Pulpit Today Sermons
RED FLAGS: Don’t Ignore Them!
The reason I’m addressing red flags is because they are a primary way that God deals with Christians, sinners, and even nations. It’s the flag connoting stop; do not proceed; or, danger ahead. I want to open with an illustration that divulges the importance of red flags.
(Illustration) In the early days of the American railroad, a freight train had a daily route through the Midwest. Another smaller, passenger train also used a section of that route to transport students to school. One day, the student passenger train broke down. The conductor responded immediately by ordering mechanics to repair it. He also sent a flagman up the tracks to wave the red flag and halt the oncoming freight train. The students were assured everything was all right, so they stayed in their seats and talked and laughed. Meanwhile, up ahead, the flagman spotted the oncoming freight train, so he lifted the red flag and rapidly waved it. But despite his efforts, the freight train never slowed down. Ultimately, it collided with the passenger train killing everyone onboard except the conductor. He had eluded death by jumping off moments before impact. As the official investigation followed, the conductor of the freight train was placed on the Witness Stand and asked why he ignored the flagman. But he insisted that he hadn’t ignored the flagman. The conductor said he saw the flagman’s efforts, but he was using a yellow flag, which indicated he could proceed with caution. Of course the flagman disputed that testimony when he took the Stand. The judge knew there was but one way to settle the dispute. He ordered the defendant to present the flag to the court. When the judge examined the flag it was evident what happened. The flag indeed was once red! But over time, after much use, it had faded into yellow! And that’s why the conductor of the freight proceeded unabated.
Without going further, you already understand the importance of red flags.
For centuries, the transportation and trade industries have used colored flags as a vital means of transmitting messages. Whether by land, sea, or air flags of contrasting colors have relayed messages of importance. Chief among all colors has been red. That’s because red signifies warning, danger ahead, and even death! So common has been the use of a red flag that it eventually became a universal metaphor meaning stop! For example:
The most important signage of our roadways is the ever-so-frequent, “Stop Sign.” (Have you ever overlooked a stop sign and rushed through the intersection, when a moment later you realized what you did? You realized how important and fortunate you were for not creating a dreadful accident!)
When someone feels uneasy about something they call it a “red flag.”
When executives are ready to stop negotiating they raise the “red flag.”
When NASCAR calls all racers to an immediate stop the officials wave the “red flag.”
And remarkably enough, the figurative use of red flags appears throughout the Bible:
Nine of the Ten Commandments appear in negative language. Without even looking, you remember Moses writing, “Thou shall not … “Thou shall not … “Thou shall not.”
The Prophets of the OT and the Apostles of the NT were skilled at using words as red flags to warn the saints of life’s dangers.
And then, as our Good Shepherd—perfect in knowledge—Christ knows the pitfalls lying ahead of his sheep. That’s why he leads us with a “rod and staff.” (It’s so he can wrap that crook around us and prevent our straying onto destructive paths.)
I’m sure you understand where I’m heading with this message, so I’ll summarize this introduction by making one last appeal to the sport I’ve rarely watched—NASCAR. What would result if NASCAR officials never waved red flags when wrecks occurred? It could be disastrous! This explains why I am preaching this message about red flags.
(Transition) Knowing that God does this, my question is, how does he do it? How can we discern when he is waving a red flag before us? That’s what I want to investigate: Five Ways God Raises Red Flags:
Five Ways God Raises Red Flags
1. First and foremost, God presents red flags from his written Word. The Bible is a book about God, Creation, salvation, prophecy, promises, and man’s relationship with God. But as I mentioned moments ago, it’s also a book filled with warnings. For example:
Again, there are Moses’ warnings that are disclosed in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments).
Solomon presents warnings in Proverbs against greed, wrath, pride, envy, foolishness, slothfulness, and mistreatment of others.
Paul writes warnings to Christians against spiritual complacency.
Christ often warned about the eternal wrath of hell.
And there are vast warnings in Revelation of the coming Apocalypse.
(Application) Remember something about the Scriptures and how they can impact your Christian life. That favorite Bible of yours doesn’t open itself and call you to read it! Once you made a place for it in your home, make place for it in your heart. It’s our grand privilege to embrace it and discipline ourselves to read it often. Only then can God’s Word speak to you frequently and in profound ways. (It’s also important to have a nice, legible, and most importantly, relevant translation of the Bible.)
(Question) What do you suppose the Lord’s primary incentive is for waving red flags? I believe it’s love! It’s the same reason that parents warn their children of the dangers of fire, shattered glass, heights, etc. They love their children and want to keep them from harm. God’s red flags don’t denote his anger. He isn’t wanting to shackle and frustrate his children. He’s trying to impede our trek into harm and then guide us into places of blessing. That’s why we should stop when his red flags appear. God is showing us that danger is present but blessing is awaiting!
(Transition) Now I for the second way God raises red flags.
2. God presents Red Flags to the human conscience. Everyone is born with a conscience. And Romans 2:15 shows that healthy conscience helps us make moral determinations between good and evil. It’s the faculty that “bears witness” to right and wrong.
And this is important to understand about our conscience: It may lay quietly inside our head, but it has plenty of potency to convey its message! Paul’s words here in Romans 2:15 show that it can sting us with an “accusation” of wrong, and then on other occasions it can “defend” us when we have acted properly. That’s the power of a healthy conscience!
But the Bible also shows that we can mistreat our conscience: We can ignore it, impugn it, and even totally defile and silence it. Does anyone witness evidence of this today? Many people, especially global elites, have moved past ignoring and impugning the conscience, to having defiled and silenced it! And you can predict what happens when human conscience is weakened to the point that it cannot distinguish right from wrong. It will eventuate in societal breakdown!
As Christians, acknowledge the red flag that God waves from your conscience. It’s always beneficial.
(Transition) But for Christians, God has prepared a tier above the conscience to help us recognize his red flags. Sinners don’t have this witness; again, Jesus said it’s only for Believers. And it’s this:
3. God warns Christians through the inward witness of his Holy Spirit.
Jesus put it this way in John 14:16—17. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— (17) the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
I love what Isaiah 30:21 says: “And whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
Isn’t it wonderful that Christ sent the Holy Spirit to assist us this way! When you train yourself to listen to him you’ll discover that his wisdom is perfect. That’s because the wisdom of the Spirit of God is not from this world! It’s from the world above—Heaven!
Here’s how James 3:17 puts it: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The wisdom that the Holy Spirit makes known to your heart can be fully trusted!
(Example) Have you ever made plans to do something that was ordinarily good and enjoyable, but for some reason a knot arose in the pit of your stomach? That was the Holy Spirit speaking through a vexed stomach! And that’s a good thing!
Remember, God is the ultimate expert at raising red flags. In perfect love and knowledge, he’s always watching over us. That means whenever we’re about to make a wrong move the Holy Spirit will somehow raise a flag against it. And all Believers have access to this wisdom that is not of this world!
(Transition) Now for the fourth way God raises a red flag.
4. The Lord uses others to wave red flags to us. I want to disclose a mystery that God has invested to members of the Body of Christ. Two thousand years before Jesus birthed his Church, Moses pronounced a prophetic anointing upon its individual members. Exodus 11:24—30 discloses this event:
“So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. (25) Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. (26) However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. (27) A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” (28) Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” (29) But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (30) Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.”
When Moses uttered those words, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets,“ he pronounced a prophetic anointing upon all Christians! And this means there will be occasions when the Lord will use others to speak into our lives! (That person can even unknowingly confirm something God is speaking to us about and help us avoid danger.)
But beyond that, the Lord often uses preachers to prophetically warn the flock. Prophets, pastors, and teachers are the divinely ordained and appointed flagmen of the church. And in keeping with my opening illustration, it is imperative that they wave more than faded flags; flags that have lost their luster; flags that do not signal where this world is headed; faded flags of sermonettes that let attenders twitch, text, and twitter through the sermon and then bolt through the exit doors and charge through life without expecting any pitfalls!
Saints of God, make it a point to listen to preachers that God has placed in his Kingdom that preach with prophetic fervor! And it’s never been easier to do so. There is opportunity through the local church, television, radio, and the Internet. Avail yourself to God’s anointed leaders.
(Transition) Now I want to mention the fifth way God raises red flags.
5. God warns us through dreams. I want to read a wonderful passage of how God does this in Job 33:12—18.
But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal. (13) Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words? (14) or God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. (15) In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds,(16) he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, (17) to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, (18) to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.
(Dream) With that stated, I want to share a recent personal experience.
It started with a dream I had about three weeks ago. As I looked in the near distance, I heard an angel relaying a report of me to God. He said six words, “We have an issue with Chip.” After hearing the angel use my nickname I knew the issue predated our move to Crestview, three years ago, and it also concerned someone that called me “Chip.”
Of course this disturbed me after waking up because I didn’t want an outstanding mark against me! So I started praying: Lord, I don’t want any issue to hinder my relationship with you. (Pause) Well, after a few days I figured it out. Before dying, my Mother asked me to give this ornate, Lapis Lazuli globe to a close friend of the family named Bill. But I loved this globe! I hoped for years that it would eventually be mine to enjoy. But for four years after Mom’s death I delayed taking action! And I had my excuses for justifying keeping the globe, too! But now, after the dream, I knew I had to take action. What’s amazing is, I kept telling myself, I’ll get around to it, just not yet! So a couple more weeks passed.
By this time, the Lord had raised two red flags and a third was about to appear: First, my conscience had bothered me for four years by dishonoring my Mother by keeping the globe; second, the Lord let me hear the angel’s report of me creating an issue for keeping the globe; but now, the third red flag was about to appear. Last Tuesday, before sunrise, I dreamed of someone standing before me ready to deliver a “word” from the Lord. But before he could speak I silenced him and said, You don’t have to tell me. I know what I’m supposed to do! Finally, after four years of “Red Flagging” me, I determined to follow through with Mom’s request.
Upon awaking at 5:00 am, I thought through all that occurred. By 5:31 a.m., I launched my resolve and sent Bill a text message, telling him about the globe, and requesting his shipping address.
But it didn’t stop there. By the time I had described the globe to Bill he texted me back saying that he already had a globe identical to it. He then said, “Why don’t you go ahead and keep it!” Whoa! The amazing thing is this: For days, I sensed that God wanted to send me a blessing but not until I had this “issue” of disobeying God.
(Application) There are times when God requires us to sacrifice something of value before he can release his blessing to us! And here’s my question to you: Are you willing to surrender that “something,” rid yourself of that spiritual gnawing and unease, and remove all the red flags so the Lord can replace it with something of greater value? Remember, God is never trying to punish us when he presents red flags! It’s his way of “keeping us from temptation and delivering us from evil.” And once that occurs, God can then open doors that lead to fertile green valleys of opportunity, blessing, and rest!
Conclusion with Group Participation
I sincerely hope that the Holy Spirit has stirred something in you regarding this message. If so, for the next few moments, I want to engage in group participation. I’d like each of you to take a small red flag that the ushers are passing out. As you hold that flag, ask the Lord to remind you of any outstanding warning that he might have raised in your life. Perhaps now is the moment for your resolve.
Robert D Pace