Dead End Roads

Scripture: John 3:3, Proverbs 16:25, Matthew 7:13-14
God created us to live forever in happiness and joy. But because of sin we got side tracked onto a dead end road. Unless we are born again, we cannot get back on the road to life. It begins with repentance for sin.
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The day you were born you started down a dead-end road, a road that is long, wide, sometimes exciting, sometimes alluring, but dead-end. It comes to a terminus. When it does, you are through traveling. Forever.

You were meant to travel mentally, physically, and spiritually a road that never ends. Never. And under a plan of development that leads to greater happiness and richer fulfillment, with multiplying capacities to love and enjoy life more. This human race got off this road a long time ago. No one travels it now by nature. The Bible says that it takes a big change to get off the one and onto the other. Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3.

"But what does being born twice have to do with roads?" someone asks. It is another figure of speech for changing. You are born once by natural birth, and the second time marks the beginning of a spiritual union with Jesus Christ. It means that you have changed. You have turned around. You have gotten off the highway of death onto the highway of life. It is a big change. It takes place at an exit marked "Calvary."

Somebody objects, "Now you are getting personal. Religion is fine, but I don't want to take it too seriously. I think the way I am going will turn out all right in the end." It is true that it will end, every road does, but where? That is the question that every thoughtful person must ask. It is sheer folly to base hope of eternity on what we think or how we feel. The Bible says, "There is a way that SEEMETH right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs 16:25.

Whether we like it or not, there are but two ways to travel. Destiny is not decided by the attractiveness of the entrance or how one enjoys the scenery along the way. It is not determined by how one feels about it. It is what is at the end of the way that counts. "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:13, 14.

"Tell me, then," one asks, "how can I get off the broad way onto the highway of life?" This is the way it works:

First, there must be a conscious recognition that you are traveling the wrong road with its ultimate consequences, and a conviction of heart that you are rebelling against the One who has claim to your life and who has made it possible, through the sacrifice of His life, for you to travel the road to life. This is called repentance in the Bible. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out . . ." Acts 3:19. Repentance includes genuine sorrow for the wrongs that have been done.

Repentance amounts, in essence, to a change of attitude about sin. The alluring but sinful attractions along the way to destruction lose their appeal. Their luster fades. No longer are they loved. Their true character has been revealed. They are discovered to be false friends and are loathed, loathed by a changed heart and mind that now love to move in harmony with the will of God.

This love for God's way, and hatred of the way of sin, is not something one drums up on his own. The Bible makes it plain that the goodness of God leads to repentance. Romans 2:4. When the human race got off on the wrong road and fell in love with sin, God made it possible to fall right back out of love with it. He said, I will give you hatred for sin. It was the only way fallen man could break with sin, for it is axiomatic that one cannot turn his back on what he loves. Neither can he turn his affections to what he hates. So God gave hatred for sin and implanted love for righteousness. Man found that he could break with sin and live according to God's will. He could control human desires, not by "sitting on the lid" of a sinful nature, but by the power of a mind that hates sin and loves the corresponding virtues.

It was said of Jesus, "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness." Hebrews 1:9, R.S.V. Or, as the New English Bible puts it, "Thou has loved right and hated wrong." This was the secret of His power over sin. Through the power of God man can fall out of love with sin.

Victory over sin is not a mere human accomplishment; it comes as a result of union with Jesus Christ. "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20.

Power to do right comes by virtue of this union. Jesus made this plain when he said, "Dwell in me, as I in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, but only if it remains united with the vine; no more can you bear fruit, unless you remain united with me." John 15:4, N.E.B.

Confession follows repentance. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. When man confesses, God forgives, and the union is formed. Man is adopted (to change the figure of speech) into the family of God. He is off the road to death and on the road to life. Jesus takes the blame for all his sins. He died 2,000 years ago to pay the penalty for them. Repentant man then gets credit for all the good that Jesus did, for Jesus is his substitute and sin-bearer. God looks upon him just as though he had never sinned, just as though he had never traveled the road to death.

Is it possible for one to know that he has changed from death to life? Yes! "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." 1 John 5:13. That we may have assurance is made abundantly clear in the words of Jesus, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 5:24.

Someone may be saying, "Its that positive assurance that bothers me. I pray but I don't feel anything. Shouldn't I feel the assurance that you are speaking about?" It is not necessary to feel anything. A sense of assurance lies deeper than the emotions; it resides in the will. It is a question of faith in the Word of God. He says, "I have given you eternal life." I believe Him on the basis of His pronouncement. It does not matter how I feel.

There was a day when I stood before a preacher with a young woman at my side. At a given point in the ceremony he said, "I now pronounce you man and wife." I didn't feel any different. I felt just like I did one minute before. But, friends, I knew I was married! How did I know? By the way I felt? No. My feelings had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was what the preacher SAID that made the difference. Just so you may know, the Bible says, that you have eternal life, that you have passed from death to life.

You may know by the love you have for others. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:34, 35. You may know by the love you have for God. "Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments." 1 John 5:1, 2, R.S.V.

You may know by the love you have for the commandments of God. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:21, 15. You may know by the love you have for God's Word. "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Verse 23. The evidence of conversion is love. The evidence of love is witnessed to by a life of loving devotion to the service of God and one's fellowmen.

Let us get one thing clear at this point, however: Man is not saved by good works. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9. But when a man is saved through faith in Christ, he will do works of love. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." Galatians 5:6. A faith that works! This is the winning combination.

Some are afraid to take their stand for Christ for fear they are not strong enough to hold out against temptation. "If I could be certain I would never stumble in my Christian experience, then I would take my stand." This sounds sincere, but it is fatal. No one can boast that he will never make a mistake. There is only One who ever walked the face of the earth without slipping in a single instance and that was the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is wonderful assurance in this passage from Proverbs 24:16: "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again." The emphasis here is not on falling but on getting up. The righteous man does not stay down; he does not excuse himself and say, "Oh, what's the use? It is too hard to be a Christian. I will just give up and take the easy way out." In deep humility and repentance, he arises to go on to the kingdom with the Lord Jesus. This is the secret of victory.

One does not become like Jesus over night. It is a process of growth. Each day, as the Christian communes with the heavenly Father and eats the Bread of Life, he grows more and more like Jesus. His hatred for sin increases; his love for righteousness grows.

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