DRAWING A CONCLUSION
us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his
It is impossible to avoid advertisements. They are out to get you, and get you they will at all cost.
Each one of these advertisers have just one thing in mind: your money. And how do they get your money? By convincing you that they are going to give you a great something for very little of your time and your effort. And this they must do because if they ask very much of you, you will turn them down because you've grown used to expecting something for nothing.
Let's take just one commercial that is near impossible to avoid. Let's take the Pepsi-Coca-Cola war. As it stands we see just about as many Coke ads as we do Pepsi ads. And of course no Pepsi ad tells you the benefits of drinking Coke. That would be like a Democrat giving you the honest details about themselves and their Republican opponent. Such a devastating event could well spell the downfall of the civilized world. No, we expect to only hear good things from any advertiser, at least, when they're talking about their own product.
Concerning the Pepsi-Coke war. What do you suppose would happen if Coca-Cola dropped out of the picture, or began to minimize their advertisement campaign? Wouldn't you suppose that the world would then swing heavily toward Pepsi? Of course it would. We, especially those of us on the American continent are easily swayed by advertisement, and we seek to be associated with that which is popular, even if it is the inferior product. It's the "IN" thing we're concerned with, not the reasonable or the logical.
The more we're confronted with a particular ad the more popular we assume it to be, therefore the more intensely we desire to have that product. "But Ma! Everybody has one!" Have you ever heard this statement before? I wonder where they get such an idea.
Advertisers not only tell us what we are to have, what's popular, what's available, but also how to think and how to behave. The more influence an advertiser can have over the public, the more they sell, and the more money they make. One example of this process is that of the arts. Many of the great artists, (as we see them today) lived in abject poverty because no one wanted to buy their product. Then someone came along with money and influence. They pushed the pictures in everybody's face and claimed the artist to be a wizard with the brush and said everyone should have one. Soon those paintings that were being burned by their artist in order to keep warm were selling for millions and everyone had to have one of these "masterpieces."
We see this in literature, in the antique markets, and in every other aspect of life. We just have to have what the Jones' have, because that's what everyone else wants.
We are gullible. And the most gullible of us are those who believe their too smart to be gullible. Just look at the Pharisees as an example. What do we know about Jesus? What did the Pharisees think of Jesus and His followers? Listen to these words from some of the most educated, the most religious, the most influential people of the ancient world:
45Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. (John 7:)
We might call this believing one's own hype. They believed the lies they had been telling themselves and the world. But in the ancient world, the time of Jesus, the people were not listening. Only they, the leaders, were listening to their own words. And as we have seen, their words were based on truth (the Word of God), but their conclusions were very wrong.
The more times we hear something, and the more directions and sources they come from, the more we tend to believe what we hear, even if what we hear makes no sense at all. From birth we're bombarded with advertisements telling us what we should and should not do. Everyone from our mother to the Smurfs are telling the child what is best for him or her. Is it any wonder a child grows into a person who can not think for themselves and must consult the world of advertising and the media (which is the same thing) to determine the road they should take?
This lesson is about drawing a conclusion. Perhaps the previous paragraphs have caused you to think I had forgotten my purpose. This would be a logical conclusion to draw. But as you can readily see, it would have been a wrong conclusion, which most conclusions are.
In this session I intend to teach you how to draw your own conclusion. In the above paragraphs I showed you that everyone is trying to make you draw their conclusion. And though it will be difficult to even consider changing from this natural course, that of letting someone else draw our conclusion, I hope by the end of this lesson you will have been successful in learning to draw your own conclusion.
First I want you to take your pencil and answer each one of the questions I'm about to ask you with a "yes" or a "no." Write your answers on the paper. You don't have to write the questions because the questions are arbitrary questions I'm drawing from my head. Are you ready? Is your pencil sharp? Then we will begin.
Question one: Is it day or night? Remember, answer these questions with a yes or a no.
Question two: Is the moon full, or is it quarter?
Question three: Is it raining, or is it snowing?
Question four: Did the sun rise yesterday? Or will the sunrise tomorrow? Remember now, either yes of no.
Question five: Are you alive today? Or were you alive yesterday?
Question six: Which would you rather have, one raw egg in your cup of coffee, or two eggs?
Did you have trouble answering some of these questions? I suppose you did. A couple of the questions could be answered yes or no because they're appropriate, such as if it's day of night. But if it was dawn at the time you answered the question, then neither answer would have been correct, yet both would have been correct. But neither yes of no would have been an accurate answer. If it was raining or snowing in your town, then yes or no would have been an appropriate answer for question three. But if the sun was shining, then neither would have been correct. And what happened yesterday, you assume will happen tomorrow as well. So neither yes or no would have been correct for question four, yet both answers would be correct.
The final question may have thrown you. However, the question is not an unreasonable one. Such questions are asked of you all the time but you just never realized it. During the war there was an abundance of eggs in certain areas of the country. In order to sell the surplus eggs bartenders were encouraged to offer to put eggs in the customer's beer. An ugly thought you say. Yes it is. Now tell me, if you were given a choice between one and two eggs in your beer (or coffee as in the above illustration), which would you choose? Of course you would want to answer "none," but it is human nature to accept whatever is offered to us, not what we truly want. We don't speak our minds, we answer within the limited choices offered to us. More on this later.
An example of this type of reasoning is that of tattoos. When I was in the service tattoos were sparse and conservative and only a few of the soldiers had one. That was to be expected. Now tattoos in abundance are all over the body of even the pre-teens, boys and girls. What makes the difference? We do what is expected of us, not what we really want to do. We may want something because others have it, but if they didn't have it, then we wouldn't want it. If the thing to do was to have two raw eggs in one's coffee, then the chickens couldn't lay enough eggs to supply the eggs to accommodate all those asking for eggs in their coffee.
This is human nature.
Today the egg in our coffee can be seen as a ring through the tongue, an I-Pod, a big screen TV, a large house on both sides of the country for the old folks, the "Buy Now" signs, the "Only" before every high priced item, the "Last Chance" circular you receive every month or so, the two-dollar latté rather than the ten cent morning cup of coffee.
Instead of egg in our beer, today we have egg on our face, and we don't even know it because everyone else has egg on their face as well. Egg on the face is the "In" thing these days.
A stop sign is a conclusion. Where there is a stop sign, we stop. Do you have your pencil handy? I have some more questions for you:
Question one: You come to an busy intersection. There is no stop sign. There is a vehicle approaching the intersection from your right, and one from your left, all arriving at the intersection at the same time. Being on the right of the car on your left, you have the right of way. But the car on your right has right of way over you. Do you stop? Or do you go ahead and expect everyone else to stop?
Question two. Same scenario. Now you're in a very great hurry and you have just had a tiff with your spouse and kids; do you stop? Or do you go ahead?
Question three. Same scenario, except now there is no car on your right, and the car on your left is clearly far enough away from the intersection as to give you the right of way. However, there is now a stop sign facing you. Do you stop? Or do you take your right of way?
Question four. You are at this same intersection. It is midnight and there is not a car in sight. You approach the stop sign. Do you stop? Or do you go?
Question five. You are now in the desert. You can see for miles in all directions. There is not a thing in sight other than a couple tumbleweeds minding their own business. There is no cross street, but there is a stop sign posted along side the road. Do you stop? Or do you go on through?
We have been conditioned to stop at stop signs, regardless of why they are there, or even if they belong there. We no longer have what we call freedom of choice. All our choices, from birth, are taken from us. If we choose to make our own choices we are either branded as a criminal or a non-conformist. We have to abide by what society says is correct, and what our society says is true, whether it makes any sense to us or not. And because we have become accustomed to letting others think for us, we have lost our ability, and our desire to think for ourselves.
In many of the Native American tribes of the past it was customary for a youth as he entered manhood to prove his worth by surreptitiously entering the camp of an "enemy" (who may well have been a friend the day before, and may again be the next day), steal his horse and other possessions, and maybe even kill the owner. To fail to accomplish such a deed would mean being considered less than a man. We see this mentality in many of the gangs of our fair country even today. In the Hindu culture there are those who will starve to death standing next to a healthy cow because they consider that cow to be their ancestor. Some go so far as to sacrifice their food to the rats of the temple for the same reason. During the Theocracy of Israel, if a person witnessed a breech of etiquette as given to them by God Himself, they were to bring that person, who may well be a beloved family member, before the elders, and be the first to cast a stone at that person.
We are captives of the society in which we live. And the society of today has abandoned all rules other than the common rule of not criticizing those who desire to be oblivious to all the rules of God. And this attitude is now promoted by many of the churches, which as history may well provide evidence, was in fact part of the institution of the very attitude it condemns.
Our natural tendency to allow others to think for us have in the past (as well as now) created some dreadful consequences. We see this on a minor scale with the Jim Jones and the Heaven's Gate episodes. And we see this on a major scale with the Nazis in Germany. We consider the people who become entangled in situations such these as deficient in their thinking. This is not true. They are merely following their natural tendencies, just as do you and I. We even see this tendency in Adam and Eve. We see that the natural tendency to follow our worst instincts caused the deluge of Noah's time. We see how it caused the Israelites to fall to the sway of the corrupt nations around them. We see it in what is to come during the Tribulation. And we see it today in the thousands of different church denominations, all opposed to one another.
Each of us have made a choice to belong to one church or another. We may have conscientiously made an effort to choose a church that agrees with our way of thinking, or, which is more likely, caters to our interests and pleasures. But regardless of the reason for our choice, we have turned our thinking over to the doctrines of that church. Once we have made our choice of churches, we then abandon our decision-making process and expect those who make the policies of the church to take us to our final destination and to tell us what we should believe or what we should reject. We also expect our pastor and our elders to instruct us on what is right and what is wrong. We assume they have a direct contact with God and therefore they know what God desires of us.
This situation can be illustrated by a train ride across the country. You step on the train in San Diego on your way to Florida. You expect to see the deserts of California and Arizona, and the dry arid lands of New Mexico and Texas. But instead you find yourself amidst what appears all the world to you as the plains of Montana and the Great Lakes of Michigan. You ask the attendant about the unexpected scenery (which in our case would be verses of Scripture that do not seem to line up with our reasoning). The attendant tells you that you may feel confident that the conductor and the engineer know what they are doing. Just to be on the safe side you ask the conductor for assurance. He tells you that you are indeed on the right train and that your intended destination will be reached posthaste. You might wonder about this odd turn of events, but you return to your seat content that you are indeed in the hands of those who know what they are doing. Many years pass and you are still on the same train expecting to reach the destination you set out for. Beside you sits a young person who is experiencing the same confusion you experienced long ago. The youngster asks you about this unusual occurrence. You assure the young person that you have been on this train for many years and you are fully confident that the both of you are on the course you are supposed to be on.
On a physical train ride, in due time we will have discovered if we are indeed on the right train by the fact we either step off the train in frigid Nova Scotia, or a warm beach of Florida. On the Spiritual train we the Church are on we won't know if we're in fact going to step off in Glory, or if the conductor we have entrusted our final destination will lead us to that other place.
What we hear most, is what we believe. It is said that we will believe a lie we've heard a hundred times rather than the truth we hear but once.
In the early days of television it was popular to compare a product with what was called "Brand X." Of course brand X didn't exist, so there was no problem with other competing companies. Brand X was always a plain box or jug or whatever according to the product being sold. And of course the product being pushed was always better than brand X by a long way. Why don't they use this form of advertising today? Remember what I said about our nature to go with what we hear the most? What seems the most popular rather than what seems to be the best for us? Well, every company competed with Brand X, regardless of what kind of product it was. So what did people hear the most? Why of course, Brand X. So some bright entrepreneur came up with the brilliant idea of producing a product called Brand X that came in a plain wrapper. Was the product any good? Was it cheaper? Who knows. All we know is everyone stopped buying the advertized brand and went to brand X because it was the novel idea of the day and because everyone heard the brand advertised from every corner of the media. And consider, Brand X didn't even have to pay for advertising because all the big name brands were advertising for them.
So much for human nature and our choices.
More questions. This time the questions are in regard to the Bible:
Question one: Is Jesus God?
Question two: Is Heaven in the sky somewhere?
Question three: Was Barsabas the twelfth Apostle in place of Judas?
Question four: Is there a Trinity?
Question five. Is it possible for a baptized Christian to go to hell?
Question six: Was Satan once a beautiful angel?
Question seven: Is the Book of Job history? Or is it a parable?
Question eight: Was Paul given freedom of choice?
Most of the above questions you already knew and you answered the question with a yes or no without hesitation. Some of the questions you might have had to think about. And other questions you just didn't know the answer to. Those questions the which you were in doubt: Did you consider them at all? If you did consider them, what did you think of doing about the question? Did you consider researching the question for yourself? Did you consider checking on a Bible Commentary to see what someone else had to say about the subject? Did you consider asking your pastor or your Sunday School teacher about the topic to see what you're supposed to believe?
The idea of delving into complicated subjects, no matter how important the matter may be, is hard for us to accept or comprehend. Unlike most subjects such as auto mechanics or cooking, the Bible is a complex web of confusing verses hard to understand. And if we consider the thousands of concepts and cross references, our mind becomes bewildered. So we turn our understandings and our beliefs over to someone who claims to understand such things. We believe, as do they, that they have been given a full understanding of the workings of God.
In my youth I was a salesman. I wasn't a good salesman, but I was a salesman nonetheless. I sold water softeners door-to-door. I sold houses door-to-door. And I even sold cars (not door-to-door). The first thing I had to do in order to sell a product was to sell myself that what I was selling was both a good deal and a benefit to those I was selling to. Had I not been able to sell myself first, I would not have been able to sell at all because I would have had to see myself as a crook and a liar. In just about all business that require salesmen there are people trained in the art of persuasion. By this I mean their job is to sell the salesmen that the product they are selling is the best on the market. The more convinced a salesman is that they are selling the best, the better they will be able to sell. We see this same concept in the nation of Israel (under the guidance of God Himself) where they were taught that they were a special and a chosen people superior to all others. Of course God made it clear to them that they were not special, merely chosen in spite of their not being anything special. Again we see this superior attitude in Nazi Germany when Hitler had the people convinced that their nationality was the only one of any value. And finally we see this very same attitude in the churches where, in spite of the fact God has said we are nothing of any value outside of Him, we feel superior to the world. And not only the world do we feel superior to, but also to all those bearing the name tag of Christian outside our own denomination.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. You have had to do the same thing yourself. Remember in school where you fully believed your school was the best? How about that favorite sports team you so wholeheartedly support, even when it goes down the tubes? You might have told your child there was a tooth fairy so the child wouldn't be afraid to have her tooth pulled. You might have told your child about a cat heaven so he or she wouldn't worry about their dead pet. You might have had to tell your family that you were feeling fine when you were really very fearful or in dreadful pain because you didn't want them to worry about you. How about the car you sold without telling the new owner that you recently learned the transmission was about to go out? Maybe you had to tell some white lie so someone could feel better about themself or to relieve their concern. Whatever the situation, before you could tell the story that wasn't true, you had to first convince yourself that it was the right thing to do, even though all evidence points to it being wrong.
Over time we learn to deceive ourself to the point that we no longer are aware of our doing so. It's much like the child that first steals a candy bar and is riddled with guilt. But because the candy bar tasted good, and they were not caught, they ended up stealing cars with no feeling of guilt whatever.
In the questions above. Notice how the questions that you were unsure of caused you to at least pause to consider looking into the matter. Whether you follow through with such a quest is not the issue. The fact that you did not dismiss the matter is the issue to be observed.
On the other hand, notice how the questions that you gave an instantaneous yes or a no answer caused you to stop, and to not bother to give the matter a moment of thought. You had the answer, and that is all you were concerned with. Whether the answer is correct or not you don't concern yourself with. The fact you can discuss the matter with your fellow church members and your pastor, and you all be in agreement, is all that matters.
However, if you were to discuss the same issue with someone of another denomination you may well be outside the realm of reason because that denomination may not be in agreement with your denomination. But you don't concern yourself with such minor details. You merely consider the one from the other denomination as wrong, doomed to hell, and return to your own church and discuss the matter where you are sure of receiving agreement.
Stop signs are there to make us stop. Doctrines are stop signs. To go beyond a stop sign without stopping is to cause a person to be in violation of the rules. Someone in your neighborhood who does not stop for the stop sign on your corner is looked upon as less than human. You have to stop for the sign, and so must he. You think to yourself with a grin: "Someday he's going to get caught, and then will he ever get it. I'll be glad when he gets what's coming to him!"
Our Christian nature at play.
We do this with those who would dare think outside the box of accepted reasoning in the body of the Church as well. However, the "They'll get what's coming them" for not agreeing with us means an eternity in hell, not merely a ticket to face a judge and a possible fine.
Our human nature at work.
Stop signs are there to make us stop. Go no father. Do not step beyond this line. Think no farther on the matter. And this we do willingly.
But should we? Should the followers of Jim Jones have used such a reasoning? After all, they merely used the same reasoning all of us use in the church we attend. They were so certain they were right that they pulled up stakes and followed the one they trusted to another country. That is faith. Misdirected faith to be sure. But who's to say that your faith or mine is any less misdirected? Those people in Guyana, when they saw what was becoming of their leader, wanted desperately to leave. But it was too late. They had made their choice, and they were doomed to suffer the consequences of the choice they had made. As shall we.
What about you? That is the test question I have for you. What choices are you making? What effort are you putting into making sure that what you have chosen to believe is the true Word of God? Are you going to wait until it's too late to change your mind? Or are you going to search for the truth under the leadership of the Holy Spirit?
That's the test. How did you do? Are you content with your answers? Are you certain you are on the right track and not settling for a follow-the-leader religion?
It's time to draw your conclusion. What kind of conclusion are you going to draw?
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph 6:)
14Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2Tim 2:)
11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (Acts 17:)
33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom 11:)
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:)
9Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28:)
1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1Cor 3:)
10Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:)
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. (Heb 6:)
3Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. 4I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. (Isaiah 66:)
10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thes 2:)
6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7:)
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:)
23Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:)
12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. 13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Mat 7:)
16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Mat 20:)
13Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14For many are called, but few are chosen. (Mat 22:)
27But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. (Luke 13:)
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Cor 9:)