with each other the joy of hope for a glorious eternal home. It’s much easier if we do our job and let God do his.
The simple truth is that those which are erring are loved very dearly by all. The “Gone Fishin'” sign hurts so many people. Why not set it aside and hang another in its place? “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 4, p. 106
February 16, 1989