As Faithful Watchmen, Preach Repentance and Forgiveness
You know, I’m feeling kind of tired today. I have had a busy week, a newborn in the house, my family is in town, (I may have just cried during my son’s baptism), I don’t know if I am in any condition to preach a sermon today. So who wants to fill in for me? Is anyone willing to finish this sermon? Don’t look at Pastor either; he had a busier week than I did. So who’s it going to be? …
It would be silly for me seriously expect one of you to preach for me this morning. This is my job. I get paid to do this. I’ve been trained to do this. Just as you wouldn’t expect me to come and do your work at your place of employment, I shouldn’t expect you to preach, right? I mean it is my job, and Pastor’s job to preach on Sunday, lead Bible class, visit the elderly, make outreach visits, rebuke people out when they are sinning. This is what we get paid for. This is what we were called here to do for you. We would just be lazy if we expected you to do these things, right?
Wrong. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Peter was not speaking to a group of pastors. He was speaking to all believers. He was calling all believers priests. He was calling you a priest. Now certainly the Bible also encourages Christians to gather together and designate trained individuals to lead them in public worship (this is where Pastor Huebner and I come in). The Bible is also very clear, however, that when it comes to proclaiming God’s word, reaching the lost, correcting the sinner… these are as much your responsibilities as they are mine.
This is our focus today. The theme for this Sunday is “Christians are watchmen with the Word for other people.” Not “Pastors are watchmen with the word.” You are held as responsible for those around you as I am. All the lessons we read from the Bible today are for you to carry out. It is your job to be the watchman on the wall warning those who don’t believe of the hell that awaits them when judgment day arrives. It is your responsibility to approach sinning individuals and tell them that what they are doing is wrong; like Paul did in Galatians following Jesus’ directive in Matthew 18. These commands to preach are for me and you! All of us are to be faithful watchmen preaching repentance and forgiveness!
This task that God has given us is not easy. Trust my I’ve tried it, I’m doing right now. I, just like you, get nervous when I am standing in the presence of an unbeliever, knowing that I have to tell him that he is on the road to hell. I dislike having doors slammed in my face just as much as you. I hate being called sexist, homophobic and unloving for upholding God’s will in the Bible as much as you. I am as uncomfortable as you when I have to point out a sin that my brother is doing and tell him to stop. But God does not give us another option. This is what Christians must do. This is what you must do.
God never said being a Christian would be easy. The gospel we heard just last week shows that God promised the exact opposite actually… “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” Jesus said. The cross is not a fun thing. The cross is not an easy thing. The cross is not a comfortable thing, but if we want to follow Jesus we must take up our crosses.
Pointing out sin where we see it, telling an unbeliever that hell awaits him, these are not easy, but these are crosses we must carry. Ezekiel explains just what is at stake. “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 the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.”
If that doesn’t humble you, I don’t know what will. Who among us can say that they have never let an opportunity to speak about God’s law and gospel pass us by? You realize that those unbelievers in your life, they could die at any time. God is saying here that if they die without you warning them when you’ve had the opportunity, he will hold you accountable for them spending eternity in hell… Oh the punishment I deserve! All those sinners I worked with over my summers in college painting and landscaping, and I never worked up the courage to speak up to most of them. All those doors I could have knocked on when churches were having a canvassing opportunity, and I turned them down to watch football or take a nap. God will hold me responsible for them? Yes, and he will hold you responsible for the lives of all those unbelievers in your life as well.
As I said, if what Ezekiel says does not humble and destroy your sinful pride, I don’t know what will. I deserve hell 100 times over for all those unbelievers I let pass through my life without saying a word. We are compelled to say with Ezekiel, “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”
Thankfully, our God answers that question. He tells us how we can live. “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways and live!” This is repentance. It is often described in the Bible as turning 180 degrees. We were on the path to hell, and then faith was planted in our hearts by some Christian who fulfilled his role as watchman and shared God’s word with us. In faith we turned away from eternity without our loving God. We turned to Jesus.
We learn day in and day out the true meaning of forgiveness from our Sovereign LORD. He did not leave us under the burden of our sins. He did not say “good luck” when we were faced with answering God for all blood on our hands. No, instead he lived the life we fail to live. He never let the opportunity pass him by to preach God’s word. He lived for us, and then he died for us. Jesus has covered our bloody hands with his blood. He has washed us clean. You see only blood can wash sins away. Only perfect blood could wash all our sins away. In Jesus we have this washing. Through his word we learn of his love. In baptism we see the washing away of sins happen before our very eyes. In the Lord’s Supper we taste and touch and know what true forgiveness is. This is the measure of our God’s love. He would not stand by and let us die in our wickedness. He gives us the ability to turn to him and live!
How’s that for motivation? Christ’s cross makes all our crosses seem a little bit lighter doesn’t it? Each of us must take head-on the difficulties of correcting, rebuking and training where we see sin, but we get to do it with such amazing tools. We have true peace and forgiveness to offer unlike anything found in this world. We have the eternally true message found in the Bible that has the power to change lives. It does not depend on our personal charm and skill; it is all the work of God. He gives us the message, he gives us the wisdom, he gives us the motivation and courage to correct, rebuke and train the sinners in our lives.
God tells us it will be hard to be Christians. After today it will still be uncomfortable and difficult to live as faithful watchmen preaching repentance and forgiveness. Not everyone is going to listen… “But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.” It is not a pretty thought, knowing that so many in this world are obstinately following the road to hell, but we know it is not for lack of love on God’s part. He has made clear to us how much he loves us. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus stopped at nothing to make us his friends. He gave his very life that we would turn! Turn from our evil ways and live!
So who is ready to preach? Are you? Are you ready and willing to deny yourself, stand on that tower and warn unbelievers of the hell that is coming for them? This Sunday’s theme is all about our responsibility as Christians. Rebuking sin and sharing Jesus is something we can do to show thanksgiving because our God has already forgiven all our sins. Rebuking sin and sharing Jesus is something of vital importance because God works through us to bring people to faith and those who die without faith go to hell. This rebuking and sharing can take many different shapes; from talking to our unbelieving friends, neighbors, and family about more than the football game, to welcoming and talking to that visitor who walks through these doors, and volunteering to knock on doors when the church offers that opportunity.
We will never be perfect. I will still get nervous when I walk up to the door of an unbeliever. I will still stumble and fall in my sins. When I lay my head down at night I can pray to Jesus, “bleed on me, bleed all over my sins from today.” When I wake the next morning I can attack the day forgiven, ready to share God’s peace with anyone who will listen. And thus goes our lives; constant sin, constant forgiveness, constant striving to thank God by living according to his will.
We are God’s watchmen. He has given all of us this task. God give us the strength to live as faithful watchmen, preaching repentance and forgiveness.