The Danger of Delay
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“And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place: for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. “And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. “And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.” —Genesis 19:14–16
“And while he lingered….” Lot was a citizen of Sodom and Gomorrah. He had received a message from God that judgment was coming and those cities were going to be destroyed. Lot not only received the message; Lot believed the message. He believed it so strongly that he even shared the message with others.
He said to his sons-in-law, “Get you out of this place: for the Lord will destroy this city.” But the sad thing was, after Lot heard and believed the message of coming judgment, “…he lingered.”
If we could call people out of Hell this morning and ask them one at a time, “Sir, why are you in Hell? Did you not know how to be saved?” I am sure that some might say, “I did not know how to be saved”; but I believe literally thousands would say, “Yes, I knew how to be saved.”
“Did you not have a desire to go to Heaven?”
“Oh yes. As a matter of fact, I even had plans of going to Heaven. I thought that someday I would trust Christ as my Saviour.”
“Well, what are you doing in Hell?”
“I kept putting it off, and one day I died suddenly in an automobile accident, and here I am.”
I don’t think you would find one person in Hell who deliberately planned to go there, but each waited too late and died without the Saviour.
A fable illustrates what I am saying.
It is said that many centuries ago the Devil called all the demons of Hell together. He asked for suggestions as to how to damn the souls of men.
One demon gave one suggestion; another gave another; another gave another. Then a brilliant demon came forward and said, “I’ll tell you what let’s do. Let’s tell men there is a Bible; that the Bible is God’s Word. Let’s tell men that there are a real Hell and a real Heaven; that people who die without the Saviour go to Hell; and that those who believe in Christ, when they die, go to Heaven. Let’s tell men that God loves them and has provided a way whereby they can be saved. Let’s tell men they ought to be saved, but let’s tell them they don’t need to be saved now. Let’s tell them to wait awhile.”
It is said that all the demons of Hell, and even Satan himself, applauded the brilliant demon and said, “That’s it! That’s what we will do! Men will fall for that! That’s the best way to damn the souls of men!”
Of course, no meeting like that took place; but judging by my own experience as a pastor and soul winner, I believe Satan’s chief instrument is getting men to put it off and to die without the Saviour.
Nobody plans to go to Hell.
Someone has said, “The road to ‘By and By’ leads to the house of ‘Never.’”
R. A. Torrey said that a wise man, when he sees a thing ought to be done, does it immediately. A fool, when he sees a thing ought to be done, says, “Yes, it ought to be done, but I won’t do it now.”
Torrey goes on to say that there is no surer way to success in this life, let alone the life to come, than when a man sees that he ought to do something and then does it immediately; and the surest way to failure or defeat in life is when he sees a thing ought to be done, and says, “Yes, it ought to be done, but I’ll wait and do it later.”
Hell is populated because men have waited and finally died without the Saviour.
The Bible has examples of men like this.
When Paul reasoned with Felix “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).
So far as the Bible records and early history go, Felix never called for Paul. Felix is suffering the torments of Hell, not because he wanted to go there, but because he waited for “a convenient season.”
You here who have not yet received Christ as Saviour, if I would ask you one by one, “Do you want to go to Hell when you die?” not a one would say yes. “Do you want to go to Heaven when you die?” Everyone would say yes.
If I would ask you to receive Jesus Christ today, many of you would say, “Not today.” And before I could ask, “Why not today?” Satan would have already given you a frivolous excuse, like “I don’t want to be a hypocrite” or “I am afraid I can’t live it” or “I don’t have the right feeling.”
The truth is, no man has an excuse to go on without the Saviour. If you are not yet saved and are of sound mind, you ought to receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour before you leave the building this morning.
Let me give you several reasons why it is dangerous to delay.
The man who knows he is a sinner, knows there is a real Heaven, knows Jesus died for sinners, knows that he can be saved, and yet delays, faces…
The Danger of a Hardened Heart
Isn’t it strange that one of the things Satan tells people who are not saved is, “Wait until you feel more like it.” The Devil told me that many times before I trusted Christ. He knew I felt more like it then than I would ever feel.
The truth is, every time the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart and you say no and refuse to accept Christ, your heart becomes harder and harder, until, after awhile, when God speaks, you don’t even hear His voice. The Devil knows that. That is why he says, “Wait until you feel more like it.”
I have had people say to me, “I don’t have the feeling; when I get the feeling, I will go.”
There is, in delay, the danger of a hardened heart. Let me give you an illustration:
Suppose you had never owned an alarm clock. You get one, set it to go off at 5:00 in the morning. The first time that alarm clock goes off, you nearly jump out of your skin. It wakes you with a start!
The next morning it takes a little more than one ring to wake you.
The next morning it rings a little longer before you shut it off.
Soon you pull the pillow over your head and sleep on while it rings on and on.
I am saying, the first time you hear it, your ears are sensitive; it wakes you immediately! But by listening to it over and over, you get to the place where you will sleep right on, as if it had never rung.
That is what happens to the man who says no to Christ. After awhile, when the Holy Spirit speaks and pleads, his heart is so hard, he has no desire to trust Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Tell me why it is that in this congregation some of you who are forty or fifty years old come here Sunday after Sunday, yet you walk out of this building LOST! You know that if you die, you will go to Hell. You know that! Yet you walk out of here without trusting Christ as Saviour. What has happened to you?
I’ll tell you what happened. Your heart has become hardened to the place where it is no longer sensitive, and you don’t even want to go forward.
What has happened to people like that? They have heard the Gospel over and over and delayed and delayed until their hearts are hard!
There is danger in delay; there is the danger of a hardened heart.
Someone made a survey of one thousand Christians. Out of the survey, 776 of those people were saved before they were twelve years old. Think of that! People sometimes laugh at child conversion, but the truth is, the majority of this crowd here were saved when you were kids. I was saved when I was eleven years old.
Do you know what that means? It means that seventy-five percent were saved before they were twelve. That means if you are over twelve years of age, your chances of being saved are only twenty-five percent.
I am not saying that God does not love you, that God won’t save you after age twelve. I am saying that your chances of being saved are only twenty-five percent.
There is danger in delay; there is a danger of a hardened heart.
That doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to save you. But if you have put it off a long time, your heart is possibly already hardened to the point where it will take something awfully strong to move you toward Christ.
I am thrilled when the kids come in on the buses—and thousands come in. I am thrilled to see them accept Christ when their hearts are tender.
I have preached to congregations of older people and had them raise their hands if they were not saved. I couldn’t get them to budge for anything. I have stood at the platform and cried and pled. I have walked down the aisle and taken them by the hand and said, “Please, sir.” But they have said, with a hard, stern face, “No!”
Are they mean people? No. Then what has happened to them? Their hearts are hardened. They have said no to the Gospel all those years.
If God speaks to your heart in any measure at all, if the Holy Spirit tugs a little bit, then thank God that you can still detect that, and don’t put it off another second.
Every time you hear the Gospel and have an opportunity to be saved, one more chance to Heaven has gone by for you. The next Sunday you hear it again; another chance has gone by. You read a Bible tract, and the Holy Spirit tugs at year heart; another chance has gone by. After awhile, you will get your final call from God.
You say, “I won’t get like that.” Everybody says that. But how can you explain people who come to church and listen and know if they die they will go to Hell, yet go out unsaved? They didn’t think they would get like that either, but they did. They put off salvation until their hearts were hardened. “And while he lingered….”
There not only is the danger of the hardened heart, but there is…
The Danger of Losing Your Soul
Man is a living soul, and Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
I wish I could preach that as if Jesus were standing here preaching it. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” If you gain the whole world—become a billionaire, own real estate and cattle and automobiles and everything under Heaven—and lose your soul, you have made an idiotic bargain.
A man had a great fortune. He put it all into one large diamond. Everywhere he went, he took that diamond with him.
One day he was on board a ship traveling from one country to the other. Walking up and down the deck, he kept tossing that diamond into the air. A fellow-passenger said to him, “Man, don’t do that. The ship may bob, hit a wave, and you will lose it.”
He said, “I haven’t missed it yet,” and kept tossing the diamond into the air. Closer to the edge he tossed it. The sun shining on the diamond blinded him momentarily. As he reached out this time to grab it, he missed, and the diamond—his fortune—fell into the sea. As it fell, the man exclaimed, “Lost! Lost! Lost!”
You say that man was a fool. I agree, but he wasn’t as big a fool as men who gamble with their salvation, gamble with their souls and say no to Jesus day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and then die without Christ!
Not only is there the danger of the loss of the soul, there is…
The Danger of Going to Hell
You may not like to hear about it, but there is a real, literal, burning Hell, and when a man dies without Christ, he goes there. “The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22,23). It’s a place of torment, a place of unending punishment, a place of hopelessness. There is no way out. We must stay out.
Isn’t it strange? When a sinner has been in Hell for one thousand years, the Bible will still say that “the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). The sinner has been in Hell ten thousand years, yet the wrath of God is still abiding on him. When a sinner has been in Hell ten thousand years and cries back, “How long? How long must I stay in Hell?” the demon choir of Hell will sing back the anthem of the doomed and damned, “Forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever!”
Suppose I said to you, “There is a time bomb planted in this building. It may go off in two minutes or five minutes. But it may not go off for a year or for fifteen or twenty years. Still, it may go off at any minute.” If I made that announcement, how many of you would stay to hear the end of my sermon? Not a one! And I wouldn’t stay to preach it.
Many times you have read in the newspaper where the police in some city got a call that a bomb had been planted in a certain school. What did they do? Immediately they rushed over—sirens sounding, red lights flashing—grabbed the kids, opened the doors, rushed them out and evacuated the school! Why? A bomb is in there. It is going to blow up, and somebody may get killed! They can’t afford to take a chance. Why? It may go off at any minute!
A man knows he may die at any minute, and if he dies without Christ, he is going straight to Hell. Yet the man is willing to take the chance. “I may have ten more years. Or I may have fifty or more years.”
One who does that shows where his values are. You place more value on your physical life than on your immortal soul.
If I knew when I was a child what I know now, no preacher would ever have finished his sermon. I would have stood up in the middle of his sermon, come down the aisle and said, “Sir, stop! Jesus may come before you finish. I may die, sir. Wait a minute, sir! Show me how to be saved now, then finish your sermon!”
You are living on a time bomb. Jesus may come at any moment. Death may be soon. Then where will you be?
Not only is there a danger of going to Hell, but in delay there is…
The Danger of Missing Heaven
“Oh,” you say, “you are old-fashioned.” Yes, I am! I believe there is a literal Heaven just like there is a literal Hell. Heaven is not a state of the mind, but a real place. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you [not a state of the mind]. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2,3).
I have missed an awful lot down here; I don’t mean to miss Heaven. The last two chapters in the Bible graphically describe the Holy City, the eternal Home of the saved. This city is fifteen hundred miles square. It has streets of pure gold. There is a river of life running out of that city. This river of life cures everything. It is the Fountain of Youth Ponce de Leon looked for for many years but never found.
An atheist was a friend of a good Christian. When the Christian took sick and was in the hospital at the point of death, many people wanted to see him. Since he felt so bad, he wouldn’t see anyone. But when his atheist friend came, he let him in.
After a short time, the atheist asked this Christian man, “I know a lot of good Christian people from your church have come to see you, but you wouldn’t let them in. I’m an atheist. Why did you let me in?”
The friend said from his deathbed, “Sir, I will see all my Christian friends again. We will have an eternity to spend together in Heaven; but since I will never see you again after I die, I wanted to see you for the last time.”
The atheist wept. Then the Christian led him to Christ.
If you are a sinner and delay getting saved, you face the danger of missing Heaven. If you die tonight, a Christian, you will go to Heaven.
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”—II Cor. 5:8.
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”—Phil. 1:23.
I wish I had time to preach in detail on Heaven and tell you more about it and what kind of place it is. The Bible describes it. Oh, don’t miss Heaven!
Let me say that there is also…
The Danger of Not Participating in the Rapture
The man who knows the Gospel, who has heard how to be saved, who has had an opportunity to be saved—if that man dies without Jesus Christ, or if Jesus Christ comes while that man is still alive, his opportunity for salvation will be closed. The one who knows how to be saved and rejects the Saviour cannot be saved once the Saviour comes.
In 2nd Thessalonians 2 we read:
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”—Vss. 7,8. “…because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”—Vss. 10–12. Putting it in laymen’s terms: “You heard the truth, but you would not accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. You went on having pleasure in your unrighteousness or sin, and you did not want the Saviour, though you knew how to be saved. When Jesus comes, He will send you a strong delusion, so that you might believe a lie and might be damned.”When Jesus comes and the saints are caught away to be with Him, the unsaved man who has already heard the Gospel and is left behind couldn’t be saved if he wanted to be. The coming of Christ is a danger to the unsaved because it seals the destiny and doom of those who heard the Gospel but did not heed the Gospel.
That is not all; there is…
The Danger of Sudden Death
Nobody knows when he is going to die. You may say, “I don’t like to hear talk about death.” Well, when people quit dying, I will quit talking about death. You don’t like to hear about death because you know you are not right with God. If you want to hear a little, quiet sermonette on Sunday morning, you are in the wrong place.
If you say, “I don’t like all this hellfire preaching,” you too are in the wrong place.
Billy Sunday said, “If we had more preaching on Hell from the pulpit, we would have less Hell in the congregation.”
There is more in the Bible about Hell than there is about Heaven. Jesus preached more on Hell than any preacher who has ever lived! He just kept on saying, “You will go to Hell! The worm never dies! The fire is not quenched! It is a real place!” He continually warned men to stay out of Hell.
In this congregation sits a young man. I led him to Christ; I led his wife to Christ; I led his daughter to Christ. I spoke to him about two Sunday mornings ago at the door in the back, and I heard him tell this story.
He was so burdened about his brother, in his twenties, that he took off from work and went to Florida to try to lead him to Christ. He said to his brother, “I’m saved, and I want you to be saved. I want to tell you how to get saved.”
They prayed. As he tried to show his brother how to get saved, his brother laughed at him! “I’m young. I have plenty of time to get saved later on. Leave me alone! I am just in my twenties!”
This man came back to Atlanta brokenhearted because his brother wouldn’t accept Christ.
A week later his brother picked up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker picked up a revolver and unloaded six shots into him and dumped him out in the desert in Florida.
He was found a few weeks later and brought back here. I conducted his funeral. When I stood over that casket, I could almost hear him say, “Leave me alone! I’m young! I am just in my twenties! I have plenty of time to get saved later on!”
So far as we know, he is now in Hell!
There is the danger of sudden death; you don’t know when you will die.
President Coolidge’s son went out and played tennis. A blister came on his heel, and in a few hours’ time he was dead with blood poison. You don’t know when death may strike you.
Dr. George Truett was saved as a child. When he was a young man, they were having a revival. He invited a school chum to go to the revival with him. The chum went.
George Truett said to him after the preacher had preached, “Now, will you trust Christ as your Saviour?”
The boy said, “Let me alone, George. Leave me alone, George. Not tonight, George. I’ll go tomorrow.”
George said, “Will you come back tomorrow?”
“Yes, I’ll come back tomorrow. But leave me alone tonight, George. Not tonight; tomorrow.”
George Truett said he went back to the meeting the next night, but the young fellow wasn’t there; the fourth night he wasn’t there.
George went to check on him. He knocked on the door. The boy’s mother came to the door, and George said, “Where is So-and-so?”
“He took sick that night after he left the service. He has pneumonia. The doctor says he may not pull through. Nobody has been let in to see him. But you and he were very close friends, George, and I think it is all right for you to see him.”
George Truett said, “I walked in. I saw his lips moving. I wanted to hear what he was saying. He had a very high fever and was almost out of his mind. I leaned my ear over to his mouth to hear what he was saying, and it was, ‘Not tonight, George. Not to-night, George. Leave me alone, George. I will go some other time, but not tonight, George.’”
This young man died and went to Hell!
There is the danger of sudden death.
The Royal Charter, that great ship, had been around the world. She had touched every important port, and the message had been received that she would reach her dock in Liverpool the next morning. But during the night she went down between Queensport and Liverpool.
The wife of the first mate was a member of Dr. William Taylor’s church, so they went to Dr. Taylor and said, “Would you go tell the wife of the first mate that the ship went down and her husband went down with it?”
Dr. Taylor went early that morning to give the message. When he arrived at the door, the anxious wife greeted him, thinking it was her husband.
Dr. Taylor noticed that breakfast was on the table and the table neatly arrayed and the food piping hot. He knew that she was expecting her husband.
Dr. Taylor said, “I am sorry to tell you, but the Royal Charter went down between Queens-port and Liverpool.”
She screamed, “O my God! O my God! So near home…and lost! So near home…and lost!”
That is a true story. The ship had been around the world and touched at every important port. It got nearly home and went down.
I hope I will never know, but I am wondering how many people are in Hell who got so near and were lost. I wonder how many people have heard me preach and have felt the Holy Spirit pull at their hearts when I have given invitations, but have said, “No, no, not me! I am going to wait awhile!”
To continue to wait is to continue in the worst kind of sin that you can commit. The only sin that will send you to Hell is unbelief. “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). To continue not to trust Jesus nor believe that He died for you nor put your faith in Him is to continue in unbelief.
Unbelief is the one sin for which Jesus did not die. If He had died for unbelief, everybody would be saved, because the only folks who are going to Hell are the ones who won’t believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
You can be saved. Don’t put it off any longer.