Obedience Not Optional

The greatest mistake people can make is to believe that they can come to God whenever they choose. The truth is that you can only obey God when the Spirit is speaking to your heart. As a farmer, I knew there was a time to sow wheat and get a harvest of wheat, and there was another time to sow wheat and get nothing. As an evangelist, I know there is a time you can say yes to God, and there is another time you cannot say yes.

One of the strongest statements Jesus ever made is found in Luke 13:24: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." That text confused me for a long time. How could a loving God hold anyone out of His kingdom who was seriously seeking to enter in? It just didn't make sense. Then I noticed the words, "shall not be able." This placed the problem on the people instead of God. God was willing and able to take them in, but they were not able to accept His salvation. They had become so settled and hard in their long-term disobedience that they were incapable of true repentance. Like the seekers of the Old Testament "they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it" (Amos 8:12).

Someday it will be too late to find salvation. Someday the door of probation will close, and no one will be able to enter in. Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation. No wonder Jesus called this the sin that can never be forgiven. It is the sin of waiting too long to obey, until the soul is set in its mold of stubborn delay.

I repeat that you can only obey God when the Spirit is convicting you to come. When that Spirit is driven away and rejected, there is no possibility for repentance.

The interesting story is told of a great eagle who spotted the carcass of a calf being swept along the Niagara River on an ice floe. Swooping down on his mighty wings the eagle settled on the ice and began to feed on the carcass. Trusting the strength of those wings, he continued to feast until just before the deadly plunge over the cataract. Then he spread those powerful wings to make his escape, but alas, his talons had frozen into the ice, and he could not move. He was swept over the precipice and crushed on the rocks below.

I've also known people who waited too long to make a decision. Over and over again men have spoken to me at the door after a crusade meeting: "I know what you're preaching is the truth, and I'm planning to do something about it." Others tell me that they really are thinking about the things they have heard.

Is God looking for people who will be great talkers about the truth? And what about those who are always thinking about the truth? Jesus will never welcome anyone into the Kingdom with these words: "Well said, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Neither will the Master ever say, "Well thought, thou good and faithful servant." But He will say to all who enter there, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

The most presumptuous thing anyone can do is to pray for an understanding of the truth, and then refuse to obey when God answers that prayer. It is better not to know the truth than to reject it after knowing. "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22).

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