We had a good visit yesterday with a man who badly needs the Lord. We want you to be in prayer for him and pray that the Lord will continue to work in his heart as He has been for some time now. And we had an opportunity, it's this same man we had an opportunity to witness to him when he installed the new folding machine for our printing ministry. And he has been under, definitely under conviction since that time. And so, we have been witnessing to him on several occasions since then and we had an opportunity to witness to him yesterday. Again, Brother Kitching and I went out and spent about three hours with him yesterday. And we could see that he had been operated on recently by the Roman Catholic priest. Apparently his children had tipped off the priest that we were coming and so he had really been working on this poor fellow, going to drag him on down into hell the way he's been going.
But we still got a good opportunity to witness to him and we're going back again in two or three weeks and witness to him again. And so, he's beginning to get his eyes opened a little bit like the little, silly joke that I think I told you one time about a priest. The priest came along and the little boy had some newborn puppies. They still had their eyes closed. And so he stopped and asked the little boy, "What kind of puppies are those?"
He replied: "Oh, they're Catholic puppies, Father."
And then about a week or so later the priest came by and the little boy was out playing with the puppies again in the yard. They had their eyes opened then, of course. He had them out in the sunshine getting some sun. And the priest asked the little boy again (he thought he would get him to say again that they were Catholic puppies) so he asked him again, "What kind of puppies are those, son?"
The little boy replied: "They're Baptist puppies." And, of course, you know the key line is that he said, "But I thought you said they were Catholic puppies about a week or two ago when I asked you."
And the boy said, "Yes, but then they didn't have their eyes opened. Now they've got their eyes opened." And that's the way it is with this fellow we witnessed to the other day —-- he's about to get his eyes opened. In spite of all the pressure the priest can put on him, he's just about to get his eyes opened. In fact, I told him that joke yesterday, and he took it pretty well, too.
Let's turn to Romans chapter 12. I have quoted this verse to you several times in various sermons over the past six months but it's been over two years now since I have preached on this same general theme that I want to speak to you about today. I want you to think with me for a little while today about this idea: how some people live, and how some people die. Now that's an important thing to think about, how some people live and how some people die. Or we could even go so far as to say how all people live and all people die.
Now let us read here these first three verses of Romans chapter 12 to begin with. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
There are at least four different ways that men live and four different ways that men die. And that's what we want to think about for a few minutes today.
The first thing we want to look at is this, many people live unsaved. Many people live unsaved. And this is the way of the fool. This is the way of the fool. In fact, one can even live and die that way. But it's certainly the way of the fool.
Proverbs chapter 1, verse 7 speaks about that when it says these words, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
You know, I talk to people from time to time, in fact, I often speak to people when visiting in their homes or when witnessing to them on the street or anywhere, and they clearly are unsaved, even by their own admission. And by the way, there was an interesting thing that we noticed yesterday in our visit with this man where we had such a long visit. And that is when Brother Kitching asked him just point blank, flat out, "If you died right now, would you go to heaven?"
You know, it's amazing how they will beat around the bush, how they will answer sixteen different ways but they'll never really answer your question when you ask them that. He had just been telling us that he was sure he was saved. And then Brother Kitching asked him that question and he sure couldn't answer it. He answered it every way that he could except to really answer it. He gave us all kinds of talk about it, but never did really give any answer to the question. But unsaved, this is the way of the fool. And a lot of people live and a lot of people die that way, like a fool --- unsaved.
And these people who tried to tell you that they're unsaved or they admit that they're unsaved or at least they obviously know that they're unsaved, whether they will clearly admit it or not, they obviously know it just from what they say and the way they act. Some of these people will try to tell you that they have no fear of dying, yes, some say that they have no fear of dying. Well, it's like this silly plaque that you see on the wall sometimes that goes something like this: "If you can remain calm in all this confusion, you just don't understand the situation." Well, now, that's the way these people are about this business of saying they don't fear to die, even though they clearly have not trusted the Lord as Savior.
They just don't understand the situation because if they did, they'd fear to die. Of course, some of them, no doubt, are pretending they're not afraid to die when they really are petrified with fear of death.
Second Chronicles chapter 36, verse 16 says this, speaking about the way of the fool, that is, living unsaved and dying unsaved. It says: "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy."
There comes a time when they have been postponing, when they have been putting off, when they've been ignoring the message that God has been sending to them, these unsaved people, there finally comes a time when there's no more remedy for them because they have postponed and gone past the last deadline for them.
And by the way, that's another theme I'm working on for a sermon to be used pretty soon and that is, God's three deadlines. He has certain deadlines in men's lives (at least three major ones). And we're going to preach to you, the Lord willing, before long, on that theme as well.
The way of vanity and trouble is the way of the unsaved. The way of purposelessness. Life without Christ just doesn't really have much purpose. It doesn't mean much. There's not much reason for living without Christ. Oh, I know some people think they're having a wonderful time, some people think they're having lots of fun, but they're not really having a good time unless they know Christ. They don't even really know what a good time is until they know Jesus. They can't know because they've missed the greatest joy in living --- found in knowing that you have an eternity of living ahead of you, instead of eternal death ahead.
The way of vanity and purposelessness is the way of the unsaved man or woman. In Psalm 78, verse 33, it says this, and I've quoted this one to you before: "Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble." He's talking about those who refuse to believe, those who refuse to believe and follow Him, referring back to the wandering in the wilderness, those unbelievers there. "And he consumed their days in vanity, and their years in trouble." And this is true of the unsaved man today, their days are consumed in vanity and their years in trouble.
The way of the unsaved is also the way of death and evil. The way of death and evil. Deuteronomy chapter 30, verse 15 says this, "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil." There are only two choices in this life as far as our eternal destiny is concerned. That was another interesting thing that we discussed with this man whom we visited yesterday. He, when we asked him questions about purgatory or brought up the subject of purgatory and the Catholic belief in purgatory, he denied that he believed it and in fact, more or less tried to deny that they believed it. But, of course, a little bit later in his own conversation, he showed that he, himself believed it. That he would go to a place where he might have to do a little bit of penance when he died, though he had been, just a few minutes before, denying that he believed in such a thing at all. And then, of course, he saw what he had done and all the priming and practicing and coaching on the part of the priest didn't keep him from coming out with these ridiculous, unscriptural beliefs of the priests.
But there's the way of death and evil, which is the only way that's before the unsaved man. There is no other way. Remember now, Deuteronomy 30:15 tells us that, "I've set before thee this day life and good, or death and evil." There are only two ways to go! There are no other choices, there is no middle ground, there is no purgatory, there is no way of going to purgatory for five hundred years or a thousand years or a million years and then you eventually get on into heaven. There is just no such place as purgatory. "To be absent from the body," for a Christian, as Paul said, "is to be present with the Lord." Immediately. And as we see from all references to hell, and particularly to the reference in Luke chapter 16 of the rich man in hell, to be dead, unsaved, is to be immediately in torment. There's no doubt about it. Both directions, it works. To be saved and to die is to be immediately with the Lord, in the presence of the Lord but to be dead, unsaved, is to be immediately in a place of torment.
The way of the unsaved is the way of blindness. They are blinded by the god of this world --- The way of blindness. And that's where we should have compassion on them more than we do sometimes, and try harder to realize what a position they are in. They are like a blind man groping around in the dark. And the things they we say to them oftentimes, because they're blinded by Satan, things that sound perfectly clear and plain and straightforward to us, just doesn't make any sense at all to them. It's just words because they're blinded by Satan. And we need to understand this as we witness and as we preach and as we teach to understand that a lot of what we say to them just doesn't make any sense to them.
But we need to keep on saying it to them anyway. And sometimes these words of the Lord that we give to them, the Spirit will take it and bury it in their heart and it will hibernate there a while and eventually in some cases it will sprout and bring forth life in that person, from the gospel that we've witnessed to them.
Look at Second Corinthians 4:4. This is a verse that I quote to you very often. "In whom the god of this world," talking about the unsaved, "hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
The devil, that's his business --- blinding the unsaved, to try to keep them from being saved. Just like this poor fellow we talked to yesterday. I think down inside he has a little desire to learn the truth and to be saved. But yet, he's been so steeped in this falsehood all of his life and now a fresh attack from the priest in the last week or two to be sure that he didn't get converted, and he's just blinded. When we say something to him and we read it to him from the Scripture, then it doesn't mean the same thing to him as what the plain words of the Scripture say because he's blinded. And that's the way it is with the unsaved, they've been blinded by Satan.
However, there is another way to live and another way to die. And that is backslidden. Yes, backslidden! Now we're getting down to some really good meddling, aren't we? Some good meddling territory right here on subject of "backslidden". You know, a lot of people think, "Well, I go to church every Sunday, I'm not backslidden." Or some people, "I go to church every Sunday morning, I go to church every Sunday night, and I go to church every Wednesday night. I read my Bible almost every day and I pray almost every day." And they think, "I couldn't be backslidden." But you know you could be backslidden and still do all those things. You could be, I could be, anyone could be, even doing all those things. You say, "How could that be? How could that be true?"
Let's read in I Corinthians 3:15. This is one degree of backsliding that we're looking at here in I Corinthians 3:15. There are various degrees of backsliding. And when I say backsliding, of course, you all understand that I'm not referring to falling away from salvation. You can't do that if you've ever once had it, you can't lose it --- it's impossible. If you have ever once been truly saved, you are still saved no matter how backslidden you get. But you may lose all your rewards. Here in I Corinthians 3:15 it speaks of this, of people like this who will lose all of their rewards because of their backslidden condition, their failure to stay close to the Lord, and serve the Lord as they should.
Here in verse 15, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss," (He's talking to Christians in the church at Corinth now) "but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." In other words, as we would say, "By the skin of his teeth he'll make it to heaven." Just barely squeeze in. He's going to make it all right. He'll be saved, "yet so as by fire," as Paul said, because of the fact that his works are going to be burned up because he either did not do proper works or he did them for an improper reason. You say, "Oh, what do you mean doing good works for improper reasons?" These people who do their good works to be seen of men, Jesus said, they've already got their reward when men see them do it. They don't have any reward coming for that, do they? So we can be doing good works and be backslidden at the same time if we're doing the good works for an improper reason. And Jesus Himself speaks of this when He said that they've already got their reward if they do their good works to be seen of men.
There are other types of backslidden Christians. We have what I call these spasmodic Christians. The spasmodic Christians. And there are a lot of them in the world. I think a lot of them are really not Christians but at least they say they're Christians, and no doubt, some of them really are Christians. But doubtless also, a lot of these so-called spasmodic Christians are not really saved at all.
Let us think about them for just a minute. They're like this old silly joke that I told you one time I think two or three years ago. Some of you heard me preach there. They are like this old joke about the fellow named Flanagan. He'd gone to work on the railways as a conductor. And he had some sort of little minor mishap in the old days on the railways. So he wrote a big telegram about a yard long to his supervisor, and sent it back on the railway telegraph system. It was just a little minor mishap, didn't amount to much and he sent him a big, long, complex report by telegraph. And so his boss, next time he saw him told him: "Don't take so long when you need to make a little, simple report. Just make a short, straight forward report. Don't write me a three feet long, solid print, telegraph form on the telegraph lines.
So some while later he had another accident, this same conductor, and his train was derailed. But the conductor decided it was only a minor problem, and they happened to have a repair crew nearby. So he got back again on the tracks and went on again. And this time he sent a short telegram to his boss and said: "Off again, on again, gone again, Flanagan." And that's the way some of these Christians are. They are, "Off again, on again, gone again, Flanagan." That's the way they operate.
You know, one minute you see them and they're just on fire for the Lord. They're as happy as can be like a Christian should be. They're witnessing to people, or at least they're putting on a good show of witnessing to people. And the next time you see them, they're right down at the bottom of the trough and so discouraged and so unhappy that they even stay out of church and never witness, and do all kinds of things. It just should not be that way. As Christians, I know we can't be right on top of the mountain all the time. That's not what I'm saying. But we can be a Christian all the time and we can act like a Christian all the time, can't we? When we're happy and even when we're unhappy, we can still act like a Christian.
First Corinthians 15:58 speaks along these lines when it says: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." We know that we are not working for nothing. You say, "Well, we've been working here for almost a year in this place and we still only have a small, faithful group." Okay, that's true as far as it goes. But think how the Lord has blessed us recently. Think how the Lord has given us this good building. Think how He's given us this good location. Think how His Spirit has been in our services recently. Think about all these new contacts that the Lord has recently given us and how we've had the opportunity to witness to them.
And it's not our responsibility whether they respond to the witnessing or not. It's our responsibility to witness and if they respond, wonderful. If they don't, terrible, but it's not our responsibility. It's theirs if they reject the true witness. (Just keep on witnessing!). It is our job to be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. And not be like these spasmodic Christians who are one day they're on and the next day they're off, and the next week they're on and the next month they're off. That's not the way to be as a Christian.
Another way to think about backslidden people is this: another class we might say or type of backslidden person, those who attend regularly but will not really consecrate themselves to God. There are a lot of people that way in many churches. They come, they go regularly to the church, but they won't really consecrate themselves to God. So I would ask this question, "Do you want food, clothing, shelter, extended life and happiness?" Well, a man would be a fool to say he didn't want all those things, wouldn't he? Anyone with any sense wants food, clothing, shelter, extended life and happiness. But now how do you get those things? I'll tell you a sure fire way to get them. It's given in Matthew 6:33. It says these words: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Put God first in your life, Christian. And if you do that, He'll give you food, shelter, clothing, extended life and happiness. It just automatically comes if you really put God first and seek His kingdom first and seek His righteousness first, then He'll give you all these other things.
We've been studying in Hebrews recently with Brother Kitching and Sister Kitching. And we've just passed a very interesting point in Hebrews in our studies where we noticed that it always, everywhere in Scripture, not just in Hebrews, but all through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, it always puts two things in a certain, specific order in the Scripture. The first thing is always righteousness or justification, which is identical, of course, in general meaning. Righteousness. The second thing that always follows righteousness is peace. Yes, peace. And it's in that order all the way through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. You won't find any place where it doesn't do this --- When it brings in the themes of righteousness and peace, it always puts righteousness first, then peace follows. It's never peace first and then righteousness follows. It's never that way anywhere in Scripture. It's always righteousness first and then peace following.
That is like this we were talking about here Matthew 6:33. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these other things will be added. Peace and joy and happiness and extended life and food and shelter and clothing. All these things will be added but first we have to put it in the same order that God does and that is, righteousness first.
If you look in the Old Testament, there are some examples of extended life for men who wholly followed the Lord, who really, truly followed the Lord as they should. If you look, we won't take time to read these together now, but if you'll look at the story of Hezekiah. Hezekiah, that's in Isaiah 38, verses 5 and 6, you'll see that because he fully committed himself to following the Lord and doing the Lord's will, the Lord extended his life for him.
And you will find the same thing is true about Caleb and Joshua. That is recorded in Joshua chapter 14. All the other people (of the adults) died in the wilderness wandering because they did not wholly follow the Lord. But Joshua and Caleb didn't. They were exceptions to this rule that God made them wander in the wilderness until all the adults of the children of Israel died in the wilderness without entering into the Promised Land. This was because of their lack of faith to enter into the promised land immediately as God had commanded. But Joshua and Caleb had their lives extended for a long period of time because of their faithfulness to the Lord. And Hezekiah had fifteen years added to his life. Joshua and Caleb had about forty-five years or more added to their lives because of their faithfulness.
There's a poem that I sometimes read to you that fits very well with our theme this morning. I want to read it to you again now. It's from one of our song books. It goes like this:
"When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
Now that should be the attitude of a Christian, shouldn't it? That should be the attitude of every Christian on earth.
There is another way to live besides the unsaved way and the backslidden way we've been talking about. And that is, saved but unprepared to serve God well. That's another way that many men live. Second Timothy 2:15 says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Now that's a command, not just to preachers, that's a command to all Christians to do that. Study the Word of God, secure a reasonable education in the Word of God.
You say, "Oh, but I can't go back to university." You don't have to go back to university. You can go to church regularly and you'll learn quite a bit about the Bible if you go to a proper church. You can study your Bible at home and you'll learn quite a bit about it. And if you're truly saved and do read and study your Bible at home and go to church regularly, you'll learn a lot of things and you'll be amazed at how much you will learn and how much more it'll begin to build up as you go along the way of studying the Word. So we should be willing to follow the Word of God in our life, to learn the Word of God in our life, and you should also be willing to follow the leader that God has given you in your Christian living. That is, the pastor of your church or whatever the case may be.
Going on a step further now, there's another way that men live. And that is, saved, prepared and serving God. And that's the way all Christians should be, saved, prepared and serving God.
There's a description of this man who is saved, prepared and serving God in Psalms chapter 1. The first three verses where it says: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doeth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither;" (now listen to this) "and whatsover he doeth shall prosper." Now if we're saved, prepared and serving God, then that's the way we ought to be. What we do in God's service will prosper if we really are saved, prepared and serving God properly.
Now there are also at least four ways to die that one could name. We have some Biblical examples here to illustrate these four ways to die that I want to briefly mention to you.
First, men can die like Saul. Like Saul did, King Saul. They can die like educated fools. That's what King Saul was, he died like an educated fool. He was full of egotism, full of jealousy, and finally he ended up killing himself, didn't he? He finally ended up killing himself. Now you say, "Well, what about him? Was he saved or not?" Yes, there is definitely clear indication in the Scripture that he was saved. But he was saved but not successful for God because he lived and he died like a fool. Though he was saved, he lived and died like an educated fool, full of egotism and jealousy and finally killed himself. That's recorded in I Samuel 31.
There's another way, another example here about four ways to die. The second one. People can die like Absalom did. I want you to think a minute about this one now. Here he is, the way he died is as a traitor. He died as a traitor, to his own father, killed by an act of God. He had great opportunity, but he died a traitor to God, to his own father, and to his own country. You'll find that recorded in II Samuel chapter 18. But still we haven't even thought about the most pathetic part of how he died. We said he had great opportunity. You say, "Well, what great opportunity did he miss?" Now think about this for a minute. Had Absalom not rebelled, he would no doubt have remained in the household of David and would have no doubt produced children. He would no doubt also, being in the royal line, have been in the lineage of Christ. Think about that, what an opportunity lost, to be in the lineage of Christ and yet he died a traitor, and lost this opportunity. What an opportunity --- He could have been in the very lineage of Mary, the mother of Christ, had he lived and gone ahead as a proper man instead of as a traitor who died early.
There's another way that men can die and that's like Samson. Yes, like Samson. And quite a lot of men die this way, even today. Samson misused his powers. He had tremendous powers given to him by God. You may remember, you children who studied about him in Sunday School, that he was what you might call the first Superman. The first Superman. He had tremendous strength which was given to him by God. And he misused these powers. And he did it all because of lust for a woman who didn't even really love him anyway. He did it all, misused his powers and did not use his special powers for the benefit of God or man and he was blinded, as you may remember, by the pleasures of the world both figuratively and eventually literally blinded also because of the pleasures of the world. He wasted most of his years and then eventually pulled down the temple of Dagon as and killed himself and many others at the same time, in Judges chapter 16. But think of all those years that he spent blinded with his eyes poked out, grinding at the mill of his enemies who had blinded him, using him like an animal to turn the big millstone to grind their corn and wheat.
There's another way to die and this is the way all of us should desire to die when it comes our time, and that is just like Paul --- Yes, like Paul. He died faithful in God's will, without fear and happy and ready to go. And that's the way every Christian should desire to die when our time comes. You may say, "Oh, but I don't want to die yet."
Well, there's a funny thing about that. You know --- "Heaven's my home but I'm not homesick today" --- that's what some people say. And yet, I believe when it does come our time to die, if we're really saved and really right with the Lord and really watching for His coming, that He will give us dying grace. Just the way He gives us living grace to live for Him, He gives us dying grace when it comes our time to go.
Paul knew about that in II Timothy 4:6 thru 8. We'll read those verses together and close. Paul said this, remember now this appears to be just before he met his martyrdom, he said these words: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." He knew he'd soon die, he was soon to be executed. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Paul knew what it was all about, didn't he? He knew what it was all about.
So remember these things as we close the service today. People can live unsaved, which is the way of a fool. People can live backslidden in various degrees. People can live saved but unprepared to serve God well, usually caused by either being backslidden or by being lazy, one of the two --- this business of being unprepared to serve God well.
Another way that people can live is saved and prepared and serving God. And then we gave you the three bad examples and the one good examples of four ways to die. One like Saul, the educated fool, like Absalom who had a great opportunity but died a traitor, like Samson who misused his powers and failed to use them for the benefit of God or man, or to die like Paul, ready and faithful and happy without fear in the midst of God's service when he died. What a privilege to think about dying like Paul.