Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CHOOSING SIDES”

(A Christian school commencement address) 

A message from God’s Word prepared for this special occasion.

The Lord Jesus Christ asked, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” The implications of that question are profound.

Eternity was once described in this way. Imagine the entire earth as a ball of iron. Also, imagine a fly walking on the equator around the world for a long enough period of time to wear a visible path along the equator where it walked. However many millions of years that would require, it would only be a fraction of a second in eternity. Yet eternity is how long a person will spend suffering the eternal torment of the damned should he or she die without Christ.

What, then, is the point of living a happy life before spending eternity in the lake of fire? What is the point of being happily married for many years before spending eternity in the lake of fire? What is the point of being successfully employed or building a thriving business before spending eternity in the lake of fire? There is no point to it, to any of it, which is my point.

The alternative is not to live one’s life as if there is no meaning to one’s existence. That is nihilism, the notion that nothing makes sense and that there is no reason to do anything other than eat, drink, and try to be merry because tomorrow you die. That is the rationale of the intellectually lazy, the spiritually dim, the lethargic loser. That is the approach to life taken by those who live in tents on the boardwalk in Venice.

I want to set before you consideration of reality, a reflection that I have titled “Choosing Sides.” My consideration will not be fully developed. It will not be complete. Because there simply isn’t enough time. My prayer is that it will be sufficient.

As I look back on my almost 71 years of life, and my more than 47 years of knowing Christ, studying God’s wonderful Word, and attempting to satisfy a voracious appetite for reading, I would like to launch by reflecting on several blessings graciously granted by God, Who did not see fit to place me into a Christian home surrounded by godly parents and influences.

As one looks back over a long life, it is of little benefit to focus on deprivations. It is far better to look back on your blessings and to count them one by one. I am profoundly thankful for three incredible blessings I benefited from before coming to Christ.

First, I thank God I was not raised in the United States of America but rather grew up on Indian reservations that were amazingly divorced from the influence of Western civilization. This created in me a greater appreciation for the United States of America than many native-born citizens possess. I have spent three score and ten years watching the declension of this country with amazement.

Second, though I was not born into a Christian family and have no recollection of a single occasion of prayer or instruction from God’s Word in our home growing up, I am profoundly grateful that my parents were readers. As I have told our Church people many times, I recollect that my father read a book a day, with my mother being an avid reader. After she died, I counted more than 500 books in her apartment. Sadly, they were not good books. My parents’ pattern of reading left me with an insatiable appetite for reading.

Third, the Gospel was presented to me in a vacation Bible school when I was six years old. The Gospel message was rarely reinforced or bolstered along the way during my growing up years, but it was that single Gospel exposure that God used to powerfully move me to consider the claims of Christ the night I trusted Him to save my wicked soul.

Those three factors in my personal history before coming to Christ were of great benefit to me and provided me with a perspective that I have discovered to be quite rare. Allow me to capitalize on what I have learned from my early years, with greatly cherished clarification from my study of God’s Word for approaching a half-century.

As I observe the culture around me, in a country that is in some respects not my culture of origin, bolstered by my study of God’s Word, there are several insights I want to share with you and am willing to defend against anyone who would disagree with me. I believe my statements are defensible. 

ASSUMPTION NUMBER ONE IS YOUR ABILITY TO THINK 

The great majority of American citizens believe they are capable of rational and reasonable thought. If you are like most Americans, you are somehow persuaded that you can rationally and reasonably think. Let me suggest that you are mistaken. You are not capable of rational and reasonable thought. I make this statement based upon my observations of the very best of us.

Forty years ago, R. J. Neild gave me the 54 volume set of Great Books he inherited from his mother. The Great Books are an assembled collection of the writings of the great thinkers of Western civilization, beginning with Homer, Plato, and Aristotle and concluding with such thinkers as Melville, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky.

The Bible is not included in this list of great works because the editor recognized that everyone who has an appreciation for the development of Western thought over the last 3000 years already has and already reads the Bible. After taking the set home, I made a conscious decision not to read it so that the best thinkers of Western civilization, most of whom were not committed Christians, would not improperly interfere with my desire to have the mind of Christ.

Once I turned 70 years of age, I took up reading the Great Books. I felt I was spiritually mature and seasoned enough to recognize and discern the errors that plagued those who were accepted as great thinkers. Allow me to share a couple of examples from arguably the greatest of Greek thinkers, Socrates.

All of the Greeks of his era agreed with his belief in a multiplicity of gods. He and they believed that demons were good.[1] And he and they believed that the performance of good deeds determined one’s eternal destiny. By the way, that is more or less what every other human being from that time to this believes and is based on a person’s notion that he is capable of rational and reasonable thought.

But what does the Bible reveal? 

Isaiah 1.18 reads, 

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

This verse suggests that people do not routinely engage in reason, as in thought, as in logic. 

Romans 1.28: 

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” 

How rational and reasonable is it for an intelligent being to not want to retain the knowledge of the one true and living God? Not very sensible or reasonable, if you ask me. Then there is Romans 3.11-18. The Apostle Paul writes, 

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 

I would suggest that although the human race is brilliant in so many ways, the capacity to reasonably and rationally think about spiritual and moral and eternal matters is absent from humanity, and until proven otherwise, from you. 

ASSUMPTION NUMBER TWO IS YOUR ASSUMED NEUTRALITY 

Is it not amazing how many people think they are morally neutral? A man can traffic in booze, drugs, or pornography while still thinking he is morally neutral. A woman can be a scheming and conniving manipulator while dressing and behaving provocatively and believe she still concludes that she is morally neutral.

Yet there was that most religiously accomplished man who ever lived who met with the glorified Savior on the road to Damascus. No matter how morally pure and upright he imagined himself to be when confronted by the Lord of glory in all His pristine holiness; he immediately perceived his moral impurity and degradation. He needed the cleansing that is provided only by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He would later write, 

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”[2] 

The Apostle Paul was speaking for himself and everyone else who had not come to know Jesus Christ as personal Savior. There is no such thing as moral neutrality. One is either dead or alive, depending only on whether one knows the Savior or does not know the Savior. No wonder the Savior said, 

“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”[3] 

So, people are not really capable of thinking, especially when it comes to thinking about matters related to eternity. As well, people are not morally neutral either. There is no middle ground. There are only those who are against God or for God, depending entirely and utterly on whether or not you know Jesus Christ as your Savior. And regardless of what people say, if they do not live for, love, and actively serve Christ, they are not real Christians at all and are, therefore, on the wrong side of the great conflict Jesus Christ has already won. 

ASSUMPTION NUMBER THREE IS YOUR ASSUMED ABILITY TO PERFORM 

You do recognize that there are only two religions in the world, do you not? Of course, there are dozens of identified religions, and within each religious group, dozens if not hundreds of denominations. But in reality, when it boils down to the essentials, there are only two religions.

Almost all human beings are religious, with nearly all human beings assuming that they can perform. However, even with members of the same Gospel preaching congregations, the reality is that some embrace the religion of man, and others embrace the religion of God. The religion of man is a works-based religion, established upon the conviction that you must do something to make God happy enough with you that He will reward you by allowing you to enter His heaven when you die. Even if the pastor of the Church is committed to the religion of God, and frequently preaches “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” there will still be members within the congregation who are basing their expectation of heaven upon some thing or some things, they have said or done. With some, it is going forward during an invitation. With others, it is repeating the sinner’s prayer. Still, others rely upon baptism. Some rely upon Church membership. Still, others rely upon some nebulous notion of being good or of not being really, really bad. But it is all works, don’t you see? Confidence in your ability to perform.

The true religion, the faith once delivered to the saints, is a religion of good works following conversion to Christ, not a religion of works to be converted to Christ. This is the religion of humility rather than pride. This is the religion of dependence upon the finished work of Christ, not the religion that is based upon an assumed ability to perform. This is the religion that can rightly sing the words, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” This is the religion that rightly recognizes that for the salvation of your soul Christ does not need your help, does not want your help, and will not accept your help. Why? Because sinners not only have no ability to think about spiritual and moral matters affecting eternity, we also have no ability to perform with regard to spiritual and moral matters affecting eternity. This is also the religion whose adherents love to tell people about their conversion to Christ, how they passed from death to life, and what the basis for their hope of heave is. Go ahead and ask them how they came to Christ. Only those who are not truly born again will object to being asked how they became believers in Jesus Christ. 

ASSUMPTION NUMBER FOUR IS YOUR ASSUMED OPTIMISM 

Reflect with me for a moment. According to the Word of God, the human race is not all that competent when it comes to thinking, especially concerning matters related to morality, spirituality, and eternity. That impediment to thinking is reflected in people’s assumptions about being morally neutral. They think that because they don’t feel hostility toward God, they are not God’s enemies and do not hate God. God’s Word, however, says otherwise.

Add to that the estimation of most human beings that they are capable of adequate performance when it comes to moral, ethical, or spiritual matters, and you are left with the astonishing assumption of optimism about the future with most people.

Is it because Hollywood has taught us that the cavalry always arrives in time at the end of the movie? Is it because we live in a country so blessed by God that financial success is almost always associated with diligence to acquire a good education, marketable skills in a predictable legal environment?

Whatever the reason for it, the tendencies of our novelists, the patterns of our movie makers, or the blessings of God upon past generations of God-fearing people that have left us with a legacy of material prosperity, we dare not rest our hope on anything not inspired by God.

God’s Word says about those without Christ, 

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”[4] 

With hope defined as the confident expectation of future blessing based upon the promises of God, one who is without Christ, who is not Jewish, who is the recipient of no covenant promises, is one who has no hope, and is one who is without God.

Where, then, does the boundless optimism come from? Where does the anticipation of great things in the future come from in the life of a man or a woman who has not experienced the new birth that resulted in a life changing conversion to Christ? It comes from the wrong assumption of one’s ability to think. It comes from the wrong assumption of moral neutrality. And it comes from this erroneous assumption of one’s ability to perform in the moral, ethical, and spiritual realm. It is the notion that someone can please God without having the faith that comes only from God, that results in trusting God and trusting in God’s Son. Not possible!

If the last 18 months of Covid lockdown has shown anyone anything, we cannot trust anyone but God or anything but the Bible. This is because the whole world lieth in wickedness, First John 5.19. Jeremiah 15.5: 

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” 

You cannot trust politicians. You cannot trust experts. You cannot trust people wearing white smocks with stethoscopes around their necks. You cannot trust journalists. You are a fool to trust the media. You are a fool to trust the government. By the way, and listen to me very carefully, you are foolish to trust any preacher. “Pastor, you are leaving us feeling hopeless!” I hope so. I desire that false hopes be stripped away. 

THIS IS BECAUSE REALITY IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST 

This is true. This is real. This is how you build not only a life but an eternity. Bank on several realities:

First, God is. There is one God. He is real. He is true. He cannot lie. You can depend on Him.

Second, God wants a sit down with you. He wants a meeting of the minds. But when you come to the table to meet with God, you need to understand something. Your sins are scarlet, but they can be as white as snow.

When you meet with God, the result will be a firm conviction of your sinfulness, your spiritual deadness, your desperate need for Christ, and your conviction that you can do nothing to save yourself.

At that point, the Spirit of God will give you faith with which to trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all your sins and the gift of eternal life. When you trust Christ, old things will pass away, and all things will become new.

Now, having Christ but no longer having sins, you will have the Holy Spirit, you will have God’s promises made to His own, and you will have hope, the confident expectation of future blessings based on the promises of God. 

That is good news.

Why the Christian school?

To minimize your exposure to wicked propaganda.

To cooperate with your parents in seeing you grow up with a mind and the tools God can grab hold of to work in your life.

And to surround you with family and friends who know Christ, who pray for you, who have your best interests at heart, and understand that you need not only to live a life but also prepare for eternity and help prepare others for eternity.

And what is true for you, my young friend, is true for everyone else, as well. These are the things you need to know when choosing sides.

__________

[1] Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in chief, Great Books Of The Western World, Volume 7, Plato, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Inc.) page 92.

[2] Romans 5.10

[3] Matthew 12.30

[4] Ephesians 2.12

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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