The Deadly Double-Ditch Where Christians Fall

Scripture: Mark 9:14-24, Luke 10:38-42
Date: 10/22/2022 
Faith is crucial to salvation. Being a Christian involves both faith and works.

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Doug Batchelor: One of the most important topics in scripture is the subject of family. From Genesis to Revelation, family is explained and magnified as being both a blessing and a necessity. There is a heavenly family above, the Father, the Son, Holy Spirit, and all the angels, and there are families on the earth in every nation, tongue, tribe, and people. And there's also such a thing as a church family, a collection of people coming together for one specific purpose: to worship God. It's that unity in the assembly, which is of particular importance to God. In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul urges us to, "Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." If you think about it, this is what composes a home, people uniting to form a family, creating a home.

Friends, Jesus is wanting to adopt you. He's inviting you to join His family. He draws everyone unto Him through Calvary with the intention to unite His people on earth and prepare them for that journey to the heavenly home. It's my hope that today's program will bring you closer to Jesus and inspire you with a desire to be part of His family. And don't forget, stay tuned for a very important free offer at the end of this presentation.

Doug: Being a Christian involves faith and works. Good things, but the ditches where people fall are those two ditches. There is a group that believes in salvation by works and there's another group that believes in salvation by perks. They think they get a free pass because of grace. Both are equally deadly and I think there's going to be a lot of professed Christians that will be outside of the New Jerusalem because they were trusting too much in their works or their perks. Do you know what I'm saying?

I understand the insurance companies tell us that roughly 4% of all auto accidents are the result of overcorrecting. Typically among young and inexperienced drivers, they encounter something on the road or there's a little bit of ice, and they go to--they turn the wheel, but they overturn and they end up in the ditch. And this is what happens. Some people, they overcorrect and they end up in the ditch.

You heard in the scripture reading where we're--Joshua was talking about, "Be careful not to turn to the right hand or the left." This is something similar that Moses says in Deuteronomy 5, verse 32 and 33. "Therefore, you will be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or the left. You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you might live and that it might be well with you, that you might prolong your days in the land that you go to possess."

There are two extremes, and we're going to explore those briefly, where it's easy for us to get off track and focus too much on one side and then we catch ourselves focusing too much on one side and we overcorrect and we end up in the other ditch. Have you seen this before? I know some people that they were just--they were so fastidious and almost legalistic--or no, they were legalistic about--they have their list of things that they were doing. They're like that Pharisee that said, "I pay tithe of all that I possess and I fast twice a week," and they had their whole list and they were trusting in their good works. They're miserable. Then they heard a sermon on grace and they jettisoned all the good works and they went in the other ditch and they had no works. And they were living like the world. But they said, "Oh, I'm under the blood." And you can have it both ways.

We got salvation by works and salvation by perks. Let's talk about the works. A couple of Bible examples quickly. You remember the story where, before the feast in Bethany, Jesus is in the house of Martha, Lazarus, and Mary. Mary of Bethany may very likely be also Mary of Magdalene. "And as they went to a certain village," Luke 10, verse 38, "a certain woman named Martha who also--who welcomed Him into her house. She had a sister called Mary who also sat at Jesus's feet and heard His word." Mary, who had been saved and out of whom Jesus cast seven devils was so grateful and so in love and so devoted, she's sitting at His feet as Jesus is teaching the other apostles and she's drinking in every word. "Martha was distracted with much serving."

Now, is she happy? Who is she serving? She's working for Jesus. She's working with the food and you got people that are working in the Word and they're working for Jesus and they're much distracted and they're not at all happy. Instead of looking at Jesus, she's looking at her sister. She's not looking horizontally to God. She's looking or, rather, vertically, she's looking horizontally at what her sister is doing. "And she approached Jesus. She said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?'" Kind of like the parable where Jesus pays the servants who've been working in the vineyard and He pays the ones who came the last hour, the same amount as those who work through the heat of the day. And they were so upset because they were concerned about what their brothers were getting paid as opposed to just serving the Lord from joy. "'She's left me to serve alone. Therefore, tell her to help me, order her, command her. And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha’," you can tell that He loves her, "'you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed.'"

Now, how many of you would like to hear Jesus say, "You're almost there. You only need one thing. One thing left." He told the rich young ruler, "One thing you lack." You know, if we get the one thing right, everything else falls into place. You fall in love with the Lord and you will obey Him, you'll do the good works. "One thing, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'" She's seeking first the kingdom. She knows the relationship with Jesus has to be pivotal. Martha thought she could work her way into serving the Lord.

I understand that just before his death, some of you remember Aristotle Onassis, he married Jackie Kennedy after President John Kennedy was assassinated. She was single a few years and she married Aristotle, this very wealthy shipping magnate. Had a lot of money, but as he realized he was facing this final illness, his conscience started bothering me--him and he started giving money aways, hoping he could buy credit for heaven. Doesn't work that way. Some people think, well, you know, as long as my good works outweigh my bad works. Like God grades on the curve or something. Paul says in Galatians 3, verse 11, "But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for 'the just shall live by faith.' Yet the law is not of faith, but 'the man who does them will live by them.'"

Interesting story. Some of you remember Betty Crocker. Betty Crocker Company came up with an instant cake. All you had to do is add water and they tested it and field tested it. People said it tasted really good, everyone liked the cake. But sales were lagging and they couldn't figure it out. They did some more research and so many of the ladies that were using the cake mix, they said, "You know, people asked me about the cake and I feel like I can't say I made it because all I do is add water," and they came up with an idea. They adjusted the formula a little bit so that the people were required to add water and one egg. And they found out then the sales took off because they felt like, "I am doing something. It's by my baking works." And then they liked it.

The idea of it being for free bothers some people, that you could be saved for free. "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord,'" Jesus said, Matthew 7:21, "'will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day," meaning the judgment day, "'Lord, Lord,'" they know His name, "'we prophesized in Your name, we cast out demons in Your name, we've done many wonderful works." Well, it says in the King James, "In Your name.' And He will declare to them, 'I don't know you; depart from Me, you who work iniquity.'" They thought that they were doing wonderful works, but they did not have that relationship with the Lord. They thought, we need to earn it.

L.L.Bean set out an envelope years ago, had a sales advertisement inside. It said, "Free double dollars inside. Your gift enclosed." Then you open it up and you unfold the little flyer and it says, "Learn here how to earn your double dollars." Well, they said it was a gift, but then they say you got to earn it. It's not really a gift, is it? The Bible says that salvation is a gift. You cannot earn it. So, that's one side.

Now you've got--that was the righteousness by works and then you got the righteousness by perks. I'm using King Saul. 1 Samuel chapter 15. Samuel tells King Saul, "I want you to go fight against the Amalekites. I want you to annihilate them and their cattle. Wipe them out." Now, it's a whole different discussion if you want to ask a question about why God would do that, but I think they're good answers. So, after the battle, Saul doesn't wipe them out. He said, "You know, why wipe out"--they're pillaging and killing through the Amalekite city and they see all of these really good looking, you know, they would be like 4-H cattle, the blue star sheep, and goats. And the people said to Saul, "Samuel was not thinking clearly. Why in the world would you want to kill these?" And they thought, maybe we'll sacrifice a few of them to the Lord. And since we're sacrificing a few, we don't really have to kill them all. And that was the argument that Saul brought Samuel.

Samuel comes back and Saul says, "Blessed be the Lord. I have obeyed the commandment of the Lord." And Samuel says, "If you've obeyed the commandment of the Lord, then what is the bleating of the sheep that I hear in my ears?" "Oh, oh, oh, oh. Yeah. Yeah. Well, the people, yeah, they wanted to spare some of those to sacrifice. It's for a religious purpose to the Lord." And then Samuel makes a statement that many of you have underlined in your Bible, "Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you've rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you from being king." Another modern translation would be, if we don't believe in obeying what God commands us to do, you can lose the kingdom.

He somehow thought, well, you know, as long as I put a religious spin on it, we'll make a donation, I don't really have to obey. Or, I don't have to obey completely. It was a partial obedience. And all that God really wants from us is partial obedience, and then we'll just plead the blood of Jesus. Now, don't misunderstand. I am not talking about what some people would deem some sterile, stainless steel perfectionism. But as soon as you start thinking that God only requires partial obedience--for one thing, what are you doing here on Saturday? I mean, it's only 1/7 of the week, right? If it's only partial obedience, try telling your spouse you plan on keeping your marital fidelity partially. See how far that goes. Well, what's more important? Your love for your spouse or your devotion to God? Say, "Lord, I love You and I'm going to follow You, but I'm going to follow the devil a little bit."

Obedience does matter. Amen? James chapter 2, verse 14. Faith without works is not only dead, it's deadly because people have just enough faith to fool themselves. James 2, verse 14. "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he's got faith, but he has no works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things that are needful to the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it doesn't have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You got faith, and I've got works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe there's one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble! But do you not know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

You know, Jesus said, "Peter, who do men say that I am?" And Peter responds, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And we all go, "Praise God." That is the rock on which the church was built. Faith that Jesus is the Messiah. But you realize that statement was quoted by devils also. Devils would confront Jesus in the synagogue and say, "Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of God, we know who you are." Not going to save them.

So, if we're thinking that we're saved by going to church, which is important, and paying your tithe, which is important, and doing some good deeds, that's all important, that that's going to save us, you're going to be greatly disappointed. Or if you're thinking, that was one ditch, or if you're thinking that you said a prayer when you were 12 years old and you came to the front and you invited Jesus into your heart. And once you're saved, you're saved and you can now live like the rest of the world, you can spend your time like the world and your money, you can be entertained like the world and expect to go to heaven. No, you'll get the reward of the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. That's what the apostle says. "But they that do the will of God."

It's not just believing, it's doing the will of God. But the reason you do the will of God is because you do believe. You see what I'm saying? It is saving faith that produces the works. And we've got to get this right. Some people quote Martin Luther as the one who said, "We are saved by faith alone." And he did say that. And that was the hallmark of the Reformation, but they don't quote where Luther said, "We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone." Meaning it is not just that we are saved by faith, saving faith is going to be coupled with works. Another quote by Luther, "True faith will no more fail to produce good works than the sun can cease to give light."

Luther said, 'Real faith is going to produce good works." If you don't have the good works, then you don't have the real McCoy. Spurgeon said, "Faith and works are bound up in the same bundle," now, these are all champions of faith alone. "Faith and works are bound up in the same bundle. He that obeys God, trusts God; and He that trusts God, obeys God. He that is without faith is without works; and He that is without works is without faith." We need both. We are saved by faith alone.

Let me illustrate. When Jesus offered salvation to the thief that died on the cross, that thief we know was not saved by good works. He didn't have time to do any good works. The only thing he could do was turn to Jesus and pray and believe. And he will be in the kingdom based on the promise of God. But if they had taken him off of the cross and he could have gone, would he have lived a different life if he could have gone free? Yeah.

Now, when we talk about the Christian life, you not only have the saving faith, you're going to have a behavior. It's going to be active in the life. A mother was upstairs cleaning and she asked her five-year-old daughter, "Where are your shoes?" She said, "My shoes are downstairs." She said, "What in the world are your shoes doing downstairs?" And the girl thought about it for a moment. She said, "Mom, they're not doing anything. They got no feet in them." And we need a faith that has feet in it or we don't do anything.

And when we're talking about good works, you know, sometimes people think, well, I don't do these bad sins. Those are sins of commission. James is talking about sins of omission. Meaning--he said, "You got a brother or sister who's destitute of food and warmth and you just say, 'I'm going to pray for you. Be warmed and filled.'" It's kind of like when you and I drive down the road, we see an accident, we say a prayer. Well, that's good. I--you can do that. But if you're able to tangibly help somebody, God wants us to give the tangible help. Amen?

Saving grace produces works. Ephesians 2, verse 8: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it's the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." It's not like the L.L.Bean gift. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works."

Now, I want you to notice this. It says, "For by grace we are saved through faith." For works, people often leave that out, by faith we are saved. I'm sorry. By grace through faith for works. Some people stop at the faith part and then, why are we saved by faith? For works. Let me give you another verse on that. I always like to have two or three witnesses to seal these points. Titus 2:14, "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous of good works."

Now, we are saved by faith, but what are we judged by? We're judged by our works. Ecclesiastes 12, verse 13 and 14. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil." Judged by works. Jesus said, Matthew 16:27, "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels and He will give a reward to each one according to His works."

But, Lord, I thought it was by faith? Revelation 22, verse 12. "'And behold, I am coming quickly, My reward is with Me to give to every one according to his--'" "His works." Romans 2:5. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who 'will render to each one according to his deeds.'" Jesus said, "The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, they that have done good, the resurrection of life, they that have done evil, the resurrection of condemnation."

Now, again, I'm not saying, "Oh, I better go out there and start doing more good work so I can be saved." The only reason a Christian does the good works is because he is saved. Is--it's because we love the Lord and we want to find out what best pleases Him. Now, you may not always feel like doing good works. When a mother wakes up in the middle of the night and the baby's crying and it needs some attention, it's, you know, hungry or has a plumbing problem. She might think, I don't want to get up. Right? I don't feel like it. I'm tired, I'm comfy. Just let him cry. But does she get up? Why? Hopefully, love. Also, so she can get back to sleep. But when you love the Lord, doesn't mean you're--that works aren't going to involve some effort.

The Bible says, "Yeah, there might be some effort involved." You know, even living the Christian life tells us there's effort involved. It tells us we wrestle, we strive, we run, we war, we fight. These are terms that are used on a battlefield. There's often effort involved in the Christian life. That doesn't mean you don't have faith if you use effort.

What I've seen is that God will combine His supernatural power with our human effort. He gives us minds, He gives us wills, and when we choose and will to do God's will He then sends supernatural aid to assist us in doing His will. Judged by our works. 2 Corinthians 5:10. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one might receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." 1 Peter 1:17. "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's works," if you've read in Matthew chapter 25, the great judgment day, Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and He says to the goats, "I was hungry, you didn't feed Me. I was thirsty, you didn't give Me drink." And He's talking about what they have or have not done.

He says to the sheep, "I was hungry, you fed Me. I was naked and you clothed Me. I was sick, or in prison, and you visited Me, a stranger. You took Me in." These are very practical things. But what's really at the heart of this test? Do you love your brother? See, when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts for God and our fellow man, are we going to care? Are we going to do the things that please God? Are we going to care about our fellow man? Right? If we keep Jesus the center of our relationship, we don't have to worry about the works and the perks. It helps us get on our way home. Amen?

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