In Tense – Part 1
January 18, 2004
[The stage is divided in two, from the ceiling to the floor and across the floor, by a giant white line. Ed uses the line as an illustration throughout this series]
You might be wondering why we have the giant line down the middle of the stage. I’m in a brand new series called Multiple Choice, and we’re going to find out that decision making is all about knowing where the line is and processing the decision making line. Last time we looked at the life of Jesus, and we established the fact that decision making is a process. It’s not just an event. It’s a process followed by an event. We got into Christ’s mind, so to speak, and we saw how he went through the process of making decisions. We talked about three macro questions that Jesus asked himself. He asked, “Is it written?” He also asked, “Is it about love?” And also, he asked, “Is it on my Father’s agenda?”
We said that God wants all of us to become great decision makers, and we can become that as we get involved in this process. All of us in this room, I think, have made dumb, “What was I thinking?“ decisions. All of us have. There are cars we shouldn’t have leased, people we shouldn’t have dated, trips we shouldn’t have taken, deals we shouldn’t have done, or substances we shouldn’t have used and abused. We all have a laundry list of dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions. I know I do. We all do. That’s part of life.
Today we’re going to find out why we make dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions. And then we’ll discover how to have true insight, discernment and knowledge in order to become the best decision makers possible; because our decisions determine our destiny. We are the sum total of the choices that we make. Too many of us, though, are swimming laps of regret in the pool of remorse, in the pool of “If only.” We are saying, “If only I could go back in the past.” “If only I could take a Mulligan.” (Golfers understood that.) “If only I could have a chance to rewrite what I messed up.” If only…if only…if only….
It’s time to jump out of the pools of regret and live the kind of life that Christ wants. Because Jesus does not want us bar-b-queing on the deck of the pool, turning those “If onlys” over and over on the rotisserie grill of our mind. He doesn’t want us to live like that. He wants us to make awesome decisions. And decision making is all about the line.
This line on stage represents a good decision or a bad decision; ethical behavior or unethical behavior; morality or immorality. I’ll just give you a snippet of what I’m going to talk about next week. Next week I’m going to talk about the fact that too many believers walk the thin, in this case, white line. We walk right on the edge of righteousness and sin, right on the edge of good decisions and bad decisions, right on the edge of morality and immorality, right on the edge of what is ethical and unethical, and we rob ourselves of the amazing life that Jesus wants us to live. Christ wants us to live over here (the righteous side of the line). He doesn’t want us to walk on the ragged edge of compromise. Why do so many walk here? It’s because we don’t know how to make insightful and wise decisions. But today we’re going to turn that around. Today there is help for all of us.
Speaking about dumb decisions, Lisa and I were talking about dumb decisions that we’ve made in our life. We’ve been married for 22 years. We have an amazing marriage, a great marriage, but I will tell you this. We made a dumb decision before we were married. We dated for six years prior to becoming husband and wife. Yet, we did not receive premarital counseling. That was a dumb decision. We should have gotten premarital counseling because the first seven years of our marriage were pretty tough. We had some potholes, some times where we were in the deep weeds. We could have avoided all those traps had we walked into a Christian counselor’s office. I want to challenge you if marriage is on the radar screen to seek Christian counseling. Go to our Nearly Wed/Newly Wed class offered here. Even if you’ve been married for 22 years or 42 years, seek Christian counseling. We’re going to find out over the course of the next several weeks that part of awesome decision making is receiving awesome counseling. And our problem is, so often, we seek counsel in the wrong places. We’re going to find out, though, how to seek counsel in the right places. That was, though, a dumb decision that Lisa and I made.
Well, let’s go back to dumb decisions, and let’s look at this question that is kind of hanging out there. This question I’ve talked about already two or three times. Why? Why do we make dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions?
Well, the book of Proverbs answers that question. The book of Proverbs, a book all about wisdom and discernment and insight and knowledge, tells us straight up why we make dumb decisions. Basically, we make dumb decisions because we reside, we camp out in three locations.
THE CAMP OF THE IN-EXPERIENCED
The first location is the location I’ll call the inexperienced camp. We just put up our tent in the inexperienced camp. And we’ve all been inexperienced at some point. Some of you right now who are hearing my voice are inexperienced. The book of Proverbs calls someone who is experienced naïve or simple.
Let’s check out Proverbs 1:22. The writer says, “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?” It is asking, “How long will you be simple? How long will you be naïve? How long will you be inexperienced?” I think you know where I’m going here. I’m talking specifically now to the student – the junior high and the high school student. Maybe you just graduated from high school. I’m talking to someone who is young, inexperienced.
Proverbs Chapter 1:32–33 reads, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them…but whoever listens to me (this is wisdom talking) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
The inexperienced person sees the line. They see a good decision and they see a bad decision. They hear advice. They hear wisdom from maybe a pastor, or a mom, or a dad, but here is what they say, “You’re yelling at me.” They say, “I’m fifteen years old. I know the score. I’ll do what I want to do! Don’t cloud me with the facts. I’ll determine my own destiny! I know what’s going on.”
And then they step over the line. They’re inexperienced. They’ve not lived life long enough to come full force with the consequences of their dumb decisions. People warn them. People say, “You’re messing up.” People say, “It’s unwise.” People say, “Don’t go there. I’m telling you, you’ll end up in the deep weeds.” But the inexperienced person says, “I’m going to do it.” They don’t listen to advice. They don’t listen to wisdom. That’s why the writer of Proverbs says they’re inexperienced. They tell people, “Hey, you’re overreacting. Let me do my deal. I know what’s going on. I’m seventeen, man.”
What are some dumb decisions? Well, let’s talk about sex. We’re sexual beings. We have sexual drives. Sex is God given, and God says, “Do sex my way.”
Inexperienced people say, though, “You know what, I’m going to do sex my way because the culture tells me just to have sex with whoever, whenever. So, I’ll ump in this bed or that bed. There are no consequences. I’ll just have sex.” And junior high and high school students, man, they’re having sex. Read the statistics. Sex is here, sex is there, sex is everywhere. But you’re inexperienced. You’ve not lived long enough. You’re not forty years old, and you’ve not looked into the eyes of your spouse and been embarrassed or lied about all your sexual liaisons. Young lady, you’re not old enough yet to look into the eyes of your fourteen year old who asks, “Mom, how far did you go before you were married?” You’ve not lived life long enough yet.
Sometimes, when I’m walking around through Dallas or Fort Worth, I’ll see some young people, junior high and high school students smoking. Let me tell you, young people, what I am not thinking, okay? I’m not thinking, “Man, they are so cool smoking. Boy, I wish I could be that cool. Boy, they’re really with it, huh?”
No, I’m not thinking that. Let me tell you what I am thinking: “What an idiot!”
But I know they’re simple. I know they’re naïve. I know they’re inexperienced. You see, you’ve not lived long enough yet to cough up part of your lung. You’ve not lived long enough yet to walk into a doctor’s office and doctor says, “Guess what. You only have a month to live because the cigarettes have killed you.”
So, you make dumb decisions. You don’t listen to counsel. You don’t listen to wisdom. You say, “Everybody’s overreacting, that they’re wheels off. I know the score and I’ll just do what I want to do.” You see the line, but you’re young and you’ve not seen the consequences yet. You’ve not lived long enough yet.
Well, let’s go back to Proverbs 9:6, “Leave your simple ways and you’ll live; walk in the way of understanding.”
That’s the advice. That’s what the writer of Proverbs is telling those in our midst who are in the inexperienced camp. Listen to advice. Listen to wisdom. Listen. Listen.
When I was growing up I never went through that cocaine-snorting, skirt-chasing, beer-drinking, party-going rebellious deal. I never did. I learned at a young age the deep value of making great decisions.
Don’t think, “Wow Ed, man, you’re such a spiritual stud. That’s awesome. Let me just give you a round of applause.” No. No, no, no. It’s a God thing. But right behind that, it’s a leadership thing. My parents were leaders. As a kid growing up, church attendance was not an option. They didn’t ask, “Son, how do you feel about going to church this morning? Do you want to? We’ll do whatever you want to do.”
It was more like, “Ed, you’re going to church.”
Sure, I’d complain sometimes, “But, Mom! Dad’s sermons boring!”
But they would just say, “I don’t care.”
“But, Mom, my friends aren’t at youth group.”
“I don’t care.”
“But, Mom… but Mom.”
I was in church. I was there. There was not an option. I was in church and while I was in church, I listened…some of the time. I heard stories about David and Joshua and Solomon and Deborah; Priscilla and Aquila and the Apostle Paul and Simon Peter. I heard about these people, these men and women, and I read about the great decisions they made. And, because the Bible keeps it real, I also read about the dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions that they made. And I said to myself, “I’m not going to go there. I think I’ll live on this side of the line. Not perfect, but I’m going to choose, I’m going to decide the best.”
When people would come through the church and give their testimony, they would share about how God had worked in their lives. And they would share about how they had been living life on the wrong side of the line and how they had wasted decades of time chasing this and chasing that and doing this and doing that. When I heard all of these stories I said to myself, “I’m not going to go there. They messed up. They wasted their life. Some of their relationships were ruined. Some of their friends never came back. I’m not going to go there.”
I know that parenting is difficult. I know the struggles that come with the territory. But parents, make sure that you have your children in church. Make sure they hear age appropriate biblical teaching.
Now, I love extracurricular activities. I think they are important for your child’s development. I’m all into sports, the arts, singing, dancing, drawing, and painting. Those activities are all great. However, parents, you have a huge decision to make. When the ECA’s, that’s extracurricular activities, when those ECA’s begin to encroach upon your family’s involvement in the local church, a huge choice needs to be made. I mean a monster decision. Because all the stuff your child is learning in the ECA’s will not give them the juice he or she needs to make the discerning and wise decisions. The stuff they learn here (at church), I’m not talking about just worship, but I’m also talking about youth activities. I’m talking about children’s ministries. The stuff they learn in those venues will give them the octane to become great decision makers. You are looking at a product of that, me. And there are many others here who are a product of that. It’s a God thing. Also, it’s a parent thing and it’s a peer thing. You better believe it. You can bet your bottom dollar that it’s a church thing.
Parents, please, if you are inexperienced, hey, let me just say please to you. This is for all of the inexperienced people. Here is the big word: Trust. Trust God. God’s ways are higher than our ways. God never asks us to sacrifice just for sacrifice sake. He’s not a cosmic kill joy, inexperienced ones. When God asks you and me to sacrifice, he always has an excellent plan, an awesome agenda on the horizon. Trust God. Trust his book. His guidelines are for our best. And trust your parents. Trust the God-given, integrity-driven leaders that God has placed in your child’s path. Trust the ones who love the Lord, who love your child. Listen to advice. Maybe you’re in the inexperienced camp, I don’t know. The big word is “trust.”
THE CAMP OF THE IN-DIFFERENT
There is another camp that causes all of us to make dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions; and we’ve all been there before. I know I have in this next camp. It’s called the camp of the indifferent. The book of Proverbs calls this camp, the camp of the fools. Let’s go ahead and read.
Proverbs 10:23, “A fool…” Oh, this is hard here, “…finds pleasure in evil conduct…” If you’re a fool, if you’re making decisions in this camp, then dumb decisions, evil pleasure is just like a sport to you – an extreme sport. Fools think, “Yeah! Evil conduct! Yeah, man, party!”
The inexperienced person sees the line, says that other people are overreacting, and then just makes dumb decisions. In this camp, the indifferent, they’re warned. “Hey, if you keep doing this to your spouse, do you realize what’ll happen to your marriage?” They say, “I don’t care.” “Hey, if you keep on treating your kids like this, do you realize what’ll happen to them.” Still they say, “I don’t care.” “Hey, if you realize…” And they say, “I don’t care.” “If you spend your money so recklessly…” And again they say, “I don’t care. I’ve read the warning label. I don’t care. I’m going to do what I want to do.” You’re a fool. Foolish and indifferent.
[The verse reads] “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct,” I don’t care, “but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.”
Close your ears if you have a squeamish stomach for this next one. Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
Now, I’ve seen dogs eat vomit. It’s not pretty. I’ve got a lot of dogs, a lot of massive dogs that I talk about often. My parents, years ago, gave us a dog named Brute. Today he weighs about 160 pounds. Brute loves to camp out in our driveway and he looks like a big log. He’s purebred, but he’s as dumb at a stump. Here’s the thing about Brute. Brute will not move when you drive in our driveway. You can honk. He has great hearing. You can ease your car up. You can even yell at him, “Brute! Get out of the way!” But he just sits there like a log. I sometimes have to physically move him. I can’t pick him up, but just I can push against him to get him out of the way.
I told you awhile back that Lisa ran over him inadvertently. This dog had tire tracks on his back legs. But he just shook it off. And guess where Brute ended up. Right back in the driveway! Then, a couple of months ago, she ran over Brute again. This time he got trapped beneath her SUV. He was flailing underneath the car, so she had to run over him again to get him untangled. This time, he had tire a track over his back. I kid you not. But, he just shook it off and then drank some water. This afternoon when I come home, where do you think Brute will be? The driveway. I’ll honk the horn but he won’t move.
I’m a lot like Brute and so are you when we’re foolish. Maybe it should say, “As a dog returns to his own driveway,” maybe that’s better, “so a fool repeats his folly.” We’re like that, aren’t we? God honks the horn and warns us. Then we get run over and start yelping, “Okay!” But then we go right back to the same thing. We’re foolish. The book of Proverbs says we’re foolish. We’re indifferent. We read the warning sign, we hear the horn, and we see the car coming but we just say, “I don’t care.”
Proverbs 13:20 is a scary verse. “He who walks with the wise grows wise…” Who do run with? Who do you hang with? Are they wise people? I don’t mean IQ wise. I’m talking about real wisdom, real knowledge, and real discernment – wisdom from above. [The verse continues] “…But a companion of fools suffers harm.”
See, we know the fools suffer harm. But a companion of fools also suffers harm. You might be dating someone who’s a fool. Maybe you’re not a fool but they are. If you’re their companion, then you could suffer harm. Maybe you worked at a company, and the company was run by a fool and it caused you to lose your retirement. The Bible says, “A companion of fools suffers harm.” Maybe your father, a long time ago, bolted on your mom and your brothers and sisters, and you’re still trying to process the pain. I don’t care what he says; a companion of fools suffers harm. Don’t get into a car with a bunch of fools. Don’t go to a party with a bunch of fools. Stay away from fools. They suffer harm. They read the warning label. They ignore it. They say, “I don’t care.”
What does Proverbs say about a fool? Proverbs says there is one way for a fool to leave the camp, to pack up his or her tent and to move. That is when the fool comes into full contact with the consequences of his or her behavior. When they hit the force and the consequences of their behavior head on, only then, the writer of Proverbs says, they will turn and look for true wisdom, discernment and knowledge.
THE CAMP OF THE INDIGNANT
See how these camps are progressive? First you’ve got the inexperienced. And if you stay there too long you can segue into the indifferent. And this third camp is a camp that very few of us reside in, but I’ve got to talk about it because the Bible talks about it. It’s the camp of the indignant. In your Bible, it might say the “mocker” or the “scoffer.”
Proverbs 14:6 reads, “The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none…” The mocker is clueless, careless, and critical. The inexperienced person sees the line and crosses it; he doesn’t listen to advice. The indifferent sees the line but says, “Whatever.” To the scoffer or the mocker, the line is invisible. They don’t even know where it is.
What’s a scoffer or a mocker? What does someone who is indignant look like if they live in this camp? They are the people who are just vicious. They are the people who jump in their car after church and say, “Yeah, the church is just full of hypocrites, man! All they wants my money! It’s just a show.”
Don’t try to trade insults with them. Don’t try to argue with them. Love them because indignant people are hurt people. I’ve discovered this about hurt people. Look beyond them trying to hurt you or hurt the cause of Christ, and look at the person. You’ll find someone who is miserable. And the mocker and scoffer, they flip-off Christians. They flip-off the church. They’re the judge and jury, and they think they know the score.
You know what the book of Proverbs says about them? Many of them have gone so far away and the line is so invisible that many of them are beyond help. Isn’t that tragic? There’s a time, Jesus said, where a person can so reject, can so turn their back, can become so critical and condescending toward the church and the things of God that one day, Jesus says, the head of the household (that’s God) will close the door on those trying to get in. And at that time they will not be able to get in anymore. That’s a hard saying of Jesus. I don’t like saying that, but that’s just the fact.
Let’s keep going. Proverbs 9:7-8. I’ve already talked about this, but, “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult…” Don’t do that. Do love and pray for the mocker. [The verse continues] “…Whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”
“Well, how about the mocker, Ed?” you may ask. Hey, if you are a mocker today, if you are indignant, and if you see you’re in this camp, that’s a good thing. That means there’s hope for you, and you can turn and leave the camp.
THE CAMP OF INSIGHT
Let’s start at the beginning. If you’re inexperienced, do you know what you can do? You can experience the grace and the mercy of Jesus Christ. If you’re indifferent, you can experience the difference that Jesus makes in your decision making. If you’re indignant, you need dignity. You can discover the dignity that only the Lord will give. And then we can move out of these camps and move to the ultimate camp. That’s like a KOA deal here: The camp of insight. That’s the goal. That’s where God wants you and me to live; the camp of insight.
Many of you are asking, “Now, what is insight, Ed?” Well, the book of Proverbs talks about it. It talks about knowledge. It talks about prudence. It talks about discernment. It talks about wisdom. That’s what we need: The camp of insight.
The apostle Paul nut-shelled it for us right here in Philippians 1:9 (NKJV). He said, “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge…” What’s knowledge? It’s information; knowledge of the word of God. “…and in all discernment…” What’s discernment? It’s the ability to choose the right option, to comprehend what is obscure. Those who have insight from God can comprehend things that are obscure to the world. We can make decisions on another level.
Look at verse 10, “…That you may approve the things that are excellent…” That’s the kind of life that Christ wants us to live – the life of excellence. [The verse continues] “…That you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”
That’s the potential that all of us have. If we’re inexperienced, we can leave that camp. If we’re indifferent, we can leave that camp. If we’re indignant, we can leave that camp and discover the great decision making that the Lord has for us.
What if, though, we come to a decision that is not specifically addressed in the Bible? What do we do? Decision making is intense. And once we’re intense, we can be in line with God. But it’s intense. What do we do? Well, we ask ourselves the macro questions. We talked about that last week. That one thing. Ask, “Is it written? Is it love? Is it in the plan?” But also, we need to ask ourselves some micro questions. And here’s how this question goes. Stay with me. “Against the back drop of my past, considering my present day situation and thinking about my future goals, dreams, and aspirations, what is the most discerning decision for me to make?” What did I say? You see, I talked about the tenses: past, present and future. And we’ll really get into that next week; that’s where we’re going.
I’ve noticed something about dumb decisions that people make, and I’ve made some. But I’ve seen some make a series of dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions. These people seem to be smart, intelligent and have everything going, but they keep making dumb decision after dumb decision. Why? Well, are they just like walking the line one day and then just go, “Whoa, I just fell over the line!” No, it’s complex. There’s a process involved. Because behind every dumb decision, there was a series of unwise choices that were like a domino effect that led the person over the line. And next week we’ll talk about that.
Let’s pray together. God, thank you for this message. Thank you for your truth. Thank you for your insight and discernment. It’s my prayer for my own life and every life here that we would seek you, that we would follow you so we can become the best decision makers possible. God, give us insight. Give us knowledge and discernment. For those here who are inexperienced, God, may they have an experience with you. May they trust your wisdom and guidance. For those who are fools, God, those who are indifferent, I pray as they experience the full force of their consequences that they would turn to you and leave that camp and get out of the pool of regret and remorse. For those, God, here who are indignant, show them the dignity that only you can give. Bring us back next time, Father, as again we talk about those micro decisions, those unwise decisions that we need to watch out for so we can make the best decisions possible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.