An experienced New York firefighter was charged this week with grave neglect of duty. Prosecutors maintained that he abandoned his responsibility and betrayed the people of New York when he failed to release rescue equipment. This resulted in the needless and tragic deaths of a family of five.
Eyewitnesses were sickened when they discovered that the reason the firefighter remained in the locked emergency vehicle was simply to test a new, high-tech CD player, which he maintained that he had purchased as a gift for the Fire Chief.
The Fire Chief immediately distanced himself from the defendant and dishonorably discharged him from the department. In a prepared statement, he said that there were no words to describe such a betrayal of those he was sworn to protect.
The lead prosecuting attorney argued that for more than three minutes after arriving at the scene, the firefighter wore earphones and listened to a CD while a family of five screamed to be rescued from the sixth floor of a building. Horrified bystanders related that, as flames licked her clothing, a mother cried out in terror and fell to her death while still clutching an infant child in her arms. The distraught onlookers also said that the father held on to two terrified children as he was engulfed by the massive flames. This terrifying drama took place in full view of the firefighter as he remained seated in the vehicle, listening to the CD.
“Rather, our love for Him is more evidenced by obedience to do His will, and that doesn’t come so naturally. ”
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The defense pleaded “no contest” but added that the defendant had gone to great personal sacrifice to purchase the expensive gift for the Chief, and he hoped that the judge would take that into account when passing sentence.
A Fitting Sentence
Here now are some questions in reference to this case. Firstly, what is a fitting punishment for this serious crime? Should he receive a strong reprimand, two years in prison, 20 years, a life sentence, or perhaps capital punishment? Please make a choice.
Secondly, do you enjoy worshipping God? Most of the modern Church does. All across the country, auditoriums are full of hand-raising, God-loving Christians. That’s understandable, because when the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, it’s not hard to worship our glorious and worthy Creator. It is as natural for the godly to worship the Lord as it is for flowers to open in the warmth of sunlight. The sunshine of His great love opens the sweet-smelling petals of praise. Yet, the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) isn’t so great a sacrifice in the light of the sacrifice of the cross.
Rather, our love for Him is more evidenced by obedience to do His will, and that doesn’t come so naturally. It takes a concerted effort to obey the Great Commission and follow in the footsteps of Jesus to seek the lost. Our professed love and worship of God should evidence a determined devotion to do His will.
When, then, did you last do His will and share your faith with an unsaved person? When did you last meditate on the fact that all who die in their sins will be cast into the Lake of Fire? In his book The Coming Revival, Dr. Bill Bright said that only 2% of the American Church share their faith with others. Most are so locked into worship (with the volume turned up high) that they have little or no thought for the fate of the ungodly.
Here now is the point. If you are not seeking to “save [the lost] with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 23), then you are the neglectful firefighter. If you call Jesus “Lord” but refuse to do the things He has commanded you to do, then He is not your “Lord,” and He will distance Himself from you on the Day of Judgment, despite your professed sacrifice of praise. When you cry out, “Lord, Lord!” He will say, “Depart from me…I never knew you.”
What Was Your Judgment?
What sentence did you give the New York firefighter? Are you honest enough to judge yourself with the same standard? Think of the terrifying fate of that poor family. Think of his dreadful neglect of duty. He was no firefighter. He was a Judas…a contemptible traitor. Their blood was on his hands.
“We have been gazing toward the heavens while sinners are sinking into Hell.”
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Now, think of the terrible fate of the lost. They will be cast into a Lake of Fire. Think of your neglect of duty. Is Jesus your Lord? If you do nothing to reach the lost, what will be your defense on the day that you stand before His judgment throne (2 Corinthians 5:10)?
Read these sobering verses of warning from God’s Word:
“Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).
“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” (Ezekiel 3:18).
The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). If we refuse to follow in his steps, if we are like the wicked and slothful servant who knew His Lord’s will but didn’t do it (see Matthew 25), then we are not free from the blood of those who perish.
Oswald J. Smith said, “Oh my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the Church, that of evangelizing and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected.” We have been gazing toward the heavens while sinners are sinking into Hell.