"Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.  Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess." Deuteronomy 5:32-33

Our text verse Deut. 5:32 says, "ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left," signifying one needs to stay in the middle of the road or Stay Out of The Ditch.  There is a sense that a politician is a compromiser when he is called a "middle of the roader", and in some instances, so is a preacher.  But today I would like to think along the subject "Stay Out of The Ditch" so that you might realize there are ditches on each side of the road spiritually.

I remember several years ago when the road was so muddy and rutted that you couldn't drive without slipping and sliding and if you weren't careful you would get in the ditch.  When you realized you were in the ditch you would shift to second gear and put the "petal to the metal".  Sometimes you would come out of the ditch, but before you could get the truck under control, you were in the ditch on the opposite side of the road.  This illustration causes one to stop and apply this to many in our Baptist churches today.

Let us call the ditch on the right side of the road liberalism.  Liberalism is a state of being liberal or broad minded.  When one has this attitude, he doesn't want to offend anyone with his preaching.  This attitude suggest a living pattern "if it feels good do it".  Liberalism is motivated by lust.  Lust means unbridled desire; unlawful or longing for what is forbidden.  Really lust is a diseased condition of the soul.  This ditch is the "gray" area many speak about today.  An example is when someone says, "I don't look at things the way you do," or "I don't think this is wrong," and it matters not what the Bible says about it.  The gnostic says the spirit of man is good and can't sin, while the flesh is evil and can't help but sin; therefore, they let go and operate on lust.  This is the overall picture of those in the ditch of liberalism.

The ditch on the left side of the road I call legalism.  Legalism is a strict adherence to rules and regulations.  Legalism is motivated by law.  The Pharisees followed the law, but they missed what the law revealed.  The law brought only condemnation and death.  It was called a pedagogue, schoolmaster, childleader, and was given to bring one to Christ, who fulfilled the law.  Law brings guilt and condemnation upon a person because he can't live up to the rules and regulations set forth by it.  Law brings death; therefore, it kills peace, joy, and hope in an individual who is in this ditch of legalism.  It also brings death to the church which is in this ditch.

The middle of the road is what I call liberty, which is motivated by love not lust or rules and regulations.  Love fulfills what the law requires.  In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus said, "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  There is none other commandment greater than these."

Love is the greatest motive in the world.  You see, what is taught in the ditch of legalism is basically right but the motivation is wrong.  The saint is set free of rules and regulations, but he still adheres to God's word because he has his priorities straight.  The number one priority in our life should be to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, and mind.  When we love Him with that type of love, then we want to do what He wants us to do.  As a son, I did some things for my dad because I loved him.  As a husband, I do some things for my wife because I love her.

I would like to give a few examples to make my point.  First, let us think about sins in general.  The liberal preacher in the right ditch won't preach against sin; therefore the individual under his preaching becomes a dirty vessel and God can't use a dirty vessel.  As a result of dirty vessels the church becomes powerless.  The legalist sometimes makes sins appear as a means within themselves instead of a means to an end.  The preacher in liberty preaches against sins as a means to an end.  He does this because the sins of the flesh keeps one from believing and the sin of unbelief is what sends you to hell.

Second, let us think about dress.  The liberal says I will dress or undress like I want to.  The legalist won't wear immodest apparel because the preacher says not to, but inside he may have a strong desire to dress by worldly standards instead of how the Bible says to dress.  Then when the guilt and condemnation get so strong because he can't live up to the standards set for him, he usually leaves the legalist ditch and go across the road to the liberal ditch and dresses like the world.  This is the fulfillment of II Peter 2:20-22, where it speaks of a dog returning to his vomit.  He just did what his old unchanged nature wanted to do all along.  But the man in liberty, motivated by love, does not want to wear immodest apparel because the Spirit of God lives inside him.  He loves the Lord and doesn't want to bring reproach on Jesus or hurt Him.

These are two of many examples, but the main point I would like to deal with is Salvation.  The liberal in the right ditch says it really doesn't matter what you believe or do to be saved just as long as you are sincere.  Some say sign a card and shake the preacher by the hand.  Others say be baptized and you'll be alright.  Still others say just "be good".  The liberal says one church is as good as another and we're all striving for the same place.  Just be sincere!

I heard about a man who got up in the night with a headache and went to the medicine cabinet without turning on the lights and took what he thought were two aspirins, and the next morning they found him dead.  His wife had rearranged the medicine cabinet and instead of aspirins, the man had taken cyanide pills.  Oh, he was sincere, but dead!

The legalist in the left ditch has it all figured out when it comes to salva¬≠tion.  I call this "lock box soulwinning" or "easy believism".  He has it in a tight package called the "Roman road plan" or "Four Spiritual Laws" and uses the same procedures on each and every person whether the Holy Ghost is dealing or not.  Most of the time even trying to do the job of the Holy Spirit in conviction.  They feel compelled to win so many each day so they can put spiritual notches in their gospel belt.  Usually what they wind up with are their own "converts" thereby making them "twofold more the child of hell than themselves," (Mat. 23:15) because of their false profession.  These legalist are sincere and just doing what they know to do, because their own profession was made in this manner.

The legalist usually says, "repeat this prayer after me," and when the sinner has prayed, the soulwinner will ask, "Are you saved?"  The sinner may say, "I don't know", and the legalist soulwinner will give them assurance by saying you called and Romans 10:13 says, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."  If you practice this, you are in a ditch.  You do not know whether the individual called from his heart or not.

What we need to do is get out of the ditches of liberalism and legalism concern¬≠ing salvation and get in the middle of the road, realizing that Salvation is of the Lord.  When I make that statement, I'm referring to the work of the Holy Spirit.  I Cor. 12:3 says, ". . . And that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."  Therefore it is the Holy Spirit who works salvation in an individual.

First, the Holy Spirit illuminates (gives light) or lets a man see that there is one God.  He does this through the conscience (Rom. 1:19) and through creation (Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1-3).  Then He brings man to a point where he realizes that he is a sinner by nature (Psa. 58:3) and by choice (Rom. 3:23).   It is not enough to recognize that you are a sinner but you need to see yourself a lost sinner.  The Holy Spirit then uses the Word of God to convict and draw the sinner.  (John 16:8-11; 6:44, 65).  Godly sorrow is thereby worked in the heart, which in turn works repentance. (II Cor. 7:10)

Faith coming through the word (Rom. 10:17) is then imparted as a gift (Eph. 2:8-9; John 3:27) to the sinner so that he can respond to the Holy Spirit's invitation to come to God through Jesus. (Isa. 1:18; 55:1; Rev. 22:17; John 6:37)  When one responds, he is then sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:14) and the sinner then instantly becomes free from sin and death.  This gives him liberty in the middle of the road.  Also, it gives God all the glory to whom glory is due, because salvation is of the Lord.

We need to realize that the devil doesn't want us to have liberty in the middle of the road.  It is like being in a car that gets in one ditch and you put it in second gear and out you come, maybe going in or almost in the other ditch.  When you finally get the car under control in the center of the road you stop and shake with fear and trembling until you get over the incident.  Then, and not before, will you proceed on down the road at a slower, safer speed.

We have warnings given in Gal. 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."  When you get out of the ditch of legalism and you are in the middle of the road, the warning is: don't get back in the left ditch of legalism motivated by rules and regulations but stand still (wait; Isa. 40:31) in liberty motivated by love.

Also a warning is given in Gal. 5:13, "For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty: only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."  This is a warning to stay out of the right ditch of liberalism motivated by lust and stand in liberty in the middle of the road.

One needs to stand fast with fear and trembling until he has direction of the Spirit to move out and then it should be with caution.  Gal. 5:16 says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."  Then one day God will let you run and not by weary. (Isa. 40:31)

The sad part about the man who is in the middle of the road in liberty which is motivated by love for Lord Jesus, is the liberal in the right ditch looks at him and calls him a legalist, while the legalist in the left ditch looks at him and calls him a liberal.  But when an individual gets free in the middle of the road he learns he is not fighting for victory but from victory.  He also knows he has only one person to please.  That one is the Lord Jesus Christ.  So he proceeds down the middle of the road similar to what an elephant would do as ants spit at him from either side of the road.  This doesn't mean that the individual will not stop and minister in the Spirit to those in the ditch and try to help them out.  But it does mean that he will not get in the ditch and participate in the ditch activity just to identify with him.

Brethren, the devil has us sidetracked.  He has us fighting brush fires while the forest is burning.  In other words if we are not careful, he has us fighting issues that occupy our time while the souls of men are dying and going to hell.  The only way we are going to reach men is to do it God's way and His way is the middle of the road, in liberty, motivated by love.

Brethren, stay out of the ditch of liberalism and legalism.  If you are in a ditch, the only way you can get out is to let the Holy Spirit wench you out by a cable of grace, mercy, and love.  Yield to that cable today and be at liberty in Christ.

THE PERSUADER  Feb.- March, 1987

VOLUME 1 (1987-1993)
Stay Out Of The Ditch
New Hope Baptist Church
1661 Griggstown Road
Calvert City, KY 42029
Church -270-527-3864
Pastor - 270-559-7135
email: edgarleepaschall@juno.com
The Persuader