Sermons

Summary: The good choices members of God’s family make

A dendrochronologist can look at a tree stump and tell us the life story of that tree. They can look at the rings and chart the tough years and the good growth years.

Raising a family is not all that different from tending trees – it’s a lot of work, you don’t do it overnight, there are storms and sometimes you have to wade through some pretty deep fertilizer.

The one difference between trees and human families is choice. A tree has no choice in where it is planted by the gardener, and it subsequently grows according to its nature and the conditions it experiences. A family is also “planted” in the sense of our creation – but a family has choices.

The difficulty our culture faces today of instability in marriage and breaking-apart of homes is a direct result of poor choices we make – much more so than the conditions of life we experience.

Making Godly choices (as this morning’s Psalm advises) is an excellent choice for any individual or family. It lays before us the basic choices of life as well as the consequences of those choices.

For those who are contemplating marriage or for a marriage that is still young, it is the best way to set the compass for the decades ahead. For those whose marriage is in a second, third or even greater decade this Psalm is still the compass; it is the place to find your “course correction yardstick”. It is never too late to make good choices!

So, let’s talk about making good choices no matter where you’re planted. These will be stated negatively (as they are in Scripture), but we will end-up in the positive of what good choices does in a life. The negative or poor choices are a progression in Scripture.

Good Choices and Consequences

I. Don’t get advice from wicked people

1Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, Psalm 1:1a (NRSV)

The word “wicked” means those who are morally-wrong. Our society is jammed-full of folks like that. And our churches are also jammed-full of people seeking advice from them. Oprah, Dr. Phil, internet chat rooms…all willing to give advice based upon human thinking rather than God’s Word and the principles found therein!

Sometimes it’s subtle, but the moral wickedness of following any advice but God’s is the first step down the slippery slope of moving away from God and goodness.

A movie premiered this week – X-Men Origins: Wolverine [1] is based on the Marvel comic book character. The main character is Logan, the “wolverine” who is, a “super-hero”. He is a mutant with supernatural strength and has the ability to regain that strength and vitality after being injured or even killed. In order to get that supernatural strength and incredible set of fingernails he had to give-in to the dark urge of payback, allowing the mad doctor to inject him with Adamantium. Logan lives to avenge the murders of his loved ones; he leaves a wake of destruction and death in his pathway.

The story line paints him as a hero, but what can we say about personal revenge? It does not belong to mortals; vengeance belongs only to God. Logan vets our sense of “payback”, but it is the advice of man, not the wisdom from above; subtle, but off base…away from God.

Now, I know that’s just a movie (and I enjoy a good story too), but we can be guilty of the same decision Logan made to embrace the dark side. Just as Logan rationalized that he was entitled to revenge on his enemies, we can begin with simple rationalization. But no matter how many excuses you come up with for wrong behavior, it is still going against the will of God.

Surprisingly you don’t have to go far and wide to find people who look pretty respectable, but have been following wicked advice so long they’re bound by it. Church rolls are full of people who profess to be disciples of Jesus, yet never darken the doorstep of the house of worship. At first it was simple rationalization that they could just as easily worship God at the ballpark or lake, or even via their favorite televangelist. But wicked advice tends to settle in and grab on.

The next stage in the progression of poor choices happens almost without being noticed.

II. Don’t pattern yourself after worldly people.

…or take the path that sinners tread, Psalms 1:1b (NRSV)

If wickedness is moral wrongness, the term “sinners” applies to the criminal. Criminal in this case is breaking the law when you know full well you are breaking it. I’d call it “first-degree sin”. When you begin to accept the advice of wickedness, you soon don’t see anything wrong with worldliness. When a member of the body of Christ acts this way it is called practical atheism – you acknowledge God has said “x” but you’ll do “y” because it’s what you want to do…and hang the consequences!

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