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A Line in the Sand

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A Line in the Sand

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A Line in the Sand

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.57 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (967.48 MB)
MP3 Audio (29.61 MB)

Just as the defenders of the Alamo made commitment with their lives, so must those called by God. Are you on the side of the line that you wish to be?


It's always easier to start a sermon with a story. And that's what I have today. Looking back several years, it was March 5th of 1836, Colonel William Travis called his men together for a serious meeting. He needed to share with them some vital information and give them opportunity to make a big decision, a life-or-death decision as it turned out. Of his nearly 200 men, and I say that because to call them soldiers would be a bit of an exaggeration, but of those 200, 32 of them had only just arrived. They had to fight their way into the surrounded fortress.

And I would say fortress is also an exaggeration, an exaggeration for what was actually a former Catholic mission, and South Central Texas, known as the Alamo. Most of the men manning the Alamo would come from various states in the union to join in Texas's fight for independence from the nation of Mexico, a fight that had begun about a year earlier. Fighting had gone back and forth. And then early in 1836, the Mexican President, Santa Anna, led an army of nearly 2,000 soldiers, professionally trained soldiers to San Antonio. His intent was to take back control of the town and reduce that makeshift fort that Texas defenders had gathered in. And this would be his first step in re-conquering all of Texas.

Now, for several days, there had been skirmishes, and, you know, with the advanced guard of the Mexican army. And Colonel Travis, with his co-commander, Sam Bowie, had sent calls out to Texas leaders around the state pleading for reinforcements. They needed more men. They needed ammunition, needed supplies. But the response they got was very meager. So, it was on March 5th Santa Anna finalized plans for launching an all-out assault the next morning.

Previously, he'd made it very clear that he considered the Texans to be traitors, and any American citizens supporting them were pirates. He would take no prisoners. So, the story somewhat shrouded in legend says that sometime that day, Colonel Travis gathered all the men together. He explained to them that attack was imminent. And all signs showed it was obvious the Mexicans would overrun them. And then according to the story, he pulled out his cavalry sword, and he drew a line in the sand in front of the men there. And he asked those who were willing to fight and to die for the Texas cause to step across that line and stand with him.

According to legend, all except one man did walk across. Well, I should qualify that. Sam Bowie asked to be carried across because he was there in a sick bed. The man who didn't cross left that same night. As you know, Travis was correct or probably you know, the Mexicans did prevail in that battle. All the men who crossed the line to make a stand at the Alamo with Colonel Travis died fighting for their cause. Now they became heroes to the people of Texas, and to most of America.

The reason I tell this story today is because all of us at times have to stop and ponder who we are. What do we believe in? What do we want to make a stand for? You could say we have to decide for what cause are we willing to make a stand, even when it could cost us our lives. You know, we're in the spring of the year, although this morning when I saw those big snowflakes coming down had a cause to doubt, but it's spring and Passover is coming, the most solemn ceremony of the year.

And as that comes every year, we gather those of us who are baptized and reaffirm our commitment to Jesus Christ and God the Father, and to that way of life. It's not a small commitment. It is a matter of life and death. And so we're encouraged to consider carefully beforehand. I won't turn there. I know Mr. Meyers last week in his sermon read from 1 Corinthians 11. If you want to note, 1 Corinthians 11, starting in verse 27, where Paul reminded the congregation at Corinth that whoever eats of that bread and drinks of that cup in an unworthy manner, you know, is guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:27 And then he said, "Let a man examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup."

There are many things that we could consider when examining ourselves. Today, I want to focus on one of the most basic. I want to ask myself, "Do I really want what this represents? Is this where I want to be?" We could draw an analogy that at some point in our lives we were like those men in the Alamo. And Jesus Christ drew out His cavalry sword and drew a line in the sand. He draws a line, a line that I can see, and He says to me, "Do you want to stand with me? If so, step across the line."

Now, I submit in crossing that line, that's the way to immortal life. That's not exactly something bad. But in some ways, it's sort of like the men in the Alamo. They gained immortal fame, but first, they had to sacrifice their lives. And we know if we cross the line to stand with Jesus Christ, and we stay there, we have to sacrifice the life that we had. You know, we have to put Him first before mother, father, sister, brother, even our own selves. We might even have to suffer a martyr's death. like those men in Texas did.

Still, on the other side is immortal life. But do you really believe that? And is it really what you want? And then when I say you, I include myself in that. I could be looking in the mirror saying, "Frank, do you really want with this?" And I'm proposing with this metaphor that I'm using today that we sometimes need to look down and see, what side of the line am I on? And give conscious thought. What side do I want to be on?

So, that's the purpose of my message today. It's very simple, but I want to look at some examples that I think could help us learn some lessons about that and encourage us to know where the line is, to know if that's where we want to make our stand. Now, I want to transition this to a Biblical perspective and look at some of those examples. If you want... I'll say that in English. You can begin turning to Judges 7. I want to look at a story that bears some resemblance to that of the Alamo. That's the story of Gideon.

We know Israel was being overrun by Midianites. And God chose an unlikely young man to be the hero who would lead Israel to victory, but he had to work with Gideon a bit first to convince him that he was the man, to build up his faith. Once He did convince him, Gideon blew the trumpet, as it says, and an army of men gathered, 32,000 Israelites came to him. Unfortunately, the Midianites numbered 120,000. The Israelites were outnumbered 4 to 1, still better than the 10 to 1 odds the men in the Alamo faced but that would change soon enough because the Israelite soldiers were given an opportunity similar to those men defending the Alamo. If you look in Judges 7:2.

Judges 7:2-3 With those 32,000 men, "The Lord said to Gideon, 'People who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against me, saying, my own hand has saved me.' Now, therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people saying, 'Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' Twenty-two thousand of the people returned, 10,000 remained."

In a sense, there is the line, do you really want to fight? Because if not, you can go home. And as I said, 10,000 stepped across. The majority didn't step across. Now, I'm not going to deal with the rest of the story just yet because we know God wanted to really make a point. And He's going to reduce the army considerably beyond that down to 300. But for now, let's give those 10,000 men credit. They stepped across the line. They wanted to make a stand with God and with God's servant, even against what looked like impossible odds, risking their lives, facing certain death if they failed. Now, as I said, there's more to this story that I want to come back to.

But let's turn to the New Testament for a different story. We'll be turning to John 6. It's a smaller number of men but I believe with higher stakes. Not long after Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry, people flocked to Him. They came to hear this itinerant preacher from Galilee. I'm not sure if they would have said itinerant preacher, but He was this new rabbi. Many people came because they wanted to be healed or they wanted to hear what He had to say. And one or two occasions they came because they heard He had food. That's the occasion here we're going to see. If you're in John 6, if you read verse 26.

John 6:26 "Jesus answered them and said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek me not because you saw the signs but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.'"

This is following one of the times where He had thousands of people and He broke a few loaves of bread and small fish, and fed thousands of people. And He withdrew and the crowds followed Him all the way across to another part of the country. But with all of them there, you could say Jesus did the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand, the equivalent of saying, "There is going to be a high price if you want to be on my side." If we look ahead in this chapter to verse 51, He didn't talk about a line in the sand or fighting, but what He said seems fairly shocking.

John 6:51-57 He said to them, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I'll give for the life of the world. The Jews quarreled among themselves saying, 'How can this man give us His flesh to eat?' Jesus said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. My flesh is food indeed, my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of me."

As I said, this isn't a military situation. And rather than the risk of physical death in battle, Christ is talking about spiritual life and death. As I said, He didn't take a sword and draw any line in the sand, but He issued a criteria that seemed pretty hard, especially to people who didn't understand the symbolism. Now, we know he didn't mean cannibalism. And His disciples would come to understand that, but He was calling on people to rely on Him exclusively for life. That alone is a tall order. And as with Gideon, a majority of those who initially showed up turned away. A majority did not cross the line. As it says in verse 66, there we go.

John 6:66-69 It says, "From that time, many of His disciples went back, walked with Him no more.” He said, "No way." But a few were willing to make a stand with Jesus Christ, no matter what. In verse 67, "Jesus said to the 12, 'Do you also want to go away?' Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And also we've come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'"

We could say in this metaphor that those 12 stepped across the line. They were willing to put their lives on the line for a cause and a way of life that they believed in. Now, again, there's more that could be said of these men, and I want to come back, but I want to continue playing this out in an analogy and consider one more story. Well, second to last story, one more from the Bible. It's in Genesis 12. And it's just one man who was willing to cross a line to make a stand. You almost don't need to turn there. I'm there. I can read for you.

Genesis 12:1-3 It says, "The Lord had said to Abram," who later we know as Abraham, 'Get out of your country, from your family, from your father's house to a land that I'll show you, and I'll make of you a great nation. I'll bless you, make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I'll bless those who bless you. I'll curse him who curses you, and in you, all families of the earth shall be blessed.'"

Not exactly a terrible thing, but still, you could say, maybe it's a stretch to make it the same, but I would say God drew a geographic line. "Abram, you've got to leave behind your home, the way of life you knew, most of your connections, step across this line, go to where I'll tell you." And what did Abram do?

Genesis 12:4 Says, "So Abram departed."

And as the Lord had spoken to him, Lot went with him, so he didn't leave everybody behind, but he did. He stepped across the line. He went, sacrificed the life that he had known, and devoted himself to a higher cause, following his leader. Now, I want to come back to Abram again a little bit later, as with all of these, but I hope you see a pattern. But there is one more example I think worth considering, not of historical characters, not of people described in the Bible. It's us. We describe our coming to understand God's way and making a commitment to His way of life as a calling. Just like many Israelites, when they heard the trumpet blow when Gideon summoned an army and they came, or like those people who heard of Jesus working miracles, or heard His parables, and they followed Him. Just like those, you could say we were among a large number of people who heard the truth.

You know, many, many people have read magazines and received booklets, watched a TV program. And of all those people, we're not here because we're better qualified, are we? I won't turn there but you know what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:26. And we read it and we sing that not many wise men now are called, not many noble. I don't mean to put you down in this, but, you know, it says, "God chose the weak and the base," that's us, "to confound the mighty." We responded to the calling at some point, and God somewhere along the line, made us aware of the need to choose whether or not we wanted to cross the line. I'm still speaking in metaphor here.

But if you will, let's turn to Luke 14. I'll begin reading in Luke 14:25 to see a description of what we had to do. Now I'm reading what Jesus described to people then but it applies to us. I was looking for a bottle of water, and it's not here, which is a good reason for me not to go overtime.

Luke 14:25 says, "Now great multitudes went with him. And He turned to them, and said to them..."

Now, before I read what he said, it's worth noting, again, that we've all been part of that great multitude that had some initial understanding and some appreciation of the truth.

You know, we heard we came to Jesus, to His church, to the body of Christ. Thank you. That's very nice. So, we had this understanding and we sought baptism. And at some point in time, it's very sure a minister read you this if you've been baptized, what it says in verse 26.

Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me," not me, Frank Dunkel, if anyone comes to Jesus Christ, He said, "and doesn't hate his father, and mother, his wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes, in his own life also can't be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."

Reminds me, bearing His cross, that word stauros would be, in many cases, that crosspiece. When in the Roman system a criminal was condemned to death, to crucifixion, they put that on him, and he had to carry it. How long? Until they reach the place that they would nail him to it, and he would be put to death using that piece of wood that he carried. It means you never stop. That's what Christ was saying. It's a lifelong permanent commitment. And as I said, each of us had a minister tell us.

Luke 14:28-33 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it- lest, after he's laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him saying, 'This man began to build but he couldn't finish?' Or what king going to war against another king doesn't sit down first and consider whether he's able with 10,000 to meet him who comes against him with 20,000? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends an ambassador or delegation as conditions of peace? So, likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple."

We could say Jesus was laying it on the line right there, or in my metaphor, He was drawing a line in the sand. "Is that what you want? Are you willing to commit to me?" He asked us. As I said, I'm not focusing on the people He spoke this to 2,000 years ago. It's to us. And now there's not a literal line in the sand that we step over. What we do once we understand that serious commitment is we undergo baptism. I'm guessing most of us in the room have done that or at least probably a good number. We saw the line like those volunteers at the Alamo, and we thought long and hard, and we stepped over. We knew what it meant. So, we're all good to go. Got it down. Done. Well, a little bit more time left. You might guess that I have a little bit more to say. And there is something on that. You know, well, I refer to the Scripture where Paul said for a man to examine himself...

Let's turn to 2 Corinthians 13. He uses a similar phrase.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Here he says, ''Examine yourselves whether you're in the faith. Test yourselves. Don't you know that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you're disqualified.''

So, with this, I want to diverge a little bit from my metaphor or analogy with the Alamo because I think those men who were outnumbered four to one, once they stepped across the line, their fate was sealed, because there was an army outside that would not let them change their minds. You know, and once the battle began, it was done. But that was not the case for my other examples. We can go back and see that for them, there was opportunity. And most cases, people somehow got back across the line, back where they started from.

Let's go back and look at Gideon again, back in Judges 7. Judges 7, we read of the 22,000 men who showed up, you know. They came to fight with Gideon, and then when he said, ''Oh, if anybody's fearful or afraid, you don't have to fight, you can go home,'' and as I said, 32,000 showed up, 22,000 said, ''See you later, Gideon. Good luck storming the castle.'' No, it was supposed to be, "Have fun storming the castle.'' But no castle is here. But let's read in verse 22 though. I'm not reading the part where God said "Take him down to have a drink and see who laughs water like a dog. I'll use those men." And it was only 300. Wow. So, of the 10,000, was it 9,700 also didn't get to go participate in the fight? You could say 9,700 were put back across the line, even though they'd stepped over it. But then something happened. Let's read chapter 7:22. Joshua sent... No, wait a minute. Oh, I'm in Joshua. No wonder. Let's go to Judges chapter 7. They both begin with J.

Judges 7:22-23 "When the 300 blew the trumpets, the Lord set every man's sword against His companion," that is among the Midianites, "throughout the whole camp. And the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, and Tabbath," and these other places. So, the Midianites are on the run. And verse 23 says, ''And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.''

This is saying that a lot of those men that weren't among the 300 that left the army, they got back in. Time came and they saw the chance to rejoin the fight. Maybe they had a chance to see what was what, and they saw what they wanted. What they wanted was to be with Gideon and go join in that fight.

Let's see again a similar example with the disciples. Now, I want to turn to Matthew 26 for this. Matthew 26 because we read from John 6 that, you know, Peter spoke for himself and the other disciples saying very clearly, while most went back and didn't want to be with Jesus, that they did want to be with Him. And so they said, ''Where else are we going to go? We believe you are the Christ, the Son of God. You have the words of life. Where else could we go?'' So, they stepped across the line. They were with Christ but they didn't know how tough it was going to be, I suspect. They didn't know that one night Jesus would take them to a garden on the Mount of Olives where they were accustomed to go, and the night before when they took the Passover meal, He would tell them a lot of things that they didn't quite understand yet. One of which was He told them, "Tonight you're all going to leave and forsake me." Peter said, ''I'm not. Even if I have to die with you, I'll never leave you.'' Christ said, I don't know if He said, but what He did say is, ''Before the rooster crows twice, you're going to deny you even know me three times." Peter said, "I'll die before I'll do that."

Let's pick up in Matthew 26:47 because now it comes down to it. Christ had gone off, pray to the Father, He sweat blood.

Matthew 26:47 And then He said, “‘My betrayer is at hand.’ While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the 12, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the elders of the people.”

Oh, it's not just words now. These people are coming for blood. Now, Peter, who was so bold on many occasions, well, let's give Peter credit. He did pull out a sword and cut off somebody's ear. But let's drop down to verse 56 because Christ stopped him, ''Put away the sword. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.'' He healed the man's ear.

Matthew 26:56 It says, ''When all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled, all His disciples, all of them, forsook Him and fled."

They ran back across the line. Now, I'm not trying to be overly critical, but they did. Peter, the one who was so bold on so many occasions would end up doing exactly what Jesus had said. If you drop down to verse 69.

Matthew 26:69-75 "Peter sat outside the courtyard." Again, let's give him credit. Only he and John out of the 11 who were left went to see what was going to happen to Jesus. But he sat on the courtyard, "And a servant girl came to him saying, 'You were with Jesus of Galilee.' He denied it. 'I do not know what you're saying.' When he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ''This fellow, he was with Jesus of Nazareth.' But again, he denied with an oath, 'I don't know the man.' And a little later, those who stood by came up and said to Peter, 'Surely you are one of them. Your speech betrays you.' And he began to curse and swear, saying, 'I don't know the man.' And immediately the rooster crowed. Peter remembered the words of Jesus who'd said, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.' So he went out and he wept bitterly."

I almost wonder. I can imagine he heard the rooster crow. And in my mind, I imagine him looking down and seeing a line in the sand, and realizing he's on the other side of it. Somehow, he'd chosen not to make a stand with Jesus. And like I said, I don't mean to be particularly overly hard on Peter. I've got too many adverbs in there. I don't want to be too hard on Peter. As I said, Jesus knew in advance this would happen. And He knew what else would happen.

Let's turn to Acts 4 beginning in verse 18 because I think Peter deserves to have this said about him. Because what happened there that night Christ was crucified was when the Holy Spirit was with Him and the disciples but was not in them, and Jesus had explained that that night before, but because the Spirit wasn't in them, they didn't fully understand. Later that Pentecost came when the Spirit was poured out on them and seemed like tongues of fire. And let's read Acts 4:18. Peter and the other disciples were on the correct side of the line, we could say. They're getting in trouble for preaching about Jesus.

Acts 4:18 It says, "So they called them," these were the chief priests, probably the Pharisees, "They commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered and said, 'Whether it's right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. We cannot but speak the things we've seen and heard.'"

Peter and the other apostles had a chance to renew their determination. He made a mistake. He failed, but then later he had a chance to stand with Jesus. If he'd looked down and been upset because he realized he wasn't on the right side of the line, and maybe I should say the side of the line that he wanted to be on, he did something about it.

At that point, Peter knew where he wanted to be. And he wanted to be with God. And he made steps to do that. And from what we read in Scripture, there is no evidence that he or the other apostles ever got on the wrong side again. I'm not saying they never made any mistakes. We know Peter would have an issue where he withdrew and didn't eat with Gentiles and Paul had to correct him, but he devoted his life. And the disciples, like the men in the Alamo, became martyrs for the cause of the truth. You know, they gained fame as heroes, and they'll be raised to immortal life as sons of God.

Now, perhaps I should stop and note, it's not a given that everyone who makes a stand with Christ will falter and back away. That's one of the reasons I brought in Abraham's example. I don't want to go back to Genesis, but if you turn to Hebrews 11 beginning in verse 8, we can remind ourselves, or we're told something about Abram that's worth considering in the light of the other people who stepped across the line and then withdrew. Because Abram when he was told, "Get out of your country and go where I tell you to go," he went. And a matter of fact, Hebrews 11:8 tells us that.

Hebrews 11:8 "By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going."

If you skip down to verse 13, it lumps him... Maybe lumping him in with the others isn't the same, but talks about him along with his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob. It says, in verse 13.

Hebrews 11:13 "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, they were assured of them, embraced them, and confess they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. Truly, if they'd called to mind the country from which they'd come out, they would have had opportunity to return." And that's the point I wanted to focus on.

There is no indication Abram ever tried to go back or even wanted to go back. Matter of fact, when he wanted to get away for Isaac, he called a servant and said, ''You go get him a wife, but don't take him back there.'' So, we have to read in Hebrews that, oh, yeah, he could have gone back. He, you know, could have had that option, could have had that failure, in a sense, but he never wanted to. You know, even when the ultimate challenge came, and, you know, God said, ''Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and make him a sacrifice,'' Abram loaded up the donkey and took off. Always wondered if Sarah knew where he was going. I'm guessing. Well, I would say knowing mother and son, probably not. But that's another story.

Like the apostles could and did waver and go back, you know, most of us sometimes maybe, perhaps, we could. We sometimes do. Again, let's put ourselves in this metaphor. You know, I've already read the Scriptures where it tells us to examine ourselves, you know, so we will take the Passover in a worthy manner. There are a lot of things that we could look at in ourselves. You know, how am I doing living God's way? Am I obeying the commandments? Do I see the fruits of the Spirit in my life?

You know, we've got some time ahead to perhaps have some detailed criteria, but I think one of the most basic things to consider is, where do you want to be? Do you really want this in the long run? I need to ask myself when it comes to my place, in the universe, and with God, do I want to be on His side of that line? And once I think about that, it's worth me looking down, again, metaphorically and say, "Which side of the line am I on?" Now, I hope this doesn't sound silly, but, you know, I thought about sometimes people have trouble living God's way, maybe because part of them just doesn't want to. You know, at times, we all don't want to. I've talked about why do we sin? Usually, because, at the moment, we want to, but at the same time, we don't want to. Refer to Romans 7 for that. You know, what we want to do, we don't do, what we don't want to do we find ourselves doing. But it's worth considering, what do I want in life? What do I really want?

With that in mind, let's turn to Deuteronomy 30. Deuteronomy 30, we'll begin in verse 15. This is where God, you know, inspired Moses to put forth a choice to the children of Israel. It was a physical choice for them, but I think it's a choice that still applies for us. He laid it out pretty clearly. And pretty clearly, I'm still not in the right chapter. Here we go.

Deuteronomy 30:15-19 Moses said to them, ''See, I've set before you today life and good, death and evil. And then I command you today, love the Lord your God, walk in His ways, keep His commandments, His statutes, His judgments." Why? "You may live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land in which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so you do not hear, you're drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today, you shall surely perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.'' He said, ''I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you. I've set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."

In some ways, this is the same choice we're looking at, you know, only we're considering a choice for eternity. And we'd say there's a line in the sand. On one side, life and blessing, and on the other side, cursing and death. The tricky part is in the short-term, the side that has life and blessing often also has suffering, persecution, challenges, you know, before that life. And the side that leads to death and cursing, in the meantime, might have a lot of temporary pleasures, and comforts, and temptations. So, we need to see clearly the line. I might need to rub my eyes and say, ''Am I seeing clearly? What is it there? You know, why am I not seeing it clearly? Do you have any doubts that there really is an almighty God?''

Again, I'm not saying that to any of you. I'm saying it to us because if you have doubts to that, none of this really matters. Or do you believe, really believe this is the authoritative word of God? I always say those are the two big things we've got to answer first. When I counsel someone for baptism, I always talk about that. First, do you have faith that there is a God? Why do you believe that? And then do you believe this is God's Word that it tells us how to live? You want to do that before you're baptized. Now, for all of us that have been baptized, we're looking ahead to Passover. It's worth pausing to recommit, reaffirm our belief in that because I think they do provide a clear vision of the other things. We want to make sure we have faith in God, be confident we have faith in His Word.

And by the way, I'm not saying this has to take a long time. You might pause and say, ''Well, of course, I know that. I've thought about it a number of times.'' So, please don't go back and say, ''Oh, maybe I don't believe there's a God." You know, hopefully, you're right there and solid. But if there's any doubt, it's worth addressing those things, and you can address them. You know, we do it in classes here at ABC. We've got booklets and literature. You can talk to elders. But then when we're certain of that faith, we can look at that line in the sand. I can look down and say, ''Am I where I want to be? Am I following through on the choice that I made earlier, or have I somehow wandered back across and not realized it?''

Because the wonderful thing is, and this is one of my favorite parts, that just like Gideon's army, if we end up across the line back to where we started, we don't have to stay there. If like Peter we deny Christ at some point in our life, that's not the end of the story. We can step across. We can say, ''God, please forgive me.'' Matter of fact, if you have your Bible, open Deuteronomy 30, go to the beginning of the chapter.

Deuteronomy 30:1-3 Says, ''Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I've set before you, and you call them to mind among the nations where the Lord your God drives you.'' In other words, God was saying, "Israel, physically, you're going to blow it, you know, and you're going to be scattered and taken captives. But when that happens, if you call to mind, you know, the Lord. “If you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you. Gather you again from all the nations where the Lord, your God has scattered you."

This is speaking on bringing back a physical people to a physical country. But I think it can apply to us spiritually. You know, if I fall short, all of us fall short at times, let's admit that, but we can come back. That's what Jesus Christ was sacrificed for. We can be forgiven. John wrote pretty much the same thing in simpler terms. I'll just read it. But it's in John 1:9, no,1 John 1:9. My grandma always called those the little Johns because they're little.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

I think that should be the most encouraging part about examining ourselves before the Passover. Because, you know, let's face it, it's not fun to examine yourself and go, ''Oh, I'm wrong here. I'm off there. I hate this about myself. But what I love is God is so forgiving. So patient. He'll bring me back across the line to where I want to be." You know, the hardest part is often just clearing our vision to see where it is that we are. Once we do, the rest might be as easy as stepping over the line.

Now, I'm trying to present this in simple terms. So, I hope I haven't gone so far as to imply that Christianity is always simple and easy. Just like for those men at the Alamo, stepping across the line to join Colonel Travis was easy. What happened afterwards wasn't. They all fought and died. For the disciples, I think when Christ told Peter, ''Come follow me, I'll make you a fisher of men,'' Peter dropped his nets and walked away. That part was easy. Changing his whole life and developing godly character, preaching the Gospel, that wasn't so simple and easy. And it wasn't done in a moment. It wasn't accomplished in a day.

And so for us, being baptized is as easy as laying back in a tub of water for a second. Unless you kick up a leg, then I think that sometimes you got to go again, get it all in, but it's still pretty easy. Being transformed by God's Spirit and growing into the fullness and stature of Christ, that's a lifelong process. It's full of challenges and difficulties, but still in all those cases, sometimes we can stop and say, "If I'm not on the right side of the line, Christ can bring me back. You know, if I look down and I see that I'm not where I want to be, I can make a move. I can ask God for help. I can say, 'Please help me see it clearly. Please help me to make that step,'" and then it's as simple as stepping across that line in the sand.

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