Thursday, July 17, 2008


The longer I am in ministry, the more I am convinced that one of the most significant measures of a Christian’s spiritual maturity is their level of love for lost people. Christians may know their Bible, pray fervently, do devotions before sunrise every morning, and lead significant ministries within the Church, but if they are not passionate about spreading the Gospel among those who don’t know Christ, then they are not mature believers. Because God loves lost people. In fact, Jesus says in Luke 15 that there is more rejoicing in heaven when a lost sinner repents than there is over 99 righteous people. Yet too often, we in the Church tend to reverse Jesus’ priorities, celebrating contentedly with the 99 sheep in the fold and not worrying overly much about the one that is lost.

The truth of this fact hit me in a fresh way while I was on vacation and doing some devotional reading in Ezekiel. After revealing Himself in a mighty way, God gave Ezekiel the following charge:
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. When 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. But 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. — Ezekiel 3:17-20
What’s interesting to me about God’s Word here is that God holds His messenger partially responsible for the death of the wicked if Ezekiel should fail to announce God’s message of warning and repentance. Though the wicked man dies for his own sin, Ezekiel is in some sense also held responsible and subject to God’s judgment (v. 3:20).

Like Ezekiel, God has called us to be watchmen for our people, warning them away from the death and judgment God will bring if they continue to sin and offering life, healing, and forgiveness if they will repent and turn to God. Like Ezekiel, we have been given both God’s Word and His Spirit to accomplish the task. And though I can’t prove it, I strongly suspect that if we fail to discharge our calling, God in some sense holds us responsible for those who die without hearing the Good News. Which is a pretty sobering thought...


Garden Girl said...

Joe, I agree that it is a very sobering thought. I would like to see more evidence of it though from the bible. Your words remind me of LDS Mormons baptizing members (repeatedly) for people that have died. They feel some sort of responsibility for their eternal souls. Likewise, with members of the Catholic faith who pray for those in supposed "purgatory" because of the responsibility they feel for them.

Regardless of these unfounded practices, we need to be reaching out to the lost. It is what God has called us to do - And that alone holds us accountable. Not for a non-believers soul but for us not obeying God's Word.

Horn herd mom said...

I think that is what Joe was saying--we are held accountable when we don't share the gospel. It is a command and like any command there are consequences for not obeying it. And, very much unlike the Mormons or the Catholics, Joe is talking about personal consequences to ourselves--not necessarily what will happen to the people we don't share the gospel with--God will save them if they are to be saved regardless of whether we are obedient or not.

I happened to be reading through Ezekiel at the same time Joe was and found this particular passage very convicting. I think often we forget that sharing the gospel is a command and that there are consequences for not obeying that command. Yes, I am a sinner saved by grace and each person is responsible for his/her own decision for or against Christ. But God will also hold me accountable for not being obedient to his word just as Ezekiel would have been held accountable had he not obeyed and communicated the word of God to the people of Israel.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think Joe hit the nail on the head. The apostles were COMMANDED to "go and make disciples of all nations" and then, in that command, were also commanded to teach these new disciples everything that Jesus commanded, which would include the command to "go and make disciples." So I think that in a way we will be held responsible for not taking the opportunity to plant seeds when unbelievers are brought our way. In the same way, those of us in the apologetics ministries have the duty to warn about false teachers and false teachings. Just what God will do to us for our failure is anyone's guess, but I suspect it would be a loss of reward, whatever that may be.