(Transcript of message preached at Faith-Grace Vietnamese Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, GA, on June 3, 2018.)
1. People of Israel (northern tribes)—
a. couldn’t decide between the LORD and Baal, the idol that Jezebel brings in beside the golden calves the northern tribes were worshipping;
b. the LORD uses Elijah to show them who is truly God; very merciful of him to do that, since all but 7000 of the entire country had turned away from him;
c. After the fire falls, Elijah kills prophets of Baal, but people don’t return to God permanently;
d. Elisha carries on his ministry after he’s taken up to heaven, and it’s a similar scene—few follow the Lord; most drift back to worshipping idols because it’s the easier thing to do, but they lose their souls in the process
e. Lesson here: fence-straddlers may be moved toward the right temporarily, but if it’s not a decision based on deep personal conviction, they’ll eventually go back to their former ways
2. Zedekiah (Jer. 38:14-23).
a. Last king of Judah rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, but Jeremiah tells him that if he humbles himself and surrenders, his life will be spared and he’ll be treated well;
b. instead, he stubbornly refuses and is captured and loses his sons and his eyes (last thing he ever sees is his sons put to death);
c. he’s afraid of what his nobles will think about him bowing to Jeremiah’s preaching (which nearly all of them hate)—“The fear of man, that bringeth a snare” (Prov. 29:2x)
3. Herod (Mark 6)
a. three Herods: (1) “the Great,” who tries to kill Jesus as a boy; (2) Antipas, the one here; and (3) Agrippa, whom we’ll talk about later;
b. Herod listens to John’s preaching, enjoys it, and even does good works in response, but the lingering sin in his life is that he takes his brother’s wife for himself, and John tells him it’s wrong;
c. you know what happens next—daughter of his illegal wife (Herodias) dances at his birthday party and he promises her half his kingdom; at her mother’s urging, she asks for John’s head, much to Herod’s regret; he has to keep his oath, though, and has John put to death;
d. no more light for Herod after this; he sees Jesus just before Christ dies, and Jesus says nothing to him—Herod had firmly rejected the light he had (note how he mocks Christ’s silence) and Jesus gives him no more;
e. you can’t play games with God, y’all; if he gives you light, act on it—if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts…like Herod did, and lost his soul for fence-straddling
4. Rich young ruler (Luke 18)
a. came running, so not old; seems earnest—Mark says that Christ loved him, and sincere (kept commandments best he knew);
b. but when Christ puts his finger on his idol, the thing more important to him than God, he slinks away sad—he knows what he ought to do, but can’t bring himself to do it;
c. fence-straddler! Christ tells him that the next step beyond what he already knows and has obeyed is to sell out—not try to hold the world in one hand and God in the other; can’t be done—you love one or the other;
d. true, we must live in this world, but we’re not to love it (evil world system), because that will harm us
5. Pilate (John 18)
a. “what is truth?” Spirit of our times; most people, even some believers, scoff at the idea of absolute truth;
b. Pilate was a skeptic, who wasn’t governed by moral absolutes, so he sells Christ out in the end, because self is most important to him, not truth…
c. John 19—made himself a king; Pilate has to get rid of Christ to keep his job, but he knows that Christ is blameless and the true king of Israel (superscription);
d. fence-straddler! “I wash my hands of him”—no you don’t Pilate! His blood was on your hands, those of the Jews and their leaders, Herod, and Judas Iscariot. All of them had a hand in Christ’s death—Pilate makes the final call, the last nail in the coffin.
6. Agrippa (Acts 26)
a. almost, but not altogether. Paul gets an audience with this Jewish king before being shipped off to Rome to defend his ministry before Caesar.
b. Acts 26 is a masterpiece of persuasive preaching. Paul not only works on Agrippa personally, but also on everyone listening. In the end, Agrippa is so moved by Paul’s testimony that he says, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
c. Paul’s reply is classic and makes Agrippa stand up in respect—“I would that thou were not almost but altogether as I, except these bonds.” Wow! What powerful words from a man in chains; oh, his hands may have been shackled, but his spirit wasn’t.
d. You couldn’t steal Paul’s joy, for anything; same should be true of us. The same apostle told us, “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice.” Elsewhere he says, “Rejoice evermore,” defining alway as evermore.
e. Don’t stop rejoicing in the Lord, despite the circumstances. What a glorious promise, y’all. God will be with you in every trial, and there for you to rejoice in. The world can’t say that. They have to comfort themselves, but God promises to do the comforting, no matter what you go through (2 Cor. 1:3-4) and give you joy in it.
f. You cannot lose as a Christian, though everything seems against you. Now do you see why Paul wanted Agrippa to have what he had. Not straddle the fence, but dive in to the ocean of God’s love in Christ. But what would his friends think? WHO CARES! Your friends aren’t your friends if they don’t respect your faith in Christ, and they’re not worth keeping. God will give you a new set of friends if you follow him (Binh is a good example of that in my life)
The Bible has nothing good to say about those who won’t decide between good or evil. Good and evil are absolutes (no ying-yang—God hasn’t a spot of evil in him, nor Satan a spot of good).
Good was here before evil, and evil will go away, leaving only good. That’s why we all want stories to have happy endings, because this one does.
Don’t straddle the fence—decide today that you’re on God’s side and follow him to the end. You will come out a winner, no matter what you face in this life.