"HOW LONG WILL YOU FALTER
In 1 Kings chapter eighteen, God's prophet, Elijah, came to a confrontation with Ahab, the king of Israel, and his prophets. Ahab and his prophets were worshipers of the pagan idol Baal. The children of Israel were supposed to be the servants of the one true God, but they had been trying to serve God and Baal. Israel did not see their service to God as an exclusive matter. They evidently thought they could serve both God and Baal and receive benefit from both. It was this attitude that Elijah was addressing when he said "...How long will you falter between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word. (1 Kings 18:21).
How do you think Elijah felt when the people would not answer him? No doubt this lack of response was very disappointing to Elijah, and more importantly disappointing to God. Here were people who were not willing to take a stand either way. They were faltering (ASV - limping) between the two. The word "falter" was used by the Hebrews to indicate someone who hopped, or who skipped from one side to the other. This is what the Israelites were doing. They could not make up their minds where they wanted to stand. They wanted to be on God's side, but they also thought they saw advantages to being on Baal's side. They just could not make up their minds.
I fear that there are many people like this today. They do not want to take a stand for God's way. They do not want to take a stand that would cause them to be unpopular with their friends, relatives and with the world. Yet, they don't want to be seen to be against God. So they hop and skip from one to the other just as Israel of old did. Perhaps the majority of those who resist taking a side do so because they do not want to be involved in confrontation regarding the position they are taking. Joshua told Israel in his last address to them that they had to make choices regarding who they would follow. "And if it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh." (Joshua 24:15). This choice is as old as creation itself. It's a choice that you and I must make today just as sure as Israel had to make it in Joshua and Elijah's day.
In our text Elijah insists that Israel make a choice. The implication is clear -- they could not serve both. The choice had to be made and then the consequences of that choice had to be lived with. But at this point, the people of Israel just would not make the choice. Israel, of course, really did make a choice because in faltering between two opinions, they were really making the decision against following God. Because they would not serve God alone, 2 Kings 17:1-8 teaches that God sent them into Assyrian captivity.
THE WORLD IS
FULL OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE
There will always be the normal amount of popularity seekers who are concerned with being popular with the world. We will always have people who profess some kind of religion although they are not really dedicated to their religion. But there is also an ample supply of people today who will not make a decision because they do not want to be confronted regarding that decision.
Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." (Matthew 12:30) What Jesus is saying is; "You can't straddle the fence." You are either standing with Jesus on His side, or you are standing against Him on the other side. You may wish that it was different, but Christ's words are very clear.
There were a number of times while Jesus was upon this earth that He addressed the matter of our being concerned about what other people thought of us. Jesus said, "How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44). Here were people who were seeking honor from each other. They wanted to be popular with their fellow men rather than seeking honor from God. The apostle John later speaks in his gospel of those Jews who believed on Jesus but would not confess Him, lest they be cast out of the synagogue (John 12:42). Why did they refuse to be on Jesus' side? "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." (John 12:43). These men may not have felt that they really denied Jesus, but their refusal to confess Him was a statement of their opposition to Him.
We don't have to publicly denounce our belief in Jesus to be guilty of denying Him. If we simply are not willing to take a stand with Him we have denied Him and are against Him. We need to be very careful that we don't let a desire to please people make us deny the Lord.
The apostle Paul had somewhat to say about this. In Galatians 1:10, after he had warned the brethren in Galatia about those who were teaching another gospel, and expressing his surprise that the Galatians had so readily accepted this other gospel, he asked, "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." The word "persuade" is translated "seek the favor of" in the ASV. Paul's teaching and life was not one which tried to seek the favor of men, and Paul plainly tells us that if our lives are such, then we cannot be the servants of Christ.
Paul again wrote, "But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts" (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Paul was content to stand with God, regardless of what the rest of the world thought, and no matter how he was treated by others. He did this because he recognized the fact that it is God who has the last word -- it is He who will judge us. He is the one who tests our hearts. Both Paul and our Lord went to their deaths because they took their stand with God and His holy word.
When Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23), can we be truly satisfied doing anything less? When Paul pleads with us to follow him, even as he followed Christ, does he not mean for us to stand with him and Jesus even at the cost of our lives? (1 Corinthians 11:1). Can we worry about what men think about our Lord's commands? Not if we would please the Lord!
TAKING A STAND MEANS CONFRONTATION
One cannot take a stand with the Lord unless one is willing to confront others and be confronted by others. I would recommend that each person read Matthew chapters 21 through 23 and notice the different confrontations that our Lord dealt with. He confronted the moneychangers in the temple; He was confronted by the chief priests and elders regarding His authority and He confronted them in return. Both the Pharisees and Sadducees confronted Him and He gladly met their challenges. And finally, the scribes and Pharisees received some of the strongest confrontation from the Lord as recorded in Matthew 23.
Did Christ love these people? Of course. He was going to die for them. And it was that love that compelled Him to confront these men in religious and moral error and try to get them to take their stand with Him.
We have a command, a charge given to each Christian. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." (1 Peter 3:15) We have nothing to fear when we stand with the Lord and upon His word. "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6).
We have nothing to apologize for when we teach that men must be immersed in water to be saved - we are simply repeating what Jesus said in Mark 16:16. We have nothing to apologize for when we speak out against the use of mechanical instrumental music in worship. There is no Bible authority for it. And we cannot do it in the name of or by the authority of Christ. If Christ does not authorize it, we are standing against Him when we fail to speak out against it. Why be embarrassed to speak out against it? Why do some preachers do everything they can to not answer the question "Do you believe that if I use the piano in worship I will lose my soul?" Why not just let the Bible answer that question? Why cringe when someone asks whether we believe that there are saved people in the denominations? Jesus said that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), not churches. Furthermore, if salvation is in Christ as 2 Timothy 2:10 teaches, and Jesus is the Savior of His body - which is the church (Ephesians 5:23-25), why should we be embarrassed to teach that? Why be afraid to take a stand?
IT IS NOT UNLOVING TO TAKE A STAND!
Contrary to what many people think, it is not unloving to take a stand. In fact, when we fail to take a stand on God's word we prove that we neither love God nor our fellow man. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15). He further said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:10) It is only by taking a stand upon the word of God that we show our love for Christ and God.
Not only is it loving to take a stand, it is a command to do so. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:10-17). "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong." (1 Cor 16:13)
Whether this means taking a stand when tempted by Satan to sin; or when all of your friends are doing something wrong and they want you to do it; or when your co-workers are doing that which is wrong; or taking a stand when our brothers and sisters in Christ are practicing and teaching that which is false. We must take a stand!
OUR FINAL CONFRONTATION
Finally, let us remember that although we may not like confrontations concerning our stand for the Lord, there will be a final confrontation. That final confrontation will be with God. In the words of Jesus, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). We should not fear our fellow man. They may make it pretty hard on us for taking a stand for God while on this earth. They may even kill us - that is, the physical body. But we better be concerned about the one who is not only able to destroy the body but the soul in hell.
Yes, there will come a day of confrontation for us all. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Those who think they can take Jesus and ignore what His word says are sadly mistaken. Jesus warned the Jews of His day, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).
One cannot separate Christ from His word. We can reject Jesus but the words He has spoken will still be our judge. "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). We can claim to receive Jesus, but if we refuse to take a stand with Him, He will be ashamed of us and reject our claims of faith in Him. "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). What will your answer be to this question, if you have failed to take a stand upon the word of God? My friends, how sad it will be to stand before Jesus on that day and have to confess "I was afraid to take a stand." "I wanted to be popular with the world, so I didn't take a stand." "I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so I didn't take a stand." "I loved the praise of men more than the praise of God, so I didn't take a stand." "I loved money more than the Lord so I didn't take a stand." And, what will Jesus say? "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).
If we stand together with God's word, nothing can defeat us. Paul wrote, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32). We will also stand around God's throne in the eternal heavens. What greater motivation could there be to take a stand?