The Way That Seems Right
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." This is a profound observation on life, and what Solomon said is disturbing in deed. I would like to think with you on the subject, "The Way That Seems Right." The way mentioned in the text refers to the way through life, and the way we choose to live that life. On the average the life of man and woman consists of about 70 years, a little more or a little less. We all have to spend this allotted time in some way or other, and then we enter into eternity and begin the eternal phase of our life. The disturbing thing about this text is that we may choose a way to live that seems right to us, but is not right at all. It only seems right, and we don't learn till the end of life that it was all a terrible mistake on our part, with devastating consequences. We may choose a way of life simply because it flatters us with fair promises of earthly happiness. To secure material advantages, men have justified war, persecution, deceit and business irregularities. It seems right to them because they believe that the end justifies the means, even though the means may not always be on the up and up. Others choose a way of life simply because it flatters their self-will. Men believe in their own way just because it is the way they have chosen. The politician feels he has to make the best of the policies of his party. In private life whatever accords with our desires we can usually rationalize to be right. Still another way of life that seems to be right is just to follow others. The conduct of the multitude creates a social conscience and code of morality. It seems right to many just to measure morality by the standard of the average rather than God's absolute standard of morality. In view of the different life-styles of the 21st century, this statement of Solomon is most relevant to our generation.
The danger in all these ways of living is found in the words of Solomon, "There is a way that seems right" but it ends in tragedy. Things are not always what they seem. Man may draw the map for his life, but the map he draws is not the supreme authority. Man is often prejudiced, confused, ignorant and subject to self-deceit. There is a higher Judge than man, and it may be that the way which seems right to man is seen to be wrong by God. Jesus gave us substantially the same thought as Solomon when he said, " broad is the way which leads to destruction, and many there be who take this way, but narrow is the way which leads to eternal life and few there be that find it"(Matt. 7:13,14). The rationale for this statement of Jesus is that the way of life that the many feel is right is not the way that leads to heaven.
In view of these revealed facts, I can only say that the chief concern of every rational being ought to be directed to the discovery of the right way through life. With a physical body which craves fleshly satisfaction and surrounded with sinful influences which conspire to deceive and mislead him, no person can hope to avoid ruinous and fatal mistakes, except by the continued exercise of the greatest watchfulness and care. Endowed by God with moral faculties capable of discerning the right way and furnished with abundant means of information, yet he may so pervert the one and neglect and abuse the other, as to become involved in fatal delusions. With cheerful heart and no fearful misgivings as to his way of life, he may be traveling the road to destruction and learn of his mistake only when it is too late to rectify it. Error may steal upon him under the guise of truth. Wrong may assume to him the appearance of right, and evil be conscientiously pursued as good. Such is the doctrine taught by Solomon in the text and abundantly confirmed by declarations of the scriptures.
The paths which lead to destruction are many, enjoyable and alluring. They stand wide open on every side of us; it requires no search to find them, and it costs no effort to enter them. But the single way which leads to heaven is so narrow and so difficult that few there be that find it. Jesus said, "I am the way, . the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." All who do not search diligently for the way to heaven are sure to miss it. What is even more alarming is that the search for truth may be so conducted as to end only in error. I am amazed at the number of unbiblical doctrines which people sincerely believe to be true. God will not accept traditional beliefs which contradict His written word. There are those who are sincerely seeking the truth as Christ revealed it, but are nevertheless involved in serious religious error. They have not found what they are looking for. All who don't seek for the way that leads to heaven will not find it, but some who look for the way may not find it
This is unquestionably a most appalling truth. It raises a moral question about the justice of God. If life is so deceptive that a person who thinks and believes he is living right, is in fact living wrongly and will be punished by God for living wrongly. Is this man's fault or God's fault? Will God hold people to be guilty when they are living according to their sincere and conscientious beliefs? This is a question which must be resolved, for man's eternal destiny is hanging in the balance.This brings us to the main thougjht, andwhat a thought it is. The second thought in the message is one of the most vital truths that can enter into the mind of man. Briefly stated, it is that man is fully responsible for his beliefs. After we have attained to an age where we are accountable and responsible for our actions, we cannot excuse ourselves for what we believe by blaming God, the Bible or our parents. You are responsible for your beliefs, and this means that if you don't find the way of life which leads to heaven because of your sincere beliefs, you failed to find it because of your carelessness. It's not God's fault, the Bible's fault or your parent's fault; it is your fault. You are responsible for those wrong beliefs, even though they may be sincere. Sincerity is not good enough for God. Furthermore, if you find the way to life, enter into it by becoming a Christian and then later become unfaithful and fall away from the truth, you will miss heaven, and the cause of the failure will be carelessness. God is in no way responsible for our beliefs which lead us away from the path of righteousness and godliness.
There are two primary reasons why man is responsible for his beliefs. First, man and woman are endowed by God with moral and intellectual faculties which render them capable of discerning the right way. Human beings have what it takes to be problem-solvers. A great intellect and a moral conscience belong to man by nature, and both are a part of the divine image of God in which he was created. For this reason, he has no right to be ignorant or have wrong beliefs, no matter how sincere he is. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"Uohn 8:32). Let none excuse themselves by saying, "What is truth?" When Jesus said, "You shall know the truth," his words necessarily imply that there is such a thing as truth in religion. It also means you can know it and are responsible for knowing it. Not only has God endowed man and woman with great intellect, but He has also furnished mankind with abundant information about the right way to live here, so as to win the crown of eternal life. The apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 1:3 that God's divine power has "given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge Him who called us to glory and virtue."
We have the information; we know what God's will is; we have the intellectual capability to learn it. Opportunity plus ability equals responsibility. Are you listening? In spite of these revealed truths it is quite common to hear people say, "One church is as good as another church. and it doesn't make any difference which church you are in. All are trying to get to the same place." Another common sentiment heard is, "It does not matter what you believe so long as you are sincere." I have even heard it said that there are many roads to heaven, and all lead to the same place. It makes no difference which of these roads you are on." It is a well received belief by religious people in Christendom that God will not hold people responsible for erroneous beliefs at the final judgment, if they were sincere in those beliefs. I have one more point to make, and I shall be done. It is being proclaimed to the world that men are no more responsible for their opinions than for the height of their stature or the color of their skin. However, the Bible on this, as on many other subjects, is directly opposed to the maxims and opinions most current in the world.
There are two evidences that God will hold us to strict accountability. The first evidence is seen in how God administers the universe now by his natural laws. If sincerity of belief is all that is required for our future well being, we should naturally expect to find the law prevailing in his providential superintendence of the natural lalws When people are honestly mistaken in our world here and now, does this spare them from the ill consequences. The opinions which people entertain on moral and religious subjects are never treated in scripture as a matter of indifference. Furthermore, they are not exempted from the responsibility for the errors by which they are misled. On the contrary the Bible frequently teaches, and always assumes, that a right practice has its foundation only in a right belief and that goodness cannot exist independent of the truth. The Bible clearly teaches that people are accountable for their opinions, no less than for their outward conduct. Our happiness is not based on the sincerity of our belief in the natural laws but the correctness of our belief in them. If we violate God's natural laws we must suffer the consequences. Our sincerity will not save us from injury, suffering and possibly death. We know from experience that if you violate any of God's natural laws, he will allow you to suffer the consequences. Why should we think God would act any differently when we violate his spiritual laws? It is quite evident that the well-being and happiness of every person in this present life is dependant upon his knowledge and belief of God's natural laws. Fire burns, water drowns, and electricity kills. The little child who plays with matches and perhaps burns to death or drowns in a pool or gets electrocuted, did not intentionally and willingly disobey God's laws, but they suffered the consequences anyway. A child may unknowingly drink or eat poison and die as a result. One may step on a rattlesnake and die of snake venom. A faithful Christian friend of mine was out on the lake and reached his hand to pick up something and several wasps bit him at the same time. He died before they got him to the hospital.
If we walk in front of a speeding car we can expect to get seriously injured or even killed. The fact that I made an innocent mistake has nothing do to with it. If any of my readers are disposed to venture the salvation of their soul upon the opinion that truth and correctness of beliefs are of no importance, except in the sense of sincerity, let me warn you to make proof of the efficacy of this opinion upon the world around you. If the real substantial nature of things here on earth remains unchanged by your opinions, what right have you to suppose the realities of another world will be more flexible? Reflect thoughtfully on the subject, and you will find in the observation and experience of every day, abundant reason to fear, that there is a way that seems right to a person, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
There is another convincing reason to believe that God will hold us accountable for what he said and that our ignorance or sincerity will not excuse us at the final judgment. Another evidence is that the Bible assures us that God will hold us accountable for our beliefs in the world to come. The erroneous opinions which men entertained on moral and religious subjects in scripture were never treated by God with indifference. Heb. 2:1-3 says, "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard him." I call your attention to words that every transgression and disobedience in the Jewish age of religion received a just retribution or penalty, and the writer concludes that we are even more accountable because the Christian religion is greater and superior to that of the Old Covenant There is a beautiful harmony between the relation which we see that we hold to the present life and that which the Bible reveals as connecting us with the life to come. The God who speaks to us providentially by his natural laws is the same God who speaks to us in the Bible. I have established the truth that man is fully responsible for his beliefs from two facts. The first fact is we know by experience that God holds us responsible in the earthly affairs of this life. The other fact is that the Bible affirms that the rejection of the gospel of Christ, or the perversion of its truths, can have its origin only in an evil heart, and is therefore a proper and just reason for God's condemnation in the world to come. The word of God says, "He who believes in Jesus is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation that light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil"(I John 3:18).
Let me then in conclusion urge you, as you value the purity and salvation of your souls, to study, revere, love and obey the written word of God, as it is revealed in the New Testament scriptures. This truth will make you free. It will free you from corrupt desires and erroneous beliefs. If you are looking for a church home, let me suggest that you investigate the Church of Christ in your community. You will be safe there from all the dangers I have mentioned in this message.