The Cry of the Watchman



JUNE 26, 2006

When I look outside at our parking lot and around our sanctuary this morning, it’s obvious we have room for more cars and people. Especially lots more people. Some churches in our area are packed. They have several worship services. Others are making major renovations and expanding their facilities to fit the worshipers in. Some churches are thriving while others seem to be floundering and just spinning their wheels.

How about us? Where do we fit in? It isn’t that people haven’t visited with us. Many have over the years. Some even joined and became members only to leave after a while for one reason or another. For instance, some folks have left because they have moved out of state. Others are no longer with us because they are worshiping the Lord in a much better place. He has brought some of His precious New Covenant children home to Himself.

Others are no longer a part of us because of an honest difference of opinion concerning certain truths we hold dearly. The absolute Sovereignty of God and especially His foreknowledge, together with the eternal security of every person who has been reborn in Christ, are, strange as it may seem, sometimes rejected by other Christians.

There have also been folks who are no longer with us and we don’t have a clue as to why. I’m reminded of a family living about forty five minutes from our church. The man and woman and their five kids attended New Covenant faithfully. They also participated in Sunday school for several months. This family had given all of us the impression that they loved our church. Then, all of a sudden, and without any explanation to any of us, they stopped coming.

After several phone calls I finally connected with the mother. I told her we missed them and were hoping to see their family at our Christmas service. She was very friendly and even asked if we were planning on having a Christmas Eve service. I never heard from them again. I wrote the father a letter asking if there was anything I had done or taught that caused them to leave. We can’t fix something if we don’t know what’s broken. I never received a response.

Then a couple of weeks ago the father surprised me when he came over to the table Sergio and I were sitting at in Marko’s the pizza joint down the road. I hadn’t seen him in about a year and a half. He was cordial and obviously happy to run into me. Before I left I went over to where he was sitting and asked him if either I or any of you folks had done anything to hurt their feelings or if there was something I was teaching which they strongly disagreed with. He assured me there wasn’t.

Actually they loved us and the teaching. It’s just that a long-time bible believing pastor friend of theirs had been called to a church about ten miles from their home as opposed to the almost hour’s drive here. They have been attending that church ever since. He explained that my letter had been misplaced and remained unopened for several months. I was happy for them and especially relieved that they didn’t leave because of what I refer to as being “the cry of the watchman.”

In addition to a churches statement of faith, the people and the music, along with the pastor, are what attract other folks to it. Conversely, it’s because of the same factors that folks often won’t attend. For instance, we don’t have a lot of musicians or a big band and a choir, nor do we have a special youth group yet. We also have had a few whiners and back stabbers and some of those “do as I say and not as I do” phonies, as virtually every Christian congregation does.

However, my preaching and teaching is often something else. For instance, there are times when I have to humbly sound the “cry of the watchman.” Instead of being grateful like most folks ought to be, some of them get angry. Very angry! So much so, that sooner or later they’re out of here. Allow me to explain.

Ezekiel 3:17-21

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 19But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

20“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 21But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

What’s this have to do with some folks who have left our church? Everything! In so many words, there are times when I must sound the warning that God hates sin; all sin, the big ones and the little ones. I must remind folks, myself included, of the fact that He must punish each and every one of them. I must warn folks that we should be very careful of Satan’s schemes of trying to con us into believing that God overlooks our little sins or that He will continue to be patient with us while we half heartily attempt to work our way through the big ones.

I must warn folks that we have to struggle real hard to overcome all the sins we commit, even the little ones. Sometimes I must cry out passionately that if we continue sinning big time like getting drunk or doing drugs or gossiping and backbiting or throwing temper tantrums or engaging in forbidden sex or what have you, and not doing our very best to knock this kind of stuff off, then, if we die in those kinds of sins, regardless of our profession of faith, baptism or church membership, we are going to wind up in Hell. For instance, listen to the cry of someone who, after Jesus, was the most famous watchman in this Gospel age.

Ephesians 5:1-5 (ESV) 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Galatians 5:16-21 (ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

These are the kinds of sins professed Christians commit which bring great disgrace to Christ’s Church and hinder the spread of the Gospel. We also fool ourselves if we think God can overlook our little sins. He must punish all sin. Unless a person has sincerely accepted the blood that Jesus shed on His cross as God’s punishment for his or her sins and repents of them and sincerely struggles to change and get rid of them, then that person is dooming him or herself to eternal torment of separation from God and His people.

In ancient Israel city officials appointed men to serve as watchmen. These men were paid to man posts high up in a tower or on the wall surrounding the city. Their job was to diligently watch over the city and sound a loud warning whenever there was impending danger. If the watchman failed to do so, he was held personally responsible for whatever loss the inhabitants may have sustained.

God appointed Ezekiel spiritual watchman over the Israelites to warn them of the terrible judgment they would experience if they didn’t repent and change the sinful way they had been behaving. God also warned Ezekiel that if he failed to warn them and they died in their sins, God would hold Ezekiel accountable for contributing to their deaths (vv19-21).  This was known as the law of retribution which required the guilty person’s forfeiting of his or her own life.

(Genesis 9:5-6). And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

6“Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed;

for in the image of God

has God made man.

Notice the second part of verse 5. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Every Christian, as he or she has an opportunity, is responsible for sharing the Gospel with the lost people the Lord has brought into their life, and every Christian will be held accountable.

Ezekiel 33:1-11

Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2“Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

7“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8When 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 at your hand. 9Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

10“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ‘ 11Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

The person who ignores the watchman’s warning will have no one but him or herself to blame. Their blood shall be upon their own head’s (Ezekiel 33-3).”

Commenting on this verse, Maurice Roberts in the February 1999 issue of The Banner of Truth magazine writes: “The Bible however does not so much present this thought in isolation. Rather, it connects the concept of the blood of men’s souls with the work of the preacher of the gospel. Although men are…responsible for their own souls, there are also men in this life who are responsible for souls which are not their own.”

“These men are ministers of religion, whose official duty it is to shepherd the souls of others to God and to Christ our Lord and Savior. Nowhere is this clearer in the Old Testament than in the prophecy of Ezekiel. There is scarcely any note more urgently needed today, than this note which is heard repeatedly in the prophecy of Ezekiel that the minister is accountable to God for the souls in his care.”

“The apostles themselves, inspired as they were in their ministries as other ministers since are not, saw themselves as bound under this solemn obligation to warn their hearers to flee to the mercy of God. What else can the Apostle Paul mean when he writes,

“Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Or again, what else is in his mind as he writes,

We proclaim him [Christ], admonishing and teaching [warning] everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28).It was to his great relief to be able to state,

“Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:226-27)

In preparing a sermon, the first thing I do is go to the Lord in prayer acknowledging my total dependence on Him for wisdom, insight and inspiration. I plead with Him to keep me from teaching something that’s wrong. Driving here alone, I once again acknowledge my total dependence on Him. I remind Him that it is He who has called me to this work as one of His watchmen, and I thank Him for the privilege.

I ask Him to add His blessing to the time and energy I devoted to sermon preparation. I ask Him to help me deliver it with clarity, conviction and with a spirit filled with humility and a sincere love and concern for each of you. I plead with Him to open your hearts and minds so that you will be receptive to what He is communicating to you through me.

I deliver the message in an informal manner. I invite folks to interrupt me at any time and to feel free to challenge or question me at any point. I believe that’s how sermons were preached in the early church. I constantly remind you that I am not infallible and that I don’t have a corner on all truth. And, I encourage you to search the Scriptures for yourselves to see if what I am teaching is truly from God. I close by asking God to make the sermon a blessing to all who have heard it or to those folks who may read it.

Driving home in my car, I once again ask Him to make the sermon a blessing to each of you folks in spite of whatever shortcomings it may have had. I tell Him I hope he was pleased with the job I just did. And then, I start thinking about what he wants me say to you next week. And by the grace of God, I’m back up here in the pulpit the following Sunday, never knowing how you folks will react to what I have thought about and prayed about the previous week.

It is God who has made me the watchman of New Covenant Baptist Church and it is He, who, in His own way and time, will relieve me of my duties. It’s the toughest job I have ever had in my life but I dare not leave my post. I’m seventy three years old but I can’t retire nor do I want to. And, just like the Apostle Paul, I must say, “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).” And I might add: “woe to those who do not heed the cry of any of the Lord’s faithful watchmen.”

I pray that each of His faithful watchmen enter eternity with a clear conscience and the assurance that no one’s blood will be on their head, and also with a heart filled with hope that some day he will be reunited in God’s Heaven with every single one of those folks the Lord had entrusted into his earthly care.

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June 26, 2006 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized 1 comment

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