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Repentance 191

DEGENERATION
Series: Repentance
Lesson #5
Heb. 2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be
spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
I. If We Neglect A Garden Plant, Then A Natural Principle Of Deterioration Comes In
And Changes It Into A Worse Plant. If We Neglect Any Domestic Animal, They Will
Revert To Wild And Worthless Animals.
1. The same thing is true of the human. Why should man be any exception to the laws
of nature? Nature knows him as only another species and the laws of reversion to
type run throughout all creation.
2. Ive been thinking along this line of the return to nature while driving down the
highways, looking across fields that are plowed and beautifully kept. I always notice
along the fence line there are trees, bushes, and thorns just waiting for the slightest
neglect on the part of the farmer. If he neglects, the trees, the wilderness will move in
and take back from that farmer what he took from them. Thats nature.
3. It is the same with man and his nature, for beating against the walls of this spiritual
world into which we have been birthed is the old adamic nature. It waits patiently for
you to neglect this great salvation. When you neglect the weeds and briars the curse
of that old man will be back.
4. If a man neglects himself for a few years he will change into a worse man and a lower
man.
5. If he neglects his conscience it will run off into lawlessness and vice. Or, if he
neglects his soul it must inevitably drop off into ruin and decay.
II. We Have Then, A Natural Basis For The Question Before Us: If We Neglect This
Universal Principle Staring Us In The Face, How Shall We Escape?
1. It is not necessary to prove that there is such a principle in the being of every person.
It is demonstrated by facts and by the analogy of nature.
2. All men who know themselves are conscious that this tendency, deep rooted and
active, exists within their nature. Theologically, it is described as a gravitation
toward evil.
3. The Bible leaves no one in the dark concerning this. There is that old nature that
Christ took to the cross, that old adamic nature, pressing, and pushing to come back to
life.
4. The Bible view is, man was conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity (Ps. 51:5).
Experience tells him that his path is downward without the smallest effort. All he has
to do is let his life ruin.
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5. It is on this principle that, completing the conception, the wicked are said to be lost.
6. When we see a man fall from the top of a twenty story building, we immediately say,
that man is lost. We say that before he has fallen a foot; for the same principle that
made him fall the first foot will undoubtedly make him complete the decent, so that
he is a dead man or a lost man from the very first.
7. The gravitation of sin in a person acts in the same way. Gradually, with gathering
momentum, it sinks a man further and further from God and righteousness and lands
him, by the sheer action of a natural law, in the hell of a neglected life.
III. The Lesson Is Equally Clear From Analogy.
1. Apart from the law of degeneration, there is in every living organism a law of death.
2. We imagine that nature is full of life, but in reality it is full of death.
3. You cannot say that it is natural for a plant to live. Examine its nature fully and you
are forced to admit that its natural tendency is to die.
4. It is kept from dying by a mere temporary endowment, which gives dominion for the
moment over the elements.
5. Withdraw this temporary endowment for a moment and its true nature is revealed.
Instead of overcoming nature, it is overcome by nature.
6. The very things which appeared to minister to its growth and beauty now turn against
it and make it decay and die. The sun which warmed it, withers it; the air and rain
which nourished it, rot it.
7. This law, which is true for the whole plant world, is also valid for the animal world
and for man.
8. Perhaps the most accurate definition of life is the sum total of the function which
resist death.
9. There are many definitions of life. Biologists say life is the ability to correspond with
the environment.
IV. Spiritual Life, In Like Manner, Is The Sum Total Of The Function Which Resist Sin.
1. The souls atmosphere is the daily trial, circumstances, and temptation of the world.
It is life alone that gives the plant power to utilize the elements, and without it, the
elements utilize the plant.
2. Without this life, the temptations and trials of the world destroy the soul.
3. How shall we escape if we refuse to exercise these functions, in other words, if we
neglect?
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4. It is a sobering fact that this destroying process goes on independently of Gods
judgement upon sin.
5. Gods judgement upon sin is another and more awful fact of which this may be a part.
6. However, it is a distinct fact by itself, which can be examined separately that on
purely natural principles the soul that is left to itself unwatched, uncultivated,
unredeemed, must fall away into death by its own nature.
7. When we sin, whatever it is, we must confess and forsake.
8. The soul that sinneth it shall die, said the prophet Ezekiel (Ez. 18:4,20). It shall
die, not necessarily because God passes sentence of death upon it, but because it
cannot help dying.
9. The punishment is in its very nature, and the sentence is being carried out with the
appalling faithfulness of law.
V. There Is The Thought That Religious Truths Lie Beyond The Sphere Of The
Comprehension Which Serves Men In Ordinary Things.
1. This question at least must be an exception. It lies as near the natural as the spiritual.
2. If it makes no impression upon man that God will judge him for his sins, he cannot
blind himself to the fact that nature will.
3. When God placed this law into the hands of nature he seems to have given her two
rules upon which sentence was to be based.
a. The first rule is Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap (Gal. 6:7).
b. The other is expressed in this, How shall we escape if we neglect...? (Heb.
2:3).
4. The first is the positive law, and deals with sins of commission. The other, which we
are now discussing is the negative and deals with sins of omission.
5. It does not say anything about sowing, but about not sowing. It takes up the case of
those who do nothing and asks the question, How shall we escape, if we neglect?
(Heb. 2:3).
VI. The Bible Raised This Question, But Does Not Answer It, Because It Is Too Obvious
To Need Answering.
1. How shall we escape if we neglect? The answer is, we cannot. In the nature of things
we cannot.
2. We cannot escape any more than man can escape drowning when he falls into the sea
and has neglected learning to swim. Nor can he escape who has neglected this great
salvation.
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3. Why should such awful judgement be visited upon a simple process of neglect?
4. The generally accepted notion is that for a man to be lost, he must be a terrible sinner,
but this principle goes further. It says simply, If we neglect.
5. Why is it such a sin to sow nothing?
VII. There Must Be Some Hidden Vital Relation Between These Three Words:
Salvation, Neglect And Escape, Some Reasonable And Essential Connection.
1. Why are these words so linked together as to weight this clause with all the authority
of a sentence of death?
2. The explanation has been partly given already, but it lies still further, however, in the
meaning of the word salvation.
3. This of course is not salvation in the ordinary sense of forgiveness of sin. This of
course is one great meaning of salvation.
4. The question here in Hebrews is spoken to a people who are supposed to have already
had this.
5. It is the broader word; therefore, includes not only forgiveness of sin, but deliverance
from the downward pull of the flesh.
6. It takes in that whole process of salvation from the power of sin and selfishness.
7. The Bible is clear concerning the natural principle in man, deadening him, pulling
him down, blinding his reason, searing his conscious and paralyzing his will. This is
the active destroying principle of sin.
8. To counteract this, God has provided us with another principle which will stop this
downward trend, turn it around and turn it upward. This is the active saving principle
of salvation which the Bible calls sanctification.
9. If a man finds the first of these powers at work within him dragging his whole life
downward to death, there is only one way to escape his fate; lay hold of the power of
salvation.
10. This power is the only one in the universe that has the slightest real effect upon mans
natural bent to destruction, to neglect is to cut off the only possible chance of escape.
VIII. From The Very Nature Of Salvation It Is Clear That The Only Thing Necessary To
Make It Of No Effect Is Neglect.
1. Hence, the Bible could not fail to lay strong emphasis on a word so vital. A man who
has been poisoned only need neglect the antidote and he will die.
2. This then, is the effect of neglecting salvation and the conclusion is, if you neglect,
escape is out of the question.
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3. Salvation is a definite process. If a man refuses to submit himself to that process he
cannot have the benefits of it. But as many as received Him to them gave He power
to become the sons of God (Jn. 1:12).
4. It may be mere carelessness or apathy; nevertheless the neglect is fatal. He cannot
escape.
IX. Let Us Look At Another Aspect Of The Case, The Effect Upon The Soul Itself.
Neglect Does More For The Soul Than To Cause It To Miss Salvation. It Destroys Its
Capacity For Salvation.
1. Degeneration in the spiritual sphere involves primarily the impairing of the faculties
of salvation, and ultimately the loss of them.
2. The soul itself becomes piecemeal, destroyed, until the capacity for God and
righteousness is gone. This is what is known as the unpardonable sin, or the sin John
said was the sin unto death (1Jn. 5:16).
X. The Soul In Its Truest Sense Is A Vast Capacity For God, Which Can Be Expanded.
With God As Its Guest, It Is Illimitable, But Without God, The Soul Shrinks And
Shrivels.
1. One cannot call what is left a soul. It is a useless organ, sentenced to death by disuse.
2. Nature has her own revenge upon neglect as well as upon extravagance. Misuse with
her is as mortal a sin as abuse.
3. There are certain animals that burrow underground and nature has taken her revenge
upon them in a thoroughly natural way. She has closed up their eyes. If they choose
to live in darkness, eyes are obviously unnecessary. By neglecting them these
animals made it clear they did not want them, and since one of the principles of
nature is that nothing shall exist in vain, the eyes are taken away.
4. In exactly the same way, the spiritual eye must die and lose it power by pure natural
law, if the soul chooses to walk in darkness rather than in light.
5. This is the meaning of Christs words, from him that hath not, shall be taken away
even that which he hath... and these words take therefore the talent from him
(Mat. 13:12; 25:28).
6. The capacity to believe is the most splendid talent we possess. Yet, it too, is subject
to natural conditions of laws.
7. If any man hides his talent, even though it does him no harm nor good, God will not
allow him to keep it. He will not allow him to keep it any more than the mole can
keep his eyes. So, God says, take the talent from him and nature does it.
8. This mans crime was simple neglect, thou wicked and slothful servant (Mat.
25:26). It was a wasted life, a life that failed in the holy stewardship of itself. Such a
life is a peril to all who cross its path.
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XI. The Darkest Feature Of All This Is That We Are Unconscious Of This Neglect And
The Misdirection Of Our Powers.
1. If there was uneasiness there might be hope, if there was something about our soul
which was not sleeping like all the rest, if there was a contending voice, but instead
there is apathy and numbness.
2. What can be said of such a symptom? It is creeping death?
3. There are accidents in which the victim feels no pain. They think they are well and
strong, but they are dying. And if you ask the surgeon by their side what makes him
give this awful verdict, he will say, it is this numbness over the frame which tells us
that some of the parts have already lost the capacity for life.
XII. Nor Is It The Least Tragic Accompaniment Of This Process That Its Effect May Be
Concealed From Others.
1. The soul under going degeneration surely, by some arrangement with temptation
planned in the lowest hell, possesses the power of the absolute secrecy.
2. When everything within is festering decay and rottenness, a Judas without shame,
may kiss the Lord.
3. This invisible consumption like its counterpart in the natural world may keep its
victim beautiful while slaying it.
XIII. The Little Crustacean Inhabits The Lakes Of The Mammoth Caves Of Kentucky.
1. At first, one is astonished to find these animals endowed with eyes. But the question
arises; what business have they with eyes living in this total darkness?
2. Is this an exception to the law? NO! An incision with a scalpel, and a look through a
microscope reveals the secret. The eyes are a mockery. Externally they are perfect,
but an examination reveals that behind there is nothing but a mass of ruins. The optic
nerve is shrunken and dead. They have organs of vision, yet they have no vision.
They have eyes, but they see not.
3. This is exactly what Jesus said of some men; they had eyes but could not see. The
reason is the same.
4. The crustaceans of the Mammoth Caves have chosen to live in darkness, so they have
been fitted for it. By refusing to see, they have waived the right to see, and nature has
accommodated them. Nature has to do it by her very constitution. It is her defense
against waste that a faculty decays immediately upon disuse of function.
5. He that has ears to hear, he whose ears have not degenerated, let him hear.
6. It is not uncommon to hear well-meaning folk say, there is no such thing as an
atheist. But there must be an atheist. There are people living to whom it seems true
there is no God.
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7. They cannot see God because they have no eyes. They have only an abortive organ,
destroyed by neglect.
8. May God press this upon our brain.
XIV. All Of This Is Not The Effect Of Sin When We Die, But While We Live.
1. The process is in full operation now. It may make us sin with a lighter conscious to
run an account with judgement, as it were, and delay the reckoning time with God.
But every day is a reckoning day.
2. Every soul is a book of judgement, and nature as a recording angel marks their every
sin.
3. The sin of yesterday, as part of its penalty is the sin of today.
4. Our sins, like bloodhounds from hell, follow us in silent retribution from our past, and
go with us to our grave.
5. The powers of sin, to the exact strength that we have developed them, nearing their
fearful climax with every beat of our heart, are here within us now.
XV. The Souls Of Some Men Are Already Riddled With The External Consequence Of
Neglect, To The Extent That Taking The Natural View Of Their Case, It Is
Inconceivable That There Is Any Escape.
1. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God!
2. Whatever hopes of heaven a neglected soul may hold on to can surely be proven to be
a delusion.
3. How is a soul going to escape to heaven if it has neglected for a lifetime the only
means of escape from the world and self?
XVI. These Three Words: Salvation, Escape And Neglect, Are Not Casually, But
Organically And Necessarily Linked Together.
1. Escape means nothing more than the transition from the natural to the spiritual.
2. It means the putting off all that cannot enter the Kingdom of God and the putting on
of Christ.
3. It is working out of the great salvation through the process the Bible calls
sanctification.
4. A person is born again instantly in a crisis experience, but it takes a lifetime of
walking with God to conform him to the image of Christ.
XVII. Finally, Our Conception Of Spiritual Being Must Be Taken From The Natural Being.
1. Our ideas of the lines along which the new spiritual nature must run must be
borrowed from the known lines of the old nature.
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2. For example, there is the sense of sight in the spiritual nature. Neglect this, leave it
undeveloped, and you never miss it. You simply see nothing. Develop it and you see
God.
3. There is a sense of sound. Neglect it and you will never miss it: you simply hear
nothing. Develop it and you hear God. My sheep here my voice (Jn. 10:27).
4. There is a sense of touch that must be developed in the new man. Such a sense as the
woman who had touched the hem of His garment; that wonderful touch called faith,
which moves the heart of God.
5. There is a sense of taste - a spiritual hunger for God. Something within which tastes
and sees that God is good.
6. Then there is that capacity for inspiration. Neglect that and all the scenery of the
spiritual world is drab and ugly. Cultivate it and it sets the whole nature of a man
afire with the beauty of the creation of God.
7. Last, but not least, there is the great capacity for love, the love of God, the expanding
capacity for feeling more and more of its height and depth, its length and breadth.
8. Until that is felt, no man can really understand the word, so great salvation, for
what is its measure but that other so of Christ - God so loved the world, that He
gave His only begotten son? How shall we escape if we neglect that?

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