Wrong Ways

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We all take them in life. In making decisions, everyone eventually goes the wrong way. The Bible explains this simply by stating, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) People typically say things like, “We all mess up sometimes.”

This is a fact of life. It is a truth. A reality. It is a principle of life. This whole Decisional series is about life principles. The truth that your Life Decision makes your life’s decisions is not a way one should live their life. This principle is how live works.

The Life Decision one makes about how they view life and what they believe determines the other decisions in their life. Many decisions are made because of the One Decision you make. Faith is the decisional decision, but there are others too. Marriage. Parenthood. These are directional decisions. These are decisions that make decisions.

The principle I am talking about today is that we all eventually go the wrong way. The most critical decision after a wrong decision is the next decision, not the wrong decision. In 1 John 1:5-2:6 we learn some great truths about how we should deal with our wrong decisions.

Your next decision, after a wrong decision, reveals what you truly believe about Jesus. 1 John 1 tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you believe that? If you do then confession is not an act of fear; it is an act of faith.

This passage uses a deep and rich word about Jesus. It states that “Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, for ours and for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus is the substitutionary sacrifice that covers over our sins. That is the best way I know to describe this rich word. He is our substitute. He died in our place. He is the sacrifice. He is the willing offering given for the penalty of our sin. He is the covering over our wrong. We have a “righteousness not our own.” It is the righteousness of Christ.

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we accept the truth that God has carried out his faithfulness and his justice in and through Christ on our behalf. Do you believe this? This belief is revealed in what we do after we fail.

There are 2 wrong ways people respond to going the wrong way. First, we deceive ourselves through denial. We say sin is not sin or we simply deny we did it. We have the “not me” syndrome that was humorously articulated in the Family Circus comic strip every time a child was asked who did something wrong.

The second wrong way to respond is crippling ourselves through condemnation.   If you believe is faithful and just and forgives sin, then why are you still condemning yourself for what he has forgiven you of?

The one way to rightly respond to our wrong way is repentance.   Repentance is confession with right direction. It is more than an obligatory “I am sorry.” It is a genuine expression of wrong with an intentional decision to go in the right direction. Repentance does not rewrite our past, but it does redirect our future.  Jesus does not rewrite your wrong decisions, he covers them.

Your past is covered do not live in it’s condemnation. Your future is fresh and new. Walk in the freedom he has given you. Now realize that your freedom to walk a new path does not mean you go back to where you first went wrong. You must move forward from where you confess that wrong. Trust his faithfulness and justice right there.

Lessons from Jonah about Going the Wrong Way

Many Christians stress the importance of knowing God’s will as it pertains to their future decisions. Should I take this job or that job? Should I buy this car or that car? Some decisions that arise border on trivial, such as, should I take Airline Hwy. or I-10? We want to know God’s will, but we may over-do it. Sometimes God just wants you to get to work – either route will be fine.

Though these life questions may be deeply emotional and unnerving, the more troubling discernment can arise when we clearly know what God requires of us. You don’t have to pray about whether God wants you to love your enemy. He does; He already told you that. You don’t have to pray about whether God wants you to care for orphans and widows. He does; He already told you that. You don’t have to pray about whether God wants you to tell others about who He is and what He has done. He does; He already told you that. But obeying these clear commands from God can be difficult – leading us to turn the wrong way on a one-way street of honoring God.

We see an example of this in Scripture through the life of Jonah. Jonah was a prophet from Israel – the northern kingdom of the divided people of God. In Jonah’s lifetime, Israel was still a sovereign nation, but the Assyrians were bearing down. Assyria was a massive nation with a very impressive city called Nineveh. Americans have few opportunities to emotionally relate to Jonah’s ill will toward Nineveh. The United States has never shared such close proximity to such a militarily dominant, aggressive neighbor. Modern Americans have never gone to sleep at night wondering when their wives and daughters might be subject to the pleasures of an invading army. As such, we might underestimate Jonah’s hesitation to obey God’s call to go to the enemy.

The book of Jonah begins with the word of God. This is significant because the word of God and the effectiveness of the word of God is the most significant theme of the book. God tells Jonah to get up and go preach against the wickedness of Nineveh. In a time when gods were generally associated with specific nations, the God of Israel was rebuking the wickedness of a physically superior nation. Jonah immediately responds by going the opposite direction, on a ship going to Tarshish.

In the course of the next two chapters, God sends a storm on the ship, Jonah identifies himself as the reason for the storm and encourages the sailors to throw him overboard, and God sends a great fish to swallow Jonah. While inside the fish, Jonah prays to God: “I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord!” After three days and three nights, God commands the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

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At this point, one might expect a repentant Jonah, who has been through an extraordinary expression of the power of God over nature and an extraordinary expression of God’s effectiveness in accomplishing His purposes, to preach with renewed vigor – trusting wholly that God knows what He’s doing. But that was not the case.

Jonah gets up and goes to Nineveh where he walks for three days, telling of the judgment that will come from God on Nineveh. Reports of Jonah’s message reach all the way to the king, who responds in a most unexpected way. The king orders everyone (man and beast) in the kingdom to fast, mourn, and call out to God in hopes that God might relent His judgment. This heart-felt repentance, a true turning from evil, was pleasing to God and He relented from the disaster He had threatened.

Jonah must have been ecstatic, right? Best preacher of all time! Brought the Assyrian Kingdom to repentance! No. Jonah wasn’t excited. Jonah 4:1 says, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious.” Jonah knew that God was merciful and compassionate and that he would relent disaster from the Ninevites – that’s why he didn’t want to go in the first place. The literary style is subtly humorous in its assertion – the animals of the pagan Assyrians were more willing to humble themselves before God than the prophet of Israel.

Sometimes we want to trade obedience in what we clearly know that God has commanded for obedience in things that are less clear or even unknown. Like Jonah, we cry out to God, “I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving,” but then show reluctance to go God’s way. Do you think that God want’s you to show hospitality through a new, large house with room for many guests? Great, but are you being hospitable now in your current accommodation? Do you think he might move you to a new community and a new job in order to be a witness? Great, but are you witnessing where you are today. God is not vague in what he requires of us. Nor is He vague in what he will accomplish – the restoration of people to Himself from every nation, tribe, people and tongue. Are you willing to go in the direction that God has clearly stated that He is going? That’s the only true, right way.

Really?

Stop-Sign

“Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

The Screwtape Letters is a very unique view into life. The story is written from the perspective of one demon training another on how to deceive people and prevent them from following Christ.

This particular quote makes a Scripturally true observation. The road to destruction is wide and many choose it. The road to eternal life is narrow and few choose it. On this wide road of destruction there are no milestones reminding you of where you are actually headed or signposts to warn you about the dangers involved in the decisions you are making.

Your life decision makes your life’s decisions. This principle is the Decisional principle of life. There are decisions that, once made, make other decisions. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” This truth reminds us that the decision to come after Christ makes many, many other decisions in life.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
 who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) It is a tough truth in life but sin, ours and others, has so damaged us that our own heart is sick and deceives even us. The worst advice you can give in life is “just follow your heart.” Follow wisdom. The heart will lead you into folly, failure, pain, and problems.

Before making a decision, stop…collaborate and listen…wait, not that is not it.

Before making a decision, stop and measure your motives. If the heart is deceitful, then we know motives are not always easily measured. Ask yourself this question. Why am I doing this, REALLY?

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
 dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:3-5)

Motives are best measured through the filter of the Eternal Decision. Are you or are you not a follower of Christ? Does this look like following Christ? Did he tell me to do this or not do this.

If you want to measure your motives, measure your trust. Who and what are you trusting in? If you want to understand your own trust, measure your direction. You are going in the direction you trust, or at least once trusted.

There is a direct relationship between delight and desire & desire and direction.

Delight in the Lord leads to your way being committed to him because you desire what he desires. This relationship, however, can be difficult and deceiving. We delight in what we desire and we head in the direction of what we desire. But we also find that the direction we headed because of what we desire is often not nearly as delightful as we thought it would be.

This leads us to three questions this passage causes. These are questions we must ask ourselves to examine our delight, our desires, and our direction?

What am I doing?

The verse says do good. Are you doing good?

What am I dwelling on?

The verse says to dwell in the land…the Promised Land. Dwell in the promises of God. What is consuming your thoughts, soul and mind?

What is delicate in my life?

The verse says befriend faithfulness. It means to tend to with care and concern. What in your life gets special attention and concern to guarantee that it happens.

If you want your delights to change, your desires must change. For your desires to change, your direction must change. Yet it is the Lord that sets himself as our delight. We must simply choose to go in the direction that delights in Him.

Let the Lord, himself, be your delight. Move in that direction and He will change your desires.

Decisional: Navigating Life’s Decisions

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We kick off a new series today titled Decisional.

We all make decisions every day in many, many ways. We choose one option among many in life day in and day out.

There are certain moments in life, however, that we must make a decisional decision. A decisional decision is directional. It affects the decisions that come after it.

Jesus says in Matthew 16 “if anyone would come after me…” He then spells out what one must do. It requires denying yourself and taking up your cross. It requires us to lose our life so might find life.

The decisional decision is “if anyone would come after me.” That decision makes many other decisions for you. Following Jesus means doing certain things in life – worshipping, speaking the Gospel to others, giving sacrificially, etc. The decision to do those things is made the moment you decide to follow Jesus, whether you realize it in that moment or not.

This one decision also decides some things you will not do. Commit adultery. Murder. Hate your neighbor. Etc. Whether you realized in the moment you decided to follow Jesus or not everything you decided, in that moment, you decided to not do some things in and with your life.

This week we kick off a series about Decisional decisions. Following Jesus is THE Decisional Decision in life, but there are others, too. There are decisions you make that make other decisions.

What are some other decisional decisions people make?