Decisions really are the cutting edge of life. Our ability to make wise choices verses bad choices is ultimately what defines and shapes us. There are 3 areas we must consider in order to make a wise decision.
How many of you had to make a decision this week that you didn’t want to make? I did. And if I’d given you more time, you probably would have raised your hand because life is about decisions, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Sometimes I’m sure that in our frustrations we can say decisions, decisions, decisions. We have to prepare to make decisions. We have to make decisions and probably most importantly we have to live with our decisions. Decisions really are the cutting edge of life. Our ability to make wise choices verses bad choices is ultimately what defines and shapes us. Whether to cross a bridge, whether to burn it. Whether to say yes, whether to say no. Sometimes we say yes too quickly, sometimes we don’t say no soon enough. Sometimes we just say no too much, and we really need to ask ourselves maybe in our life we need to say yes a little bit more and give that a chance.
Most of you right now are making a decision. You know what that decision is? The decision is whether or not I want to invest my time in this sermon. You’re making a decision right now on whether or not this sermon is going to be boring or whether it’s going to be relevant to your life, so all the time in life we are making decisions. Allow me to share a thought by Leroy Brownlow who happens to be one of my favorite commentators. He gave an astute observation in his book ‘Today is Mine’ and the entry was found on March 4th.
"Life is a journey of decisions and the person who can’t make them has a hard trip ahead. All along the pathway of life are stalled persons stuck between ‘yes’ and ‘no’."
Some people are just stuck. Some people can never make a decision. Let me share a thought with you. Not making a decision is a decision. So this afternoon what I’d like to do with all of us is to talk about how to make wise choices. Why this topic on this Sabbath following the high days? As we depart from the lessons of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, there perhaps can be no more important topic. Being decisive and making the right choices and decisions in our life, especially coming off of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, probably define us and identify us more of being the new man and the new lump more than anything else as to what kind of decisions we are making, so that’s what I’d like to do today. For those of you that like to take notes and are giving a title to this message, it is simply this "How to Make Wise Choices."
Where do we begin? And most importantly where and what do we begin with? Or, ultimately, here’s the thought that I’d like you to go away with today. Fundamentally and able to make wise choices to make good decisions we must put first things first. That is fundamental in making right decisions. And to illuminate that point I’d like to share a story to bring this home to each and every one of us.
An instructor at a seminar told the participants to prepare for a quiz. And he reached under the table, and he took out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and then he set it on the table. And next to the jar were some fist-sized rocks. Now he asked the group, the students that were out there, how many of these rocks do you think we can get inside of this jar? Now the participants began to make their guesses. The instructor said, well, let’s find out. One by one he began to put as many rocks as he could inside the jar until the rocks inside were level with the top of the jar.
Now are you with me? Because we may give you the quiz. Stay with me. The instructor then asked is the jar full? And the participants looked at the jar filled with rocks and nodded, yes, but then the instructor took out a bucket of gravel, poured it into the jar and shook it. The gravel drifted down in all the crevices and spaces around the rocks. The instructor asked once again, is the jar full? Well, the participants were not about to be fooled a second time. They said the jar probably wasn’t full. The instructor nodded and said, good you’re catching on.
And he next took a bucket of sand and proceeded to pour it into the jar. Slowly the sand began to fill in all the gaps and holes left by the gravel. After the sand settled, the instructor once again asked, now is the jar full? The participants were much more in fact this time when they said, no! The instructor was pleased when they were beginning to understand an important principle. He then, just a little bit more, he took a pitcher of water and poured a quart into the jar. Now at this point he stopped and he asked the group, what is the point of all of this? Well, one of the participants volunteered, you know there always is one in the class that, you know, will raise their hand. One of the participants volunteered this answer. There are gaps and if you work at it, you can always fit more into the jar, but the instructor, said, no, that’s not really the point. It is simply this. If I had not put those big rocks in first, I would never have gotten them in at all.
The lesson of the story, my friends, is simply this and the lesson that we want to take away on this Sabbath day is that we in making decisions and choices in our life need to put first things first. Some considerations regarding the story that I just shared with you. Perhaps we have all made the same mistakes and assumptions that some of the students did. We don’t consider what to do first, so at times in our own lives we waste a lot of our time on matters that frankly are not worth our life’s devotion.
Often times what we will do is we will mistake that which is urgent for that which is important. And we’ll try to stuff the urgent into our life rather than put the vital and the essential and the important in there first. The result then is sometimes we are left to the devices of our students that were watching the instructor–we’ll keep on cramming more and more and more and more and may I say, are you with me? And more into our life, and we’ll shake our life around and by shaking our life around and jiggling our life around, we’ll try to put more into our life thinking that is solving what life is all about rather than building on the foundation of first things first and having the values in place that we need to have.
Now the bottom line of this story then as we move away from this now, which is simply this, the jar is not left on the professor’s table in the college. Everyday of our life you and I do face the big jar of life. And everyday you and I are left with the decision what do we start with? What is important? What is rock? What is sand? What is gravel? What is water? Because sometimes if we are not attuned and we are not ready it can all look alike and that’s what we need to come to understand.
God understood this, and I’d like you to come with me please to Proverbs. Join me if you would over in the book of Proverbs 4:18, and let’s notice God’s encouragement and also a warning. In Proverbs 4:18, now as you turn there, I’m going to actually read this out of the NIV, which is going to make the point clearer, at least the point that I want to get across. So a lot of them will sound alike, but allow me the privilege of doing this.
Proverbs 4:18-19. "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble."
Because unfortunately often times we make those bad choices; we might even say at times wicked choices because we’re trying to jiggle the jar to see how much that we can get in there.
Verse 20. "My son, pay attention to what I say…"
As much as that instructor, as he was trying to get across a very pivotal lesson to the students.
Verse 20-23. "…listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. Above all else…"
And this is why I am reading out of the NIV.
Verse 23. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
In other words, in a sense what God is saying is put a governor, put a filter over that wide brimmed mouth of that jar and really analyze what you are allowing into your life, when you are allowing it into your life. Should it be in your life? Is that the foundation that you should be building upon? Put a governor over it. Put a filter over it. Get ahead of the instructor a little bit. Get ahead of yourself a little bit and just like our parents taught us when we were very, very young as they brought us up to a curb, they brought us up to a street, and some of the first instruction that we ever had in our life, was stop and look and listen. Look to the left, look to the right, look to the left. Oh how your life and my life would be so different if we treated our life the same way as our parents taught us in crossing the street rather than running across some of the intersections of life that you and I happen to do so. So here it says that we are to…
Proverbs 4:23-24. "…guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you."
Really think about what you are doing and what you are adding to your life, what you are allowing to life or what you’re not allowing to come into your life.
Verse 27. "Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."
So we notice then that God’s emphasis is that we are to guard our hearts and that’s what I’d like to share with you today. Now why is that so important? Why is it important? Because once we start to get into that, what I call the hamster wheel of activity. There’s an old saying that goes like this, as we begin to offer and put our energy and our time into something, when you buy into a desire, when you make a decision, when you make a choice, what you do whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong you sow a thought. And what happens when you sow a thought? You reap an action. And then you sow an action and you reap a habit and then you sow a habit and there is a cause for every effect, and you either receive a blessing and/or you receive a cursing.
Now I just want you to think about this because I think this relates to each and every one of us because each and every one of us, may we talk? All of us in this room are adults because all the kids are out there. And they’re learning to make good decisions with very dedicated Sabbath school instructors. Everyday you and I have a lot of those big decisions to make just as Mr. Grider and others were talking about to our youth today, our youth, the decisions that are before them are incredible as to whether or not to engage in this world or not to engage in this world. How much to be a part of society. How to be or how much to be apart of school. All the challenges are out there.
Well, we’re just recycled teenagers, we’re older. We have all of those challenges. Right now in this room we’re having individuals that are having to make great choices, big decisions in their life about their relationship with God. About their relationship with their mate. About their relationship with their adult parents. About their relationship with their children. About their relationship with, you know, I’m so glad it’s the Sabbath because I cannot face that boss at work. I’ve got two days off from that guy or I’ve got two days off from that gal, but I’m going to have to go back on Monday morning at 8:00 and face the music. There are some people out there that you don’t like to work with. Or am I talking to the right audience?
There might be some people out there that are just making your life miserable, and you’ve got to make some decisions as to how you’re going handle that. This is Christianity 101 because God’s called us, you and me, to make decisions. And ultimately, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us to make decisions like Jesus Christ would. Humanly that can be a little scary some of the decisions that are facing you and me, but I’ve got some encouragement for you. Join me if you would over in John 16. In John 16 lets notice the encouragement here.
John 16:13. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come…"
And now during this period of time off the Days of Unleavened Bread we look forward in a sense to be going through this period of time focusing on the reality that God did give his holy spirit at Pentecost. And then once it was given we have it now, and it says that that spirit is going to…
Verse 13. "…guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine…" what Jesus Christ is about "…and declare it to you."
He’s going to share it with you. He’s going to remind you how I made decisions when I walked this earth. And so we do have that aspect. We are not alone. Now if we are not alone and if we do have the holy spirit of God, a profound question that I’d like to share with you and kind of gnawing one. Why then as Christians, spirit-led sons and daughters of God, are you with me, listen please, why then do we make bad choices from time to time? Why do we do it to ourselves? Again. Why is it that sometimes that seemingly we can’t get off that hamster wheel of indecision? Why can’t we get off that hamster wheel of why is it that we just keep on banging our head against the door, against decisions and choices that just are not making our life happen, which don’t seem to echo or ring with the rhyme of Christ’s words that I came that they might live and live more abundantly?
I do not believe it is necessarily in this matter, I don’t think it’s necessarily an over-estimation of ourselves that gets us into half our problems as Christians. I think it is an under-estimation of God’s power in us that’s available to us and his desire for us to make a choice to hold onto that right choice and it is a choice. And there are choices that are going to face you and me starting right now. There are people in this congregation that are not getting along on this Sabbath day that have fought against one another. See now I’ve got everybody listening. You’ve got to make a choice. You’ve got to make a statement in your life as to whether or not you’re going to make a bad choice or a good choice.
You’ve got to make a choice whether or not you’re going to be one of Brownlow’s stalled individuals on the pathway of life stuck between yes and no. A command to Christians is that we are to forgive one another and we’ve got to learn to love one another and live with one another as the flock of God. So you’ve got some choices to make. Now you know you’ve got to make that choice, but you’re just kind of stalling, you’re not ready for it. And others of us have other choices that we have to make because there are some of these squeeze plays.
You know what a squeeze play is? You know where you kind of get squeezed into making bad decisions. I’d like to talk about some of the squeeze plays of human nature for a moment and kind of throw out a broad net and see where we’re at and then give you some hope here at the end. Who needs hope today? I need hope. Who needs hope out there? Is that all the hope you need? Boy, you must be hopeless. Who needs hope in this congregation? Come on, raise your hand. Your pastor needs hope. So I’m hoping you’ll join me.
We all need hope. Christians need hope. We’ve got a big job ahead of us this thing of being like Jesus Christ. Now why is it that we underestimate what God wants to do for us sometimes? Well, number one, here’s one thing that’s a squeeze play of human nature; we live in the moment for the moment. We live in the moment, we get trapped into the moment and everything seems to be for the moment, and we can’t get outside of that cage. Now where is an example in the Bible that might be like that living in the moment for the moment? What about the example of Esau? Join me over in Genesis 25. In Genesis 25. Come on over there with me please. Let’s look at this story. In Genesis 25:27.
Genesis 25:27. "So the boys…"
Not Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob
Verse 27-31. "So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary. Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, Sell me your birthright as of this day."
Now Jacob is one of those characters that was just always out on the porch waiting for somebody to come. He’s not the kind of guy that I’d like to have in front of me. He said…
Verse 31. "Sell me your birthright as of this day."
Birthright was just an incredible thing back in the patriarchal system. Birthright, carrying the name, family honor, family everything, etc., etc.
Verse 32-34. "And Esau said, Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me? Then Jacob said, Swear to me as of this day. So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright."
Let’s think about this for a moment. This is a classic case out of the Bible of short-term satisfaction verses long-range, life altering circumstances. Was Esau hungry? I’m sure he was. I don’t think we probably understand the half of the story or maybe even how long Esau had really been out there. Some of you that go hunting and recognize you’re out there longer than you think, and you know, was he hungry like I’m hungry after having fasted for twenty-fours? He was probably hungrier than that. He’d probably been out in the wilderness for a long time.
But even with all of that hunger, that momentary pain, was it worth it to sell his birthright for so much Campbell’s tomato soup? He was living in the moment. Now what’s fascinating when we live in the moment and we’re trapped by the moment and we make a decision, even a bad choice, what’s fascinating and humanly realistic is that at first we feel intensely satisfied. We may even feel powerful. We once again even feel as if we’re in control of ourselves and beyond the moment, but ultimately, the future catches up.
Before you and I judge Esau too harshly, let’s ask ourselves a few questions here. What have been trading in recently? What have we been bartering with that we should not be bartering with? Our family name? Our values? Our identity in Christ? What are we somehow giving up or mixing around or taking that jug and jiggling it to kind of see what else we can put in there, rather than first things first. Do family, do our bodies, our integrity get mixed up in deal making? I hope not. Living in the moment for the moment. The moment being bigger than everything else is a real squeeze play when it comes to human nature.
Let’s talk about another one. Being impatient. Being impatient can lead us in wrong choices. Come with me if you would to I Samuel 13. In I Samuel 13, we have the story of Saul, King of Israel. Join me if you would please.
I Samuel 13:5. "Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven."
Then join me down in verse 7.
Verse 7-8. "And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal…"
Sounds a little bit, Rene, like your message that you gave during the song.
Verse 7-11. "…But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me. And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, What have you done? And Saul said…"
Well, no. Kind of like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Well…
Verse 11-13. "When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, You…"
Basically, what it said, you’ve made a bad decision. You’ve made a wrong choice.
Verse 13-14. "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…"
Remember how God says that we are to guard our hearts?
Verse 14. "…and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."
Now what happened here? When Saul thought that time was running out, he became impatient with God’s timing, and therefore, what Saul decided to do was that he fell back on ritual, thought he’d offer up a sacrifice rather than simply what is what God requires at all times, my friends, faithful obedience to God. Impatience can lead us to really bad decisions. No waiting on the Lord means to wait and when faced with a difficult decision don’t allow impatience to drive you as it did Saul to disobey God. When you know what God wants you to do and what God clearly instructs for you to do in his scripture and prompts you by his spirit to do, then follow that plan regardless, hear me, regardless of the consequences and expect God’s blessing.
Let’s talk about another squeeze play of human nature. What seemingly is inconvenient. Sometimes not simply impatience, but inconvenience can lead us into bad choices, frankly rob us of blessings. Join me over in Ruth 4. The story of Ruth, and actually, I’m going to be giving a whole sermon on the book of Ruth between now and Pentecost, but I’ll whet your appetite by turning to the book of Ruth here. Let’s go to Ruth. Right before Joshua, Judges. Ruth. Let’s go to chapter 4. We find a classic case of inconvenience leading to wrong choices by one of Naomi’s kinsman. Naomi being the mother-in-law of Ruth, and we discover the story in Ruth 4.
Ruth 4:1. "Now Boaz…"
Now Boaz is, this remember, in the whole story of Ruth is in that sense a type of Christ.
Verse 1. "Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by."
Because there was actually a kinsman that was actually even closer in the line of possibly needing to marry Ruth than Boaz himself. In other words, to put it bluntly in today’s analogy there’s a guy ahead of him in line.
Verse 1-2. "…So Boaz said, "Come aside, friend, sit down here." So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit down here." So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative…"
Now there’s a thought I want to share with you right now. Let me get ahead of the story here. Because of this man’s inconvenience it led him to a bad choice and you do not know the name of this man. His choice led him from not being identified in scripture. Interesting. We’ll come back to that.
Verse 3-5. "Then he said to the close relative, Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, 'Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you. And he said, I will redeem it. Then Boaz said, On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance."
This is what happened in the Old Testament is that family married family as a part of the socio-economic preservation of a family.
Verse 6. "And the close relative..."
Now you’re never going to hear his name because it supposedly got too inconvenient for him.
Verse 6-8. "And the close relative said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it. Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, "Buy it for yourself." So he took off his sandal."
And gave it away. What do we learn from this story? You and I often times do not make wise decisions or lasting decisions that are going to benefit us because for simply the moment they seem inconvenient. Like Naomi’s kinsman we are drawn towards making, hear me, easy choices rather than the right one. And what is interesting here is that humanly for the moment sometimes the choices that you and I have got to make are perhaps humanly painful and inconvenient, but there is a lasting reward.
Now the example of Boaz here is simply this. Boaz not only did what was right, but he also did it the right way. He could not have foreseen where his actions were leading at that point and in that moment. He could not have foreseen, I don’t think the angel whispered in his ear because we don’t see it by revelation at this moment that his ancestor would be David and that ultimately his ancestor out of his line and the line of Ruth would be Jesus Christ. The example of Boaz is simply this that he took the challenge and he made the right action in that situation, facing that moment and he did not allow personal inconvenience to dislodge him.
I think the great story in all of this as I’ve already hinted to is we never know the other guy’s name. We never know his name. Can you imagine being given some space, are you with me, can you imagine being given some space in the Bible and just being known as, here’s your chance to shine, and all you get to be is the close relative. Nobody knows you because you didn’t make the right choice. You didn’t make the right decision because everything else looked inconvenient for the moment.
I want to share a thought with you. Whoever you are, no matter what your age is, in the story of God, God is not calling you to be an extra, simply somebody without a name in his plan. God is calling each and everyone of us and wants to give us a name and declare our name, but we have to rise above that, which is inconvenient. How many of you right now have something that is happening in your life that is in a sense humanly, seemingly foisted upon you, seems inconvenient, are you with me? And you’re shying away from it, you’re shunning away from it, rather than grabbing a hold of it and recognizing that there’s a blessing down the line?
What about the example, here’s another one, another squeeze play of human nature. What about thinking that the grass is greener on the other side? I’m not going to have the time to go through all of these; I’m going to kind of speed it up because I have some points I want to share at the end. Thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. We have the classic case of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. He desired prosperity. He saw how green the grass was as it led to Sodom, and he made that decision along with those that were in his household and along with his servants.
Sometimes the grass does look greener on the other side, and it can just draw us away when we don’t really recognize that the problem is not, you know, that the grass may look greener on the other side, but once we hop the fence and get into that pasture, what’s going to happen is, it’s going to become brown just like on this side because it’s the desert inside of us. It’s the emptiness inside of us that causes things either to blossom or not blossom because we’re not making right decisions. And you and I, like Lot, who is called righteous Lot in the New Testament, might have the strength to go onto that other side, to go into a new place, but how is it going to effect those that are around us? What about our family, what about our loved ones, who like the family of Lot, might be enticed or ensnared or enslaved by the system that is around them.
Here’s another one that I’d like to share with you. Another squeeze play of human nature. Because I don’t want to leave anybody out. What about the example of seeking to satisfy right desires in wrong ways? Come with me on this one, I’d like to share this one a few seconds, II Samuel 6. It’s the story of the ark coming back into Jerusalem. Good idea to have the ark back in Jerusalem.
II Samuel 6:1-3. "Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the Lord of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. So they set the ark of God on a new cart…"
Well, that’s nice. You know at least they were thoughtful and they wanted to honor God, seemingly, and they put it on a new cart.
Verse 3. "…and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart."
So far so good. Okay.
Verse 4-5. "And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals."
Quite a party going on.
Verse 6. "And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled."
Well, is that not a nice thing to do? You know, the ark of the covenant is about to fall and what he wanted to do because it’s on the new cart and David’s happy, he’s dancing along, you don’t want to have any rainfall on your parade, and so what does Uzzah do? He tries to hold back the ark because, you know, the ark holds the ten commandments and you don’t want anything to get broken. Well, that seems to be a really nice thing to do.
Verse 7. "Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God."
Now what do we learn from this? We need to be very careful in our choices simply in this that we need to make sure that we satisfy right desires in the right ways and not try to use wrong ways. The lesson in this is simply this, we could go for five minutes, I’ll let you look it up. The ark of the covenant was not to be put on a cart. The ark of the covenant was to be carried on foot by men that were selected and poles were supposed to have gone through the ark so that it would carried because God ahead of time, being the creator, being the master educator, knew that if you put it on a cart with a bunch of donkeys, hits a bump in the road, what might happen? What everybody says.
Have you ever run into somebody who’s got a better idea? I’ve got a better idea. I have just out thought God. Touch me. That’s what happens. I say wait a minute. Now I understand what God wants, and that’s really nice, but I’m sure that he’ll want me to do it this way, and he will understand. He’ll understand that I want to please him. He will understand that I have a right desire. So he won’t mind if I do it differently than he asked me to do. I’ve got a question. 2+2 = what? Somebody. Boy, I was worried about you there for a moment. Okay? 2+2=4. And God in this Christian existence gives us 2+2=4 because God knows where he’s going, and he wants us to come along.
Let me just share one more thought, and I don’t have time to go through it because I want to wrap this. Probably the one thing that gets the most of us, can we talk? May we? Is peer pressure. Oh, peer pressure can just pull us and toss and turn us all sorts of ways. Sometimes the roar of the crowd can drown out God’s sure and direct and very clear revelation that he has given to us, and we hear God, but then we look around, and we say, well, you know what? But everybody else is doing this. Everybody else wants this to happen.
What do you tell your children when they come home? When they say, well, you know what, I just saw this new hair-do it stands about five feet high and, you know, mom and dad, you’ll really like. A little purple, a little red, a little green. John down the street is doing that. Everybody’s doing that. And what’s the old line? Well you know what? I’m not their parent, but I’m your parent, and I don’t care if everybody else is doing it, but this is what you’re going to do.
But then what about our lives? And what about how we relate with our heavenly Father? When God gives us very clear instruction he wants so much in our life because Jesus Christ the Son came and said, I want, I came that they might live more by the light. Now if we get pressed into that jar of life by peer pressure than we might as well cozy up with Pontius Pilate because Pontius Pilate knew better, but he listened to the crowd, and the crowd pushed him and pushed him and pushed him until he went against his conscience because he didn’t want to be a God pleaser. He wanted to be a people pleaser.
Are you a God pleaser? Or are you people pleaser? Now if you’re going to be effected by peer pressure, you might as well sit down on the bench with Pontius Pilate, but I want to warn you about something. You better have a lot of water; you better have a big bowl of water because you’re going to be washing your hands a lot. And you don’t want that.
Now some good news, and let’s conclude. We can make right and meaningful decisions. Yes, we can. How do we do that? Let me share them with you. Number one. The way that we make right decisions, the way we make good choices is by maintaining an eternal perspective day by day and moment by moment. That’s the blessing of the holy days that we’ve just gone through, they bring us back, they give us a compass and that is very, very important. Evaluate all from an eternal perspective and you will find your values and you will find your decisions changing. One of the great eternal perspective verses of scripture is Matthew 6:33 where it says…
Matthew 6:33. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
But you know and I know what we do sometimes is it’s like that jar of life with the wide brimmed opening. We want to put in all of the things first. And God says what we have to do is seek the kingdom of God first. That is the bolder, that is the fist-sized rock that we have to got to put in first. Now the reason I mention this to you, my friends, is that coming off of the Passover, coming off of the aspect of having renewed our covenant with God, coming off the aspect of now having Jesus Christ live in us during the days of Unleavened Bread, we’ve made a commitment that we are going to put first things first and that you and I are going to live and act with the aspect of an eternal perspective in mind.
Let me share a thought by Steven Covey, a man who writes a lot of books, and he wrote this in his ‘Principle Centered Leadership" and he put it this way…
"An accurate map is a good management tool, but in a wilderness, you can get lost, especially when it all looks alike."
Sometimes everything looks like sand, everything looks like gravel, everything looks like water and everything looks like rocks and you don’t know where to begin.
"A compass is a leadership, an empowerment tool."
He likens enduring principles to a compass. He stated business people, individuals who fail lack an internal moral compass, and he states, we must develop our value system with deep respect for true north principles. Now let’s understand that seeking the kingdom of God is a true north principle, and when we are lost, you know, just like in a forest when you are lost and you go to the north side of a tree and you’re looking for that moss it will guide you home.
Some things, brethren, are worth waiting for. Some things are worth waiting for, and we must have an eternal perspective that moves beyond an Esau or an Pontius Pilate or the kinsman of Naomi or Saul. You know, think about it for a moment. Jacob and Rachel. Jacob worked for Rachel for seven years and then he worked for Rachel, for Laben, the father for seven more years. If Jacob could serve a conniving man for fourteen years for one woman, the question I’d like to ask you on this Sabbath day to you my people is this, can we not in turn serve a loving God for a lifetime to receive an eternal reward?
Point number two. We need to make sure that we are talking to God about the decisions that face us. We need to make sure that we are praying first and acting second rather than praying to ask God to deliver us from our choices and from our decisions. It takes tremendous strength to bend our knees, to bow our heads and explore our hearts and open our ears with God as our guide, but it is the key to successful choices.
For you and I said at Passover this year that he alone is the one that really knows the rocks and the sand and the gravel and where this whole thing in life fits, so we need to talk to him about it. If we’re not talking to God, we’re simply talking to ourselves. Now when I drive down the street and I see somebody just talking to themselves on the curbside, I know what I think about them, what do you think about them when you see somebody just talking to themselves? You kind of think they’re nuts, unfortunately.
Well, when we’re just talking to ourselves, when God our Father has invited us to talk to him about our life and to share all of his wisdom and his love and his insight and his discernment, to not do that and to talk to ourselves is kind of like being spiritually nuts and we’re not going to go anywhere. God wants us to learn from him.
I want to share a thought with you. Heartfelt prayer can help clarify, number one, any problem you are facing. Number two. Can clarify God’s great power and love and investment that he wants to make in your life. And number three. And I want you to think about it this way, can clarify the job that you need to do because ultimately you have got to make the choice. For as many as are led by the spirit of God. God’s not going to push you. He’s not going to drag you. He’s going to open up the vistas to you then you’ve got to make a choice.
Some of us need to be more decisive, my friends, because God is calling us to be kings, and he’s calling us to be priests, and we need to learn to make decisions. But when we allow God to be our partner then things begin to happen. That’s what Joseph the step-father of Jesus Christ did. He had a dilemma on his hands, and I know some of you have a dilemma on your hands today. Some of you are having to make decisions this week, this month, this year, are you with me? That are going to effect the rest of your life, and you’re still, even after this sermon, not quite sure what a rock is from sand to gravel to water.
Let me share the dilemma of Joseph, the step-father of Jesus. Joseph got news about his betrothed that she was pregnant. He basically looked at the jar of life that was in front of him, and he basically only saw two things that he could do. He could either stone her or his thought was to put her, well, that’s kind of nice, I won’t stone her, so I’ll put her away because I’m a just man. At least that’s what the scripture says. Two decisions. Life is big enough. This is kind of inconvenient. I could be impatient. I’ll tell you what, stone her or put her away, I’m leaning towards putting her away, but he got involved with God, got into talking with God and God sent him an angel. And you see when you’re involved with God, God will provide options and thoughts that in no way could ever be in your mind. And what did the angel of God say to do?
He gave a third option. Marry her. Wow, I didn’t think of that. He thought already that he has thinking out of the box, but remember what I told on the first high day sometimes you just have to kick the box away. Start all anew. I know I need to do that after this sermon because I’m talking to myself because I know I’ve been getting too much sand and too much gravel ahead of some of the rocks in my life. I’ve just got to start with a new jar. Start all over again on some things, and I hope you’ll think about that, too.
Point number three. Right choices come from asking the right questions. Right choices, making wise decisions come from making or asking the right decisions.
Let me conclude with these three simple questions. Number one. When you are confronted with a choice, when you need to make shall we say the big one. Number one. Does this action, does this choice of mind help my personal witness that Jesus Christ lives in me and loves me? What I’m about to embark on, what I’m about to engage in, what I’m about to my name on, what I’m about to invest my energy in, does it allow others to know that Jesus Christ indeed lives in me and that he loves and that he knows and his father knows that I know that he lived and died and lives for me again, and so the actions and the decisions and the choices that I am making glorify God.
Number two. Is what I plan to do against a specific commandment in scripture and would it thus cause me to sin? Not only what I choose to do, but maybe what I don’t choose to do for a scripture says for him that knoweth to do good and does it not, to him the same it is sin.
Number three. Ultimately. All the previous questions lead to this one. Does what I am about to do allow me to glorify God? Remember on Passover evening right here in this room as we read the prayer of Jesus Christ and all the talk about glorification and glory and the glory that Jesus Christ knew and the glory that he wanted the Father to share with him and to share with us. Do we return that thought to our Father? Do we return that thought to our Savior? You see, ultimately, as Christians in our decision making and in our choices it’s not about us, it’s about what God is doing in us and through us and through you and through me. It’s all about God. That’s what Suzanne Lavety said last week, Father, it’s all about you, and I need your spirit to help me make wise choices and good decisions for my life, but you and I have got to allow God to do his work.
As we now move, my friends, towards Pentecost with the encouragement now within us from Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, I want to begin to plant this thought in your mind because we’ll be discussing it more as we go along in these forty days or so. This remember that first fruits put first things first. The jar of life awaits us. As we say amen after this church service. I have a question for you. What are you going to start filling it with? Water? Sand? Gravel? Or rocks? Where do you start? The jar is out there. You’ve got a decision to make.