Yesterday, a non-Christian and I resumed studying the Bible with a view toward his conversion. He wants to be baptized. His wife is a Christian. He feels left out of participation in worship. He wants to be a part of the body.
He had stopped studying for months. He had an issue that he needed to deal with in his heart. But for all that, he just didn’t feel the urgency, even though he understood the connection between sin and perdition.
We have close friends who still hang around the church, after studying years ago, but don’t decide anything. Maybe the desire is there, but not the willingness to give up control of one’s life.
Years ago, when we lived in Belo Horizonte, we noticed in the statistics that many saints were baptized on or near their birthdays. People there at that time liked the idea of being born again, apparently, on the date of their natural birth. Again, where’s the feeling of urgency? What sense does it make to wait for weeks or months if your soul is but a step away from eternal hell?
As a young boy, I waited, because of acute timidity. I wanted to obey, but fear froze me out. I trembled in my bed every night and prayed that God would not send Jesus back to claim his own, because I knew without a doubt that I was not yet in that number. I thought that responding to the gospel was done only by walking down the aisle during an invitation hymn, in front of a church building full of people. If only I had known! But God gave me grace and time for that fear to be overpowered.
We continue to pray that he is patient with others, that those who delay will yet be given opportunity to repent.
The Bible is full of urgency. Ananias told the praying and fasting Saul, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name” Acts 22.16. Peter did no little urging to people who interrupted his sermon to ask how to be saved. “With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation!’” Acts 2.40. He doesn’t say “now,” but you can feel it in his words.
And then you have those reports about people being baptized “immediately.” The Philippian jailer and his family did it in the middle of the night, Acts 16.33. Cornelius did not delay in getting word to Peter and asking him to come teach them words by which they might be saved, Acts 10.33. Why wait until morning? Eternity is knocking at the door!
Then, of course, preachers love Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6.2, even though they were written to Christians who should not have been receiving God’s grace in vain: “For he says, ‘I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation!”
If someone doesn’t feel that urgency, do they really get it? That’s probably an unaswerable question, but a disturbing one, nevertheless.
¶ Marketers know how urgency works and drum up special deals or arbitrary deadlines to take advantage of it. “Sale good only until Friday! Hurry now! Don’t delay!” The fear of missing out can be powerful. Maybe we should take some lessons from them.
¶ In the world, people line up by the hundreds for a Black Friday sale. Or to see a presidential candidate (depending on who he is) or a media celebrity. But to stand in line to see the Son of God? Not so interesting. Things of the world are more interesting, “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions” 1 Jn 2.16. Never mind that all these are passing away, v. 17.
¶ So just here is our message, the word that every single Christian must be sharing with every single non-Christian. What you love is perishing, ephemeral, of no value. “The person who does the will of God remains forever” 1 Jn 2.17b. Note the verb “does.” “What matters is keeping God’s commandments” 1 Cor 7.16 CEB. Mere words will get you nowhere, as you cling to this world. Give it all up for the “far greater value of knowing Christ” Phil 3.7. Do it now! Hurry before your life ends!
¶ Are we embarrassed by urgency? The world makes fun of us. Worldly people draw cartoons of slovenly, long-haired, wild-eyed fanatics hoisting signs that proclaim the end of the world. (And we thought they liked hippies!) Here’s the deal: If we are faithful to the message, people will scoff and not take us seriously. Think Paul on Mar’s Hill among the philosophers, Acts 17.32. If you want respectability, forget the gospel.
Then again, if you want eternity, be urgent. Make people uncomfortable. Save them. Now.