“Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money” (Isaiah 52:1-3).
The people of Israel had sold themselves to their enemies many times throughout their history, maybe not intentionally, but certainly as a direct result of their disobedience to God. They sold themselves because they wanted to live in sin rather than righteousness. “Thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD” … “Sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger” … “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves” (1 Kings 21:20, 2 Kings 17:17, Isaiah 50:1). The sad fact is that many believers are selling themselves to the enemy of their souls in exactly the same way and for the same reasons.
This phrase simply means to exchange our relationship with God to enjoy the things of the world. Satan is continuously working to get Christians to sell themselves out to him and take the easy way. Living for Christ is never going to be a comfortable experience, especially since we are called to preach and teach the truth to those who do not want to listen. Imagine if Peter had worried about offending the Jews or was too concerned about his own well-being on the day of Pentecost! Thankfully he did not sell out to the devil but boldly declared, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He saw the amazing results for not selling out (Acts 2:37-47).
Stephen was another believer that did not sell out to fear, but plainly spoke the truth to those who had already sold themselves to the devil. “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53). If the ‘politically correct’ crowd had have been there that day, they would have considered his words too harsh, lacking diplomacy and tactless.
Very few preachers today have the guts to tell it as it is because they do not want even to appear to offend anyone. They want the gifts without the guts. The truth of the matter is that they have sold themselves out. They may think that it is possible to work up to telling people about the error of their ways, but they are deceiving themselves and allowing their listeners to career into Hell without knowing the truth. The kind of preacher who speaks on no other subject than the ‘love of God’ is in reality afraid of being ridiculed by others. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). Added to this is the fact many are in ‘religion’ as a job rather than having a true love for Christ. They are in it for the manse and the mammon. No wonder they stay dumb over the most important details of life! “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter” (Isaiah 56:10-11). This in turn is the reason why so much sin is tolerated in our churches today. So many preachers are teaching their congregations that they have the freedom to disobey the Lord. “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31).
As society gets worse it seems that the church is delighted to drink from its stagnant pools. Compromisers intent on fulfilling their ungodly dreams inhabit the house of God. They do not want to give up their friendship with the world so bring the world into the church instead. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). They willingly exchange the purity of the gospel for the errors of the flesh.
As soon as we speak of the need of righteousness, someone will pipe-up about not judging others. Those who say this are simply making an excuse for their failure to do what God commands in His word. They may think they are quoting Scripture but in fact are they “which corrupt the word of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). The dire situation in the church demands that sound doctrine, and everything it entails, be taught again. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Not only is Paul encouraging Timothy not to sell out, but he warns him about how easy it is for people to do so. Sound doctrine is the bulwark against falsehood and evil practices. Sadly though, many will continue to fall away because they love the world and detest the truth. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).
Due to Satan’s sly and subtle ways, the church has gradually been polluted by the world. Christians no longer hide but in fact are bold to show that they can booze it up with the unsaved. Such people think that those who oppose this trend are strange, narrow-minded and old fashioned. They cannot see that they have sold themselves to the devil. Someone has to tell them this! “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). We have to show them that there is nothing that Satan or the world has to offer that is worth selling themselves to obtain. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
We need to be careful about selling ourselves out too. We must watch that we do not exchange our communion and relationship with Christ for the putrid offerings of the world. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46). Maybe the Lord is saying to us, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). If we are going to sell out, let us sell out to the Lord.