08 - VIII. Personal Choice
17 Aug, 2008 AM
Tree of Life Wesleyan Church
VIII. Personal Choice
Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Mark 7:21-23; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:5; Heb. 11:6; Rev. 22:17
A general of the Persian army always gave his condemned prisoners a choice, the firing squad or the black door. Most chose the firing squad. The prisoners were never told what was on the other side of the door. Few ever chose the unknown of the black door. When asked what was on the other side of the black door, the general answered, “Freedom, and I’ve known only a few men brave enough to take it.”
A Sunday school teacher asked if any scholar recollected an instance in Scripture of anyone making a bad bargain.
“I do,” replied a boy, “Esau made a bad bargain when he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.” A second said, “Judas made a bad bargain when he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.” A third replied, “Ananias and Saphira made a bad bargain when they sold their land and then told Peter a falsehood about it.” A fourth observed. “Our Lord tells us that he makes a bad bargain who, to gain the whole world, loses his own soul.”
This morning we are going to look at article 8 of the articles of religion, which is Personal Choice – article 8 says:
We believe that humanity’s creation in the image of God included ability to choose between right and wrong. Thus individuals were made morally responsible for their choices. But since the fall of Adam, people are unable in their own strength to do the right. This is due to original sin, which is not simply the following of Adam’s example, but rather the corruption of the nature of each mortal, and is reproduced naturally in Adam’s descendants. Because of it, humans are very far gone from original righteousness, and by nature are continually inclined to evil. They cannot of themselves even call upon God to exercise faith for salvation. But through Jesus Christ the prevenient grace of God makes possible what humans in self effort cannot do. It is bestowed freely upon all, enabling all who will to turn and be saved. (Discipline)
“We believe that humanity’s creation in the image of God include ability to choose between right and wrong. Thus individuals were made morally responsible for their choices.” As we read last week, we are created in the image of God, in His image He created both male and female – part of that image was the ability to choose between right and wrong. God could have created mindless robots, that would have done exactly what He wanted without hesitation – He could have programmed in respect – but God knew that programmed respect is not true respect. We have all had teachers or bosses that we paid respect to because of their position, but we have a different kind of respect for those that we honor. God knew that. True worship and respect comes from people who are able to choose who they will respect and honor. The ability to choose also included the ability to choose right from wrong and with this came moral responsibility. As we know, Adam chose poorly. God told Adam that he and Eve could eat from any tree in the garden of Eden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Even though Eve brought Adam the fruit from this tree, Adam chose to eat it and in so doing became responsible for that choice – and sin entered the world.
Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned”. Many people don’t understand why it is that because of what Adam did, why we are all guilty. Think about it this way, in a true family, one that has a parent who is the true leader of that family – what that parent says, goes. When that parent makes a decision – it stands! I can remember my father complaining about a choice that my grandfather made and even though my dad did not live at home and even had his own family, that decision still effected him and he abided by it. The same is true for all mankind. Adam, as our father, made a decision, he sinned – and that has followed all of us all the way down to the present day.
That’s why article 8 goes on to say, “But since the fall of Adam, people are unable in their own strength to do the right. This is due to original sin, which is not simply the following of Adam’s example, but rather the corruption of the nature of each mortal, and is reproduced naturally in Adam’s descendants.” Many years after Adam’s fall we find further proof that all mankind has this original sin, during the time of Noah, in Genesis 6:5 we are told “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” And as we know, the Lord God destroyed the earth and all that lived in it with a great flood – except for Noah, his family and a few animals. Many would think that this would do away with that original sin – but all it did was do away with all but eight humans, who still had this evil in their hearts. Genesis chapter 8 tells us what Noah did after the Ark came to rest. He built an altar and made an animal sacrifice to God, to which God said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”
God tells us that every inclination of our hearts is towards evil even from childhood. We may not even realize it, but that is what our heart is leaning towards. Article 8 goes on, “Because of it (original sin), humans are very far gone from original righteousness, (that righteousness that Adam and Eve had originally in the garden) and by nature are continually inclined to evil. They cannot of themselves even call upon God or exercise faith for salvation.”
We are, by nature, continually inclined to evil. Sometimes that’s hard for us to understand, but not too long ago I did something that puts this in perspective for me. I had a stress test. If you have never had one, what they do is hook you up to this machine and monitor your heart during different stages of work. You start out on a treadmill – with it straight and level. This is very easy and is the most comfortable – this is what Adam and Eve had in the garden – a straight and level path to walk on. It was easy going very little stress and strain. But when they chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the walk became difficult – like on the treadmill, the speed increases and they incline it so that you are walking up hill. We are continually inclined to evil – and with the treadmill, after a while, the muscles start to get tired and what you want to do is stop walking and just “ride” it down and jump off – that’s the easy way – that’s what you’re inclined to do – is take the easy way out.
But according to article 8, “Through Jesus Christ the prevenient grace of God makes possible what humans in self effort cannot do.” Jesus Christ will take the treadmill and make it level again, when we ask Him to. Prevenient grace, allows us to go before God, it make us worthy of being in His presence. We cannot do it. It can only be done through Jesus Christ. While on the treadmill, I was at the mercy of the one who was at the controls, -- in life, because of our sinful nature, the one in control is Satan and our evil thoughts and desires. According to Titus 3:4-7 “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Through His death on the cross, Jesus defeated evil and can be at the controls of your life – making the pathway level again, giving us eternal life.
The last sentence of article 8 states: “(Prevenient grace) is bestowed freely upon all, enabling all who will to turn and be saved.” The thing that we must pay attention to is the last part of this sentence – “enabling all who will to turn and be saved.” All who will! We must have faith in God Almighty and in His prevenient grace – Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
You see, we must believe that Jesus exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. It is not a given – we must ask Him into our hearts – there’s a choice.
“A mother took her three children to the ice cream store and the ice cream man asked, “Chocolate or vanilla?” “Why don’t you have more flavors?” the mother replied. “I get so tired of these two.” “Lady,” the ice-cream man said, “If you knew how much time it takes them to make up their minds between chocolate and vanilla, you’d never have other flavors.”
There are only two choices – call upon Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, or continue on in your sinful life. I know, you’re saying, “Pastor, how do you know about my life? How do you know I have a sinful life?” Well, because we are told that “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” It is only through Jesus Christ that we are made worthy to go before God, into His glory.
Robert G. Lee told this story, “The submarine Squalas and its crew lay helpless at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, two hundred and forty feet below the surface. The crew sent up smoke flares, hoping that their location would become known. The submarine Sculpin locate them. A ten-ton diving bell was lowered several times, bringing to safety the thirty-three surviving members of the crew of the ill-fated Squalas. Not one of the thirty-three men said to their rescuers, “I will think it over,” or “I will wait for a more convenient season,” or “I am in good condition as I am,” or “There is too much to give up,” or “I don’t understand it I’ll wait until tomorrow.” All instantly and gratefully accepted the means of escape from death.” What are you going to do? William James said, “When you have a choice to make and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.”
Today, you have two choices – either you have already accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior or you need to accept Him. It makes no difference how old you are – if you understand that you need to have Jesus in your life and you want to live for Him, then you are old enough to make that decision. The other choice – to reject Jesus Christ and the grace and love that He offers – and continue to live in the sin that way down deep in your heart. The choice is yours.
Revelation 22:17 says, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” And today I say, Come! To those that need to chose Jesus as Lord and Savior.
7 July, 2002 AM
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City Mt.