Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 3-21-04

Title: Elijah’s Appeal to the Undecided


Text: "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; if Baal, then follow him."—1 Kings 18:21.





IT WAS A DAY to be remembered, when the multitudes of Israel were assembled at the foot of Mount Carmel, and when the lone prophet of the Lord came forward to defy the four hundred and fifty priests of the false god. 

If we could look at that scene with our mind’s eye, we would find it very interesting. 

But instead of doing that, lets consider whether or not we can learn a lesson that will help us to improve ourselves. 

What we have upon Mount Carmel and the plains surrounding it are three kinds of people.

First of all, there is the devoted servant of God, one single prophet.

On the other hand, there are the determined servants of Satan, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. 

But, the vast majority belonged to a third group.

They were those who had not fully decided whether to worship Jehovah, the God of their fathers, or Baal, the god of Jezebel. 

On one hand, their ancient traditions led them to fear God, and on the other hand, their desire to appease their queen, led them to bow before Baal. 

Many of them therefore, were secret and half-hearted followers of God, while they were the public worshipers of Baal. 

All of them, at this juncture, were hesitating between two opinions. 

Elijah does not address his sermon to the priests of Baal; he will have something to say to them after a while. 

Neither does he have anything to say to those who are the servants of God, since they are not there; but his speech is only for those who are hesitating between two opinions.

I believe that we may have these three classes here this morning. 

We have, I hope, a majority who are on God’s side; who love God and serve him.

It’s possible that there are a few who are on the side of the devil, who don’t follow any religion, who hate God and those that are His witnesses; because they are both inwardly and outwardly the servants of the devil. 

But, the greatest number of people here, belong to the third class—the hesitators. 

Like empty clouds they are driven here and there by the wind; they lack convictions, and they are dead spiritually.  

Procrastinators, wishy-washy men and women, undecided persons, it’s to you I am speaking this morning—"How long halt ye between two opinions?" 

I pray that the question will be answered by God's Spirit in your hearts, and that you will be led to say, "No longer, Lord, will I hesitate; today I have decided to follow you, and I am your servant for ever!"

Our text for today is 1 Kings 18:22-38.

22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 


23 Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. 


24 Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.” 


25 Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 


26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” 

But there was no voice; no one answered. 

Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. 


27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 


28 So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. 


29 And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. 

But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention. 


30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” 

So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. 


31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 


32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed [My bible noted that this was about 13 quarts.). 


33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” 


34 Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 


35 So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. 


36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 


37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” 


38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.

-PRAY-

The first thing you will notice is that the prophet insisted upon making a distinction between the worship of Baal and the worship of Jehovah. 


Most of the people who were there that day, thought that Jehovah was God, and that Baal was also God; and that’s the reason they believed that the worship of both was alright. 

Most of them did not reject the God of their fathers entirely, neither did they bow before Baal entirely; but as polytheists, believing in many gods, they thought both Gods could be worshiped, and that each of them could have a place in their hearts. 

But the prophet said, “No”, and he made an argument against this way of thinking.

He said, "You can’t do that, these are two different beliefs; you can never make them into one, they are two contradictory things which can not be combined.  I’ll tell you this; instead of combining the two, which is impossible, you are hesitating between the two, which makes a huge difference." 

One of them said to Elijah, “I will build an alter for Jehovah in my house, and I will also build there an alter for Baal.  

It’s my opinion that both of them are God.” 

"No, no," said Elijah, "it can’t be that way, because they are different. 

They are not one belief, but two beliefs, and you can not unite them." 

There are many people today who think they can be worldly and religious at the same time.

They say, “I can go to the lake on Sunday and worship God while I fish.” 

OR

“I went to the car races a couple of Sundays back, and I worshipped God, and no one could tell that I was praying.”  

OR they might say

“I can go to the bars and drink socially with my friends, and while I am doing it I will witness to them about Jesus.”  

OR they might say

“I can go to any of these places and satisfy my hunger for having fun; and yet at the same time I say my prayers very piously. 

I can be a good church-goer and a man of the world too? 

Can’t I love God and serve the devil too—take what I want from each, and give my heart to neither one?” 

I believe you would answer the same as me—“No! They are two different ways of life; you can not do it, they are distinct and separate.”

I read about a man who once yoked two lions to his chariot; but there are two lions that no one has ever yoked together yet—the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the lion of the pit; Jesus and the devil. 

These two can never go together. 

There are places where you can hold two opinions, such as politics, but If God is God, serve him, and do it completely; but if this world is God, serve it, and don’t pretend to have religion. 

If you are a man of the world, and you think that the things of the world are the best, serve them; devote yourself to them, don’t be kept back by your conscience; instead, don’t pay any attention to it, go ahead and sin. 

But remember, if the Lord is your God, you can not have Baal too; you must have one or the other. 

"No man can serve two masters." 

If you serve God, He will be your master; and if you serve the devil, it will not be long before he will be your master.  

The man or woman, who tries to serve both masters, will be more miserable than any outright sinner. 

They try to serve both masters; but it doesn’t work; the two things can not be brought together. 

God and Mammon, Christ and Satan, never can meet; there never can be any agreement between them, they never can be brought into unity, and why would you want to do it? 

The prophet said these are "Two opinions." 

He would not allow any of them to confess to worshiping both. 

"No," he said, "these are two opinions, and you are halting between the two."


The second thing you might notice is that the prophet asks these undecided men to account for the amount of time they had consumed in making their choice. 

Some of them might have answered him like this, "We haven’t had an opportunity to decide between God and Baal; and we have not had time enough to make up our minds." 

But the prophet prevents that objection, when he says, "How long halt ye between two opinions? 

How long? 

For three and a half years not a drop of rain has fallen at the command of Jehovah; isn’t that proof enough? 

Until I came, God’s servant, and gave you rain, you were starving, your cattle were dead, your fields parched, and your meadows covered with dust, and yet all of these hardships have not been enough for you to make up your minds. 

"How long then," he said, "halt ye between two opinions?"

You can probably tell by now that I am speaking to those who are trying to serve both God and the devil.  

In the past, I have directed my messages to the man or woman who is totally into the world, but not today.  

Today, if you are trying to be a Christian, and still be worldly, in this so called “religious world,” which is a thing that exists in name only, then I am talking to you.  

You may be trying to make up your mind.  

You might be asking yourself, “Which one should it be? 

Should I go completely into sin or should I become a servant of God.”  

If that’s where you are at, I want to say the same thing to you that Elijah said, "How long halt ye?"  

Some of you have been hesitating until your hair has turned gray.  

You are close to eighty or ninety years old.  

Isn’t that long enough to make a choice?  

"How long halt ye?”  

You have been outwardly religious, while in fact pursuing worldly desires.  

How many of you have been church-goers for years?  

You may have come close to believing in God’s Son many times.  

You have wiped the tears from your eyes and said, “I will turn from sin and serve God with all my heart”, but now you are still where you were.  

How many more sermons do you want to listen to?  

How many more Sundays do you want to waste?  

How many more warnings do you need?  

How long will you pause between two beliefs?  

I wish you would choose God before it’s too late.  

You say, “I will repent of my sins and be saved before I die.”  

But, when will that be?  

Friends, the heart can stop at any moment, and you will enter eternity without God, and it will be bad for those who do that.  

How long will those with gray heads, who God has patiently allowed to live to a ripe old age; how long will they remain undecided and unhappy?  

How long will they halt between two opinions?

So far, we have noted that there are two beliefs, and we have asked a question, “How much time do you need to decide?”  

Maybe you think like I do, that it shouldn’t take much time at all.  

It shouldn’t take any more time than for any person to choose between being rich or poor, or to choose between living and dying.  

If we understand the things of God, we shouldn’t hesitate to say, “My God is my God, and He will be my God for ever.”


But the third thing to notice about this confrontation is that the prophet charges these people with having an absurd view of their position. 

Some of them might have said something like this, “Why shouldn’t we be allowed to continue to waiver between two opinions? 

We are not completely irreligious, so we are better than those who are disrespectful to God.  

And, I know we are not absolutely religious; but, at any rate, a little religion is better than none at all" 

Buts the prophet says, "How long halt ye?" or, you may want to say it like this, "how long will you limp between two beliefs?" or “How long will you wriggle between two beliefs?” 

Elijah laughed at them for holding such ridiculous views.  

And I agree, if a man or woman is neither one thing or another, he is in a very absurd position?  

Even the worldly person may say, "How can a man be so inconsistent, how can he place himself in the world one day, and the next day he says ‘I’m a Christian.” 

I think that even the devil himself must laugh at a man or woman like this. 

But, if you are really a servant of Satan and not a child of God, be careful how long you stay that way.  

On the judgment day, those men who are wavering will be laughed at even by those in hell.  

And the angels will look down with disrespect for a man who was ashamed to receive his Savior.  

Those in hell will call that hypocrite a fool.  

So please adopt one opinion or the other, and then at least you will be consistent.  

But in trying to hold on to both, and struggling to be one person one day and another the next, you look ridiculous to heaven and hell.  

You cannot live with one foot in heaven and the other in hell! 

You must decide, or you will have no rest for your soul, no peace, no joy, and no comfort.  

You will be miserable for the rest of your life.

So far I have shown you the absurdity of this wavering. 

Now, very briefly, the next point is this. 

The multitude who had worshiped Jehovah and Baal, and who were now undecided, might answer this way, "But how do you know that we do not believe that Jehovah is God? How do you know we have not decided?" 

The prophet answers this objection by saying, "I know you are not decided in what you believe, because you are not consistent in how you live. 

If God is God, follow him; if Baal is god, follow him.

The truth is not changed by what we believe; a thing is either true or false by itself, and it is not made true or false by what we think about it.  

We need to think before we decide what to believe about a thing, because how we believe has a lot to do with how we act.  

A wrong opinion and wrong conduct often go hand-in-hand.   

“Now”, Elijah said, “If you don’t follow God it will be obvious, and it will likewise be obvious if you do not follow Baal.”

Now, I need to continue speaking to the undecided, for just a few more minutes.  

Most likely, some of you don’t follow God.  

You act like you do, but you aren’t really a child of God.  

You follow Him on Sundays, but what about Mondays?  

You talk about Jesus when you are with Christian friends, but what you do when you are in the company of others that are undecided or worse?

On the other hand, you do not follow Baal; but you do go a little way into the world.  

If that’s your condition, the prophet would have this to say to you, “If the Lord is God, follow him. 

Let your conduct be consistent with your faith; if you believe that the Lord is God, live your daily life like you believe it; be holy, be prayerful, trust in Christ, be faithful, be upright, be loving; give your heart to God, and follow him. 

But if Baal is God, then follow him; but do not pretend to follow Jesus."  

If you intend to be worldly, go all the way with the world.  

Make your life reflect what you believe.  

But I believe that you will not go all the way into sin as others do, because your conscience will not allow it.  

But you are so fond of Satan that you won’t completely leave him and become a servant of God.  

And now the prophet calls out, "If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, then follow him," and by doing this, he states the basis of his claim. 

Elijah was alone, but he wasn’t intimidated by the crowd.  

Someone in the crowd shouted, "Prophet, you demand proof of our love, and then you say, Follow God. 

Now, if I believe that God is God, I do not see what claim he has to my beliefs."  

Now, listen how the prophet answers him: he says, “The reason why I claim that you should follow God by faith, is that God is God; God has a claim upon you, as creatures He created, for your devoted obedience. To Him”  

Another in the crowd asks, "What will I gain, if I serve only God? 

Would I be happier? 

Would I get along better in this world? 

Would I have more peace of mind?" 

No, that is a minor concern. 

The only question for you is, "If God be God follow him." 

If you do not think He is God; if you really think that the devil is God, then follow him. 

But, if God is God, if he made you, I want you serve him.  

If He is the One who puts the breath into your nostrils, I am pleading for you to obey him. 

If God is really worthy of your worship, I insist that you follow Him or else deny that He is God at all.  

If the gospel is true, believe it, and then live it; but if it isn’t true, give it up.  

Now, I want to conclude by making an appeal to anyone who is wavering, and who sometimes follows God and sometimes follows the ways of the world.  

I want to ask some questions, and I pray that the Lord will apply them to you.  

“How long will you halt between two opinions?”  

Will you wait until God responds with fire?  

Those poor people who were assembled there on Mount Carmel didn’t want the fire.  

When Elijah says, “The God that answers with fire let Him be God,” I imagine that I can hear some in the crowd saying, “No, the God that answers with water, let Him be God.  

But Elijah said—“NO!—if it was to rain you would only say that it was just luck.”

Let me tell you what I believe about this.  

I believe that if you are undecided, all the interventions by God will not make you decide.  

He may surround you with warnings from the death-beds of your friends, but God’s divine interventions will not decide for you.    

It is not the God of rain, but the God of fire that will do it.  

There are two ways in which those who are undecided will eventually decide.  

Those who are on God’s side don’t need to decide, and those who are on Satan’s side don’t need to make a decision, since they will be eternally in hell’s fire.  

But, if someone is undecided they want something to help them decide.  

They will go one of two ways; they will either have the fire of God's Spirit to make up their minds, or else the fire of eternal judgment, will decide for them.

I may preach to you, my friends; and all the ministers in the world may preach to those that are wavering, but you will never decide for God through the force of your own will. 

None of you, if left to your natural judgment, by using your own reasoning, will ever decide for God. 

Oh, you may decide to put on an outward show of religion, but it won’t be an inward spiritual thing, which possesses your heart as a Christian, and believer in God’s grace. 

I know that no one will ever decide to believe God's gospel, unless God calls them first through the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. 

So, what will it be? 

Will you follow God and Jesus or will you stay undecided until the Judgment Day.  

This little poem says the same thing: 

"O make this heart rejoice or ache!

Decide this doubt for me;

And if it be not broken, break,

And heal it, if it be."

"O sovereign grace, my heart subdue;

I would be led in triumph too,

A willing captive to my Lord,

To sing the triumphs of his word."

Oh, I pray that the Holy Spirit would enter some hearts as I speak, and that there may be some who will leave this place saying:


"Tis done, the great transaction's done,

I am my Lord's, and he is mine;

He drew me, and I followed on,

Glad to obey the voice divine."


But all those who choose not to follow God, must remember that the day is coming—the day of wrath and anger—when God, Himself will make the decision for you. 


On that day, the heavens will be lit up, the earth will shake with terror, and God will sit upon His throne, in the person of his Son, to judge the world in righteousness. 


You will not be undecided when Jesus says, "Depart ye cursed," or "Come, ye blessed.” 


There will be no indecision then, when you meet Him with either joy or else with terror—when many will cry out, "rocks hide me, mountains fall on me," or else you will be filled with joy and say, "The Lord has come." 


On that day you will be decided; but until then, unless the living fire of the Holy Spirit decides for you, you will go on hesitating between two opinions. 


I pray that God will grant you his Holy Spirit, so that you may turn to him and be saved!


Amen.


If this message has touched your heart, and as a result, you have decided to follow God, tell me. 


 I want to pray with you, and welcome you to God’s family.


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