A Decision That Carries No Regrets
The message of last Sunday evening has led me to select the text I have chosen for tonight, as I want to say something more along the line of that address on “The Home.”
Text: Joshua 24:15. “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” “…choose ye this day whom you will serve.”
These words, as you know, were spoken by Joshua, one of the greatest statesmen God ever placed at the head of a nation, and also a great military general.
Moses, the great Hebrew lawgiver, had led the children of Israel as far as the Jordan, on their journey to Canaan. It was his great desire to lead them into the promised land, but God did not permit Moses to take Israel over into Canaan, and very suddenly he was removed from the headship of that people, and when he was taken, Joshua was selected to take on the burden of that leadership. It was a great responsibility, but Joshua knew and trusted God. Now he has come to the end of his ministry, and, looking back on that long and eventful life that was replete with trials and triumphs, he gives his personal testimony, and makes this strong appeal to that nation.
Joshua knew what he was talking about. He was a witness. Recently we were speaking about the Gospel preacher being a witness. No man can preach the Gospel unless he has had an experience, for a Gospel preacher must be a witness, and a witness must know.
You remember that when Cornelius was seeking after light, an angel visited him. The angel did not preach to him, but the angel told him where he could find a saved sinner who knew the way of salvation. It is a remarkable thing that the angel could not tell that man the way of salvation. The reason is, angels have never been redeemed; angels never fell. Angels will never sing the song of redemption.
Peter had felt it. He had been a bad man; a blasphemer. God had changed him, and being a witness of these things, he could tell Cornelius the way of salvation. Though we may be poor preachers, if we are saved sinners, we can preach a better Gospel than the angels.
Joshua knew what he was talking about. He had settled this great question himself. This is the one thing every man and woman must settle for themselves, just as real and definite as when a man takes a woman to be his lawful wife, or when a woman takes a husband. God has arranged it so that unless you GIVE THE CONSENT OF YOUR WILL, you can never be a Christian. All the powers on Earth can never force you in this matter. So you see it makes everybody responsible for their standing before God tonight. We can will to be a Christian.
Consent of the Will
I know there is such a thing as feeling, but I have come to this conviction from the study of the Bible—that if any man, at any time, in any place, “WILLETH” to be a Christian, willethto take Jesus Christ to be his Saviour, there is no power on Earth or in hell that can keep that man from becoming a child of God.
All through the teaching of Jesus you find Him coming up to the threshold of a man’s will. He can go no farther. He could die for you on Calvary, He could rise from the dead for your salvation, but He cannot cross the threshold of your heart without the consent of your will.
“What is man?” asked the psalmist. We were made in God’s likeness, and whatever we lost in the “fall of Adam,” we did not lose our right to choose who should rule our lives. I am the custodian of my own heart, and I can say who is going to reign in my life. I can go out and turn my back on God and go the way of the world if I want to, and you can say in the seat where you are sitting, “I WILL receive Jesus Christ as my Saviour,” and no power on Earth can keep Him from you.
When I was a young man, facing this proposition, my thought was this: “Well, if I try I will only fail.” I had tried like many others had tried, in my own strength. I would swear off one day and do the same thing the next day. I meant it as truly as I mean what I am saying here tonight, but I was weak and helpless before temptation.
When urged to accept Christ, I said: “What is the use?” “I have tried, and I have tried, and I have always failed.”
That night, thirty-six years ago, when the test came, I remember so distinctly. Somebody touched my shoulder and said: “Philpott, won’t you decide it?” And I said, “I WILL.” That very moment a vital change took place in me, and I was born from above. “A new creature in Christ Jesus.” Old things passed and new things came into my life.
That is the proposition for every man to face. It is within your own power to settle WHETHER YOU WILL or WHETHER YOU WON’T be a Christian. God Himself cannot make you if you say, No! If you deliberately say, “I won’t trust Him.”
I have a dear friend down in California. Had a long letter from him this week. He was a commercial traveler in Canada for about thirty-five years, and one of the best known men on the road. He was careless about Christianity. For years he had ceased going to any place of worship. He came in touch with the Gospel Tabernacle, of which I was the pastor, and he tells us that for several months before the great change came, he found himself, when out on the road, planning his trip so that he might be in Hamilton for the Sunday services.
One Sunday night, as he told me afterwards, I was preaching on the eighth chapter of Acts. I made an appeal for men to decide for Christ. The building was jammed and he was at the very back of the room when I made the appeal for men and women to put up their hands. This fellow stood right up in the back of the building, and he said: “Pastor Philpott, I want to say a word.”
Everybody in the community knew Ross Wilson. He made this statement:
“I want to say to this congregation of people tonight that I DELIBERATELY accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, HERE AND NOW!” Thrilled? I should say we were. He thrilled everybody.
Then he told how he had been fighting off this conviction for a long while, but, said he, “seated here tonight, I found out I could settle this question for myself.”
He believed in being baptized by immersion. The next week he came up to my house, and said to me: “I want to confess my faith in baptism,” and we arranged for the service.
He went to work and sent out letters to many of the traveling men that might be in the vicinity of Hamilton, and he said: “I have settled the greatest question in the world. I have decided for Jesus Christ, and I am going to confess him in baptism next Sunday morning.” There was some crowd there to see Ross “witness a confession.”I never met a man that was more thoroughly Christian than this dear fellow.
If you will make a decision as that man made it, you will have all the assurance that you want. You will find out whether Christianity is genuine or not.
I remember another fellow in a Sunday morning service. I was preaching an anniversary sermon in a sister church. When I sat down the preacher said to me: “There is such a sense of the Divine presence here I feel that we ought to give the invitation.” I replied, “Doctor, do as you like.”
He stood up and said: “I feel as if the Lord has been speaking to us this morning, and there may be some one here who would like to make a decision for Christ.” A man arose and came down the aisle. When near the front, he knelt down in the aisle. The preacher went to him, and this is what he said, “I want to be a Christian now.”
That fellow was known as the worst blasphemer on the Grand Truck System east of Toronto. He never went to church, and on that Sunday he came to church just by chance.
The Lord touched his heart. The next morning he met his workmates before taking his engine out, and said: “Boys, I think we ought to have an understanding. You know what kind of a life I have lived here. I don’t want to cast any chill on you, but there came a great change in my heart and life yesterday, and by God’s grace I want to live the life here on the road, where I have sinned so against God.”
A few months later I was talking to the minister of that church, and he informed me that the influence of that man’s life was little short of marvelous.
Some of you fellows who are out in the world living your life among rough men—what a power for God you might be, if you would only make this decision. Out from your life would radiate that kind of influence. That is the change that some of us need.
Talk about striving to live the Christian life, it will live itself if you will give HIM a place in your heart.
You have probably heard of the young fellow and his wife who tried to avoid all friction and unpleasantness in their newly organized home, entering into a contract which did seem to work fairly well for a while.
Jesus, the Peace-bringer
When Jack came home with his hat pulled down on one side, she knew he was cross. He had been having a tough day, and she was not to say anything whatever to him. And likewise, when he came home and found Jane with her apron pinned up at the corner, it was a sign for silence on his behalf. From time to time Jack came home with his hat pulled down, and Jane left him alone, and occasionally Jane had her apron pinned up at the corner and Jack kept still.
But one day Jack came home with his hat pulled down, and Jane had her apron pinned up at the corner. And then, oh my!
The best of human arrangements are doomed to failure in this realm, but there is one who can fill our hearts with love and patience. The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness, long-suffering, kindness and love.
I knew of a young man and woman who had a great deal of trouble shortly after they were married, and it looked as if separation would have to come. After a very stormy scene one morning, when the young husband had left the house, the wife went up stairs to pack her things and go home to her mother. She felt as if she could not possibly stand it another day.
A few days before, someone had handed her a little card. This, she had left on the dresser. Printed on that ticket were these words: “What Would Jesus Do?” The question arrested her. She stood looking at it. And the Lord spake to her there. She knelt to pray. There came into her heart the sweetest sense of that Divine presence, and she heard that voice saying, as Paul heard Him say, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Oh, what a change came over her. She felt as if she couldstay, and she wouldstay. And she didstay and spent those hours in just making things as bright and cheerful as possible. When her husband arrived at night, expecting to see the storm-cloud on the horizon, he saw the golden glow of a great sunset. There was something radiating from her life. As she greeted him at the door with a smile, she answered the question that he was asking with his bewildered expression, by taking his hand and leading him up the stairs, and as she faced the little card on the dresser, she said: “I suppose you wonder what has taken place. Well, I read this little card. I have knelt before my God and sought Divine help and grace. He has come to my heart and life. I am ashamed of the failures and weaknesses of the past, and somehow or other I feel as if, WITH HIM, I could bear all things, and I am sure we can manage together if only we give Him a place in our hearts.”
Without a word they knelt side by side, and in the very same place where she had found a solution to her troubles, he also received the great peace-bringer.
If Jesus Christ is in the home, beloved friend, He will give us the patience and the grace that we need, and I have had enough to do with family life and with children, and with the troubles that come in connection with that sort of thing, to know that there are some problems that only the Divine One Himself can solve. I pity the man or woman that is trying to run a home without giving Jesus Christ a place at the table.
“We neglect our homes,” said a Christian man this week. “Some of us are hardly ever at home.” It is not only the club man that is out nearly every night in the week; not only the sinners that are out to shows and dances all the time, but some Christians go to too many meetings. Some Christian women are away from their homes too frequently, and there are some fathers that are strangers to their own children.
A little boy was playing in front of his home when the father came out and walked down the street. A man who was walking near the house asked the little fellow who that man was. “Oh,” said the little boy, “I don’t know. He is a man who stays at our house some nights.”
Sometimes we say that preachers’ children turn out worse than any others. Well, I am not so sure about that. And yet I would not wonder if they did, because as a matter of fact, most preachers are looking after everybody else’s children and neglecting their own.
That was the sin of old Eli, who was both priest and judge in Israel. Either office was big enough for any one man to fill, but they gave him so much to do that he could not do anything very well. He never saw his own children (only when they were asleep), and by and by their wickedness became proverbial, and a great judgment came to Eli because of the wickedness of his sons. His sons made themselves vile, and Eli restrained them not.
I believe in the old-fashioned idea of fatherhood.Time to sit down with your children; time to talk with them. I think there are some recreations and some joys and some pleasures that belong to the family life, and a good, genuine type of Christianity will take some interest in these things. I know there are some pleasures that are harmful, there are some things that defile, but there are some pleasures that are not harmful. We ought to have enough interest in child-life, and in our boys and girls to share their wholesome joys.
This old statesman said: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” And I believe his was such a wholesome kind of Christianity that the children all believed in their dad.
A Soul-stirring Appeal
We have here not only Joshua’s testimony, but a soul-stirring appeal to the nation. “CHOOSE YE THIS DAY WHOM YE WILL SERVE.” He knew better than anyone else that all the victories of the past had come to that nation because God was with them, and everything in the future would depend upon the attitude that the nation took towards Jehovah.
I want to point out what this choice would mean to you or to me. There is a choice of one of TWO LEADERS. There are two great leaders and they stand before every young life, and they both bid for the loyalty and obedience of that life. One is called the ruler of this world’s darkness, the prince of the power of the air, the great deceiver.
When Jesus began His ministry, this leader actually met Him, and he said to Jesus: “If you will bow down to me I will give you all the kingdoms of this world.” That deceiver bids for your loyalty. That deceiver bids for your life, and unfortunately, he gets too many.
The other leader is “THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.” “I am the Way; I am the Truth; I am the Life.” “Follow Me and ye shall have treasure in Heaven.” Do you see the force of it?
These two leaders face every life. And when we say, “Choose ye whom you will serve,” you must make your choice. There is no neutral ground. I am either following Jesus, or I am following the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world’s darkness.
People may resent that, but it is the teaching of the Bible. What did Jesus say? “He that is not with me is against me.”
It is the choice of one of TWO DEATHS. We all must die. I know we are waiting for the Lord to come, but if the Lord tarry many more years, not one of us will be here.
I remember hearing D.L. Moody preach a sermon, talking about heaven. “Look back yonder,” he said. “That is the road over which we have gone. As I look down that pathway I see little mounds nearly every step. They are graves in which lie our loved ones—mothers, fathers, children. They are all covered over and the grass and flowers that cover those mounds are prophecies of a glorious resurrection.”
But as I turn and look out the other way, down that path over which we are all traveling,I see more graves. Every step there is a grave. Not one of them is filled. All open; all waiting. Mine is there, and so is yours,and when we come to that place we will stop just like the others behind us. “It is appointed unto man once to die.”
Now you can’t escape death, but you can decide right hereand nowwhat kind of death you will die. You can die the “death of the righteous,” or you can die the death of the wicked. You can “fall asleep in Jesus” or you can pass out “without hope.”
It is also a choice of one of TWO RESURRECTIONS. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Stop and think a moment! We have heard some of these great words so often that they are meaningless probably to some.
Is it true that my mother that I have not seen for thirty-five years, will rise again? My little baby boy who died at seven and one-half years of age will come up from the grave again, and all those dear friends back yonder under those mounds whom we have known and loved in the long ago, will come again actually and really? What a thought to think! Why, my dear people, if I did not believe in the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD I would never come to this platform again, but because I believe it, and also because I believe that you can decide what company you will be in at the resurrection, I am here tonight.
The Bible tells us there is to be a “resurrection of the just,” and also a “resurrection of the unjust.” A “resurrection unto life.” A “resurrection unto everlasting shame and contempt.” Personally I am going to have a part in that FIRST resurrection. “Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” On such the second death hath no power. My dear friends, you can decide which resurrection you shall be in.
It is also a choice of one of TWO DESTINIES. Christ Himself painted a picture of a “place” He went to prepare. It is a city without sorrow, without suffering, and where there are no tears. God has wiped them all away, and there is no night there, and they are never cold or hungry. It is a home, as one of the old poets has said,
“Where none are sick or poor or alone,
A place where we shall meet our own.”
But there is another place. “I saw,” says John, “A great white throne,” and before it I saw standing the dead, the small and the great; the books were opened. Another book was open, which was the book of life, and all whose names were not found written in the book of life had their place in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.
What a picture! What a destiny for any man to reach! I know there is a great deal of fault found with these passages of Scripture, but let me remind you that Jesus Christ Himself, the tender, loving, compassionate Lord, painted that awful scene. But tonight He stands with us here, offering us ETERNAL LIFE, eternal glory, all for the choosing, and if we fail to make Him and these things our choice, then the inevitable.