A. The one great hindrance to the work we have been given to do is not really a great mystery: excuses. Excuses take more eligible and able workers away from the work than most anything that could stand in the way of work being done, including inexperience and sickness. We could say that inability is a reason, but often that is just as excuse. We could say that we didn't have an opportunity, but that is often an excuse. We could say we don't know of anyone interested, but that would just be an excuse. We could say a lot of things, but they would most likely be just excuses, and nothing more than that. Excuses hinder us from doing the work we should be doing, and it seems that some work so hard on making excuses that if the same amount of time and energy would have been put into doing the work, it would have already been accomplished!
B. It goes without saying, but we will anyway, that if we want to get any work done, we've got to stop making excuses and start doing the work. But some of these excuses have been passed on and passed down so frequently and regurgitated so thoughtlessly, that they have become ingrained and many do not know how to answer to the call for work in any other way than the same old tired excuses that they've always heard and always repeated. What we need is the answer to those excuses! We need to know how to answer when the call for workers is made, instead of repeating the excuses about why we cannot do what God has commanded we must.
C. So, let us take a few moments today and consider some of the excuses we may make today when there is work to be done, and the answers that God has given to them. Once we have considered the answers, we should no longer use these excuses. What we will see is that we really have No Excuses. Instead of making excuses, we should be making an effort. Instead of offering excuses, we should be offering a hand. Instead of coming up with excuses, we should be coming up with solutions. Instead of excuses, we should be working.
I. "It's not my job." [Luke 10:25-37]
A. The Question: Who Is My Neighbor?
1. One who was knowledgeable in the law asked Jesus asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, but we see that he only sought to justify himself (v. 29). He was looking for an excuse! He really didn't want to fulfill the law he was only interested in appearances; he wanted to look righteous, but that was all.
2. The story of the "Good Samaritan.
a. Both the priest and the Levite failed to help the one who was in need passing by on the other side. Neither could say that they did not see the man, for both were aware he was there, and of his condition (they both saw him). But both did not stop. Why?
b. The most likely thing that caused these men to go on their way without offering assistance is that they thought it was not their job. After all, one was a priest and one was a Levite! Well, aren't they important people? Don't they have something more important to do than to stop and help a bloodied and beaten man? What if those who beat him were still around? They no doubt thought that there were more qualified people than they that could fulfill this responsibility.
1. Christians have many responsibilities, but unless you are an evangelist, a teacher, a deacon, or an elder, there is no specification as to what particular responsibilities we have. In other words, no one is excluded from anything. Just because I am not an elder, does that mean I do not care for the souls of others? Just because I am not a deacon, does that mean I do not serve others? Just because I am not an evangelist, does that mean I do not have to spread the gospel? Of course not. We fulfill each of these responsibilities when we have the opportunity, and when we do or say everything we can to get out of doing our part, we are simply making excuses.
2. As disciples, we must always remember that we are by definition those who follow the teachings of our Master, Jesus. That is one responsibility we have. But, the other part of the definition says that we also assist in the spread of those teachings. Are doing that part, or are we making excuses. By definition, it is our job. No disciple is exempt from the work. Jesus gave us the example of the unfaithful servant who, when his master returned, was found unprepared and had not done the will of his master. What did he receive? He was "beaten with many stripes." (Luke 12:47) What kind of servants are we: workers or excuse-makers?
II. "I've already done my part." [Mark 7:1-13]
A. The Pharisees' Condemnation.
1. The Pharisees questioned Jesus, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" (v. 5) But Jesus had an answer, and it was another question. In the Matthew account (15:3), He asked, "Why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" A more important question! While they were so concerned about tradition, they had laid aside the word of God as unimportant.
2. (Back to Mark) In His questioning of them, He pointed out the command of Moses to honor the parents, which they had set aside. In effect, they were saying, "I've already done my part I don't have to obey that command." In this case, they felt they were no longer accountable to one of God's commands because they convinced themselves that by doing some other "good deed" they were released like God has ever established His judgments would be based on the number of our deeds!
1. Some Christians today offer this as an excuse why they do not fulfill their responsibilities, with some pointing back to their many years of service as their excuse for "retiring." Some older Christians, instead of setting the example and teaching the younger, are stepping back and doing nothing, while saying, "It's someone else's turn now." Where did they get the idea that Christian service is a matter of the number of years served? If I remember right, Jesus said, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10)
2. The Christian is admonished to "not grow weary while doing good," and "as we have opportunity, let us do good to all." (Gal. 6:9, 10). Service to the Lord is more than filling a particular spot on the pew each week and throwing a piece of paper in the plate as it is passed. The majority of our Christian life is lived outside these doors, and what are we doing: working, or making excuses?
III. "I'm not capable." [Exo. 4:10-17]
1. When God came to Moses and commanded him to go to Egypt and bring out His children, Moses balked. He claimed inability (v. 10) and tried to convince God that someone else was more qualified than he (v. 13). When he was chosen to do the will of God, he basically said, "Here am I, send him."
2. God was angry at Moses for such a pitiful excuse as this. His rejoinder to Moses was a reminder of just who he was speaking to! To him, the Lord said, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?" (v. 11) His own ability was not going to bring the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity it was by God's power! And in the end, what was the result of him going? Success!
1. This is one of the most frequently-used excuses today. It doesn't matter what the responsibility, someone is always going to say, "I just can't do that. Aren't there more qualified people to do it?" As long as there is work to do, someone will try to excuse themselves form the work. The root problem is the same as it was with Moses: Trust in self and not in God.
2. Whatever responsibilities we have today, we must learn to trust in the power of God and the surety of His word and not ourselves. It is not a matter of who is most convincing, it is a matter of the power of God's word. Do we really believe it is the power of God to salvation? The answer: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phlp. 4:13)
IV. "They will never listen anyway." [Ezek. 2:3-7]
A. The Situation:
1. On this occasion, God has come to Ezekiel with the command to go to the Israelites and speak His word to them. Like so many other prophets before, there was the great likelihood that they would not listen to those words and would likely continue in unfaithfulness. Ezekiel probably understood their stubbornness just as much as anyone else, and would probably be hesitant to go, knowing their attitude toward obedience.
2. But when God commanded him to go, He also knew of their stubbornness of the Israelites and admitted that he was being sent to "a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children." (v. 3, 4) What good would it do? "As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse; for they are a rebellious house; yet they will know that a prophet has been among them." (v. 5). The command to Ezekiel was, "You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious." (v. 7)
1. This is a common excuse offered up today regarding the spreading of God's word. Many look around in our current society and see the disinterest of the majority of people they know, and have felt the discouragement of so many they have tried to teach, and they have concluded no one listens and no one cares any more. Many, having faced these situations, throw up their hands and give up on trying to teach anyone.
2. While it may be true that "they" won't listen anyway, that does not relieve us of our responsibility to teach, or to do anything, for that matter. The Lord went on to remind Ezekiel, "When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand." (3:17) His responsibility was to obey the commands of the Lord, and that command was to go and warn the people. For us, it may be leading a lost soul to the truth or an erring brother back, but it doesn't matter if they will listen or not we still have a responsibility to go to them. Answer: Who of us would have believed that the man named Saul would be a prime candidate for conversion?
V. "Behold, I thought, " [2 Kings 5:1-14]
1. When Naaman was told that there was a man of God in Israel who could heal him of his leprosy, he did not hesitate to make contact. He sent a letter to the king of Israel, along with 10 talents of silver and 6000 shekels of gold and 10 changes of clothing (v. 5). When the response came to come to Elisha's house, Naaman again did not hesitate, going right away.
2. But when he arrived, Elisha did not even come out to meet him, sending a messenger out to him and commanded that he go and wash in the Jordan seven times (v. 9, 10). This was not what Naaman expected, though. Fortunately, some of his servants pointed out a very important lesson: What if he had told him to do some great thing? Would he not have done it? Then why not the simple thing?
1. We face this excuse more and more often nowadays, especially when we are trying to teach the pure gospel to those who have been raised in the denominational creeds and doctrines that are so common in today's religious world. Many have been raised according to what the "pastor" taught them, their parents, or someone dear to them. Maybe they have an idea of what salvation is before they even open the pages of God's word, and when the truth is brought to their attention, many will say as Naaman, "But, I thought " Maybe it is some other topic of discussion, such as God's law on marriage, the work of the church, or even something as simple as God's law on giving. Whatever it may be, there are plenty of people out there who, when taught the truth, will offer up the same excuse, "But, I thought "
2. Our answer? The same thing Naaman's servant told him! If God would have told you some great thing, would you not readily have obeyed? Then what about what He did say about these things? We should point out that it was not until Naaman obeyed the command of Elisha that he was healed of his leprosy. The same will be true of us; if we submit to the commands of the Lord, we will receive the benefits, but if we reject Him and refuse, we cannot expect His blessings.
Excuses are never the answer to work that needs to be done. By definition, an excuse is a plea offered for release from an obligation. An excuse is offered to try to get out of what we should be doing. If it is faithfulness that is commanded, we must be faithful. If we are commanded to teach others, we must make every effort to teach. If we are commanded to serve or worship God in a particular way, then that is what we must do with No Excuses.
How about you? Have you submitted to the will of God, or have you been making excuses? If so, the answer to those excuses is submission to His will that you might receive the benefits and blessings of forgiveness and care.
Will you come?
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