By Ron Halbrook
A song pleading with sinners to obey the gospel of Christ asks, “Why do you wait, dear sinner, O why do you tarry so long?” The song says nothing can be gained “by a further delay” and warns “the harvest is passing away.” Some have heard the gospel of Christ in private studies, discussions with friends, sermons, Bible classes, newspaper articles, and other ways but are still lost. They know that if they die, their sins will condemn them to hell. Why do they — perhaps you — wait?
Loving the darkness of sin causes men to wait. Jesus said, “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:18-21). They may know that God is ready to forgive them by His love, mercy, and grace. They may know also that God forgives the sinner when he comes by faith, repents of his sins, confesses Christ as God’s Son, and is immersed in water (Jn. 3:3-5, 16; Acts 2:38). But an obedient faith and love for God cannot exist in the same heart which loves the sinful things of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17). Loving their sins above God, men put off receiving the gospel. This is the root of all delay!
Being too busy with the cares and pleasures of life causes men to wait. Some who know the gospel fill up their days and nights seeking material things and enjoying physical pleasures. They do not “seek . . . first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). They do not take time to be “rich toward God” (Lk. 12:16-21). This is like the immature and foolish child who wants to always play and never stop to eat or sleep. Some things are so important that we must do them first and let other things fall into place.
Jesus often taught by parables, a method which required men to invest their time seeking to understand more about God’s Word (Matt. 7:7-8; 13:10-13). Could He have reached a wider audience by using a method which was briefer and did not require so much of men’s time? No! Men who will not make it their chief business in life to seek God and His righteousness first cannot be saved by any change of method or format in teaching. We must “Take Time to be Holy” and redeem the time wasted in sin (Eph. 5:16). What difference will it make how many material things and physical pleasures we enjoy for a brief moment if we must leave them all behind and spend eternity in torment with Satan away from God?
Casting doubt on God or self causes men to wait. When Satan sees he is about to lose a soul to God, he makes a last ditch effort by throwing up a detour-and-delay sign. It may say, “I don’t know if I can live a Christian life after all these years in sin.” This implies that God is too weak to help people who sincerely want His help. But God has saved adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, those who curse – even murderers – all kinds of sinners (1 Cor. 6:9-11). “God is faithful” to help us in our struggle with temptation (10:13). The sign may say, “I don’t know enough about the Bible to be saved.” If you know you are lost, that God loves you, and that He forgives all who obey the gospel, act now upon what you know. Then you will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (1 Pet. 2:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:18).
“And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The preacher Ananias spoke these words to Saul of Tarsus, who without any delay “arose, and was baptized” (9:18). If Saul had been like some other people, he might have waited because of too much regardfor men. Delay may be caused by the fear of criticism from relatives, friends, and past religious associates. During the personal ministry of Christ on earth, many important Jewish leaders “believed on him; but because of the j Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jn. 12:42-43). Saul himself had been a Pharisee, but he had a higher regard for God than for men. Our attachment to our parents, whether they be living or dead, should not be so strong as to keep us from obeying the gospel. They do not live their lives in our place, nor die for us, nor answer for us in Judgment.
But a negative attitude toward men can also hinder us from obeying the Lord. The regard for man which makes us wait may be in the form of a protest against hypocritical Christians. God warns Christians not to so live as to bring shame, reproach, and blasphemy upon the word of God (Tit. 2:5,8,10). Jesus said of such hypocrites that they shall not “escape the damnation of hell” (Matt. 23:33). If we focus on the inconsistencies of such people now and reject the Lord, we will be with them in hell away from the Lord for all eternity. Weak Christians may err or even wrong us, but God has done neither! He gave His only Son for us and blesses us daily in more ways than we can number. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3) After obeying Christ, we may be able to help those who err to correct their lives. Whether they repent or not, we must never blame God for the sins of men. Let us not be like the man who was angry at his dog for chewing up his shoe. When he could not kick the dog, who ran under the porch, he kicked his wife instead.
Those who focus their attention too much on man and not enough on Christ may be hindered because of personality clashes and other personal likes or dislikes. They would prefer a preacher, elder, deacon, teacher, or other Christian they know to have a different voice, dress style, mannerism, hobby, car, mate, personality, or some other characteristic. Perhaps the suggested change would be an improvement, but this is nothing to lose our souls over. We forebear with such differences on the job because we have a duty to feed our families. We can forebear with such differences in order to obey the gospel. Remember that we may be blind to our own quirks, that our love for the Lord overshadows every personal consideration, and that we worship the Lord and not some man. Make no mistake about it: when we reject the message of truth because of the foibles of the messenger, we reject the Lord who sent the message (Matt. 10:40). If we truly set our hearts upon the Lord, we will not hesitate over men.
Religious error causes men to wait. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses offer the hope of a second chance after we pass from this life. Catholicism teaches that some sins can be punished temporarily after death so that we may go to be with God forever. Calvinism says that sinners who know the gospel must wait until they receive an inner illumination and impulse from God in order to be saved. Pentecostalism claims that the sinner must wait and plead at a “mourner’s bench,” plead and wait at an “altar,” until God sends the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Denominationalism tells men who believe in Jesus that baptism is not essential to salvation and that, therefore, they can wait until later to be baptized.
In the New Testament, men were never told to wait to be baptized and to wait to be saved. Read of the Jews in Acts 2, the Ethiopian in Acts 8, the Gentiles in Acts 10, and the Philippian jailor in Acts 16. In every case, as soon as sinners were convicted of sin and learned how to be forgiven, they immediately obeyed the gospel. While the traditions of men tell sinners to wait for some reason or other, the glorious gospel of Christ invites sinners to come immediately into the grace of God.
Confusion over tragedy, suffering, and heartache causes some to wait. They are hindered by the sad misunderstanding that God heaps upon man the sorrows and woes of life. All disease, degeneration, and death entered the universe because of sin and sin entered because of Satan, not because of God! Read Genesis 1-3 to see how wonderfully God blessed men and tried to protect him from Satan’s harm – see how Satan deceived man into thinking sin would bless rather than curse life. After man sinned, God did not plot his ruin but promised him a Savior (3:15). Study Job 1-2, and then the rest of the book, to learn how Satan seeks to use tragedy and heartache to confuse man about God’s love – see how God comforts man and helps him to see His constant love through the mists of sorrow. Read Ecclesiastes to understand that though we live in a world of change and uncertainity, of fleeting “ups” and shattering “downs,” life is not a meaningless void. We look beyond this vail of tears to the God from whom we came and to whom we go. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
But does God really understand our struggles and sorrows here below? Yes. He sent His only Son in a body of flesh to serve and sorrow with us – to weep with those who weep (Jn. 10:33) – to face all the same temptations we face (Heb. 4:15). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16). No matter what our burden, God can and will comfort us through His beloved Son.
“Why do you wait, dear sinner, O why do you tarry so long?” “Your Savior is longing to bless you.” “O why not accept His salvation, and throw off your burden of sin.” Why not come to him now! Foolish Felix decided to wait and told the preacher, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25). There is no easy way or convenient time to face our sins, repent of them, and ask God’s forgiveness. It is not leisure we lack but love for the Lord. Not convenience but conviction. In simple terms, when we tell God to wait we are telling Him, “No! I will not submit and will not obey now. ” He is pleading for us to come now. Soon the time of patience will be gone the time of punishment will arrive. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 20, pp. 624-625
October 16, 1986