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Sins Of Omission!

Joshua 11:15

"As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua,
and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses
That's an incredible statement.

Moses had gone up to the top of Mount Nebo, where he met God.
Moses died on Mount Nebo, and the Lord buried his body.

Israel had lost her leader.
He was the one who had led her out of Egyptian bondage, and the mantle of Moses fell
upon Joshua, his lieutenant.

Joshua was responsible to God for the Commandments God gave to Moses.
The conquest of Canaan was before them.
Joshua carried out the instructions, which the Lord gave for the accomplishment of the task,
and settlement in the Land of Promise.

There are many details involved in the instructions of our Scripture.
For instance, "Joshua smote all the country of the hills and of the south
and of the vales and all of the springs and all of their kings.
He left nothing remaining but thoroughly destroyed all that breathed
as the Lord God of Israel commanded that he should do

Again we read, "Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him.
He hocked their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
Verse 5 tells us that in obedience, in faithfulness, Joshua carried out all the things
that God had commanded.

It is marvelous to come to the end of the battle or to come to the end of a life
or to be able to look back on the past and say, as Paul says,

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day

Joshua did everything that God commanded and left nothing undone!

How many of us can say, "I have left nothing undone of all that God commanded from the beginning."
I don't believe that many of us could honestly say that.

Andrew Bonar, the great Christian preacher of another age, said as he came to the end of the year in his life,
"This year's omissions distressed me more than anything."

A great artist painted a picture of the Lord's Supper and presented it to Tolstoy.
He studied it for a moment and then, turning to his friend the artist, said:
"Sir, you do not love this one very much!
If you had loved him more, you would have painted him better

Our chief concern in this message is with our disobedience and in our responsibilities unto the Lord.
We are not primarily concerned with what we proposed, or intended, or planned to do.
We are concerned with those supreme things that God commanded us to do which we have not done.
These are the things that should cause us great concern.

Sins of omission are too numerous to list.

I'm sure that in the mind and heart of each one of us is the knowledge that so much
should have been done that we have failed to do.
When we begin thinking about the things undone, they become so numerous
that they become mountainous.
It would seem that we have omitted much more than we actually did or accomplished.

We think we are busy.
We love to talk about how much we do in a day or in a week or in a month or in a year.
We talk about our schedules and how busy we are.
Most of us are busy -- too busy for our own good.

Someone has said that modern man thinks he is much busier than he actually is.
Our forefathers could miss a wagon train going west and sit down and wait for a week
for another one without even thinking about it.
Today, if we miss a traffic light, we develop a stomach ulcer.

Someone has said: "The hurry-ier I get, the behinder I am."
Isn't that true with most of us?

We are entirely too busy with the things that we do and that we plan to do.
On the other hand, if all of the multitude of things that we fail to do
should appear out of the past to us, we would be surprised and overwhelmed at their number.

In 1 Kings 20 there is a statement along this line in the Old Testament parable of the lost prisoner.
These were the circumstances: Benhadad, the king of Syria, made war against Ahab,
the King of Israel, and was defeated; but Ahab failed to do what God told him to do
about destroying the Syrians -- Benhadad in particular -- and let them go.

One day one of the prophets of God disguised himself and sat on the roadside when Ahab came by.
He told him a parable about a guard who had entrusted to him, a prisoner.
The point of the story was this.
The prophet said to Ahab,
"As thy servant was busy here and there, behold he was gone."

This is true about so many things in our lives.
As thy servant became so involved, so busy here and there, the prisoners of opportunity had vanished.

Things undone become mountainous high in the period of youth.
Actually, the whole of life is one golden prisoner committed into our hands
for a day and for the opportunities the day brings.

Young people must realize that in this time of life there must be some things decided,
some goal lines crossed, some ideals established, and some attainments realized.
There must be preparation of mind, body, and soul, else the prisoner of opportunity flee,
and we never will be able to recapture him.

When a farmer fails to get out in March and April with his plow and break the ground
and sow the seed and cultivate the plants, he will starve when December comes.
When the pools of life are stirred by the angel of God, we must step down into the water
because it is then or never, as far as we are concerned.

The same is true of the freshness of youth.
The poet has expressed it in these words:
"Break, break, break at the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of the day that is dead
Will never come back to me

That's why Solomon said in Ecclesiastes:
"Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee
in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes:
but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment

"While thy servant was busy here and there, behold he was gone."
Suddenly, youth is gone, and many never make life what it ought to be.

Look at our families.
We are negligent with our loved ones until change or death removes them from our grasp.
The disciples, who were with the Master in the garden of Gethsemane, were sound asleep
in the great hour of opportunity.

Jesus came and said:
"What, could ye not watch with me just one hour?"
One hour of service, one hour of opportunity, and the prisoner was gone.
There were no more chances and no more opportunities for them.

This is true in our families.
We are often sound asleep.
We neglect, we omit doing those things that mean so much to those we love.

If you have an impulse in your heart to say something, to do something, to be something -- in the name of Jesus -- say it, do it -- before the opportunity is gone and you look back
with sorrow saying, "Oh, if only I had -- when the opportunity was mine!"

"I did not know how short your day would be!
I had you safe, and words could wait awhile --
E'en when your eyes begged tenderness of me,
Behind their smile.

And now for you, so dark, so long, is night!
I speak, but on mine knees, unheard, alone --
What words were these to make a short day bright --
If I had known!
Ah, love -- if I had known

How often do we look back and say, "Oh, did I do everything I should have done,
did I say everything I should have said when the opportunities were there

Squire wrote a poem in which he pictured a man who always had good intentions
where his loved ones were concerned.
Every day he decided he was going to write to this loved one, but he failed to do it.
"Tomorrow I will do it."

But his tomorrow had a way of stretching out into eternities, always intending,
but so absorbed in duties that he neglected it.

One day a letter came.
She was dead.
He clutched the letter, then looked again at the words in his hands, and in a flood of remorse cried:
"It shall not be today. It shall not! It is still yesterday.
There is still time -- there must be time!"
Poor soul

"The sun moves. Our outward course is set.
There will be time for nothing but regret.
And the memory of things undone

J.P. Marquand, in his book entitled, So Little Time, tells of a playwright
who has good intentions about writing a masterpiece and about being a real father and husband.

The day comes when his oldest son puts on a uniform and goes off to war.
The man realizes that life is too brief for his boy, and attempts to repair the damage
and now tries to do some things that he had neglected to do all of the past years
while he was at home with his boy.

Over and over again, there is that tragic refrain, which is the title of the book,
"So little time, so little time!"

In most of our families there are so many things that are left undone.

Out in the community where we meet people daily, think of the words that could have been spoken,
think of the handshakes that could have meant encouragement and comfort to someone.
Think of the appreciation you could have shown to someone else,
but all these things have been left undone.

The real ghosts of our lives are the unwritten letters, the unspoken words,
the unmade visits, the little things that we let slip by us day in and day out.

Then think of the work of God and of the church; how we fail in these!
Think of the times when we could have given more, when we could have talked,
and when we could have witnessed.

Here is one of the great contrasts between the world of nature and human life.
Have you ever stopped to think that in nature practically everything fulfills its purpose?
God set it here for a purpose, and it pursues its purpose.

But when you look at human life, we see a difference.
Too often, we are paralyzed with inertia, laziness, procrastination, fear, balking at the task and the job.
These things grow to be mountainous -- the things we leave undone that should have been done.
James 4:17: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."

Sins of omission are important.

The things that we leave undone so often are the most important matters in life.

You remember the story about the country boy who had never seen a circus?
One day the circus came to his town.
His father gave him a silver dollar and sent him to the circus.

When the boy arrived, the parade was in progress, coming right down Main Street.
He joined the crowd and watched the horses come by.

He watched the elephants, and was fascinated by the lions and tigers in their cages.
He watched the clowns going through their routines,
and one of them came close to him with his hand outstretched.
The boy said, "This is it."

He pulled the silver dollar out of his pocket and dropped it into the hand of the clown,
and went back home.

Weeks later, he learned that he had missed the circus, and the only thing that he had seen
was the parade -- the preliminaries.
All too often in life that is exactly what we do.

Emerson spoke of the "science of omitting."
In a day when there are conflicting interests clamoring for our obedience,
and countless things demanding our love and loyalty, we must learn how to omit.

God have mercy upon us if we do not learn this valuable lesson.
When it comes to morality, life becomes successful, only as we learn to exclude.

Schiller says, "The artist may be known rather by what he omits."

That could be said about any profession.

The artist, William Hunt, had a class of students on a hillside, painting the sunset.
He walked from person to person, looking over the shoulders of the students
as they painted on their canvases.
He came to one fellow who meticulously painted the shingles on an old barn that stood out on the hillside.

The great artist tapped him on the shoulder and said,
"Son, if you waste so much time with the shingles of the old barn,
you will never get to the sun set before it is gone

Isn't that true of most of us?
We haven't mastered the art of selecting, of omitting, of excluding some things and majoring upon others.
This is our indictment -- what miserable artists we are.
We include so many irrelevant things and fail to magnify the supremely, important things.

For instance, consider character building.
Jesus had something to say about that in Matthew 23:23.
We often quote this passage when we talk about tithing.
It is also appropriate to say something else at this point.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For you pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin [now here is the point],
and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.
These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone

So often, we major upon minors and omit the eternal things, the things that are worthwhile
in the building of character, which must stand when the world has disintegrated.

Look at our duty in our relationship to the eternal.
Spiritually -- how easy it is it to leave the most important things undone?

It has become so easy for people to postpone making a decision for Christ and for church membership.
An unsaved person might have good intentions about trusting in Christ,
but he drifts along and finds it so easy to continue to put it off.

Think of people who have lived in a community for a month, six months, a year,
10 years, 20 years, unaffiliated with God's church and with God's people.
They have had good intentions, but they have continued to omit things that are supremely important.

Jeremiah talked about a period of time when the nations went to war with each other, and said,
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!"

This is appropriate at the conclusion of a revival meeting when many people have failed
to respond to God's invitation.
It is also appropriate when you come to the end of the year and do an inventory of your life.

In view of our failures it is appropriate to say,
"The summer is ended, the harvest is past, and I am not saved.
I haven't done what God wanted me to do with my soul, and with my life

The writer of the book of Hebrews says,
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation!"
Yet, many continue to neglect it.
These are really the most important things.
Usually the things that we leave undone are the most important things in the long run.

Ultimate responsibility for sins of omission Undone things have a way of rising up out of the tombs of time to condemn us.

Imagine what might have happened if the early churches in North Africa,
which were some of the strongest churches in the world in the first two or three centuries,
had been concerned primarily about evangelism and missions in Christian education instead of
jockeying for positions politically and ecclesiastically?

What would be the condition of Africa today?
The chances are that all of Africa would be Christian if only those first churches had been
doing their job as they should have been.
The tragedy is that they omitted doing the important things.

In the 13th century, Kublai, to the king of the Tartans in the Far East, sent a message
to the Pope in Rome begging for 100 missionaries to be sent to the Orient
for the purpose of teaching them the way of Christ, bringing Christianity to the people of the Orient. The Pope sent two missionaries, who started their journey, but never did complete it.
They turned around and went back home.

What if the church had answered the call?
China, Japan, Korea and other areas of the Far East probably would be Christian today.
They could even be sending missionaries to other parts of the world.

In the latter part of the 18th-century, 1894, there was a young man by the name of Stalin,
who enrolled at the Tifis Seminary as a student to study for the priesthood.

What might have happened if that seminary had put into him a love for Christ and an evangelistic zeal?
Instead, they smothered his initiative and endeavored to make his life over in a way
that was neither Christian nor social.
He might have come out of the seminary as a herald of the gospel Christ.
Who knows?

Maybe the whole course of modern-day history would have been changed completely.
The things we fail to do have a way of coming up out of the past to condemn us.
As surely as we live, we are responsible for the negative as well as the positive.

Remember, the parable of the Talents.
One man received one talent, but he was afraid.
He went and hid it in the earth, and then when the appointed time came;
he dug it up and gave it to the master of the vineyard.

The master of the vineyard said to him:
"Thou wicked and slothful servant."

He was not wicked in the sense that he had misused his lord's money.
It was simply that he failed to use it, as he should have.

When the Son of man comes in His glory and all the holy angels with Him,
everyone will be gathered before Him and He will say to those on the left of Him,
"Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."

Things undone will be judged.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed the man by
on the other side of the road.
Where was their condemnation?

They did not rob him; they just simply withheld from him something that he needed.
It was what they fail to do that drew the condemnation of a just and righteous God.

What can we do about our sins of omission?
We can come to God in penitence and pray for His forgiveness for the things
we've left undone that should have been done.

God is gracious and merciful to us when we do that.
We can pray as Archbishop Ussher prayed in his last words spoken upon his deathbed, when he said,
"Lord, forgive my sins, especially my sins of omission."

Or we can pray as the psalmist prayed in Psalm 19:12,
"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults."

Then we can turn to face the future with hope and confidence.
When our hearts are right with God, we have the determination to live, as God would have us live.
We would be assured of fresh and new opportunities.

Like the poet has expressed it:

"He came to my desk with quivering lip --
The lesson was done.
"Dear teacher, I want a new leaf," he said,
"I've spoiled this one.

I took the old leaf, stained and blotted,
And gave him a new one all unspotted,
And into his sad eyes smiled,
"Do better now, my child

That is exactly what God does!

The Lord says to the Philadelphian church,
"I set before you an open door which no man can shut."

Paul said, "Forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus

With renewed zeal, let us grasp every opportunity of service and fellowship to God and to our fellowman.

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at