Battle for the Mind - Part 2

Scripture: Mark 7:7, Matthew 7:21-22
Does it make any difference what you believe? There is such contradictory teachings about the Bible. We must be careful not to put the traditions of men in the place of the Word of God.
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We're living in an age of dishonesty and deceit. Everywhere we turn our eyes see the sham and pretense of a morally bankrupt society. The ridiculous posture of modern advertising has done much to destroy man's faith in what is true and false. One announcer blares forth the assuring words, "Plymouth is the finest car on the market. There's none better." But then another man flashes onto the television screen immediately with this dogmatic statement: "Ford is the greatest automobile available anywhere." This is only one aspect of society today which conditions us to disbelieve most of what we hear.

If we were to go down the street today and knock on the doors of a dozen different churches in our city and ask them what they believe in most any area of Christian doctrine, for example, baptism, what happens when a man dies, punishment of the wicked, second coming of Christ, millennium, name almost any subject you will, if we were to knock on the doors of a dozen churches in any city and ask, "What do you believe?" we'd get a dozen different answers. In fact, we'd get a different answer in every place.

Now what's the purpose of doctrine, friends? It's to teach us something about God. That is its only purpose. If that doctrine is not what the Bible teaches, then it's going to teach us something less than the truth about God. Does it make a difference what we believe? Let me ask you this. Did it make a difference to Adam and Eve? Of course it did. Is it possible for a man to be sincere and be sincerely wrong in his beliefs? Absolutely. We need to listen to the words of Jesus here. Now listen, this is an amazing statement right from the lips of our Lord. It's found in Mark 7:7. "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Friends, this is amazing because it doesn't say they are worshipping in vain because they're heathen. It doesn't say they're lost because they are not worshipping. It says they are worshipping Him, that's what it says, but they are worshipping in vain because they have put in the place of a "Thus saith the Lord" one of the traditions of men. Does it make a difference what a man believes? Jesus said, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Now the more you ponder that statement, the more amazing it becomes because these are not heathen people He's talking to. These are not the sinners. This is not the man in the gutter who is lost, who's worshipping in vain. It's the man who is worshipping but who has put in the place of a plain, direct commandment of God one of the traditions of men.

Do you see why we are concerned about truth here in this broadcast? The truth as it is in Jesus? Because the devil would like to counterfeit Bible truth and have us believe something less than the truth. Because the purpose of truth, the very purpose of a doctrine, is to lead us to God. If the doctrine we believe does not square with Scripture then it teaches us something less than the truth about God. I want to illustrate this. What we believe about a person influences our relationship to him. If I believe that my country was responsible for starting the Vietnam war with the carnage and bloodshed that resulted, it would influence my relationship to my country and prevent me from being a loyal American. What happens to the wicked at the end of the world? There are some churches where it's taught that when a man is lost, he's going to burn forever and ever and ever. There are some churches that teach that he goes through a period of probation, of torment, that gets him ready for glory. There are some who believe that man is going to be burned up, consumed. There are some who believe that he's going into a kind of never never land, a spirit world, somewhere and they're not quite sure just what does happen, but at least it's not eternal happiness.

Now listen, what I believe about how God is going to deal with the culmination of this sin problem influences my relationship to it. If I believe that God is going to boil and bake and burn men throughout eternity for 30 years of sin on this earth, is it going to influence my relationship to God? Now don't jump to any conclusions. We're going to deal with this in depth another day, but I want to illustrate here what we are talking about. These are not just pious platitudes, friends. The devil has successfully counterfeited somewhere every single truth in the world today. Every one of them. Not one has escaped his deception. Does it make a difference what we believe? Of course. It certainly did to Adam and Eve. They honestly believed the deception that Satan gave them and it cost them everything. Jesus said there will be those who are worshipping, but worshipping in vain because they've put in place of a plain commandment of God, a man-made tradition. I say it makes a great deal of difference what we believe.

Somebody says, "Well, I can't leave my church." We're not talking about churches today, friends. We're talking about following God. Don't look at the people. Look at the Light. We need to take one more quick glance here at what Jesus said. Matthew 7:21. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Now notice verse 22. This is an amazing statement by our Lord. "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" Oh yes, miracle workers in the name of Jesus. Don't you see? Notice Christ's answer now in verse 23. "Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Oh, this is one of the most sobering passages in the Word of God, because we're led face to face here with the understanding which we can't escape, that it makes a difference to God what we believe and how we live. It isn't enough to say, "Yes, I believe. I'm a church member." It's a matter of how we live and what we believe about our God that makes a difference. Many will say, "Lord, we've cast out devils. We've done miracles. We've prophesied." And yet, they'll be lost. It makes a difference what we believe. Anchor your faith firmly, my friends, to the rock of Scripture.

Now we come to point number 5 which we started in our broadcast yesterday and I believe that perhaps this is one of the most successful deceptions which the devil has turned loose in our day. I've called it simply spiritual procrastination, putting off the claims of Jesus Christ on our lives. The Bible says, "How shall we escape if we neglect?" Oh, it's so easy to get so busy we forget to put first things first. Starting for heaven on a gravestone is risky business, my friends, and really is it fair to burn the candle of life for ourselves and then give only the smoke to God? How many people we've talked to that say this, "Well, I know that's the truth. I know what I ought to do and I plan to but I just haven't gotten around to it yet." That reminds me of the story of a young Persian Prince. He decided when he came of age that he was going to spend the next ten years of his life getting an education. Then he was going to spend ten years making money, and then ten years in travel. The last ten years of his life he was going to spend getting right with God and getting things ready for eternity. There was only one thing that happened to mar his plan. He died during the first ten years. Now we're not calamity howlers, friends, but I'm saying this: The devil would like to have us postpone the day of making our peace with God. Everybody has said it at one time or another, "Well, I can see when things start to shape up, when I get along in life and see the times start to fulfill that Christ is coming, then I'm really going to get ready to meet the Lord and I'll get in earnest about my Christian experience." Do you know who suggested such a thing to you, friends? I think you do. I believe that unconcern, spiritual unconcern, is one of the greatest curses of our day.

So many go through life as though there were no God, no heaven, no hell, no tomorrow. You remember Paul and Felix were visiting together and Felix said, "Go thy way for this time, Paul. When I have a more convenient season, I'll call for you." As far as we know, he never did. You see, heaven is trying to take out of this world a generation of men and women alive. We talked the other day about some of the conditions which exist in our world and how God must feel as He looks down on this whole sordid mess. How anxious Jesus must be as He sees the place that He's prepared and sees us rather unconcerned about going there.

Some time ago one of the items of interest in the newspaper was about a cave-in in a mine down in Pennsylvania somewhere, I think you might remember it. There were some miners trapped but there was reason to believe they were still alive under ground. There was no way to dig down through the mine shaft that had caved in so they were hoping the miners were off to the side of the main shaft in a little room in a horizontal shaft. So they brought in a great drilling rig and started drilling down through that virtually solid rock trying to get into that room where they felt they were probably entombed. Hour after hour, day after day, while the world watched, virtually holding its breath, as the news media portrayed for us the picture of how they went down there 6 inches and then another foot and down finally to three feet.

The families camped at the mouth of the mine where the rescue operations were going on. Finally the day came when that great boring rig bore through the ceiling of that room where the miners were trapped. Rapidly it was withdrawn and they lowered a microphone to a little speaker down that hole. The man who was directing the rescue operation at the top spoke into his end of the microphone and said, "Are you alright? Are you alive? Are you there?!" And then a voice came back from the heart of the earth. "Yes, we're here. We're alright." A great shout went up from the rescue workers at the opening of that pit. Then the director said this into the microphone. "What do you want the most?" There was a pause and then a voice came back, "I want a cigar."

Oh friends, heaven is involved in the greatest rescue operation the world has ever known. All the universe is watching. Day after day, week after week, year after year, for the last six-thousand horrible years, God has been seeking to rescue those of us who have been entombed by the avalanche of sin. What must it do to His heart by our procrastination, our lethargy, our spiritual postponement of eternal things. We send back a message and say, "Oh, we're satisfied with the trinkets, we're satisfied with the things, but thanks just the same." How shall we escape if we neglect?

J. A. Kennedy of Birmingham, England, wrote these words, and I want you to listen carefully.

"When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged him on a tree.

They drove great nails through His hands and made a Calvary.

They crowned Him with a crown of thorns.

Red were his wounds and deep.

For those were crude and cruel days and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they only passed Him by.

They never hurt a hair of Him.

They only let Him die.

For men had grown more tender and they would not give Him pain.

And so they passed on down the street and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.'

And still it rained a winter rain that drenched Him through and through.

The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see.

And Jesus leaned against the wall and cried for Calvary."

Friends, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Have you been guilty of neglecting the Saviour who loves you and died for you? It's so easy in this materialistic age to leave Him standing outside the heart's door. A hundred matters clamor for the first attention of our hearts. This is an hour for Christians to be very selective and cautious in the matter in which they spend their time and how they spend their money. Let me urge you to take more time to study that great guidebook to heaven, God's Word.

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