A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION
Scripture Text: Hebrews 2:3 "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
The Bible contains many questions which causes its readers to stop and to consider their spiritual condition, in the light of divine revelation. However, the one to which I would draw your attention today is, without a doubt, one of the most important. It is one which we all must answer in view of the vast eternity that lies ahead. It is especially directed to those of you who have heard the Gospel, but have yet to accept God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your own and personal Saviour. The question is, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
Whether we realize it or not, when we die and leave this scene of time and sense, our soul immediately goes to either Heaven or Hell, and there is absolutely no other place in between. Therefore, this very important question concerns us, because without God's "great salvation", through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be impossible to approach with favor into the presence of Almighty God. This "great salvation" was purchased when the Lord Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on Calvary's cross almost 2,000 years ago. And friend, on the authority of God's word, I can tell you that the final rejecting or neglecting of that "great salvation", makes mankind the guiltiest of sinners, and as sure of eternal damnation, as though they were already in the flames of eternal torment.
Now today, with the imperative help of the Holy Spirit of God, I would like to present to you who are still not saved, the "great salvation" which you are carelessly neglecting. And in doing so, I must bring before you one of the most significant, imperative, and basic characteristics of that "great salvation".
Perhaps the most important fact concerning the character of the "great salvation" for the soul, is the NEED. Yes, the NEED. The word of God clearly and repeatedly brands mankind as sinful, and therefore, we are in NEED of God's " great salvation". In Romans 3:23 we read that, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Even the Prophet Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 59:2, "your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you." God, in all of His holiness and righteousness, cannot look upon sin. No sin, whatsoever, can be condoned in the presence of a thrice-holy God. Over in II Peter 2:4 we're told that, "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell".
From Adam on down to the present time, mankind has lived in rebellion to the word and will of his Creator, God. In Ecclesiastes 7:20 we read, "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." The Apostle Paul again reminds us in Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man(Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Friend, did you notice the result of sin? Yes, it is death! Twice-over, we read in Ezekiel chapter 18, verses 4 and 20, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die". We're also reminded by the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:23, that "the wages of sin is death", and the wages of sin have never been reduced, it is still death. We have a very solemn warning in James 1:15, "when LUST hath conceived, it bringeth forth SIN; and SIN, when it is finished, bringeth forth DEATH."
The above scriptures could be added to by the score, in order to show that, in the sight of God, every unsaved person in the world NEEDS the "great salvation" which God has provided. And furthermore, anyone reading this Gospel message who has never realized their NEED of that "great salvation" can be sure of one thing, you do not possess that "great salvation" provided through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE! In Luke 5:32, the Lord Jesus Christ declared, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." He tells us again in Luke 19:10 that He came, "to seek and to save that which was lost."
Now friend, I ask you, in love for that never-dying soul of yours, and in view of the vast eternity that lies just ahead, have you ever seen yourself as a lost, guilty, and Hell-deserving sinner in NEED of God's "great salvation"? Have you ever realized that it was your sins that nailed the Lord Jesus Christ to Calvary's cross? And have you, as an individual, ever experienced conviction of sin? Have you? If not, then I don't hesitate to tell you that you're still unsaved; you're still on that broad and crowded road that leads down to the place that Jesus Christ called Hell.
Friend, if you've never acknowledged that you're lost, then how can you possibly be saved? If you've never seen yourself as a rebel sinner deserving of eternal judgment, then how can you be one of those whom Jesus Christ calls to repentance? Again I remind you that there is no "great salvation" awaiting you, unless you first of all acknowledge that you're really in NEED of that blood-bought "great salvation". Yes, conviction of sin is just as essential for the soul's salvation, as is the precious blood of God's beloved Son. In John 7:37, the Lord declared, "if any man THIRST let him come unto Me and drink." Friend, you must THIRST for the water of life, God's "great salvation", before you can have that THIRST quenched by being saved. So I repeat, only poor, lost sinners who see their NEED for God's "great salvation", can possibly get saved.
Now there may be someone reading this message today, and you firmly believe that the life you're living, is on such a sufficiently high religious and cultural plane, that you are bringing glory and honor to God. You are an upstanding citizen in your community; you are charitable to your less fortunate neighbors; you attend church regularly; you sing in the choir or teach Sunday School; you may be active in the Ladies Aid Society or the Missionary Sewing Circle; you may fast, pray, tithe, and read your Bible daily; but listen, this is not God's "great salvation"! Sure, you are living a life which could put many truly saved people to shame, but this is not God's "great salvation". Friend, you are depending on what you are doing, rather than having faith in what the Lord Jesus Christ has already done for you at Calvary.
Don't misunderstand me, I'm not condemning the aforementioned religious activities. What I'm saying, is that these activities, noble though they may be, will never save that soul of yours. The Lord Jesus Christ told that religious Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 3:3 that "Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Friend, we are all born into our parent's family with a sinful nature, and that is the reason why we sin. We're not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we're sinners! It is just as natural for us to sin as it is for a dog to bark, or a fish to swim.
Now then, just as we become sinners when we're born into our human family, so it is that we become children of God when we're "born again", this time spiritually, by the word and Holy Spirit of God. In I Peter 1:23 we're told, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth forever." I was "born again" into God's family back on June 2,1952. Up till then I was spiritually lost, even though I was highly religious. I had a "head knowledge" of salvation, but it had never reached my heart. I had taught Sunday School, and had even preached in various churches on occasion, but I had never experienced true conviction of sin. I was substituting religion for Christianity! Friend, Christianity is not a religion, Christianity is Jesus Christ!
Many people are doing the same thing today. They are just like Adam, in Genesis chapter 3, who tried to hide his nakedness, or sinfulness, with the fig leaves of self-righteousness. Or maybe they are like Adam's first son, Cain, who sought to please God with the efforts of his own hands. Yes, and there are lots of Adams and Cains in the world today. Mankind, with his mere finite mind, is trying to subjugate the ways of God by practicing so-called "good works" and "religious activities", instead of exercising simple faith in the crosswork of Christ, as their only means of obtaining God's "great salvation".
To you who are reading this message today, and who are trying to work your way into God's favor, what do these scriptures mean to you? Ephesians 2:8,9, "For by grace are ye saved through FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST." In Titus 3:5 we read, "NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." Then I think of what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 4:5, "BUT TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness." Well friend, that's the word of God, and you're either going to believe it, or you're going to reject or neglect it. But remember, our scripture text asks, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
In the December,2001, issue of the "Reader's Digest", they printed an interview with the former world heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali. His name was Cassius Clay before he converted to Islam in 1964. A Los Angeles news photographer, Howard Bingham, asked Muhammad Ali, "What does your faith mean to you?" Ali replied, "It means a ticket to Heaven. One day we're all going to die, and God's going to judge us, our good and bad deeds. If the bad outweighs the good, you go to Hell; if the good outweighs the bad, you go to Heaven." What an awakening he's going to get when he dies! And you too, my friend, if you believe such non-scriptural principles and practices which are diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity. God's word declares in Proverbs 12:15, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that harkeneth unto counsel is wise." Friend, please don't have it said of you, as it was by King David about rebellious Abner, in II Samuel 3:33, "Died Abner as a fool dieth".
Perhaps some of you are asking, "Well, just what does God think about my sincere desire to please Him with my religious activities and self-righteousness?" To be very frank with you, God is not pleased, whatsoever, with either you, or them. In Isaiah 64:6 we're told, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." And I'm sure that you know the end result of filthy rags: they are cast into the fire, just as your efforts to save your own soul will result in you being cast into the flames of Hell. Friend, "How shall YOU escape, if YOU neglect so great salvation?"
I believe that God's word is very clear, insofar as His "great salvation" is concerned. In Genesis 3:21, God set forth the pattern, principle, and precept to be followed throughout the scriptures. We read these words, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skin, and clothed them." Yes, God shed the blood of an innocent animal in order to clothe the sinfulness of our first parents, Adam and Eve. I should mention too, that in the Old Testament Tabernacle, all the animal sacrifices required the shedding of their blood as a covering for sin. In Leviticus 17:11 God tells us, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
And all through the scriptures, the pattern develops until the "Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ", sheds His precious blood as an atonement for our souls. It is also very important to note that the blood sacrifices, used in the Old Testament Tabernacle, could only "cover" their sin for a season. It had to be repeated each year on the Day of Atonement. But with God's "great salvation", His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was the final sacrifice for sin. In Hebrews 9:26 we're told that "ONCE in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." In verse 28 of that same chapter we're told that "Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sin of many." Yes, and I thank God today for the truth expressed in I John 1:7, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from ALL sin."
The very important question used for our text today, is obviously speaking to a specific type of unsaved individual. We read, "How shall we escape, if we NEGLECT so great salvation?" This word "NEGLECT", would seem to imply that many people are not only rejecting the love, mercy, and grace of God, but they are also neglecting their only means of escape from eternal damnation. Personally, I believe that a neglecter of God's "great salvation" is, by far, worse than an open rejecter of God's grace, though indeed, both, if they die in that condition, will eventually end up in the Lake of Fire.
I also firmly believe that some of you reading these words right now, are neglecting the "great salvation". Sure, you believe in God; you believe in the existence of both a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun; you believe intellectually that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way into God's Heaven; but you are continuing to neglect your soul's salvation. WHY? Because you enjoy your wallowing in the muck and mire of sin. You're having such a "good time" enjoying the pleasures of this Godless, Christ-rejecting world, that you are postponing your acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. If so, let me remind you of what God says in Genesis 6:3, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." Again we're warned in Proverbs 29:1, "He, that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." Furthermore, there is no such a place as "purgatory" mentioned in the Bible, so don't expect anyone to either pay or pray your elevation up into Heaven. It can't be done!
Friend, you have no guaranty that you'll ever see the light of another day. Sure, you dressed yourself this morning, but some funeral director, or one of his staff members, may take your clothes off tonight! This time tomorrow your body could be on display at some funeral home in your area. Your relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or classmates, will come to view your cold and lifeless form. They'll express their sincere sorrow and condolences to the remaining and grieving family members. But tell me, where will your soul be, Heaven or Hell? If you die as you are, as a rejecter or neglecter of God's "great salvation", you will be spending your first, of endless hours in weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of your teeth.
I believe that some of you reading these words have heard the Gospel many, many times in the past. You have even been fortunate enough to have been convicted of your NEED of God's "great salvation", to the extent that you have shed many tears, and have often had trouble sleeping at night. You've felt depressed, apprehensive, and confused, but you have no one to blame but yourself. The enemy of your soul, Satan, the Devil, has convinced you that you will have plenty of time to get saved. Friend, please don't let the Devil rob you of God's "great salvation". In II Corinthians 4:3,4 we read, "But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this age (the Devil) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Yes, the Devil knows where he is going to be for all eternity, "cast into the Lake of Fire", and he wants to take as many of God's creatures with him into that abyss of endless torment.
A most solemn warning is given by God to those who are procrastinating, insofar as His "great salvation" is concerned. In Proverbs 27:1 we read, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Friend, today's date may be on your tombstone as the date of your death. If so, where would your soul be? Listen to God's expression of urgency, as found in II Corinthians 6:2, "Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold NOW is the day of salvation." Again, in Hebrews 4:7 we read, "TODAY if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts."
Friend, is it possible that you are neglecting God's "great salvation" for the pleasures of this world; for your associations with the unsaved; for your desire for fame and money; for your love of harmful drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and other worldly activities? Ah! Listen, my unsaved friend, you can try every worldly pleasure known to man, but if you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, you'll be able to sing of a truth, "Now none but Christ can satisfy, none other name for me; there's love and life and lasting joy, Lord Jesus found in Thee."
Friend, if we could interview every true Christian in the world today, and ask them if they regret trusting Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord, there wouldn't be even one person who would say that they regret accepting God's "great salvation", expressed in His Son's sacrificial death on Calvary's cross. That's a very good advertisement, is it not?
In Acts chapter 24, we read of the sinful Governor Felix who listened, as the Apostle Paul preached to him of "righteousness, temperance and judgment to come". As Governor Felix listened to the Gospel, he was so convicted of his sin that he actually "trembled". But what did he say? "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." How sad! We never read where he ever had a more "convenient season". And we have every reason to believe that Governor Felix is in Hell today because he NEGLECTED the "great salvation" offered to him. Tell me friend, are you going to join Governor Felix? I hope not!
Friend, the day of God's grace is quickly drawing to a close. You may be nearer to eternity than you realize. And I believe that if it were possible for an angel of God to come down to earth, and to whisper in your ear the date of your death, regardless of that date, you would slither off that comfortable chair of yours, and on to the floor in a dead faint. WHY? Because you are NEGLECTING the "great salvation" for your soul, and you know it! YES, YOU KNOW IT! The language of your heart is, "Give me just a little longer, for the world seems now so bright; when I feel that I am dying, I'll be saved, but not tonight!"
Friend, if the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to you right now, and you're convicted of your NEED of God's "great salvation", please don't be like King Agrippa in Acts chapter 26, who told the Apostle Paul, "ALMOST thou persuadest me to be a Christian." There are millions of souls in Hell today who were ALMOST persuaded to be Christians, but they put it off. Tell me friend, are you going to join King Agrippa? I hope not!
In closing, GOD is asking you once more, in love for your soul and in view of eternity, "How shall YOU escape, if YOU neglect so great salvation ?". Friend, right now, and wherever you are, acknowledge that you're a sinner who can't do anything to save your own soul, repent of your sins, and acknowledge that you're a sinner for whom Christ died. If you do that right now, the word of God which cannot lie, gives you the assurance that you'll be saved, not only for time, but, thank God, you'll be saved for all eternity. And remember, my friend, this is for eternity! YES, THIS IS FOR ETERNITY !
Evangelist: Minor C. Hawk