Two Roads, One Choice

Scripture: John 8:32-36, Matthew 7:13-14
Date: 06/30/2007 
We have two roads we can take, bondage or freedom. We have only one choice. The focus of this sermon is on Jesus' "sermon on the mount" comment on the narrow way. You are either on one side or the other. You must make a choice for or against God.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” --Deuteronomy 30:19, 20

Our message this morning actually fits with what we’ve been discussing, and it’s titled “Two Roads, One Choice”. Two roads, one choice. It’s based upon the passage of scripture that we read in our scripture reading where Moses said to the children of Israel at the end of his life, “I set before you this day two options: blessing and cursing, life and death, good and evil, and everybody has one of two choices.” Now during World War II you had a very interesting dynamic where you had Switzerland that was sort of in the middle of countries that were bent on destroying one another. Switzerland was pushed right up against Italy and Austria and Germany and France and somehow they managed to remain neutral in the midst of that war which is very hard to understand. I’d like to propose to you that in the battle between Christ and Satan there is no Switzerland. We all have one choice. There are two directions, but we’ve got one choice. Right now we’re entering into a weekend that is a great celebration, our fourth of July weekend. We’re very thankful for the freedom we enjoy in this country. If our founding fathers had not had the courage to lay their lives on the line for freedom instead of being a democracy and a free republic we would be a monarchy right now, but because they took a stand for freedom… and I’m sure that many people had different motives, but at the core they wanted a place where people would be free to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience. Aren’t you thankful right now that in spite of the fact that we may believe some things that are a little different than the average or the crowds we have freedom to practice those things. Not everybody in all parts of the world have that same freedom. I’ll tell you that I’ve traveled, I’ve been blessed to be able to travel to, well, every continent except Antarctica and to see many parts of the world with our family and a lot of wonderful things in many parts of the world, but I don’t plan on moving anywhere. I mean, of all the places we could go and live and we have that freedom and all of the different countries and all the wonderful places we’ve seen and wonderful people we’ve met we are very blessed here and this is where I want to be because we have incredible freedoms. By the way, for those of you in Sacramento, I’ve been all over North America and this is not a bad city to live in either if you have to live in a city. So I’m very thankful for these things that we have. It’s a blessing. There is a battle in the world between freedom and slavery. I know there are still parts in the world where they still practice varying forms of bondage and slavery. The Bible talks about taking a nation from slavery and bringing them into freedom. It’s the whole plan of salvation. Jesus says, John 8:36, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” And again, if you go back to verse 32, same chapter, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus came to set us free. We have two choices: bondage, freedom. By the way, that battle, even a political battle between freedom and bondage is still raging. There are forces even in government, and I don’t want to get political in this message this morning, but I think we all know that there are varying degrees of freedom we might enjoy as citizens in this country. There are forces that would like to see us move towards socialism where the government really dictates how much freedom you can have. We have to pray and strive all the time to preserve those freedoms. There are risks with those freedoms but, I tell you, it’s much better to have those risks than the alternative. So it’s important for us to respect it, to celebrate it, and to preserve it, to be dedicated to it. You know if you go to the nation’s capital at the Lincoln Memorial there they’ve got the Gettysburg Address etched in the wall and part of that address talks about a time. Lincoln said “Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” He even wondered back then over a hundred years ago how long can a nation of the people, by the people, for the people, how long can it endure? How long can we maintain this kind of freedom? I think it’s constantly being threatened and we need to pray for and work for preserving the freedom, principally the freedom to worship God and the freedom to share our faith. You know they’re making laws now they call it hate crimes. I think hate is a terrible thing, but it’s a right. You have a right to think, and when the government starts telling you what to think and if you express disparaging thoughts towards another person’s views, if it starts being prosecuted as a crime… You know there are some Amazing Facts programs that cannot air right now in Canada because they have certain hate laws and because we preach against certain beliefs they’re calling it a hate crime and we’re not allowed to broadcast those things. They didn’t used to be that way. They became that way. So I can tell you things can drift in that direction if we’re not careful. Do you all hear what I’m saying? Because of fear people want the government to protect them and more and more they start putting hedges around and under the pretense of protecting you, liberties are lost and we need to be awake to those things and be very careful. Well, that’s not my message. It’s not a political message, but I almost wore my red, white and blue tie today to celebrate those freedoms.

Really, I want to talk about that we’re all on one of two roads. We really have one choice. There are two gates. Matter of fact, turn in your bibles with me to Matthew chapter 7 verse 13 and 14 a very familiar passage where Jesus talks about there are two ways in life, two gates. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Probably it would be well for me to explain this simple principal a little bit. In Bible times they had watchmen on the walls of the city that would watch for invading armies. They did not have radio or satellite communications to tell them of an approaching army. They would either use relay by smoke or trumpets to let the capital know that an enemy army was approaching, and of course they tried to use surprise. Most of the people lived in the rural areas where the farms were. The cities were fortified with protection. If an enemy army was approaching you might quickly rifle through your house and grab the photographs or the things of great value, your treasure, and you’d head for the city where the fortifications were, where the soldiers were, where the king was, where the defenses were. Sometimes these armies were seen approaching at a great distance and you could see a cloud of dust and people thought, “Well, it looks like we’ve got plenty of time,” and they’d actually load up wagons and the roads would be filled with wagons and horses and camels burdened with all these people’s precious possessions as they would go to the capital city, go through the wide gates that would accommodate their wagon trains and their camels with all of their possessions. Couldn’t go too steep, too hard on the animals, too hard to carry all of those burdens, and they’d try to get inside the city gates with all of their stuff. But sometimes they would find that because of the greed, the roads were congested with all of these people that had all of this stuff. They were trying to get in the cities and traffic jams and donkeys would break down, and the army was getting closer. In the panic people found they couldn’t get in the gate to the city because they tried to take the wide road and the wide gate with all of their stuff and the gates would be closed and they would be captured by the enemy army. But people who realized that it was too dangerous to dilly dally; they would go quickly to the city. That might mean they couldn’t take the wide road with all the switchbacks that meandered up with the gradual grade. Instead they would take a very direct and difficult narrow, steep road up the walls and sometimes they had these narrow gates that would easily plug around the city where you could get through but you weren’t bringing a camel. So think of this when Jesus said, “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it.” Most people want to be on the wide road where everybody is. They want the interstate not the back streets, but that’s where the traffic jams usually are, right? In going to heaven, I really think it’s almost as though it’s really one road and everybody is on the road. By the way, in case you didn’t know, you’re on that road. The question is, which way are you heading? There’s one road really and two directions. You’ve got the direction up to the city of life, or you’re on the road down to the city of destruction to draw from Pilgrim’s Progress. Some people have equated it to a fork in the road. You remember that famous quip by Tommy Lasorda. He said, “If you ever come to a fork in the road, take it! You never know when you might need it.” It’s almost as though the church right now is plagued with a form of schizophrenia. You know what schizophrenia is? It’s a condition that requires results from the coexisting of two antagonistic and distinct qualities or identities. Meaning a person is battling within themselves about which way they want to go. I think that most Christians struggle with this internal schizophrenia where they’re wanting heaven, but they’re wanting the world and they’re wanting to know is there a Switzerland. I’m here to tell you today, you can’t sit on the wall. There is no Switzerland. It’s an electric fence. You can’t stay on it. You’re either on one side or the other. Those are the only two choices. In the Garden of Eden there were two trees. You could not eat from both trees. If you ate from the forbidden tree you were then sequestered and the Tree of Life was taken away. You could not eat from it anymore. If you wanted to eat from the Tree of Life you could not eat from the forbidden tree. You could not eat from both trees. You cannot serve Christ and Belial. You cannot serve both parties. There is only one master you can serve, and that leads me to my next point.

Jesus talks about… Luke 16:13, matter of fact, all through the gospel this is repeated. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” Now some people will attempt to serve two masters for awhile, but you can’t do it for very long. Somebody said one time, I think it was Moody said, “Either sin will keep you from the Bible or the Bible will keep you from sin, but if you keep reading the Bible you will be convicted about your sin and you’ll either give up your Bible reading or you’ll give up your sin.” That’s typically true. I appreciated what I was hearing Stephen share this morning that when they learned the truth about the Sabbath they realized that it was going to be awkward to continue worshipping on Sunday. I know for me, I guess I tried to do both for a while. There was a period of time where I was going to church on Sunday and trying to keep the Sabbath at home because all of my friends were at the Sunday church and I didn’t want to give up my friends, but I knew what the Bible said so I wanted to honor the Lord and I was very awkward because I’d go to the church and I’d tell them about the Sabbath and they’d ostracize me so there was conflict there. It’s like I was trying to do both and you just can’t do it. Somebody asked Ben Franklin one time, “Show me a scripture that says a man can’t have more than one wife.” He quoted this verse, “No man can serve two masters.” If you’ll look in the Bible at the examples of those kings and patriarchs that tried to have more than one wife, you can’t do it. 1 Kings 18, Elijah said to the people of God, you remember the story there of the great conflict on Mt. Carmel. The people were trying to serve both Baal and Jehovah. They couldn’t do both. Their teachings were in conflict. “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter…’” That word falter there means limp “between two opinions?” It conjures up the picture of people going, “I think I’m going serve Jehovah. No, no, I think I’m going to serve Baal. No, I’m not sure.” It’s like they’re limping back and forth. They’re not serving either of them very well because they can’t make up their mind. I think the reason that generally speaking Christians in North America serve God with such a half-hearted approach is because we’re trying to also still accommodate the world. If we would completely renounce the world and choose to serve the Lord, I think we’d do it with a lot more enthusiasm. There’s only two masters. In Zephaniah 1:5, if you can find that book write it down. Zephaniah 1:5. He speaks about those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but who also swear by Malcham; Malcham was one of the pagan gods. So they were invoking the name of Jehovah one side and invoking the name of Buddha on the other. Here God says you can’t do both. You cannot serve two masters.

Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?” Now don’t miss this point, please. Wake up! Catch this. How do we demonstrate whose servants we are? Sin or the devil, death. Obedience, the Lord, righteousness. How do we demonstrate who our master is? By who we obey. So those who are saying, “I’m saved by grace. I’m going to disobey the Lord but I belong to Him.” Are they really His servants? I’m talking New Testament theology now. Can you claim to be a servant of Jesus while you’re obeying the devil? You are the servants of the one you obey. Haven’t you heard of the theology that smacks of the idea you can obey the devil because we’re saved by grace and you’re really a servant of Jesus. Have you all heard this before? It’s a lie. It’s what you call a doctrine of devils. You are the servants of the one you obey, and if you’re obeying sin then you are a servant of Satan. If you are obeying Christ and His law then you are a servant of Christ. Whoever you love, that’s who you’re going to obey. You can’t have it both ways. If there’s anything I’m trying to emphasize in this message, I’m trying to draw a very clear stark thin line between two choices because I think that a lot of folks are wanting to believe that we could sort of be neutral and still be saved. You can’t be. It ends up giving you double vision which brings me to my next point.

I really enjoy some of the nature films I see of these chameleons. I tried to find a photograph that was straight on because I’ve seen these pictures before where, you know, a chameleon can rotate its eyes in opposite directions and they look goofy. You know what I mean? If I were to start talking to you and preaching to you with my eyes crossed right now, I could do that. They say it’s not good for you. How many of you remember when you were kids, your parents said, “Don’t cross your eyes. They’ll stick.” Anyone ever have them stay that way? There may have been occasions. I’ve never heard of it happening. It always looks a little strange when you’re talking, and I don’t want to put anybody on the spot. There may be people who struggle with this. We have a daughter who has eyes that are a little bit off center and it can be embarrassing, but sometimes it’s very slight, sometimes it’s very radical. I’ve talked to people before whose eyes are going two different directions, and you’re not sure which eye to look at when you’re talking to them. Do you know what I mean? It makes you, you feel a little awkward about it. These chameleons, they can actually have one eye that’s going like that looking behind them, and one that’s going like that and they’re rotating totally independent and it’s really a bizarre thing. That’s how some Christians are. They’ve got double visions and they’re looking goofy. They’re trying to look at the world, what the world has to offer on one side, the other side they’re looking at heaven and what it has to offer them. They’ve got double vision. They can’t see where they’re going. A chameleon can do it. They can also change colors so they try to fit in wherever they are. We’ve got Christian chameleons. They try to fit in wherever they are. If with the world, they can look like the world. If they’re with the church they can look like the church. They sing hymns when they’re at the church, they curse when they’re at work. They can do it both ways. A real Christian does not have that kind of double vision. Jesus said, Matthew 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” James puts it this way in chapter one, verses 5 through 8, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” If a person is unstable in their religion you know that they’re going to be unstable in their personal life, in their work and every other way. Highway patrol says that a lot of accidents are caused by indecision. People are coming up into a fork in the road, they’re going too fast and they can’t make up their mind which way to go. How many of you have seen people at the last minute decide they want to exit, and they’ll swerve across three lanes? My family has witnessed that before when my wife is driving. We’ve all done it. I did it yesterday. I was going to Weimar and I don’t know what I was thinking, but I saw the exit. I thought it would say Weimar Exit. I’ve been there so many times, and all of a sudden it said El Palai Exit. You know what I’m talking about up on 80. It doesn’t say Weimar exit. You were there. I’m on Interstate 80 and all of a sudden I go by and it says Weimar Institute but I’ve missed the exit. I’m not going, I’m late. I’m not going all the way up the road, so you know what I did is I pulled over and I backed up the onramp. Well, highway patrolmen say the cause of a lot of accidents is indecision. They wait until the last minute and then they have a wreck. How many people are sort of waiting to take that off-ramp to heaven? They say, “I want to follow the Lord. Is now the time? Is this the one?” and they wait until it’s too late and they wreck in the process. You make up your mind decisively that you want to follow the Lord and you plan ahead and you take that turn. Too many people wait and they’ve got double vision. We really only have two choices. The Bible is very clear. Light and darkness, good or bad, life or death, integrity or dishonesty, health or sickness, you can take or you can give. It’s very clear, and yet we try to obscure it with philosophy.

I’ve got this theory I preach to my kids sometimes. It’s something I like to live by, and it’s very simple. I think there are two kinds of people in life. You’ve got takers and givers. You’ve got producers and consumers. Some people go through life and they want to create, produce, give, make things better. Others go through life and they want to take, consume, grab. Whenever I go camping I not only always like to take my trash out with me, I will make it a point if I can pick up someone else’s trash, I do. Because I think when I’ve left that place I’ve left it better than when I found it. When I go out of this world I want to leave more resources behind than were there when I came. We all consume a certain amount. The idea in life is to produce more than you consume so that you can have a life of productivity, that you’ve left something good. You haven’t just gone through your journey to try to take what others have produced. You’re going through life trying to leave something good behind. It’s a philosophy. There’s really only two ways. It’s give and take. Are you going to go through your life and say, “Lord, how can I serve You? How can I be a blessing to others? How can I create? How can I make it better for others around me, better for God’s glory? There’s really only two choices in life: the world or the Lord. 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You notice he doesn’t say, “Well, you can love the world a little bit and love the Lord a little bit.” He says there is no mingling of the two. James makes it even more clear in chapter 4, verse 4, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” We all love to be loved. I like to be liked, don’t you? But you can’t be loved by the world and by the Lord. Jesus puts it this way, Luke 11:23, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Now is that clear that God says there’s a line? You’re with Me or against Me. There is no Switzerland. You cannot be neutral. It’s all the way with the Lord or not with the Lord at all. The Chinese have a proverb. If you try and cross a river with your foot in two boats you’re going to have an accident. That’s a paraphrase, but that’s the idea. You ever heard the idea of having a foot in two different boats. You can’t do that. You cannot have one foot in the church and one foot in the world and say we’re going the same direction. John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” So let’s explain it another way. Everybody is going to be loved and everybody is going to be hated. You would like everybody to love you all of the time. It will not work that way. You’ve just got to make up your mind who you want to make happy. You can either try to make the world happy and have the displeasure of God or you can make God happy and you’re going to have the displeasure of the world. You cannot have the approbation of both. So who do you want to please? The world doesn’t have heaven to offer. That ought to help you make your decision. All they’re going to give you is their momentary acceptance so I made up my mind I want to please the Lord even if it makes the world mock me because you can’t please both. In the last days it’s going to be even more clear and decisive. You will either have the seal of God and please the Lord and the enmity of the world or you’ll have the mark of the beast and the acceptance of the world and the appreciation or the love of God, the acceptance, the approval of God. There will be no middle ground. You can’t say well, you know what, I’ve got dual citizenship. I’ve got the mark of the beast here and I’ve got the seal of God here. There’s not going to be anybody going around like that. Isn’t that clear? It’s one way or the other. There’s no central ground. And yet I’ve met people before that say, “You know, I’m not ready to surrender my life to Jesus, but I’m not going to serve the devil.” Who are you kidding? If you say I’m not ready to serve Jesus yet, what you really are saying is I am ready to serve the devil now because not to choose to surrender to Jesus now is to make a choice to serve the devil. A lot of people think, “Well, I’m neutral right now. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do or where I want to go.” By now making a choice, you are making a choice. I think you’ve probably heard me share this illustration before, and the older I get the more I’m going to repeat myself, you know that, about this one man during the Civil War. We were talking about Abraham Lincoln a minute ago and he lived pretty close to the border between the north and the south and he didn’t want to make anybody mad and so he thought, Well, I’m going to wear a blue top to show my respect for the north and I’m going to wear gray pants to show my respect for the south. You remember the north was the blue and the south was the gray. So instead of making everybody happy, what happened was the north shot him in the shirt and the south shot him in the pants. You can’t do both, yet we all do sometimes, don’t we? The Bible tells us that there are two drives that are pulling at our souls. There is a battle between the flesh and the spirit and you cannot please and appease both. Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Even if you are by yourself you’re going to feel this battle between one side or the other. Granted there are times when the spirit wins and there are times when the flesh wins and I don’t think I need to go into detail to explain what those battles are like. I’ll suggest that some of you probably are going to face that battle at potluck in a few minutes between the spirit and the flesh. Every time I eat, it can be even the very best of food, there’s the temptation to eat too much of even good food and there’s a battle. The flesh wants to eat more and the mind, the spirit is saying you’ve had enough, and you feel this conflict within. A Christian recognizes that and makes a decision I want to be led by the spirit and not by the flesh. What makes it an especially difficult battle is because you cannot totally separate the two. You can’t say okay, what I’m going to do is I’m going to take the fleshly part of me and set that blob overt there and shoot it so all I’ve got is the spirit anymore. What you’ve got to do is try to crucify the flesh while it’s still sort of simmering in there. That’s why Paul said, “I die daily.” He experienced that battle. The flesh is not just talking about physical desires, the lusts of the flesh. Flesh can be pride, flesh can be selfishness, and as a Christian being ruled by the spirit you’ve got to stomp on that side of our natures all of the time. It’s a big battle. This is the battle Jesus was facing in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said Father, “Not My will but Thy will be done.” It was a battle between the spirit and the flesh. He didn’t want to be crucified. He didn’t want to experience separation from the Father. He felt that struggle for self-preservation, and He denied it all to do God’s will and be led by the Spirit. It’s a tremendous battle and as long as you’re in this life and there is a devil, you’re going to feel that battle raging between the spirit and the flesh. By the way, it gets better.

Let me tell you a secret. It’s almost like having two dogs in your backyard. Suppose for a minute that you’ve got two male dogs, same breed, in the backyard and you’re going to let them fight which they sometimes do naturally because they’re very territorial. One dog, you stake him up, only give him about six inches of chain, don’t let him have any water to drink or any food to eat about three days, that’s about all they’ll last. The other dog, you let him run, give him exercise, plenty of good food, lots of water, and then after that period of time you cut them both loose to fight. Which dog is going to win? The one that you care for. You have these two natures inside, and I know it doesn’t sound very graceful to compare them both to dogs, but you’ve got these two natures that are at war. Whichever nature you feed is going to be the strongest one when there’s a battle, when there’s temptation. You are feeding the spirit, then when those moments of temptations come, and they’ll come all day long, you’re more inclined to listen to the spirit, that volume goes up. If you are feeding the carnal side it’s more inclined to win. Let me be more specific with that. If you’re watching a lot of secular television and reading secular material and thinking worldly thoughts when temptation comes, you’re going to probably respond the way the world would respond. But if you are feeding the spirit through Christian association, prayer, study, walking with the Lord, maintaining that relationship when temptation comes and you’ve got that heavenly focus you’re more inclined to make a spiritual decision. Whatever side of the nature you’re feeding is more inclined to win those battles. It really is that simple. You know sometimes the flesh wins and sometimes the spirit wins, but I hope it’s clear in your mind you can’t do both. It’s going to be one or the other.

Romans 8:5 talking about the flesh or the spirit, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,” what side of the nature are you addressing? “but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Set your minds on the things of the Spirit and the Spirit will win. “For to be carnally minded is death,” filling your mind with the things of the world, you’re going to die spiritually, “but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” You notice the lost they just die. They don’t have peace. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” If you’re going to be carnally minded, it’s impossible to be subject to the will of God. The only way to successfully follow the will of God is to fulfill the spiritual side of your being.

While we’re talking about right and wrong, the definite good and bad, I think it’s also important to think that there is right and wrong in relationships, in partnerships. Some are mismatched in their partnerships. It might be a business partnership. It might be the friends that you choose and of course if you don’t think about the basics certainly your partner in life, a spouse. 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?” Paul, you’re kind of radical. You’re not giving us any middle ground. You notice how decisive he is? It’s one way or the other. “And what communion has light with darkness?” Is it just Pastor Doug, or did the Bible writers make these stark extremes? They say it is black and white. They say it is light and darkness. They say it is good and bad. We’re getting to the place in the church where we’re trying to justify and rationalize all kinds of things that are inappropriate when the Bible is very clear and decisive. There’s just two ways, and you’ve got one choice. The one choice is which way are you going to go? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? Or the believer with an unbeliever? “And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” Amos puts it this way, “Can two walk together if they are not agreed?” How can you be partners with somebody where the whole direction of your life and the tenor is towards Christ and His will and His kingdom and you’re trying to go the same way and walk with somebody who says I’m going to the world? You’re trying to go to Jerusalem and they’re going to Las Vegas. You can’t go together. So you want to pick your partners very carefully.

There ought to be a unity of voice in what we say if we’re Christians. It’s time again to take your nausea medicine because the elections are stirring up and it can be nauseating, at least to me. Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way. It can be nauseating because you hear these pundits and these politicians go from place to place… I know there are some good ones out there but they are the rare exception. They go from place to place and they are masters of blowing sunshine and talking out of both sides of their mouth. As they go to the different groups that they’re addressing they get their counselors to advise them what do these people want to hear? And they’ll tell them one thing and they’ll go to another group that might be their opponents and they’ll tell them what they want to hear. So they’re not saying the same thing. The American Indians used to call this speaking with a forked tongue. You know, like the serpent they’ve got a tongue pointing in two different directions, being double-mouthed so to speak. 1 Timothy, we need one voice, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued…” You know a lot of pastors have met their end in their career because they got into a divided church. Instead of the pastor giving some decisive direction about what is right and what is wrong and taking a stand, which means they sometimes had to take a side, they tried to find consensus and make both groups happy and invariably you know what ends up happening? They get shot in the shirt and they get shot in the pants. They don’t make anybody happy. That kind of happened to me when I came to this church. There were some divisions over things, about fourteen years ago and people wanted to pull me into the varying camps. I said, “Here’s what I believe and I’m going to tell you what I believe and you’re either with me or against me.” You know I found people who were with me stuck with me. You can’t go both ways, and be a politician. If you’re a Christian speak carefully. Be consistent in what you say with one voice. James 3:8 talks about this. “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh.” He’s talking about those who are claiming to be Christians that communicate the sweet things of God one day and they’re cursing and vile and profane in their speech another day. They talk about yes, I love the Lord at one time. They speak faith and then they speak disbelief. There ought to be a consistency in what we say.

There are two responses to the invitation of God. This is so clear. Matthew 21, it’s very simple. Jesus is inviting us to serve Him, to be Christians, to follow Him. You can either do it or not do it. It’s that simple. There’s no neutral area. Matthew 21:28 “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did” emphasize D-I-D “the will of his father?” Now they were both actually speaking opposites. One said, “I don’t want to go,” but he felt bad and he went. The other one said, “I’m going,” but he didn’t go. Finally Christ says, “Which one did it?” And the response was the first one. He said I’m not going, but he did. It’s boiling down to, are you willing to do what God says? Again Matthew 7:24, in the parable of the wise man and the fool, what separates the wise man and the fool? Do both the wise man and the fool build a house? They both build a house. They may even use the identical materials in building the house. Does the storm come to the wise man and to the fool? What separates them? Let’s read it. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man…” Conversely whoever “hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man…” His house falls. Again Luke 6:46, “But why do you call Me `Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?” Jesus wants our hearts. If He really has our hearts, how will that be demonstrated? He’ll have our actions. It’s not just “Lord, Lord”. What does the Lord declare? There’s going to be a large class of people in the last days who will seem to be surprised in the judgment and the Lord says, depart from me, ye cursed, and they say, “Lord, Lord, we’ve taught in Your streets. We’ve cast out devils. We went to church, did many wonderful works.” And He says, “I don’t know you. Depart from Me you who work iniquity, you who do lawlessness.” The Lord wants us to be doers of His word. It’s that simple, friends. We’re saved by grace and then when we’re saved by grace, we are sustained and sanctified by the power of His spirit to be new creatures, to live differently. “Why do you say ‘Lord, Lord’ if you do not what I say?” God is calling us to be single minded. Not only, sometimes we’re hypocritical. We’ve got, our hearts are going two different directions, our voices are saying two different things. Our minds must be focused. When Jesus was twelve years old and his parents lost track of him they went looking for him and found him in the temple. He said why did you search for Me? Didn’t you know where I’d be? I’d be in the temple. Christ would be about His father’s business. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul says, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Sometimes it’s a good thing to be narrow-minded. If you are two broadminded that means anything can drive right through. Isn’t that right? Keep in mind it’s the broad gate that’s the gate to destruction. Sometimes if you are a Christian you will be accused of being straight-laced and narrow-minded. You will be accused of being fanatical. Sometimes for a genuine Christian you might even be encouraged by that. That might mean that you’re on the right road. Luke 9:51 when the time came for Christ to lay down His life for you and me it says, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem…” What if Jesus was double-minded? What if He halted between two opinions?

In some parts of the world it’s very interesting. When we were in India we met people there. We were in southern India where Christianity is more accepted, it’s more popular, it’s more common, and we met some people who said, “Oh, yes, yes. You are a Christian missionaries? We are Christians also.” And yet we’d see them going to the Hindu temple. “Oh, yes, we are Hindus also.” They wanted to make everybody happy and really they would. They had no problem coming to church one day and going to the Hindu temple the other day. Buddhists are notorious for this. Buddhism sort of embraces all good things in all religions. They say, “I’m a Buddhist and I’m also a Christian.” Some people think that there’s actually something virtuous about saying, “Oh, I believe about all the good things in all the religions.” You know what that means? They really don’t believe anything very well. They say, “We’re broadminded.” And if you say that it’s only one thing, you’re being kind of bigoted and narrow-minded. Well, Jesus said, “I am the way.” Peter said, “There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved.” Very focused. There is one way, there is one door, Jesus said, “I am the shepherd, I am the door, I am the only way.” He is the only sacrifice. Is that narrow-minded? Well, the truth is narrow. Think about it. Are there different truths that are opposite? You realize we’re living in an age right now, I mean, some of you ought to jump up and say, “Amen! I know what you’re saying, Pastor Doug” because this is so common. We hear it so much it doesn’t even get a reaction anymore. People think whatever they’re sincere about is truth, that they can describe and define, create their own truth, and you just believe it enough what’s true for you is truth and what’s true for me is my truth. You’ve got your truth; I’ve got my truth, and it’s all relative. No! That is the biggest lie of all. There is only one truth and you’ve got to know what that truth is. As I started, it’s that truth that will set you free and the truth is there’s only one way. Christ is the way, so it sometimes is good to be a little single-minded, be a little narrow-minded.

But we’ve got a lot of different labels and some are in great danger because they’re judging things by the label and the label is wrong. Revelation 3:1 “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works,” Notice this. “that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” You’ve got a name that you’re alive, but you’re dead. It’s kind of like a mannequin. It’s like a church that says So-and-so New Life Church, but everybody in the church is spiritually dead. They’ve got a good name. Matter of fact, a lot of churches, I like their names. I would like to be part of the Church of Christ. Nothing wrong with that, right? Good name. I sometimes sort of resent that other people got all of these good names. I mean, I want to be a witness for Jehovah. Don’t get scared. I would like to be a Latter-day Saint. Doesn’t mean I want to be a Mormon, but Latter-day Saint, that’s a good one. Don’t you want to be a saint in the last days? Good names, but is it a name that makes a Christian? It reminds me of the story about the bat, Aesop’s Fable. There was a war between the birds and the beasts and the bat when he was around the beasts he’d crawl around and say, “I’m a beast!” When he was with the birds, he’d fly around and say, “I’m a bird.” The beasts and the birds got fed up with the bat and that’s why he had to live in the dark in the cave by himself because he tried to make everybody happy. They couldn’t figure out what label to put on him. If you’re taking… Some people, you know, they take pep pills in the morning when they get up and they take sleeping pills at night when they go to bed. Every now and then because they’re both white pills they get them mixed up and that can really wreck your day. Because they get them in the wrong bottle and they got the wrong label on them and they’re trying to go to sleep and they keep taking pep pills and up buzzing all night. You can’t do both. The Bible tells us that before Christ died, Pilate brought Jesus out before the people and he brought out Barabbas. It’s very interesting these two names and these two characters because Jesus was the Son of God the Father. God the Father, His Son. The word Barabbas means “son of the father,” “son of papa.” It’s a little more endearing. Barabbas was a deliverer. He was a zealot. In his efforts, he was sort of like a local Robin Hood. In trying to fight the Roman oppression he had killed some people. He would steal from the Romans and he was revered. I mean, the reason they called for Barabbas, he wasn’t a serial killer, he wasn’t just a brutal murderer. They saw him as sort of the kind of Messiah they wanted, one who would do things on an earthly level and so when the world had this choice and Pilate stood before them and said, “You’ve got two choices.” You want Jesus who is self-denial, self-sacrifice, humility, meekness, God’s Son, or do you want a self-proclaimed Barabbas who wants the earthly kingdom? He’s going to fight. He’s going to do it by works. Do you want the One who is going to do it by faith, or do you want the one who is going to do it by works? Do you want the real Son of God or do you want the counterfeit? Do you want the one who is a murderer, who is taking life, or do you want the One who is laying down His life? They had those two choices. One who was going to increase their slavery and one who was going to increase their freedom. What did they say? Give us who? You only have two choices. It’s Christ or Barabbas, and the world cried for Barabbas. They want him to be the one and they asked for Jesus to be turned over and to be crucified. We’re all really faced with that kind of choice. We must choose. Joshua 24:15 there the great judge said, “if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River,” the pagan gods in Babylon, “or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” You get to make a choice. Life, death, light, darkness, good, evil, blessing, cursing, Spirit, flesh, narrow gate to life, broad gate to destruction, Christ or Satan. It’s really, that’s everybody has that choice. It’s that simple. You’ve got one choice. There are two options.

Samuel spoke to the people, chapter 7, verse 3, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” He said will you choose to return to God and He will deliver you. “Multitudes, multitudes,” Joel says, “in the valley of decision.” We’ve all got this decision to make. Will I go to Christ or the devil? Will I go to church or the state fair? We make these decisions in little things, but we’re all making these decisions for eternity. You know I understand that… Many times I’ve driven across what they call the Continental Divide in North America. Sometimes it’s very obvious. You’ve got mountain peaks and you know that all the water that hits on the west side of this mountain is going to run towards the pacific and all of the water that lands on the east side of that mountain will ultimately run to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic. You’ve got this great divide. Some places, it’s a little more rolling when you get into New Mexico there, but there’s actually a point where the drops of water can be nudged one way or the other and it’ll make the difference between the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. It’s a turning point between the two and it sometimes is hard to tell which way that drop is going to go. Looking back on our time here in this world it’ll be interesting to analyze what those pivotal points were, what were those pebbles, what were those little grades that made the difference between which way we were going to go. Today could be one of those turning points for you. You can’t go both ways. That drop of water is going to run towards one ocean or the other. You get to choose, the Bible says, which way. it doesn’t mean by your own power. You say, “God, by Your grace I will follow Thee.” I am going to choose truth over lies. I am going to choose life over death. I’m going to choose Christ over Satan. The road to life, the gate of life, you get to choose that. I’d like to invite you to make that choice.

Now we’re singing a closing hymn today. It’s 606 “Once to Every Man a Nation”. Now I heard that in some places this is a funeral hymn which is unfortunate because it is a great hymn. A little story behind it. James Russell Lowell wrote this during the time of the Civil War and he wrote it in honor of Abraham Lincoln who basically put his life down in defense of freedom. A lot of people laid their lives down on the side of either freedom and truth or in popularity and convenience. You’ll notice that in all these verses it says truth. Truth is found in every verse. We get to make this decision for truth. By the way if you’ve got your hymnals look up on the top right corner, a little amazing fact, you’ll say what is this? A TON-Y-BOTEL? That’s because they’re not sure where this melody came from. One legend says that it is a melody that was found in a bottle on a beach in Wales and it was a very majestic melody. So maybe this is a song that some angel wrote for us, this melody, to help us make that decision for God. I’d like to have you stand as we sing this together. Listen carefully to the words.

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,

Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;

Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,

Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

You must know with a message like this it would be tragic not to give you an opportunity to make a choice. First I’d like to begin by appealing to those, we always have visitors, who maybe have not made a public decision to follow Jesus and to stand for His truth. It’s a decision between Christ and Satan. If you’re not with me, you’re against me. It’s light and darkness. It’s the world or the Father. You can’t have both. Maybe you’ve been trying to ride the fence, go both directions. I’d like to give you an opportunity, as we sing verse three, if you’d like to ask for special prayer, to go all the way with the Lord. Come to the front. We’ll pray for you. And say I want to go all the way with Jesus and with the truth. Come as we sing verse three and we’ll pray for you.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,

Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;

New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,

They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Before we sing the last verse, there may be some of you here today who are feeling the struggle in your heart. You’ve been trying to find that Switzerland and you realize there is no middle ground. You want to cast your vote entirely on the side of Jesus. Maybe you’d like to say, “Lord, I want to follow Your truth, and I’ve been struggling about what truth is. I want to discover that. I want to be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh.” And you’d like to ask for special prayer. Come now as we sing the last verse. We’ll pray together. I’d like to have all of us be a people that are a people that go all the way, that are not vacillating as though we’re not sure what truth is, that we can be definite with one voice and one mind to follow Jesus. Is that your prayer, friends? Okay, let’s sing that verse with our hearts, that last verse together.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;

Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;

Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

Wow. Did you read those words or were you kind of mumbling because you knew the melody a little bit? I’ll tell you they don’t write songs like they used to! People died for their faith; they died for the truth and this song is just beautiful lyrics. I want to stand for truth, friends, because we’re getting ready to enter a battle this time in our world’s history where everything that can be thrown at the truth is going to be fired at her. We’re going to have to know where we stand.

Father in heaven, Lord, we are so thankful for Jesus who is the embodiment of the truth that will set us free. Lord, I pray that we can understand how important it is to choose with our minds and hearts to follow Jesus in order for Him to release His power in our lives to be new creatures. Lord, we’re thankful for the truth. We are saved by Your grace through faith in You, but then through that faith You will give us power to live new lives. Help us, Lord, to take a stand firmly on the side of truth, to choose as we go through this life to serve, to sacrifice, to be givers, to be producers, to take our stand for light and for good, for right. I pray, Lord, that Jesus will be seen in all that we say and do. Forgive us for being hypocritical. Forgive us for sometimes taking Your name in vain and wearing a label of Christianity and yet living like the world. Help us, Lord, to be consistent. Bless us, Lord, with Your Spirit. Be with every person who has come to respond to the altar call today. Infuse their hearts and minds with Your mind and with Your Spirit, with Your love. Be with us as we go from this place that we can take that consistency with us. Bless us during this time of prayer over this ten day period where You’ll just pour out Your Spirit on Your church. Thank You for what we trust You will do. We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.

You may be seated. If there are some this morning who have come forward with a special need for prayer there are pastors who are available to visit with you and also there is going to be a group who will be praying here in the sanctuary following our services.

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