After God sent ten terrible plagues on the land of Egypt and opened a path through the Red Sea so the people of Israel could escape the cruel bondage of Egypt; after He led them day after day with a pillar of cloud, and night after night with a pillar of fire; after He provided manna for them, and quail, and water from a rock, and did many mighty works among them; after all this, still they complained and rebelled against God until He was provoked to anger and destroyed that generation in the wilderness. It was the next generation led by Joshua that entered into the Promised Land, crossing the Jordan on dry ground. The walls of Jericho fell before them, and they defeated the heathen nations that occupied the land that God had promised to the heirs of Abraham. They divided that land into tribal territories and settled in their designated areas. In the last two chapters of the Book of Joshua, the elderly Joshua exhorts the people to cling to the things of the Lord. He reminded them of the wondrous things that God had done for them. He encouraged them to be courageous and to do the law of the Lord. He warned them against the idolatry of the heathen people remaining in the land. In Joshua 24:14 he exhorts them to “Fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth.” The next verse records his memorable statement: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . .but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The latter part of the chapter tells of Joshua’s death and burial. Judges 2:7 tells us “So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.” But verses 10 and 11 report that “another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord” and they “did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
About 237 years ago, families of European immigrants founded a new nation here in America based on godly principles. They diligently sought to form a government recognizing God as the Supreme Authority. With this atmosphere, just a few decades later, the great restoration movement with efforts to return to New Testament Christianity flourished. The gospel was preached to the city dwellers and to the frontiersmen. Congregations of the Lord’s church were planted throughout the nation.
But with the passing of time, the thinking of many people became more carnal. Great schools of learning that were originally founded on religious principles now influence students to turn from God and accept theories such as evolution. The Bible that was once the primary book and main teaching in schools is no longer to be taught in the classrooms of public schools. Nor is it read and studied in the homes of America as it was in years past when it was common for the family to gather for Bible reading and prayer and perhaps a hymn or two before retiring for the night. Same sex marriage and other such perversions were unthinkable just a few decades ago, but alas, a new generation has arisen, many of whom do not know the Lord.
They may even think that they know Him. They may celebrate Christmas and Easter, not knowing that these are not really Biblical holidays, but merely holidays that men have originated to commemorate Biblical events. They may be sincere religious people and belong to some denomination or they may be among those who just claim a personal relationship with the Lord without commitment in any organized group. But unless they have obeyed the gospel and are living in obedience to the Lord, they don’t really know the Lord.
Immorality, sin, and even false religious doctrines have corrupted our society. Does that change the standard by which Christians live? Only in as much as it may increase our workload. Have we failed to be the influence that we should be, that there have been so many departures from the truth infiltrating the society around us without the opposition we ought to have exerted? Should we not, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Lord Himself, and the early Christians cry out against corruption, immorality, and false doctrines? It certainly will not win us any popularity contests. It seems that most people don’t want to be corrected or told that they are in error. Many will have the same attitude as the man whom Moses questioned who was striking his companion: “Who made you a prince and judge over us?” It certainly is not our intention to offend people, but neither do we want them to continue in sin and burn in hell because we were too cowardly to attempt to correct them.
Admittedly, a strong voice against sin and apostasy may result in our persecution. John the Baptist spoke against the sinful marriage of the king. He was imprisoned and later beheaded. Stephen spoke of the Jews resisting God and murdering the Son of God, and they stoned him to death. However, have we forgotten our assignment to preach the word and let our light shine? Or shall we cover the light with indifference and bury our talent with fear?
It is time for God’s people to speak out and be heard -- not by leading demonstrations and parades or grabbing signboards. We need to tell people lovingly about Jesus and His love, His plan of salvation and of the judgment. We are surrounded by people who do not really know the Lord and who are headed for hell. If we have any concern for their souls, let us earnestly appeal to their sense of reasoning. Talk to them about Jesus, His plan of redemption, the one church for which He died, and the need for their obedience. Whether they are your next door neighbors, or total strangers you meet while on a vacation trip, they need to know about Jesus. Church members have reasoned for too long that living a good clean life and setting a Christian example is enough. It is not. “Faith comes by hearing” not just by seeing (Romans 10:17). It is true that people may see that you are a good honest person, kind and neighborly, and respect you for it, but they need to be warned about the consequences of sin and the rejection of the Lord. They need to be told about how to be saved by believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins, confessing their faith and being baptized and then living faithfully to the end.
Oh, that the spirit that motivated the early saints to go everywhere preaching the gospel might be revived in the heart of every believer today (Acts 8:4). We should thank God that here in this nation we enjoy the freedom of speech. If in time, this freedom is taken from us and we are deprived of this blessing, I can only imagine how we will regret not using this freedom when it was available, and we will then have to secretly tell people about the gospel. Souls are perishing all around us. Many will not heed our pleas and warnings, but let us do whatever we can to rescue the perishing while there is time and opportunity.
We will continue to teach and preach to those who assemble with us. However, we need to reach out to people who do not attend the meetings of the church. Talk to people about Jesus, His plan for our salvation, the worship required of men today and the importance of our obedience. May God help us to realize the seriousness of this matter and give us wisdom in what to say and do to be more effective in our efforts to lead others to truth and salvation.