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Watch and Warn!

You are a watchman on the wall.
Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:17

In ancient times, a watchman’s job was to stand on the city walls to watch for the enemy and to warn the people in the city of any coming danger. His job was simple—to watch and warn.

Sandy Adams, pastor of Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia, has this to say about the walls of a city and the watchmen on it:

The watchmen provided the city an aerial view of what was going on in the surrounding countryside. And when they spotted danger, it was the watchman’s duty to quickly blow the trumpet and sound the alarm! Understand, the watchman had a vantage point the people inside the city lacked. A vigilant lookout could see dangers at a distance. He could alert the people inside the city in time to prepare for what was coming.

The prophet Ezekiel received his first prophetic word in 592 B.C.—the year of the first deportation of the Israelites from Jerusalem to Babylon. God enabled him to see the danger coming and warn the Israelites beforehand.

At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself. Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.

Ezekiel 3:16-21

In this passage, God tells the young prophet that if he fails to tell of the coming judgment then the Israelites would die for their own sins, but their blood would be on his hands.

But God also makes it clear that if Ezekiel warned the Israelites and they refused to repent, then their blood would not be on his hands. Why not? Because he did his job as a watchman: to watch and warn.


You may be quietly asking yourself: “Well, that’s good for an Old Testament prophet, but what does that have to do with me and my youth ministry?”

More than you might think.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul borrows the phrase from Ezekiel 3 and applies it to his job as a spiritual leader. He tells the Ephesian elders:

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 

Acts 20:26-27

Paul makes it clear that he watched and warned, that he did his job as an apostolic watchman for the Ephesians. He preached the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it came to the Gospel.


Are you doing that with your teenagers? Are you watching and warning? Do you talk only about the safe subjects of self-image, friendships, and general devotion to God and avoid the hard subjects of sin, wrath, and Hell? Of course I’m not saying that those hard subjects are all (or even most) of what we should talk about with teenagers, but we, like Ezekiel and like Paul, must speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s why I love using the Gospel acrostic to go through the message of Christianity—because it lays out the whole truth.

I’ll never forget preaching on the hard-to-speak-about subject of Hell to teenagers at a Dare 2 Share event. One high school girl approached me afterward and asked me, “Why has my youth leader never talked about Hell with us teenagers before? I had no idea my friends were headed to Hell unless they heard and believed the Gospel. I had no idea how horrific Hell is going to be!”

Over the years, leaders have told me things like, “Well, we don’t want to just preach Hellfire and brimstone to our teenagers.” And I’m always like, “Maybe our grandparents got too much of it, but most teenagers today hear little, if anything at all, about Hell and Judgment Day.”

We must preach the whole counsel of God. Along with preaching Heaven, we must preach hell. Along with salvation, we must preach sin. Along with redemption, we must preach wrath.

We must watch and warn. We are the watchmen on the wall whom God has set up to warn our teenagers of the consequences of sin, the fury of Hell, and the tragedy of a wasted life.

Watch and warn.

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