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Chapter 21

A Moment to Decide

 

BEFORE the creation of this earth, the eternal unity of the universe was split apart by the leader of the angels—Lucifer.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12–14)

In the form of a snake, Satan succeeded in destroying the loyalty of earth’s first inhabitants to God.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye shall eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:1–6)

The issue, in the Garden of Eden, was a simple one—Eve had the choice to accept the Word of God or the word of the deceiver. Since then, that has been the issue. Today, humanity faces the same decision—whether to accept the Word of God, the One who is the truth (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2), or the word of Lucifer, Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). The destiny of every human being rests on this simple decision.

In one sense, Satan has always had an advantage over God. God can present only truth, unadulterated and unmodified. Satan can present an almost infinite combination of truth and error. The battle is between the truth of God on the one hand, and the mixture of truth and error of Satan on the other. One willful step away from the truth of God places us upon Satan’s territory, and is sure to lead us further into error of thought and action. There is only one way to be totally committed to God.

Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Many today have not understood that rejecting the Word of God, even a small part of it, is dangerous to their eternal salvation. While concentrating upon the mercy of God, they have failed to give due acknowledgment to mercy’s twin sister—justice. A just God could never trust a man or woman who has not been loyal to His Word to be a loyal citizen of heaven of or the new earth. The characteristics of the saints that will enter heaven are simply defined in Scripture.

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)

Placed in the setting of the time of the end, this text offers three unequivocal characteristics of those who accept the saving grace and mercy of Jesus. First, they have patience, or, as we would say today, endurance or perseverance. They do not yield their loyalty to God by compromising truth or Christian practice. They daily appropriate Christ’s strength to obey everything that God says. These saints keep both the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. While the antichrist has sought to change and depreciate the law of God, the saints cherish and obey it because they recognize that it is an exact transcript of the character of God. When we have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), His character is revealed in us through the keeping of His commandments. But Paul reminds us that we cannot keep the commandments of God unless we also have the faith of Jesus.

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

This faith enables us to believe that Jesus is completely able to save us, from sin, for His kingdom. Such a faith leads to victory over sin as our lives are constantly submitted to Jesus Christ. This faith is always demonstrated by obedience.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (Hebrews 11:4)

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. (Hebrews 11:7, 8).

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. (Hebrews 11:24, 25)

Throughout human history, millions have suffered persecution, deprivation, torture, imprisonment, and death rather than give up their loyalty to God. Such ultimate decisions are not hurriedly made, nor are they impulsive. God’s faithful children have always been those who have developed the habit of daily submitting their wills and lives to Christ. They have allowed Jesus to guide them in every decision that they have made. As the Lord has permitted them to be tested on the little issues, they have leaned upon His strength for victory. The same strength is appropriated as more difficult tests come. Jesus has always been their strength and comfort because they fully believe the promises of God.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Those who fail in the days of severe test and trial have also failed earlier in the simple tests of life. They are often oblivious to the fact that they are making decisions of eternal consequence. They frequently wish to delay the day of commitment, but such is usually a commitment that is never made.

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation. (Hebrews 2:3)

Knowing our tendency to indefinite delay, He encourages us:

To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. (Hebrews 3:15)

Our minds immediately recall two tragic rulers who sought to delay their response to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul during his trial (following his arrest in Jerusalem) presented opportunities for salvation to these leaders, their hearts stirred within them. Felix was the first to witness Paul’s powerful appeal.

And as he [Paul] reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:25)

Tragically, there is no record that Felix ever made a decision to follow Jesus during any convenient season. This was Felix’s only opportunity to decide.

Soon afterward, King Agrippa had his moment of decision.

King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:27, 28)

Again, there is no record that Agrippa was at a later time fully persuaded to be a Christian. His eternal destiny was sealed at that moment. There is never an "almost." We either are under the banner of Christ or we are serving with the legions of the arch-rebel, Lucifer.

The importance of one decision can be seen in the lives of Daniel, Mishael, Azariah, and Hananiah. These four captives from Judah were destined for slavery; however, the most powerful potentate of the day, King Nebuchadnezzar, made the enlightened decision to train the elite of the captives for positions of rulership. The king even provided for these young trainees the same food and wine of which he partook. This decision of the four Jewish youths not to violate their conscience was to have profound implications throughout their lives. Daniel was obviously the leader in this decision.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Daniel 1:8)

If these four men had not made this decision then, the book of Daniel would never have been written. The experiences in chapters 3 and 6 would never have taken place as recorded. Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) would never have refused to bow to the golden image on the plain of Dura, with their lives at stake, if they had not earlier made their dietary decisions. Neither would Daniel have continued to audibly pray in front of his open window in defiance of the command of King Darius that all who worshiped any other than the king would be thrown into the lions’ den.

While God delivered His faithful servants in both these tests, deliverance may not always be God’s plan. But whenever men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice, God has provided the strength to face even the cruelest of deaths. To the true Christian, loyalty to Christ has no conditions.

During the persecutions of the Middle Ages and the time of the Reformation, many nobly faced imprisonment and even martyrdom in their unswerving loyalty to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. John Bunyan, famed author of Pilgrim’s Progress, spent many years in prison because he refused to acknowledge the right of any human authority to sanction his preaching of the precious Word of God. A sympathetic judge did all he could to save Bunyan from prison. Aware of Bunyan’s blind two-year-old daughter, the judge offered to pardon him for preaching without ecclesiastical permission on condition that he agree not to do it again. But Bunyan said that he must preach by the authority of God. The judge then volunteered to arrange with the Anglican Church for him to receive approval to preach. Bunyan insisted that God had delegated this authority to no man except Jesus Himself. Sadly, the judge enforced the law of the day, and the faithful Bunyan was to endure many years in the dreary prison of Bedford.

Even more moving is the faithfulness of the sixteenth-century English martyr, Thomas Arthur. Arthur, too, was summoned for preaching without the permission of the Roman Catholic Church. His words crystallized the courage that the proclaimers of the everlasting gospel will have at the end of time.

Let our adversaries preach by the authority of the cardinal; others by the authority of the university; others by the popes; we will preach by the authority of God. It is not the man that brings the Word which the man brings. Neither bishops nor popes have the right to forbid any man to preach the gospel; and if they kill him he is not a heretic, but a martyr. (D’Aubigné, The English Reformation, vol. 1, p. 291)

Jesus foretold that God’s faithful people will indeed face fearful persecution.

If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)

In many countries, this persecution has already taken place. Whenever freedom of religion is violated, men and women have had to make quick decisions that have evidenced their loyalty or disloyalty to God. Frequently, the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth Commandment in the Decalogue has been at stake. Only a small number have remained faithful to their Sabbathkeeping under threats of confiscation, separation from family, imprisonment, torture, death, and when civil authorities have demanded that they send their children to school on Sabbath or work on God’s holy, sacred day.

In 1972, a woman in East Germany faced the ultimate decision—send her eight-year-old daughter (her only child) to school on Sabbath or have her removed by civil authorities. In spite of her prayers, the child was taken away. But God had not forgotten her. When a plaque declaring her an unfit mother was posted in the center of the woman’s village, the villagers rallied to her plight. They proclaimed her to be one of the finest mothers in the village; also, they forced the officials to return the girl to her mother by refusing to perform any work assignment for the government until it was done. The child was returned to her mother. What a great God we serve!

In another country swept by revolution, a Christian press was taken over by the revolutionaries. Immediately, the Sabbathkeeping staff was required to work on Sabbath, at the risk of execution if they refused to obey. All workers capitulated except one pressman who placed his loyalty to God above his own life. When he reported to work on Monday, he was given one more chance to show his loyalty to the revolution by working the next Sabbath. He refused, and immediately the execution squad was summoned to take him to the place of execution. As he was being roughly taken out of the door of the press building, the revolutionary chief abruptly called him back and informed him he had his Sabbaths free from work. When the other workers heard about what had happened, they entreated the chief for the same consideration, but were greeted only by the angry response, "Get out of here!" They had lost their moment to decide for Christ.

In recent times, we have seen efforts to establish Sunday laws. It has been a characteristic of communist countries to require work and school attendance every day of the week excluding Sunday. This requirement has created untold hardships for faithful Sabbathkeepers. As a result, many were imprisoned. Some had their children taken from them. And some died as martyrs to their faith. Two islands in the free world (Fiji and Puerto Rico) led the way in the late 1980s in legislating Sunday laws that prevented normal activities on Sunday. It has been well known that Sabbath observance will become the final test of loyalty to God just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus.

During September 1989 in the United States, a chilling warning was given to Sabbathkeeping Christians when the First Circuit Court of Appeals, in Boston, upheld the validity of the Puerto Rican Sunday closing laws. Once again, the court system of the United States demonstrated its readiness to enforce legislation designed to place special significance upon the pagan day of the Sun. This court opinion certainly renewed the intention of activist groups, such as the Lord’s Day Alliance, to apply pressure for Sunday closing laws to be enacted by legislatures on the mainland of the United States. It is more likely that such laws will be enacted in a time of great national need or crisis.

People of other races have a much tougher mentality than those in the Western cultures. It will require a total commitment to Christ in order for faithful people to stand the tests and trials that are just ahead of us. Only those who daily study God’s Word and, under the power of the Holy Spirit, apply these truths to our lives will prove faithful. Now is the time to make your decision for Christ. Even though the test of loyalty will encompass every facet of our lives, the Sabbath test will rivet the attention of the world to the challenge to God’s authority and rulership. As we approach the time when the image to the beast is fully formed, now is a time to make decisions for truth and righteousness. As the fury of the antichrist reaches its apex, only those who are secure in the power of Jesus Christ will stand faithful. The decision made then will depend upon the decisions made now. There can be no neutrality then, any more than God allows neutrality now.

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. (Matthew 12:30)

We realize that this book will bring, to many readers, the challenge of their lifetime. We believe no one can read it without being brought, like Felix and Agrippa, to a decision in his or her life. We pray that your decision, renewed every day, will be to join the faithful group of God’s loyal remnant. The King’s return is close at hand. Be ready "to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thessalonians 4:17) Be ready to join the triumphant band in their shout of victory.

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)

 


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