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How Shall We Escape
October 10, 1954

Cedar/West Bethel Methodist Churches


 The unknown writer to the Epistle of Hebrews starts off his book by comparing God's Son Jesus to angels. It may seem to be a funny comparison but to the Jews and the Old Testament, angels are very important. They believed in them and they believed that they performed a wonderful mission for God. So this writer of the book of Hebrews begins his book by proclaiming the angels’ message, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a salvation?” How shall we escape condemnation of our sins? I believe in eternal damnation, but I'm not going to speak of that this morning. A type of preaching—hellfire preaching— was very popular with our forefathers. But this type of preaching isn't so popular today. I think the reason is that most people don't think about death, don’t think of what lies beyond. They’re too busy with what goes on today to worry about the future. So we cast off this type of preaching with just a flick of our hand, pay no attention to it.

On the way home from my rollerskating party, there was a little fog from Spectacle Lake on. As we got further south, it got worse and worse, thicker and thicker. On one of the little back country roads, because I know the road I was driving along at regular speed, but I forgot one little corner. I stopped in time. After that I went a little slower. I couldn't see and was a little afraid at what lay ahead. I wasn't going to trust my knowledge of the road. After I got rid of all my passengers, the fog was so thick I couldn’t see what lay ahead. It reminded me of the world. Over the world is descended a big thick cloud of fog. Smog is settled in so thick we can't see. We can’t see the houses along the road. We can’t see the telephone poles or the trees and the ditches. We can just see just what lies ahead of us.

And we're afraid of what lies out and beyond that big fog. This fog is nothing other than plain, common, ordinary sin. The world is enveloped in it. Adam and Eve’s sin brought on our world a dense fog. It has blinded the eyes of man. As a result, we are afraid. As a result of sin, things are twisted, things are out of balance. God created us and what a difference it would make if people believed that and acted on it. God created us. If God created us, he ought to have his own way with us. God created us and he must want to know how things are going to go. He must have a blueprint. When we don't live up to this blueprint, things are out of shape, twisted.

I think God created us like a wheel. In this wheel are spokes. In the center of the wheel is the hub and God is the hub. We are the rim and from God stems all of our living. When sin descends upon us and we put something else in the hub—we put sin in the middle—things are out of shape and our wheel is out of balance because something else is in the hub contradicting God.  Just imagine this: in the Napoleonic Wars, it costs $75 to kill a man, to kill a soldier, but in World War II, it cost the United States of America between $50,000 and $60,000 to kill one man. It cost us that much money for every enemy. Things are off balance, things are out of line. Compare the money that we spend to kill people with the amount of money we spend to educate people.

The amount of money we put in the offering plate is used to spread abroad, throughout the whole world the answer to this problem of war. The answer is the great salvation, the answer to the world's problems. We have things backwards. We're shutting the barn door after the horse is gone. It's too late then. Shut the barn door before the horse gets out. We do that by putting our money in there first, by spreading this message of the great salvation. We are in a dilemma. People are blind. People can’t see. Things are all out of shape. We are filled with fears and worries and doubts.

I found this article in a magazine. It's called “Verses From an Egotist’s Bible.” This is the Bible of too many people today. “I am the Lord my God. I shall have no other gods before me. I actually love myself with all my heart, with all my strength, with all my mind and my benefactor as myself. I am my sustainer. I shall not want. I make me to lie down in beds of pleasure. I lead me beside bars of liquor. I restock my cupboards and cabinets. I lead me in the paths of social correctness for appearance’s sake. Yet, when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear evil for there is none beside me. My wealth and position bring me no comfort. I prepare my table in the presence of my enemies and they drain my cup of pleasure. Sure as death shall fear follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in a house divided forever. For I so loved my wealth that I gave my only-begotten son that my wealth might not perish but have an increase.” This version of the Bible is the result of the fog that has descended upon us.

How shall we proceed? A man saw an eagle one day. He had never seen a big American Eagle (maybe you have) This large, majestic bird started up into the sky in majestic splendor soaring through the air. All at once it began to falter, stopped, dropped a little and then back up. The man knew something was wrong and wondered what it was. Finally the bird dropped dead on the ground. The man went over to investigate, to see what could cause this great big bird to fall like that. He found on the neck of the bird a little weasel sucking its blood. This big eagle was killed by a little weasel. Sin, like this little weasel, is sucking the blood of the world. We're not soaring so high these days. Two world wars and now on the verge of the third world war, we're not soaring so high—needing the atomic bomb, how terrible it is. That wasn't bad enough; we have a hydrogen bomb. That wasn’t enough; now we have a cobalt bomb to wipe out most of the earth. We're not soaring so high. Our blood is being sucked.

How shall we escape, the world cries? How shall we escape If we neglect such a great salvation, if we neglect—think of that word neglect. The word doesn't say if we condemn this great salvation, but just neglect it. I have a friend at Hamline who is a student minister. He just started this summer and did a lot of calling to get acquainted with his people. He got lost way out in the sticks one day and stopped at a farmhouse to find his way back to town. The man, after giving him instructions, found out he was a Methodist minister and said, “Now get in your car and get. I don't want any of your kind around this place. Get out of here.” So the minister left. The man was a Roman Catholic. But it's not that kind of man that will not escape. It's the man that just neglects; not necessarily the man who condemns, the man who says I want none of your gospel and none of your God, your church, but a man who neglects, is indifferent, not caring.

I found a really good quotation in the newspaper. I think it was about Monday. I was going to write it down, but I forgot. I looked for it on Friday but I couldn't find it. Typical! But it was good and the drift went like this. The man said the main trouble with the church these days is not the growls of the wolves on the outside but the sheepishness of the sheep on the inside—being indifferent, don't care, too busy for God, no time for church. Miss Meant-To has a comrade and her name is Didn’t-Do. Have you ever had a chance to meet them? Did they ever call on you? These two girls now live together in the house of Never Win. And I'm told that it is haunted by the ghost of Might Have Been.

We’re indifferent to the church, our neglect of our great salvation is not only for own local church, but for our world church. We’re indifferent to evangelism and missions. Our missionary emphasis is so small; we don't sacrifice, we don't care. Not only is our indifference found in the local church and in the world church, but right into our homes. How many so called Christian people have daily devotions? How many say grace at their meals? How many read the Bible every day? How many Christian parents, so called Christian parents, care enough about their own children to pray with them, read the Bible to them and take them to Sunday School? I heard a man give a very good talk on Sunday School about the stupidity of some parents’ attitudes. The kid says, “I don't want to go to school.” The parents say, “You go to school,” and off he goes on the bus to public school. He says, “I don't want to take a bath.” The parents say, “You’ll take a bath “ and  throws him in the bathtub. “I don't want to take my medicine. “ “You'll take your medicine,” and they pour it down his throat. “I don't want to go to Sunday School.” “Well, that's all right, religion is not to be forced on you. When you're old enough, you can make up your mind about God.” Indifference.

I went over to the Baptist Church one night this week. Chuck showed me the return slips from the Release Time program. They send out letters to all parents to write “yes or no, I would like to have my child participate in Release Time instructions.” The number of Cedar and West Bethel kids that don't go was pathetic. My mouth got wider and wider as I read those slips. Any parent that thinks twenty minutes on Sunday morning is enough religious instruction, no wonder the world is in a fix. Five days a week, eight hours of public school, and twenty minutes a week to hear about God. Indifference—I don't care.

A farm house was a wonderful Christian place. They had a beautiful plaque on the wall displaying a text taken from the Book of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And they did too—wonderful Christian people. They prayed, read their Bible, witnessed, gave, worked—anything you could want that family did. Many of the children as they grew up one by one accepted Christ as their Savior. The whole family was a testimony for Jesus except the oldest boy whose name was Henry. Henry was getting tired of this religion business, this church business. So he was getting a little indifferent to it. He wasn't a Christian. The old farmer was worried about him. One day as they were sitting in the living room, just the two of them with the plaque, the farmer looked up and said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I guess I'm gonna have to make a new plaque.” Henry asked, “Why?” “Because I'm gonna have to change it to read ‘As for me and my house, except Henry, we will serve the Lord'.” It made such an impression on Henry that he was finally saved. What a difference it would be if each one of our homes did that, “As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Christ needs people to take a definite stand, not just the middle of the road, not just nominal Christians, not just average Christians, but people that are sold on telling the gospel and will give their lives for it if necessary, not indifferent, not neglected? How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

God sent His Son into the world to die on the cross to shed his blood that when we believe in Him, we can have eternal life. We once were lost; we're lost in this dense fog of sin. We’re lost, we don’t know our way. We don’t know where we are going. But when we have Jesus in our heart, we're saved, we’re found of God. We once were blind; we can’t see through the fog. The world can't see; it can’t see the future. They can only see as far as their car lights will go. But when we have Jesus in our hearts, we see. When the eyes are fading, we can see through this fog and we can discern right from wrong, we can discern God's truth from sin, we can see eternal life and we can see how to live for him. We once were blind but now we see because Jesus died.

Have you experienced this great salvation? Someone has said it’s as easy as ABC. A— all have sinned. B— believe in the Lord. C— come confess your sin. A—all have sinned, realize you're a sinner. B—believe in the Lord, trust in Him, give it all to him. C—confess your sins day by day. If we have experienced salvation, get off the middle of the road, quit neglecting. Sacrifice. Let’s shout  from the house top what Jesus can do.

Let us pray. Our Father, forgive us for our neglect. Forgive us for our indifference. O God, we thank you that Jesus Christ saves us from our sins. He saves us from eternal damnation. He saves us from the fears, worries and miseries of this life. Dear God, teach us how to believe, trust and receive amazing grace. O Father, for those of us who know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, give us grace in the Spirit to stand up for him, to sacrifice with our money, sacrifice with our time and give our lives if necessary to spread further this wonderful message of God for all people. We ask all these things in the precious name of Jesus our Savior. Amen

© 1954 Douglas I. Norris