“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” – James 4:17
Are we doing all we can? Are we doing what we should be doing? There is a cost of doing nothing. You’re on a double-decker city bus, at night, on your way home from a busy day. You count yourself lucky to have found a seat on the lower level. Who wants to walk up another flight of stairs at the end of the day? You’re sitting there just trying to mind your own business when, from the upper level of the bus, you hear shouts of, “Oh my God, what’s he doing? Make him stop. Make him stop.” You do nothing hoping it isn’t anything serious. A moment later a menacing man saunters down from above, glares at the other passengers, tells the bus driver to stop, and departs the bus. Then another passenger descends to tell the bus driver they need to call 911. The bus stops. Most passengers depart not wanting to be embroiled in the aftermath of the incident. Shortly a man in a bloody white shirt comes down assisted by his girlfriend. There’s not a lot of blood, but enough. They are asking for help. But no one is responding. Most just leave. You feel compelled to help. Do you?
This account is based on a true story.  The person relaying the account did indeed try to help. But in the end, the victim died of his wounds. What would have happened if more people would have intervened earlier? Maybe more people would have been injured. Maybe a life would have been saved. There is a cost of doing nothing.
Engel versus Vitale on June 25th 1962 and Abington School District versus Schempp on June 17th 1963 are the dates associated with the removal of prayer and Bible study from public schools. Where was the church when this happened? Were they praying? I hope so. But there is a time to act and intervene. There was a time when God said ot Joshua, “Get up! Why do you live thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they also transgressed” (Joshua 7:10-11). There’s a time to “get up!” and deal with sin. Did the Church do what it should have done to resist being evicted from public schools?
In 1980 the Ten Commandments were banned from public schools. Where was the Church when this occurred? What were they doing? Since that time SAT scores, even those measured with dumbed down tests, have declined. But the academic decline is nothing compared with the moral decline. Since these righteous subtractions have been made in our schools, school violence has steadily increased as has the severity of issues found in our schools. It used to be spit balls, chewing gum and maybe pulling a pigtail was the level of offense found in schools. Oh, there’d be an occasional fight too. There may have even been a hem too high or beer or two smuggled into class. But today we have metal detectors to prevent weapons coming into schools. And we’re not only talking knives here; we’re talking guns. We have rampant pornography, promiscuity, and drug use. There is a big problem with marijuana use permeating our schools today. Foul language and disrespecting one’s neighbor is so acceptable today as to not even be counted an issue. In addition to that, as The Bible and Ten Commandments have been removed, a vacuum has been created where now our children and culture are turning more and more to horoscopes, witchcraft, zombies, and atheism. People are getting guidance from sports stars, musicians and Hollywood more than from a deeper source such as the Bible. There is a cost of doing nothing.
On January 22nd 1973 the Supreme Court decided abortion was a woman’s right. All of this based on a false narrative that was only exposed decades later.  Since then, there have been roughly 60 MILLION abortions performed in the United States. Where was the Church when these events were unfolding? Could we have done more? There is a cost of doing nothing.
Since the removal of the Ten Commandments from the public square, broken homes, child abuse, crime rates, divorce rates, thievery and corruption, and greed have all increased exponentially. It’s hard to find an honest person nowadays. And what is called “honest” today would be called less than honest in the past. There is a cost of doing nothing.
Since the June 26th 20015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell versus Hodges there has been an avalanche of change. Since the Court’s decision to strike down all state bans on same-sex marriage, morality has been redefined. Since that decision requiring all states to recognize out of state same-sex marriage licenses, we see the public square flooded with what would have previously been seen as promiscuity and perversity. Where was the Church when these things were being instituted? Were we involved? Were we making our voices heard? Were we resisting enough?
In less than five years homosexuality and transgenderism has not only been normalized, but it is has become part of public-school curriculum guaranteeing it will be entrenched in generations to come. No child is too young for exposure to this sexual indoctrination as the drag queen hours in elementary schools and public libraries evidence. Sexual confusion proliferates as our children are taught upwards of a hundred gender possibilities. Our children are not only being taught about sex; they are being taught the how tos of sex. This confusion is detrimental and abusive to our children. Parental consent is an afterthought when it comes to gender reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy for the young. Parents don’t know what to do. Parenting used to be simple. You had a boy or a girl and you parented accordingly. Today, parents are being told they don’t know what they have. And that can be dangerous.  There is a cost for doing nothing.
Today “boys” who identify as girls are encouraged to use the girl’s bathrooms regardless of how the girls feel about it. Today girls’ sports are being decimated and destroyed by “boys” who identify as and compete as girls. Transgenderism is coming through and no girl better get in its way! There’s a cost for doing nothing.
Even if you are in favor of the LGBT lifestyle, it should give you pause that government supplied public education is enforcing and indoctrinating young children regardless of parental input. Are you as a parent, whatever you believe, willing to relinquish control of your children? Are you really willing to allow a government, which has a track record of doing things less efficiently, less effectively, and less edifyingly, to determine the overall health and future of your children? The idea of relying on government stems in part from and ever-increasing socialist mindset. This is a mindset that sees children and people as property of the state rather than as a part of families with parents or family overseers. The idea that “it takes a village” to rear children is a challenge to the family as a sovereign societal unit. The biblical idea that families are the foundation of a stable society is not only being challenged, but is being supplanted with the alternative of State oversight and control as a societies’ web of stability. This has become an ever-increasing trend of our day. There is a cost of doing nothing.
When I say “There is a cost of doing nothing,” I don’t mean to imply that no one does anything. There are a few people who do some things. Pareto’s Rule states 20% of a group does 80% of the work and 80% of a group does 20% of the work. That’s an interesting rule. Being in ministry for over thirty years and being around not only my own church but other churches and ministries, I can attest this rule is frequently not far off. And amongst that 80%, if these figures are true, are some people who are either doing nothing, or only a very little of what they could be doing.
For instance, I could have gone on and on about the decline of conditions in our nation. There’s so much I didn’t touch on. Economically, environmentally, entitlements, and a host of other areas. Most importantly, spiritually are we all doing all that we could do? I’m not looking to heap guilt on anyone, but I think if we are honest, we’d have to admit we aren’t doing all that we could and should be doing in God’s plans. When we look at the decline of our nation spiritually and morally over the last 100 years, we have to admit that this happened on our watch. While we were building our own lives and doing our own things, our nation and many of the people around us have been going to hell in a handbasket. There is a cost of doing nothing.
This shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus spoke of the Church in the Last Days as one that was, “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,” and then, because of this lukewarmness Jesus said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Are we lukewarm? Are you lukewarm? Am I lukewarm? Do we make Jesus sick to His stomach? Do we want to do that? There is a cost of doing nothing.
Maybe we aren’t doing “nothing,” but are we doing enough? What’s enough? Enough is whatever God tells you is enough. The Bible states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We belong to God. He is sculpting us. The word “workmanship” here literally means poetry. We are a poem God is crafting. Each stanza of our life-poem is made up of work and ways God directs us, by His Spirit, to live in. I think we forget that a lot of times. I think we forget God has a plan, a destiny, a purpose, an objective for each and every one of us. I think we allow ourselves to get caught up and ensnared in the things of this world sometimes, to the extent that we lose sight of what God wants to do in and through us. That’s why God’s word says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15; cf. also verses 16-17).
This is not a cosmic killjoy teaching. I’m not looking to make you feel bad about your recreational activities. But I am trying to have you consider whether ot not what you live for is what God wants you or has designed for you to live for. “Recreation,” is activity designed to re-create us or to help us revive physically, mentally, and yes, even spiritually. Recreation is to revitalize us so that we will be ready and invigorated to get back in the real game of life. We are all caught up in the make-believe games of sports and entertainment. The problem is that as a society and even as a Church we have gotten topsy turvy and made our recreational activities our destiny and reason for living rather than the poetical things of God. And when that happens, we end up off track, out of sync, disconnected and discontinued in the things God would have us involved in.
What would Jesus have us involved in? Well, Jesus told His “disciples,” or His learners, those who followed Him close and were ever-growing, learning, developing, bearing fruit in life, He told them to be salt and light (Matthew 5:1, 13-16), Salt is a preservative, a flavor enhancer, a purifier. Therefore, we should live in a way to preserve His truth, add flavor to a tasteless world, and bring purity to the pervasive perversities around us. Jesus told His disciples to be light. A little match can light up an entire dark room. A light exposes darkness. Light shows people the way. Light enables one to see, and read, and learn, and understand. Therefore, we ought to be exposing darkness and showing people the bright light of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and all of the substance of God’s Holy word.
When we fail to be salt, the world becomes putrefied and perverse. That’s exactly what we see today. When we don’t let our light shine, the darkness becomes thick and black like the smoke of the fires of hell. That too, is exactly what we see. There’s a cost when we don’t do what we should be doing.
There’s a cost for doing nothing. But there is also a cost when we choose to do something. Jesus said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Luke 14:28). When we follow Jesus, we too will need to count the cost. And to those who would endeavor to do so, Jesus said, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Those are Jesus’ words, not mine.
Now you may try and squeeze your way out of doing anything by reasoning, “Well, I don’t want to be a disciple of Jesus. I just want to go to church once in a while and enjoy the comfort of the hope of heaven. I don’t want to go into ‘ministry,’ or really get involved in church types of things. I just want to get into heaven.” You can have that attitude. And God’s grace will likely get you through. But if you do choose such an attitude, you run the risk of making Jesus sick to His stomach. And if that’s the way you choose to live, you’ll never really experience the fullness of life Jesus promised. In fact, if the only “cost” you’re interested in is the cost of the things of this world, its most likely you’ll encounter the “thief,” who Jesus described as one who comes around, “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” Count the cost and follow close to Jesus and you’ll find abundant life (John 10:10).
Maybe you’d like to ask, “Okay Pastor, what should we do? How can we help turn things around?”
Pray. Someone has said, “You can do more than pray after you’ve prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you’ve prayed.” It is in prayer that the Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13). It is in the prayer that the Spirit leads us (Romans 8:14). It is in prayer that the Spirit convicts us of things we need to be doing (John 16:8-11). It is in prayer that the Spirit empowers us to do what He desires us to do (Romans 8:26).
Prioritize sharing the gospel. Jesus said, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 9:36). Sharing the gospel that can save souls is our top priority. Nothing should ever displace sharing the gospel. If we help a person gain victory over an addiction or get back on their feet financially, if we help them with housing or even to heal a relationship, it all pales in comparison to a person’s eternal soul. The soul is eternal. Everything else is expendable and worthless when compared to a soul.
But don’t neglect other needs. While the soul is our top priority, we shouldn’t minimize other human needs. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). The converse is also true according to Jesus, “Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matthew 25:45). The Apostle John, known as the Apostle of Love, was inspired to write, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). We shouldn’t worry so much about people taking advantage of us or feeding into a person’s sense of entitlement. If the Lord brings someone to our attention, provides us with the means, and prods us to give or help, then in the Spirit we should do that; always.
Do all that you do in love. “Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). Whatever we say, should be said in love. We are to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And we are to love like Jesus loved, sacrificially. Let is be said of us, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died or them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Jesus died for us on the cross when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He died for us out of His love for us. We should love others in the same way.
Be empowered by the Holy Spirit. The love of Christ that compels us comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit indwells the believer when they are born again, or spiritually regenerated; given spiritual eternal life (John 3; Titus 3:4-7). The Holy Spirit in us produces the fruit of God’s love in us (Galatians 5:22-24). This love is powerful and enables us to witness and serve the Lord Jesus in life (e.g. Acts 1-2). The Holy Spirit help sus when we are weak (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit enables us to do what God directs us to do.
Be properly equipped. We are to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). We are to, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). There is an entire set of spiritual armor provided by God to protect us and equip us for the battle of life. This is spiritual weaponry because our prime battle isn’t against the people we see but against the invisible spiritual forces, demons, who influence the unsaved (and even the saved at times – Ephesians 6:12). Our weaponry consists of God’s belt of truth that holds all the other armor pieces in place (Ephesians 6:14a). There is our breastplate of righteousness in Christ that guards our heart from the enemies’ condemnation (Ephesians 6:14b). Then there’s our boots of the gospel that enables us to travel to seek and to save the lost (Ephesians 6:15). The most important piece is our shield of faith that help sus ward off enemy arrows of aggravation, condemnation and discouragement (Ephesians 6:16). The last tow pieces are the helmet of salvation that guards our mind and thoughts and the sword of the Spirit which is God’s word that we use both to defend ourselves and others as well as go on the attack against the enemy (Ephesians 6:17). All of this we put on by prayer each day (Ephesians 6:18).
Be ready and stand. Our marching orders are to, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Our adversary the devil is a deceiver. Jesus said of the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning.” The devil isn’t playing games. He wants to take you out. He wants to take everyone out. He will tempt you with self-destructive thoughts. He will do the same with others. Because the Holy Spirit indwells you, you can resist him and defeat him (1 John 4:4). But those in the world are red meat to the devil. The devil “does not stand in the truth” (John 8:44). We on the other stand, are called to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” The devil deals half-truths and outright lies. We stand in the truth of God’s word (John 17:17).
Notice, we are not told to sit back and do nothing. We aren’t commanded to lunge ahead or to lag behind. We are told to stand. Someone who stands, stands out in the crowd. To stand is to take a position and defend it. To stand is to make your presence known. To stand it to be counted. To stand is to make a difference. Jesus came to witness to the truth of God and His word (John 18:37). Jesus prayed that His followers would be distinctively sanctified and set apart based on the truth of God’s word (John 17:17). Our stand is distinguished by the truth of God we stand on. When we take a stand, we resist being drawn into the unfruitful works of darkness. When we stand, we expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). When we stand, we do so as “imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).
When we stand, we stand in our homes, our marriages and families. When we stand, we stand at the station of life our Commander-God has placed us. We stand and serve Him in the trench or jungle He puts us. We stand and are counted wherever and whenever He directs us to do so. We stand online and in social media. We stand in school and out of school. We stand in the political arena and in the public square. We stand to be counted for the Lord. We stand even if outnumbered. We stand in the power of His might. We stand. We count the cost. We make a difference for the glory of God.
Resist. In Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica he is inspired to speak prophetically about the events and scenario that will lead up to the rise of Antichrist. In his inspired letter he inserts these words, “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). What is Paul talking about here? Who is he talking about? The word “restraining” (Greek katĕchō) means to hold down, to hold fast, to hold back, detain, to hinder. It means to resist something and prevent it as much as possible.
I believe Paul is speaking about the Holy Spirit as He restrains evil in the world through the instrument of the Church. We see the “mystery of lawlessness” all around us today. It’s a mystery how it has proliferated so vastly and so pervasively. The only thing restraining the full-on overflowing of dregs of hells is the Holy Spirit working through the body of Christ in this world. A day is coming when we, His Bride the Church will be raptured away to be with Jesus. Btu until that time, we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and rely on His power to oppose evil, darkness and sin wherever and whenever we find it. We are to prayerfully seek out and oppose lawlessness and sin wherever it rears its ugly head. We are to resist injustices and the victimization of the weak and helpless. We are the resist that taking of innocent life such as in the abortion industry. We resist lies and falsehoods wherever they are promoted. We resist the myriad immoralities and sins and those things which operate outside the parameters of God’s word. We restrain and resist as the Holy Spirit, the Restrainer, directs and empowers us to do so.
We go. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). This isn’t only for missionaries who travel to distant lands. This is for everyone, everywhere. Sometimes the hardest place to fulfill the Great Commission is with the people who know you best (or worst). Don’t fear. Don’t fret. Jesus is with you and He hasn’t let anyone down yet.
There is a cost for doing nothing. It’s expensive to do nothing. Years ago, at a Moody Bible Institute Missionary conference a large traffic signal was hooked up at the front of the auditorium on stage. It had colored lights that flashed. Each light represented something different:
AMBER LIGHT – Flashed every 35 hours to signify a missionary being sent out.
GREEN LIGHT – Flashed every 24 hours to signify $.02 cents spent on missions in this country.
RED LIGHT – Flashed three times every two seconds to signify a person dying without Christ.
If true, the message bound up in those lights is eternally profound.
So where is my discussion of James 4:17? Where is my discussion of the words, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin”? Here is my discussion. Here is my point. Now you know what should be done. Now you are without excuse. Now you know what the “therefore,” is there for. You know what good needs to be done. It’s up to you now, for, “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Yes, it costs a great deal to do nothing. It costs some an eternity. What will it cost you? What would Jesus have you to do? What are you doing?
Father, we come to You in Jesus’ name. We confess our inactivity. We repent of our inactivity. Father forgive us. Help us. Holy Spirit convict us in the areas we need conviction. Direct us. Inform us. Help us understand what You would have us to do. Empower us to do what You want us to do. Use us to restrain evil in this dark world. Use us to save the lost and help the hurting. Use us to reach the lost and resist the children of the devil. Father, in Jesus name, please make us what we need to be, to do what you would have us to do, for Your glory, until Jesus’ returns. In Jesus’ name. Amen.