consequences

Eyes on the Road (The Path of Life)*

Last night Sheila and I watched August: Osago County. It’s a movie based on a play which was based loosely on some members of the scriptwriter's family. It’s about three generations of dysfunction passed along on the Oklahoma plains. Part of the power of the story is that it reminds us how much our families influence us, but you also see moment after moment when a decision is made about how to act or interact, and you can see how moment after moment built this huge wall between people. Our legacies impact us, but our decisions determine our destination.

At one point, the daughters take their drug-addicted mother to the doctor to talk about putting her in a program. On the way home, the mother gets them to stop the car in the middle of a field, and she begins to run. One of the daughters chases her, and when the both finally stop from exhaustion, the script says it’s beneath “an unforgiving sky,” and the daughter says, “There’s no place to run to get away.” I’m grateful that’s not true. As much as we are talking in this series about consequences, I’m grateful that, because of Christ, because of the Holy Spirit, because of the truth in the Bible, and the church, our history is not our destiny.

That movie gave a really honest look at life without Christ. In the end, there’s nowhere to run to get away. But with Christ, we are not trapped inside our family history or inside the cycles we create through our bad decisions. I need to say that before we get into the topic today: the importance of choosing the right path.*

Our text is found in Proverbs 27:12: “The wise see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”  Let’s be honest: don’t we all at some point see the penalty of something coming up and just decide to keep going? Sometimes it’s a minor thing, but other times it's more significant. We know the penalty. We know where this is going. Last week we talked about this as living disconnected lives, as if today has no relevance for tomorrow. We disconnect the moment from the story of our life.

Obviously, as followers of Christ we believe that God forgives us, heals us, puts us back together, and gives us new life. In the spiritual world, God’s grace relieves us of paying the price we deserve for our sin. But in the practical sense of harvesting what we plant, at some point we won’t be able to sidestep the consequences of our choices.

  • Our diet and exercise routine will show up in our weight and/or overall health
  • Our hiddenness or dishonesty with our spouse will lead to a blowup or disconnection
  • Our callous interaction with our kids will leave us wondering why our kids don’t respect us or want to hang out with us
  • Ignoring Biblical boundaries and the nudging of the Holy Spirit will lead us down a road to the heartache and brokenness that sin brings.

God offers to take away the eternal consequence of our sins, but at some point, the inevitable will become the unavoidable. There are two ways to respond.

RESPONSE #1: We can choose to think we are victims when we aren't.

“It’s not fair!” Of course it is. It is entirely fair. We like to say, “I just want what I deserve in life.” Well, here we go. We are harvesting what we planted.

  • “Why did I get pregnant now?”
  • “I don’t understand why we never have enough money!”
  • “Why does everyone else know more about the Bible?”
  • “Why won’t my kids respond better to me?”
  • “I wish I had a spouse I could talk to!”
  • “Why is she so much better at ____ than I am?”

Of course, when other people are involved, some of these questions can reflect what they bring to the relationship (relationships with kids or spouse, for example). And there are truly victims of other people’s decisions - all of us have at some time paid the price for someone else’s sin. There are also times when circumstances out of our control impact us (money or level of talent). But when we make decisions that bring us to destinations we did not want, we are not victims. But if we think we are, we will insist that people forgive us and help us clean up our mess.

Let’s be clear: the Bible calls us to be forgiving people. We are to be generous to those who confess and repent. Holding a grudge is not an option for Christians. But this sermon isn’t about people who need to forgive; it’s about people who need to understand the difference between forgiveness and consequences. Consequences are what happen when you do something. That’s just how God made the world to work. Consequences are what you deserve. Other people wouldn’t have to forgive you if you hadn’t done something worth condemnation. If you suffer the consequences of your actions, no injustice has been done. That’s eminently fair. If you ask someone to forgive you, you need to approach them with the full expectation that consequences will play themselves out.

  • If you stole and you repent, you can be forgiven and still have to pay back the money or go to jail.
  • If you slept around and repent, you can be forgiven and still have to deal with broken hearts, anger, and maybe kids or STD’s.
  • If you spent 18 years creating hostility in your kids and spouse and repent, you can be forgiven and still have to do a lot of hard work rebuilding what you broke.

Forgiveness is amazing – but people have to give it because you did something that was so bad it wouldn’t just go away and be okay. It needed forgiving. You did something that required other people to overcome their selfishness and hurt and betrayal and choose to be selfless and loving instead. When forgiveness happens, you are given a second chance at great cost to the one who gave it to you – but that might mean the practical consequences still unfold. And if they do, that does not mean you have not been forgiven. For those who have given their life to Christ, the eternal spiritual penalty for our sin has been paid by Christ. In that sense, we will never have to suffer what we deserve. But in this life, even forgiven people harvest what they plant.

RESPONSE #2: You can choose to grow up.

“The wise see danger and take refuge.” We have to be thinking ahead!!!

  • When our doctor tells us that our health is in the toilet, we know it’s time to make some lifestyle changes. The wise see the signs ahead of time and take refuge.
  • When our spouse finally drags us into counseling or walks out, we know it’s time to work on our marriage. The wise see the signs ahead of time and take refuge.
  • When we are in the midst of addiction, we know it’s time to start thinking about accountability. The wise see the signs ahead of time and take refuge.
  • When the pregnancy test is positive, we know it’s time to start thinking about our sexual choices, or whether or not we wanted kids. The wise see the signs ahead of time and take refuge.

Rather than getting caught up in trying to justify or blame, you have the opportunity to take a huge step forward by asking this simple question:“In light of my past experience and my future hope, what is the wise thing to do?”*  The wise learn and then plan ahead so they can do something today.

The wise move out from that relationship that dishonors God today. They learned from their past experience (they connect their actions and the consequences), they have a plan for holiness (they aren’t victims), and they act because they know different decisions take them to a different destination.The wise start a budget today,  join an accountability group today,  begin studying today, call a friend for coffee today, take their spouse out on a date and start the hard conversations today, go out of their way to connect with their kids today… \

In the next couple weeks we are going to talk about the importance of truth, submission to Christ, and the importance of Godly friends. But for this week, pray and seek counsel on this area of focus: am I simple or wise? In light of my past experience and future hope, what is the wise thing to do?

“The wise see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” (Proverbs 27:12)

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I am indebted to Andy Stanley's Principles of the Path for the foundational principles in this series. I highly recommend that you buy his book and read it!

The Great Disconnect (The Path of Life)*

We have to be honest about how we got to where we are. We have to own the ways in which we chose to take certain steps, and those steps turned into a journey, and the journey brought us to our destination. Our direction determines our destination.* We often have a pretty good idea about how we want our destination to look, but we undermine the very goals we are trying to reach: 

  • She wants to marry a great Christian guy - but hangs out at night clubs and goes through man after man.
  • He want a great sex life once he’s married - but beds every girl he can.
  • She wants a great relationship with her husband - but prioritizes the kids.
  • She want a great relationship with his kids – but never enters into their world.
  • He want his kids to respect him - but openly flirts with other people or never treats the kids respectfully.
  • He want to develop closeness to God - but spends all her time on the internet or watching football
  • He want to grow old with his wife, kids and grandkids - but neglects his health and his relationship with everyone on that list
  • She wants her children to make God a priority - but skips church all the time and never actually take up a cross and experience the resurrection life in Christ
  • He wants to get a high-paying job - but never works hard or studies.

Then they end up at destinations they don’t want and get bewildered – “How did I get here?” In many ways, they pushed the dominoes. One by one. We have to be honest about how where we are got disconnected from where we want to be. We forget that God has put a principle in place in the world: we will harvest a destination that will match what we planted with our decisions. Our attention determines your decisions, and our decisions determine our destination.

Proverbs 7:6-27 gives us insight into this progression. This passage shows how our current reality is connected to our past decisions. It “connects the dots” by gives us some signs that will warn us when we are moving toward a place we don’t want to be. The writer presents Wisdom and Folly as two different women, one calling us in the direction life in the Kingdom of God, the other calling us to sin and destruction.

"One day I was at the window of my house,
looking out through my lattice shutters, And there among the usual crowd of the gullible people
I spotted a naive young man. He was going down the street near the corner where she lived—that mysterious and evil woman —
taking the road that led directly to her house."

Warning Sign #1: Hanging out with a bad crowd. Warning Sign #2: Being gullible and naïve. Warning Sign #3: Heading down a bad road. This is a bad combination. He is easily deceived - he’s not that good as sensing whether things are heading the wrong way or not. He’s on a road that has an obvious conclusion but is unaware. And the crowd is not providing any good advice for him. If he was even aware and steady he could be with a bad crowd in a bad situation as a holy presence. If he were with a crowd of good friends they would be on a mission trip as they ministered to others in this compromised situation. But none of that is happening. He lacks moral and social common sense. It’s a bad start.

Bad friends will put you into compromising situations so that you will compromise. They will encourage and applaud your downfall. Good friends will walk you through and away from bad situations, and encourage and applaud your honor and integrity.

"At the end of the day, as night approached
and darkness crept in, I saw her! A woman came out to meet him. She was dressed like a prostitute and devious with her affections. Here’s what I know about her: she is loud and obnoxious, a rebel against what is proper and decent."


 Warning Sign #4: Noisy rebellion against all that is proper and decent. I know it’s cool to talk about being rebellious and beating the system and not listening to the man. But you have to rebel against the right things. If I rebel against my doctor’s orders, I’m foolish. If I rebel against the ad campaign that tells me I can go to Vegas and do what I want, I’m wise. I am grieved by all the award shows on TV that reward vulgar language, blatant sexuality and anti-religious sentiment as if somehow saying and doing those things makes the artists exceptional geniuses. “They’re are so cool!” No, they lack social and moral common sense. Time Magazine recently listed 100 movers and shakers. Miley Cyrus was lauded for boldly and smartly recreating herself after her Hannah Montana phase. If you think that shift is heroic, smart or cool, you’ve bought the lie. It’s a tragedy worthy or our tears and prayers.

When rebellion looks sexy and edgy, you’re probably rebelling against the wrong thing. Godly rebellion is a gritty and costly fight the true, good, and noble.

“She’s always on the move—anxious to get out of the house and down the street; at times in the open,
at others lurking around every corner.”

Warning Sign #5: Restlessness instead of peace. She is never satisfied, never at peace, never at rest. Something’s not right. It’s not as if she is restless because she is responding to God’s call, or because she realizes she is wasting her life. No, it’s a restlessness to bring others into her sin. It’s the nature of sin to never be satisfied. C.S. Lewis described it in The Screwtape Letters as “an ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure.

”As I am watching them, she grabs him and kisses him,
then shamelessly tells him: ‘It was my turn to offer a peace offering,
 and today I paid my vows and prepared a feast with my portion, so now I come to see you.
I really want to be with you, and what luck! I have found you! You’ll be impressed. I have decorated my couch,
laid colorful Egyptian linens over where we will be together, and perfumed the bed with exotic oils and herbs: myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon."

Warning Sign #6: When you justify something because other religious people do it. She is apparently Jewish, since she took her peace offering to the temple (she sacrificed something) and returned home with her portion. In other words, she’s an observant Jew. Sin often hides behind religious pretension. “My friends said it was okay, and they go to church.” The mind justifies what the heart desires. Guard your heart and mind.

Warning Sign #7: When someone has to sell you something that shouldn’t need selling. I’ll be honest: if my wife says, “You know, I was thinking…” she doesn’t have to tack on all kinds of extras. I don’t need to be tricked or enticed for sex. I’m not thinking, “I wonder if we have the Egyptian linens and cinnamon.” Satan can never give us something in the fullness of God’s design. Sin always deprives us of the something good in what we pursue. And so it has to make up for it by bringing in all kinds of other good things to prop up the experience when it fails to deliver as promised.

When something that ought to be good and fulfilling on its own merits has to be surrounded by really cool things for it to seem good and fulfilling, that’s a warning sign.

"Come in, and we will be intoxicated with love until sunrise;
we will delight ourselves in our affections. You don’t need to worry; my husband is long gone by now,
away from home on a distant journey. He took a bag of money with him,
 so I don’t expect him home until next month."

Warning Sign #8: The allure of penalty-free sin. It’s so easy to think, “Well, what I’m about to do won’t hurt anybody. We are both adults and we agreed. I can do this with no consequences.” But sin always has wages; it will pay you for the work you do in its service. Sin promises short-term pleasure at the expense of long term joy, but you will eventually harvest what you plant.

"It worked! She enticed him with seductive words, seduced him with her smooth talk. Right away he followed her home.
He followed her like a bull being led to the slaughter,
like a deer heading toward a trap, like a bird flying straight into a net.
 He had no clue his life was at stake; everything was about to change. This is why it is so important that you listen to me, my sons,
and pay attention to all I am telling you. Do not let your mind wonder about her ways;
do not lose yourself and drift down her path, for she’s claimed one life after another,
victim after victim, too many to count. Her house is the gateway to the grave;
every step toward her is a step toward death’s dark chamber."

Our decisions determine our destination. We have to be honest about how the choices we’ve made have influenced where we are. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – God is for you. He has revealed principles in the Bible that are for our benefit. God does not want you to end up in the dark chamber of spiritual death.

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* I have pulled the main principle in this series from Andy Stanley's book Principles of the Path. I highly recommend that you read it!