DESTINY IS DETERMINED BY DECISION
Scripture Text: Joel 3:14 "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision."
I'd like to direct your attention to a very significant scripture hidden away in the writings of the minor prophet Joel, in the Old Testament. And I believe that it is as currently up-to-date as any other scripture that we find in the word of God. It brings before us the fact that people living in the world today are living "in the valley of decision"- a valley located between eternity past and eternity future. It also reminds us that "the day of the Lord is near" in this valley called "time." And as each of us consider our position in this "valley of decision," may the Holy Spirit of God search our hearts and souls, and reveal to us our true spiritual condition in the sight of a thrice-holy God.
Friend, if we were to stop long enough at the end of a day to analyze our actions during that day, we would be surprised to know just how much of our life is taken up with making decisions. We decide when to go to bed, when to get up, what to eat, what to wear, what to read, where to go and what we should do. These are all very common and habitual decisions which have little, if any, apparent eternal significance. However, whether we realize it or not, our sojourn here on earth, in this "valley of decision," is a period of time during which we are actively, or passively, making a decision upon which our soul's eternal destiny will depend.
Yes, since the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been making decisions either for or against his Creator, God. In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam that if he ate of the forbidden fruit he would immediately be subject to spiritual death, and ultimately he would be subject to physical death. It was then that the serpent, the devil, came on to the scene to mar the fair creation of God. A decision was then made by Adam and Eve that has brought the wrath of God down upon all mankind, because they rebelled against the word and will of their Creator. They both partook of the forbidden fruit, and a separation between God, the Creator, and man, His highest form of creation, became a reality. And I believe that some of the saddest words found in the Bible are those in Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man (meaning Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Yes, the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, has brought with it all the sin, sickness, sorrow and separation we find in the world today. It has also resulted in all the chaos, conflict and confusion which permeates the head, the heart, the hands and the homes of over 6 billion people living on the earth at this time.
In Genesis chapter 4, we read of another vital and ominous decision that was made. Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, each brought offerings to God. Cain, being a farmer, brought forth the efforts of a God-cursed ground, whereas, Abel, being a shepherd, brought "the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof." We're told that God had respect for Abel's offering, but He had no respect for Cain's offering. Why? Well, both Cain and Abel had to make a decision. They could either follow the pattern, principle and precept of Genesis 3:21, when God shed the blood of innocent animals to cover the nakedness, or sinfulness, of Adam and Eve; or they could offer to God their own efforts, which is just what Cain did. Abel sacrificed some of his flock as an offering to God, following God's example in Genesis 3:21, however, Cain was too cultured to kill an animal, BUT he wasn't too cultured to kill his brother Abel in Genesis 4:8.
In fairness to Cain, we must mention that he was a very religious man. In fact, Cain was the first man in recorded history to bring an offering to God, but he didn't follow the pattern laid out by his Creator, because Cain's offering was bloodless. Friend, I wonder if you're making the same mistake that Cain made. You're trying to please God with your own efforts. You're a church member, you've been baptized, you read your Bible, you say your prayers, you attend the various church services and activities, and you regularly contribute financially to the church of your choice. You're a good neighbor, industrious, virtuous, community-minded and law-abiding, BUT, you're trying to please God by what you're doing, rather than having faith in what the Lord Jesus Christ has already done!
In Titus 3:5 we read, "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." In Romans 3:12 we're told that "there is none that doeth good, no, not one." And in Ephesians 2:8,9 we read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." Friend, please don't make the same decision Cain made. No, don't try to please God by your so-called "good works" or "religious rituals," because it just won't find favor with God. If it could, then why did Jesus Christ die that terribly shameful and agonizing death on Calvary's cross? In Jude verse 11 God says, "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain."
Back in Genesis chapters 6 and 7, we read of more multitudes who were "in the valley of decision." For 120 years Noah warned these people, whose sins were grieving the heart of God, that they could escape the coming wrath and judgment in the soon-coming deluge. According to God's plan, Noah had built an ark into which the people could go in order to escape the great flood, but this multitude "in the valley of decision" made a decision which ultimately cost them their lives, and also their souls. Yes, after 120 years of grace, and warning of coming judgment, only 8 people made the right decision and entered the ark of safety, and the others perished in the flood waters of God's wrath. Friend, God always comes forth in love, mercy and grace before He pours forth His terrible wrath and judgment. That's the reason you're still "in the valley of decision."
If we were to turn to Genesis chapter 19, we would read of still another very important decision. The multitudes living in Sodom and Gomorrah, just like many in the world today, were engaged in gross sin and immorality, yet God acceded to the plea of Abraham in the preceding chapter to spare the cities for the sake of even ten righteous people who may still be living there. And even though there were not even ten righteous people to be found living there, a gracious God was still willing to spare the few who were. Isn't that just like a loving and longsuffering God ? It sure is !
So God sent two angels down to the sinful city of Sodom to deliver Lot and his family from the imminent doom which was about to befall the cities of the plain. Now there was only one condition to be met in order for Lot, his wife and two daughters to escape the wrath of God, and that was the fact that they were told, "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, ... lest thou be consumed." That was a simple enough command to obey.
Here were four of God's creatures, actually having their hands held by angels and being escorted from the impending wrath of God; yes, they were "in the valley of decision." Yet, we're told that Lot's wife, in rebellion to God's warning, made a decision that cost her both life and soul. She looked back, in disobedience to the messengers of God, and she was immediately turned into a pillar of salt. No wonder the Lord warns in Luke 17:32, "Remember Lot's wife." Yes, she was warned, but she made the wrong decision. And friend, if you disobey God's warnings and make the wrong decision, you'll join Lot's wife in Hell, and you'll remember me telling you that you would remember. So remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said, "Remember Lot's wife."
Well, there are many other examples in the word of God when people were confronted with important decisions to make, and we don't have time to go into the details of each case, but I'll just mention a few so that you can see the importance and consequences of the decisions that they made.
In Joshua 24:15, the prophet was at the crossroads of his service for God and he declared, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Friend, that was a very wise decision to make, and I trust that every professing Christian reading these words has made the same wise decision.
Over in Matthew chapter 27, Pontius Pilate, the Governor, presented the roaring crowd with an important decision when he asked them this question, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" Friend, that raging mob had a very important decision to make that day in answer to the question by Pontius Pilate. They could either call for the release of the man called Jesus Christ, or they could call for the release of a murderer named Barabas. And what was their decision? With hatred in their hearts and pointing their fingers at the Son of God they said, "Away with this man, crucify Him, we'll not have this man to reign over us." Yes, they shouted, "release unto us Barabas."
Friend, they made a choice that day that sealed their eternal destiny and doom. But I thank God that the decision was made for the Lord Jesus Christ to die on that old rugged cross, because if He hadn't died and shed His precious blood, there would be no salvation for you and I today. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Just One, died for we, the unjust, so that He might bring us back into a new and proper relationship with our Creator, God. And today, those of us who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, are as sure of Heaven as though we were already walking the street of gold. Yes, our wise decision to trust in Jesus Christ as both Saviour and Lord, has determined our destiny in Heaven above !
Another significant decision that was made is recorded in Acts chapter 24. There we read of how the Apostle Paul was presenting the Gospel to Governor Felix, and Governor Felix was so convicted by the Holy Spirit of God that he actually "trembled." He had heard the Gospel, and now he had to make a decision either to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, or to reject Him, and thus continue on the broad road to Hell. Well, what was his decision? He said to the Apostle Paul, "Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee." Friend, he made the wrong decision!
Governor Felix had been privileged to hear the Gospel, and to experience the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God to the point where his body actually "trembled," but his decision, "in the valley of decision," was to procrastinate. He was "putting it off" till he had a "more convenient season" to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We never read that he ever had that "more convenient season," and the likelihood is that, even as we think about his decision, he is weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth in the place that Jesus Christ called "Hell." Friend, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions!
Please don't make the same decision that Governor Felix made. In II Corinthians 6:2 we read, "Behold, NOW is the accepted time; Behold NOW is the day of salvation." Again we read in Proverbs 27:1, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Listen, you and I have no guarantee that we'll be alive at this time tomorrow. In fact, today's date may be on our tombstone as the date of our death. Solemn thought, is it not? Yes, and that's the reason that you, who are still "in the valley of decision," should make the right decision today, and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your own and personal Saviour. Tomorrow may be too late !
That brings to my mind yet another important decision of which we read over in Acts chapter 26. There we're told how King Agrippa was listening to the Apostle Paul preaching the Gospel, and after hearing the Gospel, the King made this all-important decision, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." What a decision that was! Here was King Agrippa, actually acknowledging that the Holy Spirit of God was dealing with his soul, and yet, because of the hardness of his heart, he made the wrong decision. And we have every reason to believe that King Agrippa, like Governor Felix, is down in Hell today. In Proverbs 29:1 God says, "He, that being often reproved (or warned) and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Friend, is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to your heart today? If so, do you realize that you may be making the most important decision of your life right now? Yes, either actively or passively, you are deciding either for or against the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. Would that you were wise and make the same decision as the publican in Luke chapter 18; or Zaccheus in Luke 19; or like the repentent thief in Luke 23; or like Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter 9; or like the Philippian jailer in Acts 16---yes, and these examples could be multiplied by the score. These were people who made the right choice when they were "in the valley of decision." They chose Jesus Christ to be their Saviour and Lord. And I might add, that if you were to talk to everyone in the world today who has made that same decision, you would be unable to find anyone who had escaped the wrath of God, and was sorry that they had done so. That's a pretty good advertisement!
Friend, would you like to be saved today? Would you like to be "born again" from above into the family of God? Would you like to begin your journey to Heaven, starting today ? If so, then listen to what God's Word says regarding the value and virtue of the precious blood of His Son, Who shed that blood for you and I, at Calvary's cross. In I John 1:7 we read that "the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." The Apostle John also reminds us in Revelation 1:5, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
Well friend, I want you to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no salvation for your soul apart from having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, ALONE. The Apostle Peter tells us in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." And even the Lord Jesus Christ confirmed that fact in John 14:6 when he said, "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE; no man cometh unto the Father, but by ME."
Friend, what more can I say? You've just heard the Gospel, and now you have to make your most important decision, while you're still alive, while you're still "in the valley of decision." And as you do so, remember the rest of our scripture text, "for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." Friend, time is running out ! The day of God's grace is quickly drawing to a close, and if you're not saved soon, the likelihood is that you'll not be saved at all! Back in Ezekiel 33:7 God declares, "warn them from Me."
Listen to what God also says in Deuteronomy 30:19, "I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live." Friend, if you don't make the right decision and trust Christ as your Saviour, then "thy seed," or "thine offspring" may never hear the Gospel, and thus your wrong decision could determine their eternal destiny too. What is your decision now ... life or death, blessing or cursing? Yes, it makes a difference for all eternity whether you're right or wrong TODAY !
In closing, my friend, I plead with you, in love for your soul, and in view of the vast eternity that lies ahead, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your own and personal Saviour, because if you do, you'll be saved for time and, thank God, you'll be saved for all eternity. And remember, my friend, THIS IS FOR ETERNITY!
Evangelist: Minor C. Hawk