Sermon Book / SM755 - Decision in Character Building
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DECISION IN CHARACTER BUILDING
"Choose ye this day whom ye will serve....As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."—#Jos 24:15.
Indecision is one of the greatest foes to character building, while the liberty or privilege of choosing, exercising our wills, is one of the grandest blessings accorded to humanity, and is an important element of man’s likeness to his Creator. True, we see will, decision of purpose, manifested on every plane of life, even by the crawling worm or snail. But the human will, more richly endowed by the Creator, has a higher range, which includes, especially, decision in respect to the higher moralities, taking hold of questions of justice and love which affect and influence all of life’s affairs. Look where we will we find that the people who are successful in any department of life are those who have purpose and will and determination—whether it be good, bad or indifferent.
We see also that those who have no fixity of purpose, will, intention, are unsuccessful. As the Scriptures declare, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways"; and if we look into the teachings of history we find this same lesson taught by all the past. It may, therefore, be well settled in our minds that one of the chief difficulties of the majority of the race is lack of decision, indecision of purpose.—#Jas 1:8.
Worst of all, observation shows us that the vast majority of our race are in this very condition of uncertainty, indecision—they have no positive aim, no fixed purpose in life. As a consequence they are unhappy, discontented, and, like the chaff, ready to be blown hither and thither by every wind. These discontented ones, purposeless, aimless, half awake, are the dangerous element of society, which will very shortly bring to the world the awful
anarchy which the Scriptures clearly show will close the present age and usher in the New Dispensation.
USHER IN THE MILLENNIUM
Many as they pass through the streets can read in the countenances of their fellow-creatures the indecision, the lack of a fixity of purpose or real aim in life. Some look sour, sullen. They feel a grudge against their neighbors, who, because of purpose and decision, are more successful in the various affairs of life. Others have a resigned and despondent look, which intimates that they see no prospect in the future, and are merely enduring the present existence through a fear that the future may be worse.
Other faces show eagerness—a desire to find a successful path, a realization that it is difficult to find and a hope that they may be amongst the favored few. Still other faces indicate that the mind is thoroughly dormant, that the individual merely eats, sleeps, talks and walks after the manner of the brute creation, without so much as desiring a purpose or inquiring, "What was the object of my creation? How may I best attain that object? What will tend to my intellectual and physical welfare and what to my injury?" Still other faces show intenseness of purpose, endeavor; but the eager, anxious, careworn countenance indicates that the ambition or purpose is not on a high level, but a low one, on a selfish plane—"Me and my wife, my son John and his wife: us four, no more."
How few faces indicate that their owners are well-balanced in mind, that they have a purpose in life, and that it is a noble, honorable, exalted purpose, generous and benevolent toward others! This, however, should be esteemed the ideal face, the one which indicates that the higher elements of the mind are in control, that the animal instincts for food and raiment have not run away with the manly qualities created originally in the image and likeness of God. Whoever recognizes this as the proper, the ideal condition, should search diligently to find the secret of it. That secret will be found to be a fixity of
purpose an establishment of mind and will, along the lines of wisdom and righteousness, and in opposition to sin, injustice, etc.
CHOOSING WISELY AND UNWISELY
While it is very important that we make a wise choice, come to a correct decision, follow right principles, in many instances there are certain particulars in which even a poor choice, an unwise purpose, might be more desirable than none. For instance, a determination to be rich cannot be classed as a good or honorable or trustworthy ambition. Nevertheless, by occupying his time, awakening his energies, stimulating his brain, it may prove a source of much rest and comfort to the one who makes such a decision and who lays out his life for its accomplishment as a goal. Whether he accomplish his aim or not, it at least gives him a purpose in life which, by engaging his talents, gives him refreshment, ministers to his comfort, and makes him ten-fold more useful to society than the purposeless man. Not that we are commending such a course as a worthy one, but merely noting that though unworthy it is better than none.
When we consider that the average of life is thirty-five years, and that remarkably few of the race attain to seventy years, and that to the majority the present existence is but the vestibule to a future life, when we note the present tendency on the part of the entire civilized world to strive for money, wealth—not merely for the necessities, comforts and luxuries for themselves and their dependents, but for the accumulation of wealth which neither they nor theirs can ever hope properly to make use of—when we perceive that to gain wealth the majority are willing to sacrifice almost everything of virtue and character, time, energy, relationship and communion with God and even life itself—we realize that this choice indicates a serious unsoundness of mind, an unbalance which amounts almost to monomania. Nevertheless we repeat that such an unbalance, such a monomania,
is preferable to no choice, no decision of the will, no purpose in life.
All reasonable people, then, will agree (1) that there is an advantage in making a choice, in reaching a decision in life as to what we will do with our time, our talents, our influence; (2) that the choice may be a wise or an unwise one, and (3) that we all need counsel in respect to what would constitute a wise choice, a wise decision, so that we may make the most of our opportunities and attain the largest degree of blessing out of life in its present condition and also its hope for the future. To such a one comes the query, Where shall we obtain the counsel, the assistance so necessary to us—so necessary to our prosperity in the life that now is and in that which is to come?
Children should properly look to their parents for assistance and guidance in this matter. Yet, as we have just seen, the parents themselves have generally reached no decision, and are therefore quite incapable of instructing those for whom they are naturally responsible. Both parents and children, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, need counsel upon this subject, and are beginning to find this out. They are looking about in various directions, taking note of the examples of the good and the great, but are as apt to copy the wrong as the right.
THE SCRAMBLE FOR WEALTH
To the majority today comes the desire for wealth, and the suggestion that to acquire wealth they should copy the methods employed by the wealthy. One thing is evident; namely, that no man could accumulate millions, much less hundreds of millions, of money by his own toil on any adequate basis of distribution amongst men, as a reward for services rendered to the world. We are not meaning to suggest that there is an equality of value for services, but simply that the inequality is not so great actually as the differences in wealth would imply.
Common report, discounted one-half, would leave
the majority of people to suppose that the wealthy attained their stations by partly dishonest or disreputable means. Such thoughts add to the general discontent.
To the beginner, who sets out to be a worshiper of Mammon, the lesson is that to succeed he must not be too particular in respect to the justice, truthfulness and honorableness of the means he will employ in acquiring wealth. This signifies a bad start, with the intention to fight against the voice of conscience throughout the remainder of life. Near by stand the advocates of religion and science calling for recruits and assistance, but both assure the inquirer that they will appreciate him the more if he has a backing of wealth and influence amongst the wealthy. And in answer to his queries they frankly tell him that it is true that to come to them under these favored conditions will mean that he must not be thoroughly religious, thoroughly truthful, thoroughly conscientious.
And as he investigates the possibilities along the lines of science, he finds that while the word science is synonymous with truth, yet really some of the most renowned scientists have gotten their reputations by mere guesses and pretensions rather than by their knowledge and presentations of facts. If the inquirer has not something to guide him in the matter, this also speaks to him of the necessity of bowing not to conscience—of being worldly-wise. In other words, "the end justifies the means."
If next he turn to religion, his ears are saluted with a Babel of confusing advice: creeds from the Dark Ages and some more modern appeal to him, telling him of three gods in one person or of "the same substance." This he cannot understand; for it is not understandable. He cannot believe it in the true sense because no one can properly believe what he cannot understand; but he is solemnly told that to doubt this will mean his eternal condemnation in torment at the hands of demons. He is told that God is Love, and in the next breath that He created a place of
torment for the great masses of humanity even before He created them, and that fire-proof devils and fuel for all eternity have long been provided. When he doubts how a God of Love could have devised such a plan, he is again threatened that to deny that such a procedure is a loving and a just one would surely be a ground for his condemnation to suffer that eternal torment. He is urged to confess these matters which he cannot understand or believe, and to call himself a Christian, to go out into the world and make money as honestly as possible and to contribute liberally to the Church, and is told that he will be granted a free pass to eternal happiness in the future.
The whole matter seems so unreasonable, so preposterous, that the majority of thinking people cannot take this proposition seriously; nevertheless, through fear they treat it as though they partially believed it.
Ostensibly they serve the Lord, in reality they serve Mammon, selfishness in their churches, in themselves, in their families.—#Mt 7:21-23.
THE "STILL SMALL VOICE"
Aside from these voices there is another, which, however, very few can hear. The majority hear only the Babel of unreason. The few harken to the Word of the Lord, with its testimony that the great Creator of all things is just, wise, loving and powerful; that the present condition of humanity, moral and physical decrepitude, is the result of original sin, and is in effect the outworking of its sentence, the death sentence, upon the race; that there is no hope of a full recovery from these adverse conditions except as God Himself shall render the aid.
His message through His Word is that while His Justice has condemned the race as a whole, His Love met the requirements of justice—that the Son of God left the glory of the Father, became a member of our race, and, as such, redeemed it from the death sentence and made possible, not only an awakening from the tomb, but also a full restoration back to the original perfection, the image and
likeness of God, lost by Father Adam and by us all through his disobedience. The still small voice through the same Word of God tells us that Divine Wisdom is controlling in the matter, and has set the Millennial Age in the future as the time in which Almighty Power will be exercised for the deliverance of the world from its bondage to sin and death and its restoration to Divine favor.
Wisdom assures us that Divine Power will be exercised at that time for our relief, and will be quite sufficient.
Wisdom also explains that in the interim between the time when Christ died for our sins and the time when He will inaugurate the Millennial Age for the blessing of the world, it is the Divine Plan to select from amongst men a Little Flock of peculiar character, of peculiar loyalty to righteousness, to truth, to God and to all that are in accord with Him; that this Little Flock is to constitute the Bride of Christ, His joint-heir in the Millennial Kingdom, participating with Him in His work of blessing, restoring and uplifting mankind. The same voice explains through the Word that only by accepting Christ and the assistance He will gladly grant, can any ever attain to the eternal life conditions which Divine Wisdom has provided for us—that all who refuse the Divine favor will be cut off in the Second Death, from which there will be no deliverance.
CHOOSING THE BETTER PART
All this is reasonable, God-like. How strange it is that so few have an ear to hear this glorious Message!
How strange that they do not reject as unworthy the various substitutes offered them! Why do they not listen for the still small voice of the Lord? Why should they not expect that He who created us in His own image and likeness would have a purpose respecting us which would be worthy of His own character, and which He would not be ashamed to reveal to His people? Now they can understand why St. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and why our Lord declared that He had come to
seek and to save that which was lost.—#Ro 1:16; #Lu 19:10; #1Jo 2:2; #Joh 1:9; #Lu 2:10,14.
What now shall he choose whose eyes of understanding are opened to this glorious vision of God’s goodness, mercy and love, which will ultimately bless all the families of the earth? The effect of this glorious picture will be to cheer and encourage his heart. He can surely from this standpoint realize that for him, no matter how adverse his conditions and environments in the present life may be, God has a glorious epoch in reservation, with blessed possibilities for all. This view of matters may satisfy him for a little while—some may be so contented therewith that they will make no further inquiry; but others on the contrary will be so overpowered with the glorious vision of God’s real character and Plan that they will bow their hearts before Him in wonder, admiration, love, and their cry will be as was that of the Apostle Paul when his eyes were opened, "Lord, what will Thou have me to do?" (#Ac 9:6.) It is this class that the Lord is seeking during this Gospel Age. Others receive the grace of God in vain now, and will miss the special calling of the Elect Church, and have their portion and opportunity with the world in general.
The bowing of the heart to the Creator and Redeemer signifies the renouncement of the human will and preference and the acceptance of the Divine instead. No other course imaginable is so safe, so sane, so reasonable as this—to acknowledge our continued dependence upon our Creator, to acknowledge our own unwisdom and that of our fellows, to seek the wisdom from Above to make the wisest and best use of the fragment of the present life yet at our disposal, and to make sure of the eternal life which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.
It is insufficient that we consider these matters and think favorably of them. They will not be ours unless we come to the point of definite self-surrender. Many make a great mistake there. They want to be the Lord’s,
they want to accept His promises, they want to have His peace in the present and in the everlasting future, but they shrink from definitely covenanting themselves to the Lord. They tell us sometimes that they fear to do so lest they should not be able to keep the agreement—lest they should make no better success at it than some nominal church members with whom they are acquainted, whose lives belie their professions. We reply that the Scriptures clearly intimate that we are not sufficient of ourselves for such a covenant, and that God does not even propose to make a covenant with us except as the Lord Jesus is recognized as the Endorser of our promises, and His endorsement which He proffers us is accompanied by His guarantee of assistance in every time of need; that He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, but will with each temptation provide a way of escape, and cause all our experiences to work together for our highest good.—#1Co 10:13; #Ro 8:28; #Joh 16:27.
FAITH IS ESSENTIAL
It is in accord with all this that the Scriptures assure us that faith in the present time is indispensable to our acceptance with the Lord and our continuance in His favor. Those who cannot exercise the faith cannot be of the faithful class now being the recipients of His favor. Those who can and do exercise faith, hold to the Divine promise, walk to the best of their ability in the footsteps of the Lord, and trust to the covering of the merit of our Redeemer—these only inherit all things—these only are to be the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife, the Very Elect.—#Ro 8:37-39.
Following faith comes confession, and it also is indispensable.
We are assured that with the heart man believeth, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (#Ro 10:10.) Those who can exercise the faith, but are restrained from telling to others the joy that they have found, their relationship to the Lord and the
glorious prospects of the future, are not of the kind whom the Lord will count worthy of a share in the Little Flock, the Kingdom class. His own words are, "He that is ashamed of Me and My Word, of him will I be ashamed." Manifestly such will not be fit for the glorious position to which the Lord has called us if they are so weak of character as to be ashamed of the Lord and His Word of grace. They are not overcomers in the Scriptural sense of the word, but must be laboring under the fear of man that bringeth a snare. Such may receive a blessing in the future, but cannot be granted the great blessing that is now being offered and which will be dispensed to the worthy in the First Resurrection.
As choice, decision, was necessary in the accepting of Christ at all, even by faith in our hearts, so another step in decision, determination, is reached and tested by our willingness or unwillingness to confess the Lord and His Word before others. But the first decision in the heart is the most important step of all. After we have fully and irrevocably given our all to the Lord, it is a comparatively easy matter, if our hearts remain faithful, to confess Him and His Word of grace. If it be asked how we shall confess the Lord, we reply that the Scriptural program for these is baptism in water, which symbolizes our full consecration even to death, and by which we are symbolically raised to walk in newness of life in our Redeemer’s footsteps. This was not to be done for us by our parents when we were infants, nor by our godfathers or godmothers standing sponsors for us, but was to be our own individual act after making our consecration and coming to an understanding of the Lord’s arrangement.
"ME AND MY HOUSE"
Joshua, who uttered the words of our text, properly understood himself to be the head of his household, their representative under Divine arrangement. His consecration, therefore, meant the carrying of a consecrated
man’s influence to every member of his trusting household.
It meant that as a proper father he would have a large and good influence over all the members of his family, and that this influence would all be turned to the Lord—into channels of righteousness in all matters and affairs of the family. It must have meant, therefore, that Joshua would thenceforth honor the Lord by worship in his household and in all his ways acknowledging Jehovah. It meant the reverence of the entire household for religious things; it meant the influence of the head of the family in connection with the Almighty in leading his family to make similar individual consecration to the Lord. And a similar course is a proper one for every one of us. First of all we must see to our own hearts, reach a positive decision, get right with God, come under His blessing and care, and the promise of His Word through Christ. Then the business of life should be to bring our families and neighbors and all with whom we have influence, who have ears to hear and hearts to appreciate the Divine Message, into similar accord, similar consecration.