From the Pastor's Desk 

Which Way Should I Go?

6-17-18

 

            Let's pray.

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            Men are known for a lot of things.  Men can be strong and they can be brave; they are protectors and providers for their families.  Unfortunately our society doesn't always look at them that way.  Too often within our media through movies and TV these days, men are not often portrayed in a positive light.  Too often, we are the mumbling, bumbling oafs who do nothing but make a mess of things.  That certainly is not the way men act all the time or that all men act. 

            It is true that men do contribute some to this false persona.  One negative thing that men are rather infamous for is that we are not always very good at asking for or following directions.  If we're driving someplace and get totally lost and turned around, we'll just keep driving until we find it or until we end up back home.  But no matter what, we won't take a few moments, stop someplace and ask directions of someone who might actually know where our destination is.   

            We are infamous for not following directions when putting something together.  We'll buy something that says "some assembling required" on the box and that doesn't scare us off one bit.  We'll dive right into it thinking we know better than the folks who manufactured the item and end up with parts left over that usually end up being pretty important.

            Some men aren't very good at following laundry directions either.  One day a housework-challenged husband decided that he was going to wash his sweatshirt.  Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to his wife, 'What setting do I use on the washing machine?'  'It depends,' the wife replied.  'What does it say on your shirt?'  He yelled back, ' University of Oklahoma.' 

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            Today of course is Father's Day.  One of the most important roles in life that some men play is that of a father.  Being a father is an important and challenging role in life.  It matters who we are and it matters what we do.  Even though we might not be very good at following directions generally in life, there are some directions that we need to follow very closely if we're going to be the men that God wants us to be and if we're going to make a difference for God's kingdom with our family and in the world that He has called us to make.

            Earlier this morning, we passed out some bookmarks to the fathers in the church.  The front of the bookmark says "God's direction is always best."  Then on the back we read some words that are oh so true.  "Admitting we need direction is humbling, but we do!"  We may not stop and ask for directions when we're driving somewhere; we may not slow down and read the directions when we're putting something together or doing the laundry.  But a man of God will make sure that he is continually asking for and seeking directions for his life from the only one who can give us good directions:  God. 

            What we're going to look closer at today is that the Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to forgive our failures.  He is always ready to lead us back to the path of life; the right path; the path that He wants us to be on.  The truth that we need to understand is that God's direction is always best.

            The Scripture verse that is written on our Father's Day book marks is Psalm 48:14.  "This God, our God forever and ever, He will always lead us."  That applies to everyone; believer and unbeliever alike.

            God leads non-Christians to a saving knowledge and eternal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  God leads Christians to obedience and fellowship with the Son because of and through His death and resurrection.  Even in and through events that seem bad or evil to us, God is still in control, leading, guiding and directing all of the events of life to accomplish His purposes and His will.  In all ways in life and through all things in life, God leads us to where He wants us to go.  He uses everything that happens to us to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.  We may not always do a very good job of following His leadership, but there's certainly no fault with Him.  He always leads us correctly.

            There are three words that all could be used to describe what we're talking about; three words that all have very similar meanings and that are all used in very similar ways in Scripture.  First, we have direction.  Direction is defined as "guidance or supervision of action or conduct."  Another word is guide.  Guide is "to direct in a way or course; to superintend the training or instruction of."  Lastly, there is the word lead.  To lead means "to guide in a way especially by going in advance; to direct on a course or in a direction."

            As you can see, these words all pretty much mean the same thing.  So when we talk about God directing, guiding and leading us we're talking about Him supervising our conduct and how we live; He directs our paths and instructs us on how to follow that path; He goes in advance because He is sovereign and eternal and knows the whole story before it even starts being told.  God's leadership and direction in our lives is one of the great sources of hope and encouragement that we have in life as we seek to love Him, know Him, follow Him and obey Him.

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            The first principle that we're going to look at from Scripture is that God directs our hearts.  Let's read Prov.21:1.  Kings, rulers and leaders of all sorts tend to think that they're pretty hot stuff and that they're in control of things.  Not true.  Never has been; never will be.  Whether that king or ruler or leader is a believer or an un-believer, their hearts are still streams of water that God is directing wherever He wants to accomplish what He wants to accomplish through those men and women.

            There's a verse in the NT that relates to this topic as well.  2 Thess. 3:5.  Pride and selfishness are some of the biggest spiritual problems that we deal with in life.  It's not just kings, rulers and leaders who think they're in control of things:  we all tend to feel that way at times.  God doesn't just direct the hearts of leaders.  He also directs the hearts of all of His people.  Once we are saved, we are of course filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  One thing that the Spirit does for us and through us is to direct our hearts.

            That's a good thing because our hearts need lots of direction.  By ourselves, apart from God's Spirit, we don't do a very good job of directing it.  As sinful humans, we tend to direct ourselves toward selfishness and what we want and what we think.  God works to direct us towards Him.  The only way that we can seek after God; the only that we can seek after righteousness or that we can follow the Lord or obey Him or do anything that is good or decent is because God is working through us to direct our hearts to those things.            

            According to what Paul wrote in this verse, God directs our hearts to two things:  His love and Christ's endurance.  The word translated direct in this verse means "make straight."  It is used elsewhere in the NT to indicate the removing of all obstacles and hindrances.  It carries the idea of clearing a path so that a pathway or road can be constructed.  Paul did not want the spiritual progress of the Thessalonians to come to a halt.  He wanted the Lord to clear the way so their hearts and inner persons would move into the love of God. 

            The phrase of God in this verse means a couple of different things.  Paul is either referring to God's love; or he is referring to the believers love for God; or it could certainly mean both things.  Paul wanted these dear fellow Christians to know and to understand and experience God's deep and eternal love for them.  He also wanted these precious believers to love God with their whole lives and their whole beings.  Paul's desire was for the Thessalonians to go down the pathway deeper and deeper into God's love for them, which in turn would cause them to love Him more and more.

            Paul had another desire for the Thessalonians as well.  He also states here that he wanted God to direct their hearts to grow stronger in the endurance of Christ.  That phrase could also mean a couple of different things.  It could refer to Christ's steadfastness with believers or believer's patience in Christ's strength; it could also refer to both aspects of endurance.

            As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to endure.  Jesus endured suffering and persecution that we'll never have to go through.  No matter what they did to Him, He was patient and He endured knowing that God's will was being accomplished.  We need to depend upon and rely on God's strength and His steadfastness in our lives.  There is no other way that we can endure the pain and heartache that life throws at us.  We can endure because He endured and we can be steadfast through the tough times knowing that God's will is being accomplished.

            Is God directing your heart?  Are you allowing Him to work in and through you so that you can become more like Jesus?  He has a great love for you and He wants you to love Him in return.  He enables you to endure and persevere and not only survive life's difficulties but to thrive through them.  That happens as God directs our hearts.

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            The second principle that we're going to look at this morning is that God guides us into truthJohn 16:13.  We know that the Holy Spirit is our ultimate and perfect guide.  He guides us through all aspects of our lives.  In fact, that is the very essence of His presence and one of the main reasons He was sent in the first place.  As this verse so clearly declares, one of the key areas that He guides us into is the truth.

            The promise to guide us into all truth refers to the Spirit's supernatural revelation concerning Christ's person and teaching.  The Holy Spirit, who inspired the OT, would also inspire the NT.  Only the Holy Spirit, since He is God, knows all that God knows and thus alone is qualified to reveal divine truth to man.

            The Holy Spirit is God so it is impossible for Him to inspire error or to speak error or even think error.  That all means that all that the Spirit does; all that the Spirit says; all that the Spirit inspires is true.  That is why we believe that the entirety of the Bible is inerrant.  It is not only true in what it says, but it is God's truth. 

            It matters greatly that God's Word is the truth.  No matter what happens in our lives; no matter how tough things get and no matter how much difficulty and suffering we may go through in life, nothing is going to change God and nothing is going to change His truth.  That means that the circumstances of life do not dictate to us how we preach or what we teach.  Instead, God's truth needs to work in our lives to help us deal with whatever circumstances we come face to face with.

            The Spirit guided the writers of the NT.  But He also guides us.  He continually and constantly works in the lives of all believers as He teaches us and instructs us from those inspired Scriptures.  That doesn't mean that we shouldn't be diligently studying the Word.  It is important that we spend as much time as we can studying and understanding what God's Word has to say to us.  But studying the Bible apart from being filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit is fruitless and futile.

            Is God's Spirit guiding you?  If you are a believer, yes He is.  But it is important on our part to make sure that we do our due diligence in studying the Word ourselves.  Read the Bible; study the Bible; memorize the Bible; apply the truths of the Bible to your life.  There is no other way that we can live effectively for the Lord other than being immersed in what His Word has to say to us and through how the Holy Spirit guides us.

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            The third and last principle that we're going to study this morning is that God leads us to life and repentance.  Let's first look at Prov. 19:23.  It's interesting to me that the key to a life lived with and for the Lord is a proper and healthy fear of God.  When we fear God with that godly spiritual sense of awe and respect then we will have no reason to fear anything else in life.  That is why and how we can sleep at night without danger.  There may very well be danger lurking around the corner, but we don't have to be afraid of it because we fear God instead.

            Let's also look now at Rom. 2:4.  God judges each person on the basis of their true guilt.  Every human being is guilty before God because we are all sinners.  That guilt extends to everyone who has ever lived.  Even folks and maybe especially folks, who consider themselves exempt from God's judgment because of their high moral standing; their religious affiliation; or any other external reason they have for thinking they've earned the right to go to heaven apart from God's provision through Jesus Christ.

            That works mentality mindset of earning salvation was especially prevalent with first century Jews.  But even today, we can struggle with that concept.  Are you a member of the church?  That's a good thing, but it's not going to get you to heaven.  Have you been baptized?  If you've been saved you need to, but that alone won't get you to heaven.  Are you a morally upright person?  We need to strive for that, but that also isn't the ticket to eternity with God.  Maybe you think you stack up pretty good when compared to others.  Let's face it, we're not as good as we think we are.

            Without exception, every person who has ever lived has experienced the kindness and the goodness of God.  Every breath we take; every bite of food we eat is only possible because of the kind provision of God.  God is the only source of goodness.  Every good and worthwhile thing a person has is from the gracious hand of God.  Every time we sin, we express contempt for God's goodness.  Every intentional sin takes lightly and presumes upon God's kindness and forbearance and patience. 

            The truth is, however, that most people don't look at God and see God as being good and kind.  It seems to be some people's favorite past time to accuse God of not being good or loving.  They ask "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?"  Part of the problem with that question is that we're not all that good.  But here's a better question:  "Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people?"  The reason is that God is patient and all things will happen the way they need to happen in the time frame in which they need to happen.

            The purpose of God's kingdom is not to excuse men of their sin.  The purpose of His kingdom is to convict them of sin and to lead them to repentance.  Repentance basically means "to change one's mind about something."  In the moral and spiritual realm, it refers to "changing one's mind about sin; from loving it to renouncing it and turning to God for forgiveness."

            Do you wonder why God might allow some so-called bad things to happen to so-called good people?  It's because He wants to bring us to a point of repentance.  It is not God's purpose or intent to allow us to wallow in our sin, letting us think that it's OK we are rebelling against Him and patting us on the back for how good we are.  God doesn't deal in giving participation trophies.

            God wants to break us.  He wants to destroy the sin in our lives.  He wants us to get to that point where we acknowledge our sin and confess it to Him.  That acknowledgement and confession then leads to repentance.  We just don't say we've sinned; we then take the appropriate steps to change our way of living.  Not only does God not want us to be living sinful lives, He works in us to change us so we'll stop.  He'll do whatever He needs to do in order to get through to us.  He leads us to life and repentance.

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            Which way should I go?  We don't always know the way we need to take in life, but God does.  If we're wondering which way we need to go, we simply need to step back and trust in and rely on God.  He directs our hearts; He guides us to the truth; He leads us to life and repentance.

            As our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to allow God to direct your steps.  If there is some public profession you need to make this morning regarding anything God has done or is doing in your life, we invite you to respond to His working now as we stand and sing.

 

            Prayer.