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The Way that Seems Right Unto Men

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The Way that Seems Right Unto Men

                                                                                               

Text: Proverbs 14:12; Jude 11

Theme: The Christian's motto must be semper reformanda   always reforming. It is a lifelong duty to conform one's belief's to the Word of God, to always be growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the intrepid adventurer Indiana Jones is searching for the Holy Grail   the cup that Jesus supposedly blessed and drank from during the Last Supper.  Of course the Nazis are hot on his heals every step of the way, and eventually catch up with him forcing Indiana Jones to work for them. When they finally find the cave that holds the chalice, they discover that it is guarded by a Knight from the First Crusade, who has been miraculously kept alive for 900 years by the power of the Grail.

The problem is that the true Grail is hidden among many false cups, and they have to make a decision   which cup is the true Grail? The Knight informs them that they must choose wisely. Drinking from the true Grail will bring them everlasting life, but drinking from one of the false cups will bring them death. One of the Nazis, chooses a golden, bejeweled cup that he is sure must be the true Grail and drinks from it. But he suddenly realizes that the Grail is false, and he dies a horribly gruesome death right before everyone's eyes. At that point, the Knight utters the best line in the whole movie: "He choose ... poorly."

All of us, every day, make decisions. Some of those decisions have little if no real consequences in life:

Do I have Tuna fish or egg salad for lunch?

Do I buy the fire-engine red or the pearl-white automobile?

Do I get the 160 gigabyte or the 300 gigabyte hard drive in the new computer?

Do I watch ABC or FOX news?

Do I cut the grass this evening or wait until tomorrow?

On the other hand, some decisions have huge consequences in life:

Where will I go to college and what degree will I pursue?

Do I join the military or go into the secular work place?

What do I do as my life's vocation?

Where will I live?

Who will I marry?

These decisions are a little bit more important, and if you choose poorly, can adversely affect you for a lifetime.

Solomon was a man who, when God promised to grant him anything he wanted, asked God for wisdom. God did grant Solomon wisdom, and much of it comes to us through his Book of Proverbs. But, for being such a wise man, Solomon still made some very poor decisions. There were times when he gave in to the flesh, and made decisions that were guided by his human spirit rather than the Holy Spirt. Those decisions that Solomon made while he was under the allurement of his flesh seemed right to him at the time. But I believe that in Solomon's later years he looked back and realized that apart from God, our decision-making processes, even though they appear right at the time, will eventually and ultimately lead to destruction. And that is what caused him to write this proverb.

Solomon teaches us that there are ways   pathways in life   that seem right to us, but which in the long run are not. How do we make wise decisions in life? Let me give you some help by giving you some diagnostic questions to ask yourself.

I. QUESTION #1: What Does the Bible Say About It?

1. since the Bible compares our life here on earth as walking along a pathway, we need to make sure that we can see where we are going

ILLUS. Driving down Hwy. 100 at night at 65 MPH with your headlight off is, at the least foolish, and at the worst, deadly.

2. the same could be said by living life without the illumination of the Word of God

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path."  (Psalm 119:105 NLT)

3. making major life decisions without referring to the illuminating Word of God is almost like trying to put something together without referring to the manual

a. men are especially prone to do this, I know I am

b. the phrase some assembly required makes our wives shutter at the thought of what is about to ensue

c. how many times, guys, do we get whatever-it-is all put together and looks great, but then we realize we have some parts left over?

1) what that should tell us is that it isn't put together the way it was designed to, and it might be unstable

4. making life choices without consulting the Bible can lead to a very unstable life because you are not following the Creator's instruction manual

a. there are many things in this life that aren't 100% guaranteed, but I can tell you with 100% assurance that if you are faced with a choice that contradicts the Bible, then it is NOT God's will for your life

b. I have repeatedly told you from this pulpit that God has an opinion about every area of life

1) the goal of Christian maturity is to discover what God thinks and conform our life to it

c. the Christian's motto must be semper reformanda   "always reforming"

1) this was a phrase that came out of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century

2) it is a lifelong duty of the Christian to adjust one's belief's and behavior to the Word of God

3) we must always be growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ so that we might have the mind of Christ

d. God's will for your life and His Word will never contradict themselves

5. so what happens if I don't find a solid answer in the Bible?

a. what should you do in those cases?

b. that's where the rest of our diagnostic questions come in

II. QUESTION #2: Am I Willing To Pray About It?

1. let me just say first, praying and searching the Bible should go hand in hand

2. God recognizes that we don't know everything

a. but God is omniscient, which means He knows everything

3. the reason some of us don't know what to do is because we never took the time to ask God

"If you need wisdom   if you want to know what God wants you to do   ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking."  (James 1:5)

ILLUS: Ladies, have you ever been on a road trip with you husband and gotten lost, but your husband insists he knows where he is. Guys, why do we insist on spending 2-3 times longer trying to find the way ourselves instead of pulling over and asking someone who knows?

4. if you don't know the answer ask

a. as far as God is concerned, the only dumb question is the one you don't ask

III. QUESTION #3: Do I Have an Uneasy Conscience about It?

1. before we really get into this area of conscience, we need to understand what our conscience is

a. it is not Jiminy Cricket whispering in our ear

b. it is not an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other that helps us weigh our choices

c. and it is vitally important not to confuse our conscience and the Holy Spirit

1) everyone   even the lost person   has a conscience, but only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have the Holy Spirit

2. our conscience is an internal mechanism that God implanted in us to provide some kind of moral restraint upon His creation

a. our conscience functions upon a value system that we have adopted for ourselves

1) the question is what do you value?

2) as Christians, we are to value the things of God   His will, His agendas, His commands, His ways, His statutes

3. that's why seeking God in prayer and in His Word is so important, because it is His value system that we will learn as a result

a. if your conscience is not illuminated by and guided by the Word and the Spirit you will undoubtedly make poor choices in life

b. that is why Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth"My conscience is clear, but that isn't what matters. It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide." ( 1 Corinthians 4:4)

4. if after looking in God's Word and seeking God in prayer, you have an uneasy conscience about something, that could be an indicator not to choose a particular pathway

IV. QUESTION #4: Could this Decision Have a Negative Affect on Me or Someone Else?

1. the decisions and choices we make not only affect us, but those around us

ILLUS. This was King David's great blunder, was it not? He never asked himself the question, "How will my affair with Bath-Sheba affect others?"

2. the Bible clearly teaches that we should always be mindful of other people

"Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble." (1 Corinthians 8:13, NASB95)

a. the Apostle Paul was willing to sacrifice his Christian liberty for the sake of someone else's spiritual development

3. if it's going to hurt someone else or impact them in a spiritually negative way don't do it

V. QUESTION #5: Am I Willing to be Patient?

"It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city."   Proverbs 16:32 NLT

1. snap or impulsive decisions are not always the best decisions to make

a. the American psyche has as its motto: "I want what I want and I want it NOW!"

b. we've become a people consumed by the desire for instant or almost instant gratification

2. the Bible teaches that it is better to be patient and have self-control than power or immediate gratification

a. the lack of patience has made its impact on many pocketbooks

b. the inability for self-control or self-discipline has ruined many a life

3. let me illustrate:

ILLUS: You leave home, intending just to go buy some groceries, but on the way to the store, you have to drive past the shopping mall. You think to yourself, "I wonder if there are any good sales going on?"  You decide on the spur of the moment to go browse the mall. As you walk through the halls, enticing displays from the stores catch your eye, and you feel almost driven to check them out. Two hours later, you walk out of the mall carrying bags of items that cost you $200.

After the mall stop, you head on over to buy groceries. You had in your mind what you intended to purchase, and therefore did not make out a list. As you walk up and down the isles, items catch your attention, and you put some of those into the shopping cart, thinking this cannot really hurt anything. After all, the munchies sure do sound good and you have to eat. You come out with lots more groceries than you meant to get, spending $125 rather than the $70 you'd planned on.

Now you are hungry, having been gone hours longer than you anticipated. So you go through Sonic get lunch.

After lunch, you realize that you meant to stop for gas on your way to the grocery store, but because you got side-tracked at the mall, you forgot, and by the time you remember, gas has shot up ten cents and now it costs you three dollars more to fill up your tank than it would have that morning.                           

When you get home, you get everything put away and check out what you've bought, you're astonished. Looking at the receipts, you are shocked at the amount you spent in just one day! Now you start worrying about how you're going to pay your other bills, and have enough money left to do until the next payday.

4. this happens to a lot of people all the time, and then they wonder how they get into financial trouble and into debt so quickly

a. (some of you are looking a little sheepish right now)!

VI. QUESTION #6: Is My Motive Pure?

"For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil." (James 3:15 NLT)

1. is the decision you are about to make one with a pure heart, or you are trying to "settle the score" with someone who hurt you?

2. our court system and jails are full of people who made a bad decision due to impure motives

a. because they didn't step back from their emotions and think things through they have forevermore altered their life

ILLUS. I don't remember how many years ago it's been, but some time back, Linda and I, along with some other couples and about a dozen High School kids went to the maximum security prison in Jefferson City. There several inmates talked to the kids about their lives and making right choices. We were taken on a tour of the prison and introduced to several other inmates. I'll never forget one young man. He was eighteen or nineteen years old. He was serving life for murder. At the end of the conversation he tugged at his prison-issued shirt and said: "I made one bad decision ... " and his voice tailed off as he choked up.

b. in the heat of the moment he acted on an impure motive and now he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison

3. we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves when it come to our motives

"But you know my heart, Lord. You see me and test my thoughts about you ... " (Jeremiah 12:3, NCV)

a. Jeremiah is saying, "Lord, you know me inside and out. You don't let me get by with a thing!"

b. you'll never be able to hide the real reason you're doing something from God so you might as well be honest with yourself as to why you're about to make the decision you're going to make

VII. QUESTION #7: Can I live with the consequences?

“A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences." - Proverbs 22:3 NLT

1. just as we are never free from choices, we will never be free from the repercussions or consequences of those choices

2. for His Children, God has designed life to be a fulfillment of his promises

a. but the way these promises are fulfilled is up to us

b. we make a decision, and God determines the consequence

1) for example, if we confess our sins, he cleanses us and our fellowship with him prevails

2) if we do not confess, we are not cleansed and consequences of grief prevail

3. decision and consequence, decision and consequence, decision and consequence all of life results from our decisions

a. the believer is free to make decisions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our decisions

b. the consequences are determined by God's word and his fulfilling of his Word

4. if you will regularly employ these seven questions, you will regularly make wise decisions that bring blessing to you and those around you

Let me end by saying a word first to believers and then to non-believers. First to the believer. What do you do if you've chosen poorly and you're reaping the consequences of a bad decision?

Failures are transformed or not depending on the state of our hearts.

Some people drench failure with clever euphemisms, wiggle out of responsibility, circumvent consequences, and scatter blame with liberality.

God requires a radically different response to failure: Failures must be named and consequences must be accepted.

Forgiving, restorative grace then is given in response to sorrowful repentance. A new kind of usefulness is proffered. Moses, Abraham, David, Jonah, and Simon Peter are all examples of those who turned their failures into great transformational moments.

That is the style of the redeeming Lord, the way of Jesus in His relationships, and the style the Holy Spirit presses upon the church. To put it another way, just when you think the worst has happened, God plays the trick of grace and produces a marvelous surprise for the good of the kingdom.

Now let me speak to the non-believer   the lost person   the one who has never openly professed faith in the risen Savior. The most important question you have to ask yourself this morning is: What have I done with Jesus?  Jesus also taught that, in entering the Kingdom of God, we must choose wisely.  

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14, NASB95)

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