Those Who Think They Are Standing Firm Must Beware of Falling
By Rev Gordon Siu
October 15, 2023
The sermon two weeks ago concluded the message in the Book of Nehemiah. After reading chapter 13, the final chapter, one cannot help but sigh. The people had experienced the wondrous works of God. The building of the wall was completed against all odds. By grace, they had come to realize their disobedience to God in the past, so they all fasted and confessed their sins. They also made a covenant to repent and renew. Hardly would they have expected that shortly after the pious provincial governor Nehemiah’s return to the nation, they again succumbed to all sorts of sins in the absence of exhortation and supervision.
The nature of the human heart is inclined towards a downward path. It means that without vigilance and alertness, man tends to pursue physical contentment, comfort and convenience. He will want to cut loose the restraints and be unwilling to observe the rules. In recent years, department stores in California, USA, have repeatedly been robbed by mobs of gangsters. In August this year, Nordstrom was robbed by a gang of 50 masked looters who ran away with costumes, handbags, etc., which was worth more than US$100,000. It was because California has passed Proposition 47 (The Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative). Stealing merchandise worth $950 or less will just be a misdemeanor. As a result, very few would be imprisoned. That was to reduce prison congestion. Since then, flash mob robbery has happened in a number of large cities in California, resulting in a large number of department stores suffering great losses and ultimately closing down. Thefts and flash mob robberies are also common in many countries which have been hit by earthquakes or other natural disasters – These show that once the external restraints are gone, human hearts will be bent towards the fulfilment of lust, giving up on faithfulness and faith, seeking only “freedom and autonomy” in whatever they do.
The New Testament tells us that the Israelites, after leaving Egypt, disobeyed God in the wilderness. They yearned for food, resented, and committed sexual immorality. God immediately gave them judgment and they died in the wilderness. The Scripture says: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us…. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12) Those who have experienced God’s mighty power may think that they are standing firm. However, once they are faced with adversities, things that are unbearable, discomfort, inconvenience or situations that are unrestrained, they are often inclined to seek satisfaction for the flesh and do not want to endure, causing them to commit the sins of the past.
When D.A. Carson, an American pastor, shared on Nehemiah 13, he pointed out that the greatest evil of modern society is that evil is beautified and rationalized. He said people often take “compromise” as meaning “accommodation”, “betrayal” as “liberty”, “superstition” as “faith”, “non-restraint” and “out of control” as “relaxed.” The lack of prayer and lack of worship, they call “escape from legalism.” The forfeiture of moral constraint”, they call “liberation”. In a liberal society, people think that fearing God will lead to the loss of all pleasures in life. Nevertheless, in the midst of freedom and indulgence, people fall into great depths of problems.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”