IS YOUR SOUL IN JEOPARDY?
T. PIERCE BROWN
For almost fifty years I have been attending lecture programs, workshops and gospel meetings. In a good number of them I have heard and probably made statements like this about the subject under consideration, “Our souls are in jeopardy if we do not do that.”
For example, if our subject is “Giving As We Have Been Prospered” we develop the theme around the various things the Bible says about it, perhaps throwing in a few conclusions of our own, and then somewhere along the line we emphasize the importance of doing what the Bible says, by saying, “Our souls are at stake if we do not do that.” If our subject is “Necessity of Bible Study,” we start off with 2 Timothy 2:15 and dwell on private, public, organized, disorganized, unorganized, or other kinds, and then the punch line, “You are in danger of losing your soul if you fail to do as God wants.” If we are speaking of the necessity of assembling with the saints, we just naturally start with Hebrews 10:25, then synthesize, summarize and epitomize, concluding with the statement (usually applying it to ANY assembly authorized by the elders), “Your soul is in jeopardy if you are not doing that.”
I have especially noted the tendency in my own remarks and others who are heavily committed to personal evangelism, for this is the very center of Christianity. It is practically impossible for me to conceive of a person who understands the slightest thing about New Testament Christianity who does not see that there is NOTHING more basic to spread of it from the giving of the Great Commission on down than sharing the Good News with others on an individual basis. When Jesus said, “Come ye after me, and I will MAKE you fishers of men” (Mt.4:19), he did not suggest, “Come after me, and if you go to enough workshops and read enough books, it is possible that you may become interested in fishing for men.” If Jesus meant what he said, it seems as impossible for you to come after him and not become a fisher of men as it would be to follow him and not go to heaven when you die. It almost automatically follows that when we are trying to impress the audience with the necessity of world-wide evangelism, or whatever kind we are trying to stress in that message, the bottom line is, “Anyone who fails to do that is in danger of losing his own soul.”
Assuming that each one of us has told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, every person who has been baptized into Christ, but fails to study as he should, give as he should, attend as he should, convert his neighbor as he should, and be involved in foreign mission as he should is in terrible danger of being lost because he has failed to do what God wants!
The problem with trying to deny or clarify any of that is that one is in danger of seeming to “water down” Christianity and teach something less than total commitment. Regardless of the risk, we feel the necessity to suggest some problems we may be creating with the concept as we often express it.
I believe in total commitment. In spite of the fact that some segments of our brotherhood have made the expression “total commitment” stand for commitment to their system of perverted Christianity, I cannot imagine Jesus saying, “If a man comes after me, he should deny some of the things he considers important, and let MY will be among his chief goals.” Furthermore, I find little hope offered to a person who, knowing the will of God for him, deliberately says, “I choose not to do that.” I am even radical enough to teach that this includes smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, eating three pieces of chicken when you are sure God wants you to eat no more than two, or anything else in which you feel sure that it is NOT the will of God, you deliberately decide to persist in it anyway.
But let us look at some specifics. Although I have gone overseas on a campaign for soul winning, and urge others to consider the values of going, I am not at this moment actually planning to go to any specific overseas locality. Is my soul therefore in jeopardy? Is yours?
Although I have for many years carried on and encourage others to carry on Correspondence Bible Courses, both at home and abroad, I am not at this time grading a single lesson of an African or Indian student (although my wife is). I do have about 3000 with whom I am corresponding, but I have someone else grade their papers. And I do get vicarious satisfaction through her efforts or through the many others I have influenced to do likewise. Am I therefore in danger of being lost? Are you?
Although I am now teaching classes regularly in how to be more effective in personal evangelism, and am conducting home Bible studies regularly, today I did not even try to set up a study. Rather, I spent most of the day going to the hospital, trying to clean up my room, writing articles and walking my dog. The Bible plainly teaches me to “Seek first thekingdomofGodand His righteousness.” Did I today put my soul in jeopardy because I walked my dog rather than set up a Bible study?
The basic question I am raising is this: If a person is totally committed to the Lord, and his basic purpose is to do the will of God, is he really putting his soul in jeopardy every time he fails God in some respect? Almost as significant a question: Is he failing God if he walks his dog when he might be setting up a Bible study? Am I actually in danger of being lost if my contribution should have been $100 last week, but was only $90? Is this the proper way to teach and emphasize what all true preachers of the gospel want to teach and emphasize?
Do I have the responsibility of doing all I can to insure that the untold millions of the world who are lost do not die — UNTOLD? I think so. Have I DONE ALL I CAN to ensure that? Have you? I doubt it. Does that mean that you and I are thus and thereby lost? Who then can be saved?
Is this not more nearly the truth of the matter? The soul is not so much in jeopardy because we have failed, but because we do not really care enough about our failures to do anything about it. The disease of sin is a great danger, and will kill us if it is not cured. But the greater danger than having the disease is that we have inoculated so many times with a little dose of medicine that we have become immune to the effects of the medicine! We are sermon-hardened! Some of us seem to think that if can confess to pain when we are stabbed by the sharp sword of the Spirit, that is about equivalent to taking up the cross and following Jesus!
You may ask, “What difference does it make? Our souls are in danger whether they are in danger because we fail to do God’s will, or whether, having failed to do his will, we delude ourselves into a self-satisfied complacency until we arrive at the place where we do not care that we have NOT done his will. We have done both, so what is wrong with saying, `Our souls are thus in jeopardy’?”
It is my judgment that what we think puts our soul in jeopardy is important. If I am lost because I fail, then I can have no happiness, hope or security. Nor can I preach effectively the Good News, for I really do not have any! But if I can be saved in SPITE OF THE FACT THAT I HAVE FAILED, I have some good news! The fact that I have failed my wife on many occasions does not mean that I am not TOTALLY COMMITTED to her. I have lost some blessed rewards of the marriage relationship each time I failed, but I have NOT lost the relationship.
How many blessings and rewards I will lose in the Day of Judgment because I have not used my talents, opportunities and my whole life as effectively as I should have is for the judge to determine. But to teach that each failure causes my soul to be lost is not quite accurate or adequate.
Notice, however, that this does not mean our souls are NOT in danger. It actually means that the danger is more hidden, insidious and dangerous than we may have first thought. If I think I am in danger of being lost simply because I have failed, I may be wrong in my theology, but at least I may try to discover the failure and correct it. But if I realize that the danger is not simply because I have failed, then I can more easily rationalize, try to excuse myself (my mother told me that an excuse is the skin of a reason, stuffed with a lie) and deceive myself into thinking, “I MAY have failed (we try to emphasize the “may”), but I really want the lost to be saved, or I would LIKE to give as I have been prospered, or I would enjoy Bible study, BUT—”
We need to realize that the “but” is what differentiates the goats from the sheep. The sheep follow Jesus; the goats “but.” We would drive 1000 miles on ice to hear a stirring sermon about the importance of winning souls. So that proves we really care. Then we fail to walk across the street to share Christ with our neighbor, BUT—!
Is your soul in jeopardy simply because you fail, or because you have so organized, systematized, ritualized, rationalized and fossilized real Christianity until you have immunized yourself against catching the real thing?