Today Is Decision Time
Today Is Decision Time Reading 1 Kings 18.17-39
It was a shoot-out on the slopes of Mt. Carmel. Ahab and wicked queen Jezebel had put out a decree to kill all the prophets. But Obadiah, the supernatant in charge of their house, hid a hundred of the prophets in caves. There was a great famine in the land, brought about by Ahab and Jezebel setting up and worshiping idols to the god's of Baal.
Elijah the prophet said, because of your idolatry, there will be no rain or even a dew in the land until I ask God for moisture.
As our reading opens, Elijah and King Ahab meet in confrontation. Ahab, calls Elijah the troubler of Israel. Elijah responds, Itís not me that troubles Israel, but you for promoting idolatry. Elijah proposes a way to decide once and for all who is the real God of Israel in the eyes of the people.
The plan went like this, the prophets of Baal and the prophets of God were each to prepare an alter of stone, complete with wood and an ox for the sacrifice. However, there would be no fire. Each was to call upon their god to provide the fire. The god that lit the fire, would be the god that Israel should worship and follow. Verse 24 tells us that the people agreed that this was a good plan.
The prophets of Baal went first. They built their alter, killed the ox, and called on Baal to light the fire. But there was no answer. They pleaded to Baal until about noon.....and still no answer.. Elijah began to make fun of them, saying:
* Pray a little louder, maybe your god is hard of hearing,
* Maybe he is busy this morning,
* Perhaps he's asleep,
* Or away on vacation.
So they cried louder. They even cut themselves with knives and spears in an attempt to get Baal's attention, but still nothing happened. This frenzy lasted until almost six in the evening, but with no answer. So Elijah invites the people to come watch him. He prepares the alter and digs a trench around it. The wood and ox are laid on the alter, Then water is poured on the sacrifice until it is soaking wet. The trench is also filled with water. In verse 36, Elijah prays for God to let the people know that He is Jehovah God. At that moment fire flashed from heaven, and consumed:
* The offering,
* The wood,
* The stones,
* The dirt around the alter,
And the flames lapped up the water that was in the trench. At this demonstration, the people fell on their face proclaiming that Jehovah was God. What an interesting event in the history of Israel.
The central question in this narrative is found in verse 21. Look at it with me. It is a question that confronts everyone of us here this morning. Do you see it? How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god follow him....But the people did not give an answer.
The Hebrew behind these words is interesting. The Hebrew word for opinion speaks of branches or forks in a tree... Or perhaps forks in a road. The word falter or waver means to limp, halt, or dance. In fact, this is the marginal note in the NASV.
I read a story last week about a young man who walked into a card shop to buy a valentine card for his girl friend. He told the clerk that he wanted something special that would express deep sentiment. She quickly selected a card which said, To the only girl I ever loved. Oh, he said that's great, just what I want to say, give me six of them. This young man desperately needed to decide.
So the question this morning becomes, how long will we keep dancing on one foot and then on the other, while trying to keep from making a decision on becoming the people and person that God wants us to be? There are those here this morning, who are this close to accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Close to obeying the gospel and becoming a child of God by Faith, Repentance and New Testament Baptism. Others of us are trying to walk with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God. Israel's challenge, becomes our challenge, How long will we hesitate between two opinions?
We must know this morning that double minded indecision is not only challenged by God, it is outright condemned.
Listen to these admonitions from Scripture:
* Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
* No individual can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
* Love not the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Scripture tells us that there are only two options for us to choose from this morning, the straight and narrow that leads to eternal life and the broad road that leads to destruction. You see, it was decision time on Mt. Carmel. And it is decision time for each of us. We all have come to the forks in the road.
* We simply cannot take both forks.
* We cannot waver between two opinions.
* We must chose between this world and His world.
Why do we waver? Why do we not decide today I don't know for sure, but I have some suggestions:
We fail to make a decision because of the false comfort of good intentions.
I have in mind a man at Center Street in Fayetteville. His wife is a faithful child of God. She and Georgia taught Bible class together for 15 years. Garland Reading has been faithful in attending worship services for over 40 years. He's there Sunday morning, Sunday Night and Wednesday evening, but he has never obeyed the gospel message. I remember watching the sun come up at their dining room table, after discussing Bible and his obedience all night long. His words were, I intend to. So far he never has. Does his good intentions count for something? A few years ago, a member of this church, came into my study. Because of his own inappropriate behavior, his family was falling apart. Finally he shouted at me, I meant to do better, doesn't that count for something? I said, no.... Not really.
* Meaning to do something,
* Intending to do something, is far different than actually doing it.
The old adage is true, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
* We mean to do better.
* We mean to become a better spouse and parent.
* We mean to become more committed Christians.
* We mean to read our Bibles more and pray more.
* We mean to obey the gospel.
* We mean to attend worship services more regularly.... to give more... etc... etc.
Sometimes, I run into members of the church, who haven't been to worship for weeks. They invariably feel obligated to say something like:
I've been thinking about the church,
I've been meaning to be in church.
* Meaning to do something,
* Meaning to be something,
And doing it are two different things. We must never ever confuse the two as being synonymous, because they are not. This is like saying, I've been meaning to be married to you. That's not the same as being marred, is it?
Mere good intentions are not enough. James says, He that knows to do right and does it not.... Sins.
You see, MERELY HAVING good intentions is a sin.
James says: We must actÖ We must do what we know to be right.
Let us not succumb to the false comfort of good intentions.
Sometimes we fail to make a decision because of our love of procrastination.
We put things off saying;
* There'll be another day,
* A better time,
* Not here,
* Not now,
* Not this morning,
* Not me,
* Not us,
* Letís wait.
It must feel just right or we will not do it. We'll never be what we could be or should be, because we have convinced ourselves that there's plenty of time.
Again, we go to the book of James where he describes life: As a fog, as a mist, a vapor that appears for a little while and then it is gone... Vanishes.
* In the SM Jesus compared life to a flower... Here today gone tomorrow.
* Job likens life to a weaverís shuttle... Moving so fast it can hardly be seen.
* Peter says, We are like grass, our glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall away.
I'm not trying to frighten anyone, but the truth is, we ought to live each day as if it were our last, for it could be. Augustine said, God has promised forgiveness to our repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to our procrastination.
Not long ago at a high school, three military recruiters were to address a high school convocation.... Graduation was only a few days off. Each of the men were there to encourage these young men and women to join the military service. The convocation was to last 45 minutes with each recruiter, representing the Army, Navy and Marine allotted 15 minutes each. Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away and when the Marine got up to speak, he had two minutes. He walked to the microphone and stood there absolutely silent for 60 seconds and then said, I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this assembly who could cut it as a Marine....... I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall. He turned smartly and sat down. Sure enough, when he arrived at the dining hall, it was overflowing with interested young people who had been challenged by his short message.
Most of us here this morning know what we should do..... What we should become. Then why not today? Why not start becoming that person this morning? Why postpone faithful obedience through procrastination.
Paul said, behold now is the time, today is the day of salvation.
Other times, we fail to make a decision because of our refusal to face reality.
We deny our situation.... our need to act. We see this a lot in those caught-up in alcoholism or drug addiction. They deny their situation by rationalizing like this:
* I don't drink or do drugs much, just a nip now and then.
* Besides, I can quit anytime I want to.
Then before long I'm called to do their funeral.
We all do it don't we? We eat too much and say:
* We can quit,
* We can go on a diet,
* We can start exercising anytime we get ready.
But, we don't.
The children of Israel were caught between deciding to be God's chosen people and serving the gods of Baal. We too, are caught between becoming God's people and person in total commitment or we can deny that we need any change.
* After all coming to church every few Sundays is good enough to maintain our membership.
* After all, I am as good as those folks that are there every Sunday.
The question that Elijah asked those on Mt. Carmel was, How long are you going to waver between two opinions? Note again verse 21 and the people were silent.
* Do you suppose they were thinking, we're not so bad.
* Do you think they were in denial of their true situation and circumstance before God?
The challenge before them and before us this morning is the same.... If Jehovah is God, then serve Him, if the world is God, then serve it. We fail to make a decision because we think remaining neutral is an option. Our English word neutral comes from two root words meaning not either. So, a decision not to choose is a wrong choice.
* There's no place that this is more evident than in the life of Pilate. His choice not to choose put Jesus on a cross.
* And the Hebrew's writer tells us every time we fail to choose right from wrong, we crucify Jesus a fresh and put Him to open shame.
* James 4.4 says, Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
A decision not to choose is a fatal choice. In the church, we don't make a decision because we fail to understand the critical transaction of genuine Christianity.
If you've ever been to business seminars, you've heard this term used before.
* For instance, in the airline business, the critical transaction is not when the plane takes off. Not when a mechanic fixes the plane. The critical transaction is when someone buys a ticket. If people do not buy plane tickets, nothing else can happen.
* Our radio station failed because we didn't pay enough attention to the critical transaction.... Selling advertising. It is so easy to become caught up in those things that are not the critical issue. This is not to say that they are not important issues, but they are not THE critical transaction.
* What was the critical transaction for Israel at Mt. Carmel?
* What is the critical issue in Christianity?
That we be converted, become changed people.
At the boiling point of Jesusí personal ministry, He demanded faith and repentance. A lot of churches are failing today because they have forgotten the critical transaction. Jesus did not come to build His church to meet the felt needs of the community. He Died to change people.
What are some areas in our lives where this critical transaction must be applied?
Allow me to suggest four
* Our time,
THE MOST PRECIOUS THING WE HAVE IS TIME.
We cannot recycle it. Once itís past, it's gone forever and cannot be called back.
* We can't relive yesterday,
* Nor can we hasten the arrival of tomorrow.
All we really have is today, so treat it carefully. Does God have any claim on our time? This is a critical transaction. Now IS the accepted time, today IS the day of salvation.
HOW ABOUT OUR TALENT?
For a talent to be useful... helpful, it must be available. Opportunities are lost, because people of talent and capacity are standing on the sidelines of the church. I hope to live long enough to see the talent of this church unleashed for Jesus. Scripture teaches us that the crown of life is for those who use their talent:
* Fight the fight,
* Run the race,
* Keep the faith.
THEN THERE IS OUR TREASURE.
I know of some in this church who never give a penny... not one red cent.
* Peter Marshall once said, the measure of life is not its duration, but its donation.
* Paul says, Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. This is life's critical issue.
We are wasting our energy on so many things today:
* Getting an education
* Making a living,
* Building a portfolio,
* Exercising our bodies,
* Making an impression on others,
Yes, all of these things are important, but they fall far short of the critical transaction. Paul maintained that, Bodily exercise profits little, but Godliness is great gain.
Since the day, when the lightning flashed and the people fell on their faces, there has always been a moment of choice. Elijah reminds us again that life is rooted in the choices that we make.
Make the critical transaction.... Choose Jesus. Become a child of God by:
New Testament baptism, immersion in water for the forgiveness of your sins.
Choose to become a changed person in the use of your:
Make this your day of decision.