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TEXT: Romans 8:28-29
SUBJECT: Gospel Changes Everything #28: Bad Decisions
For the last several months we have been spending our Sunday afternoons applying the Gospel to as many areas of life as I can think of. Some parts are distinctly religious-like praying, reading the Bible, and witnessing. Others are more secular-like working, paying your bills, or watching the news. The Gospel redeems and changes every one of these things-and all the rest as well.
We cannot be too thankful for the Gospel! We cannot apply it to too many parts of life. Like other preachers, I sometime exaggerate for effect, but not here: the Gospel changes everything. Without exception.
THE GENERAL TOPIC
Making decisions is a big part of life. Some of the decisions are momentous, others are less important, but no day passes without making them. A lot of them. Every day till you die.
Some of the decisions you make are good ones. You bought your place right before the housing boom, and now it's worth four times what you paid for it. Or, you married the girl of your dreams, and thirty years later, she means more to you than ever. Or, you took the job way back when, and now you know it is your calling in life. Nothing makes you happier than good decisions.
But let's face it: Not every decision you've made in life was a good one. Some were flat-out sinful: you didn't care what the Lord wanted you to do and now, you wish you had. Your rotten choice has produced nothing but bitter and poisonous fruit.
This is a vital topic. But not the one we're going to take up today. You know what the Gospel says to this kind of bad decision. It says, for Christ's sake, God has forgiven your sins, given you His Spirit, and is renewing your life. In spite of what you've done in the past.
THE SPECIFIC TOPIC
The bad decisions I'm thinking of at the moment are the more innocent ones. You thought about them, prayed about them, sought good wise counsel-and still did the wrong thing!
Not 'wrong' in the sense of 'sinful'. But 'wrong' in the sense of 'not turning out well'.
For example, you bought a home when the housing market was at its height. If you'd waited six months, you could have gotten it for half the price. It was a bad decision.
Or, you turned down a good job because you thought you'd get a better one. You didn't, and now you've got no job.
Or, you married a man you took for 'godly', only to discover that his holiness is legalism and now you're trapped in a prison of guilt and criticism.
The one that so many middle-aged Christian parents feel. We tried to bring up our kids in the fear of God, but now, looking back, we see that we were too hard on them, mean and nitpicking. We didn't intend to be this way-honestly, we didn't. But we were. And now our kids don't love us. Or God.
We've all made bad decisions.
Some bad choices are unpleasant in their effect; others are more serious; and some are catastrophic! We, or other people, are suffering mightily because of a wrong choice we made back in the day. And, no matter how sorry we are, or what we do to correct it or to make up for it, the choice cannot be unmade.
You can't 'unbuy' the house; the job's not there anymore; the girl of your dreams married someone else; you can't give your son his childhood back! You've made your bed; now you've got to lie in it!
Thank God, the Resurrection undoes all the stupid and sinful things we've done. But we're not resurrected yet. And we may have to live with our mistakes until we are.
For some people, bad decisions lead to a crisis of self-confidence. Because they've messed up in the past, they're unable to make decisions in the present. They need a job, but they're too scared to apply for one.
For some, bad decisions create an unbearable home life. A man makes a mistake and his wife never lets him hear the end of it. The more aggressive she becomes, the more he pulls back into his shell, and now he can't do anything.
Our bad decisions can even make us doubt God. 'Why did the Lord let me down?' we wonder. 'I prayed my heart out for wisdom and felt He was leading me to do what I did, but it was the worst decision I ever made'. I did what Proverbs 3:5 told me to do-
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not unto your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him.
But for all that, He didn't-
Direct my paths.
Bad decisions can ruin you for life financially. They can scar your kids permanently. They can break up your marriage. And you can make them with a tender heart and a good conscience! You don't have to be willful, stubborn, stupid or defiant to make them! Alexander Pope was right-
To err is human.
EMPATHYSome bad decisions cannot be hidden. Your friends and family will know you've messed up and come to you with empathy and advice.
The empathy is most welcome! The Bible commands us to-
Be kindly affectioned to one another, to weep with those who weep, and to, Bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
When our Lord met suffering people, He didn't ask if they brought it on themselves, and jump all over them when they did. He was-
Moved with compassion.
Job's friends get a very bad rap, and deservedly so, for the most part. In the words of the suffering saint, they were-
But they didn't start off this way. Go back and read the story and you'll find that when they first saw his appalling plight, covered with boils sitting on a heap of garbage, they-
Lifted up their voices, tore their robes, put dust on their heads, and sat with him on the ground for seven days, without speaking a word.
When you see people suffering, advice is not your first duty-and neither is rebuke or a plan for a fixing things! Your first is compassion, to enter into his suffering, to be like Jesus, who didn't tell men how to fix themselves, but suffered and died alongside us. And for us.
For one week, Job's friends were worthy of the name. Sitting quietly with their brother, they were friends indeed. But they couldn't keep their mouths closed! They had to 'fix' him. They didn't know how, of course, but they had to try.
When you've messed up royally, some of your friends and family will be sure to tell you. As though you don't already know it, they've got to be sure to impress upon you the fact that you did it, you're solely responsible for what you did, and you've brought down a world of pain on the people you love most.
Everything they say is true. But nothing is helpful. Paul said-
Rebuke the proud,
Comfort the weak.
Not 'gang up on the weak' or 'beat down the beaten down' or 'make the guilt feel even guiltier'. This is the approach of the Law, a way of exposing sin, condemning sin, and oddly enough, stirring up more sin!
People who have messed up their lives and hurt other people by their bad decisions don't need Law; they need Gospel! This is just what the Lord has given them.
What does the Gospel say to people who have ruined themselves and others by their wrong choices? Quite a lot: here's what I thought of.
When did the Lord start loving us? When we were wise or foolish? When our lives were 'together' or 'all to pieces'? Romans 5:8 leaves no doubt-
But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
If the Lord did not love people who make bad choices, He wouldn't love anyone, because everyone makes bad choices! And-
God is love.
It is one thing to love an undeserving person, but it's another to love him after he has forfeited your love by careening from one bad choice to another. Surely, then, God lets us go? No, He doesn't, Romans 8:38-39-
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angel, nor principality, nor power, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Making bad choices may cost you your family's love, but the Lord will not stop loving you. The hymn has it right-
Oh Love that will not let me go!
The dumbest believer who makes the most moronic choices in life remains justified and adopted. This means-
There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
And that the Spirit of adoption will never be taken away from us.
Our decisions may take away our money and our careers and even our friends. They will not take away our Father in Heaven or overturn His verdict in the Divine courtroom.
Of all the mighty things Jesus did, none are equal to His death on the cross! But, at the time, no one took this for a mighty act. They saw it as an abject failure and a disaster of the worst kind. But they were wrong. God's power was perfected in Christ's weakness. And ours.
When God and His Gospel are at work in us, bad decisions humble us, they increase our faith, inspire hope, and fill us with compassion. But humility, faith, hope, and compassion don't sound like 'problems' to me; they sound like Christ.
All things work together for our good, Paul says, and if you read the whole chapter and compare it to Paul's life, you see the all things are not the miracles that he did or the great sermons he preached or the churches he founded, but the things that others mistook for failure-sickness, poverty, and near martyrdom in every city.
God is so mighty He can even work in you. And, even at your worst-
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Make of Heaven and Earth.
These are present things at the moment, and may be until the Resurrection of the Dead. But the Resurrection is sure, and sooner than we think. Then, they'll be former things, no longer there to bother us or hurt the people we love.
There's nothing the Gospel can't change, and nothing it won't change. Up to and including your bad decisions. And mine.
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