Well, good morning Grace and also to those who watch via the internet and our mobile app at home and abroad. Would you believe that we’re getting close to almost 1,000 people that have our mobile app here at Grace Community Church? And so, that’s pretty awesome. If we could – there’s people that even watch this overseas. Let’s give them all a big hand clap, those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re glad to have you. Very glad to have you.
As you know, we’re in a five-week series called “Life-Changing Decisions.” If you’re new here, you’re walking into a series that’s been going on for a few weeks and, I always like to catch everybody up to speed so that if you come in sort of at the latter part of a series, you know exactly what we’re doing.
We’ve got a big idea that we’re discussing in this series and that big idea is that we need to look at the decisions that we need to make before we make decisions. That we need to look at that. There are certain things that we need to do in our lives – certain decisions that we need to make – before we make decisions.
And I think all of us will agree, and I think I can get even an “amen” at 10:15, that we’ve all made at least one decision in our life that we wish that we could go back and change. Can I get an “amen” on that one? I think we all could do that. Most of us have more than one. At least I know that I do.
And so what we’re trying to do in this series is we’re trying to say look, “We want to make great decisions in our lives because we realize something. We are where we are today based, in large part, to the decisions and the choices that we made in our past. And where we go in the future will be based, primarily, on the decisions and the choices that we make today.”
Now, we’ve said this and I’ll say it again, there are sometimes that life throws you and I curveballs that we have no ability whatsoever to plan for. We didn’t decide them; we didn’t choose them. But, we do have, even in those situations, we do have the ability on how we choose to respond to those situations and circumstances. And that makes a huge difference.
So, last week, we talked about “what word would we follow?” We talked about the fact that, in life, we’ve got certain things that we feel are right. We all know that. I mean, there are times that somebody does you wrong and I know that we want to do the right thing and I know that we want to follow God, but sometimes people do us wrong and it just almost feels right to want to get them back.
Is that true? Can you say “amen” with me? Can we be honest here this morning? But, we know what God’s Word says and so there’s that struggle. Which one are we going to do? Are we going to do what we want to do? Are we going to do what God wants us to do?
The week before that, we talked about taking responsibility. That a lot of times, the things that happen in our lives, are based on the decisions and choices that we made. And sometimes, we just need to own that. So, this weekend, and I think this is going to be the most important part of the series so far, and I think this is an important message in life.
And listen, if you’re new here today and this is the first time you’ve shown up, maybe you came here because somebody invited you. Maybe you showed up because you want to check out this Christianity thing. Maybe you’re away from God or whatever else. This is going to be a great message for you regardless of where you’re at in your walk with God. This is just good stuff today. And, we’re going to talk about a made up mind.
And, let’s be honest here for a second. We talk about a made up mind. Most of the decisions in our lives, when we look back and we say, “Man, that was a life-changing decision. That was a major decision. That was one that was unbelievably important in my life”, most of those decisions don’t come in great circumstances. They usually come in storms, business issues, financial issues, relationship issues, kid issues, boss issues and all of these things.
We have to make these decisions and what we do is we sort of make them on the fly. And we look back and we go, “Man, I really wish that I would’ve thought through that. I wish that I would’ve made up my mind before I had to make that decision as to what I would have done when that decision put itself in front of me.”
My mom and dad enrolled me in karate when I was growing up in Kentucky and the instructor told me one day, he says, “Chip, we’re not teaching you how to fight. We’re teaching you how to defend yourself when the fight comes to you. And what we want to teach you is over and over and over again you’re going to respond to certain things in the same way so, when that day comes that you are attacked, you will know how to respond.”
In other words, you’ve made up your mind. You’ve prepared yourself. You’ve thought about things. You’ve prayed through things. You know what you’re going to do when that thing happens. Like in the Boy Scouts when I was a Boy Scout, it was “Be prepared.” You were always prepared. And, oftentimes, if we’re honest, we have these times in our lives where we make these really big decisions and at the last second we’re thinking, “Oh, what was that sermon that I listened to? I remember that time that I prayed. I remember that time that I thought I was going to do this.”
But, unfortunately, oftentimes, because we’ve not made up our mind as to what we will do and won’t do before those situations come, we tend to not make the best decisions.
I was a youth pastor many, many years ago in Cartersville, Georgia, and I remember going there as a church of like 3,000 people. And I remember walking into my office and it was like this leather chair in this big office. Man, I thought I had arrived, man. I was like, “Man, I am God’s man for the hour. Full of faith and full of power.” And then God said, “No you’re not.” And I realized that I wasn’t.
But, the bottom line is I was all excited. I was jacked up to be a youth pastor at this big church. And I remember that one of my kids came in one day and sat down and he said, “Hey, I need to talk to you, Pastor Chip.”
I said, “Okay, great.” He shut the door. I said, “Well, what’s up, man?”
He said, “I’ve got to tell you something, man. You’re not going to believe this.”
And I’m like, “Okay, that’s great.”
He said, “But, I’m telling you. You’re not going to believe this.”
And I’m thinking, you know, maybe he read the Bible. Maybe he had a moment with God. Maybe he got saved, because I knew he probably needed to get saved. You know, all that’s good stuff.
And he’s like, “But, you won’t believe that happened.”
I’m like, “Well, try it on. Try it on.”
He goes, “Dude, listen. I got my girlfriend pregnant.”
And I’m like, “I believe that. I get how that works. You were at home alone, you started making out. Next thing you know you were in bed and like 30 days later, she’s pregnant.”
He’s like, “Dude. You are a prophet.”
You know, and I’m like, “I’m not a prophet.”
But, the bottom line is when you’re at home alone and all the stuff starts working, that’s not the time when you start to make up your mind. You’re not going to make up your mind in those certain situations. And, what I want to talk to you about this morning is the power of a made-up mind. Before we get into situations, have we thought through what we will do and what we won’t do when life comes our way?
And, as you know, we’ve been going through the book of Jonah. We’ve been going through it line by line. We’re only going to look at one verse today and then, next week, we’ll finish out the book. But, what we’re going to do is look at Jonah today. If you remember the story and, if you’re new here, I’ll sort of just bring us back up to speed.
Jonah was a prophet that was called by God to go to Nineveh and preach a message to them. Well, instead of going, he ran. And what he did is he went and got a boat. He tried to head to Tarshish, that farthest place he could go in the world. And, what happened was a big storm came up when the boat was there and they figured out that Jonah was the problem. Jonah, rather than getting right with God said, “Throw me overboard.”
They threw him overboard. Big fish swallowed him up and he spent three days and three nights in the fish. The fish spit him back up after he had sort of a moment with God and realized he need to probably be doing the right things. He rolls into Nineveh and he preaches a five-word sermon in Hebrew and, translated, that sermon was “In 40 days, Nineveh will be overthrown.” That was his message. And, what happened?
Everybody in Nineveh, from the king to the least of the people, repented and started calling out to God. And, God decided that He would not destroy Nineveh because the people had repented. And then, we find out the reason why Jonah fled in the first place. He wanted the Ninevites judged. They had treated his people bad. That had done atrocious things to his family and people. They had done terrible things to children and women. They had killed people and done all kinds of stuff. And, to Jonah, they just weren’t worth God giving them any repentance. He wanted them judged. He wanted them out of there.
And, he knew, going to Nineveh that there was a chance – because he knew God was a good God – that God may allow them to repent. And, of course, that’s what happened. They repented. God said, “I’m not going to bring judgment.” And so, we pick up the story here in verse 5 and we’re going to see that this Jonah guy, he’s all over the board. He makes one decision and goes another way. He makes a decision and goes another way. The one thing you can say about Jonah is he didn’t take any responsibility.
It was God’s fault. This was the problem. He didn’t listen to what God had to say. He wanted to do it his way. And, we’re going to see that he absolutely had not made up his mind about anything.
So, here we are in Jonah 4:5.
It says, “Jonah went out of the city…” – this is now everybody has repented. God has decided He’s not going to judge Nineveh anymore.
“He went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there.”
Now, that’s interesting. Why in the world would Jonah, who hates Nineveh, who doesn’t like the Ninevites, who wants judgment to come on the Ninevites. Why in the world would he go sit outside of the city to make a booth to watch the city? Well, the next part of the verse tells us.
It says, “And he sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.”
This is unbelievable. Jonah is still hoping that God will judge them. God said, “I’m not going to judge them.” God says, “They repented.”
But, Jonah goes out and goes, “Well, I heard the message. It was 40 days. So, I’m going to sit out here and watch and see if, just by chance, you go ahead and clobber them.”
This is a man who has not made up his mind at all. He’s wishy-washy in every single way. In every single moment of the story he’s moving in all kinds of directions. And, here’s the deal. I know that nobody at the ten fifteen service would ever be wishy-washy in their decisions.
I know it’s the nine o’clock and the eleven thirty service that are the ones that need to get saved. But, just in case you might fall pray to the nine o’clock and the eleven thirty problems, all you great saints, I want to talk to you today about not being wishy-washy and making up your mind as to what you will do and won’t do before you get into a situation because Jonah is all over the board.
And, to do that, I’ve got a great illustration and a great example of what I would call “the power of a made-up mind.” I think if I asked most of you, “Who was the greatest sniper in the United States Army history,” most of you would probably say Chris Kyle. Which, you know what? That’s not true. Chris Kyle is not considered the greatest sniper in the United States Military. Even Chris Kyle said he wasn’t when he was asked. He had more kills that anybody else but he’s not considered the greatest sniper.
You can go on and type in “greatest American sniper” and you’ll find out who is number one. His name is “Carlos Hathcock” and he was a Vietnamese soldier in the Vietnamese War. This guy was incredible. I want to tell you a couple stories about him that I think will engage you and I think you’ll really enjoy listening to this.
Anybody see the movie “Saving Private Ryan?” There’s a nod to Carlos Hathcock because there’s a shot that goes through the scope of the gun and kills the other person. Carlos Hathcock really did that in his life. He’s that guy. He was in the Vietnamese jungle and there was another sniper that they had asked him to go get. She was actually a female sniper. And, he was in the jungle and he saw some reflection in the distance and he just split-second got his gun, scoped it out and shot.
It was like a twenty-five hundred yard shot. It went through the scope of this person and killed them. And, Carlos, when he was asked – he died in ’99. He said, “The amazing thing about that is the fact that I didn’t try to shoot through the scope. I was just shooting in the direction there of where the person was at.
He said, “Here’s the deal. The fact that I shot through the scope means that her gun was aimed at me.”
Which means that it was a split-second decision.
He goes, “In fact, we could have – because of the distance – we could have exchanged rounds and actually got each other. So it was very fortunate to have that happen.”
But, the great story of Carlos that they tell is he was asked if he would take a job. They didn’t tell him what the job was. They said, “Will you take a job?”
He said, “I’ll take the job.”
They said, “Here’s what the job is. There’s a general in the Vietnamese Army that has done terrible things to our soldiers. Terrible things of torture. And, we know that this general comes out at a certain time during the day to do his exercise. But, here’s the problem. You’re going to have to crawl on your belly for about three to four days to get into place so that you can take a shot at this general. And you’re going to have no support from us whatsoever. You’re going to have a canteen and a little bit of rations to make it. But, that’s all you’re going to have. And you’re going to have to crawl in for multiple, multiple days to get in there.
You’re going to be involved with all kinds of conflict. There will be all kinds of Vietnamese Army people around there. It is a very, very crazy job. But, you’ve said you’ll do it.”
And so, he took off. He crawled on his belly so much that – for three days, he crawled on his belly. Ant bites. He almost got bit by a Bamboo Viper, which would have killed him. He was almost stepped on numerous times by Vietnamese soldiers as he was all on the ground but they didn’t see him. So much craziness. But, here’s the deal. This guy was so fatigued and so dehydrated because he only had a canteen of water.
He would wait until his tongue had swollen up until he was almost ready to pass out and he would pour a little bit of water into the tip of his canteen container – the little lid – and he would take just a drink. Just enough to keep him going. And he got there, finally got in place, took out the general and, then after he took out the general, he had to get out. And they asked this guy, they said, “Dude, how can you be so focused? How can you accomplish the things that you’ve done? How can you do this stuff?”
Just to give you an idea, back in that day the bounty on an American sniper was eight bucks. The bounty on Carlos Hathcock, who was nicknamed “the White Feather” was $30,000. That’s how significant this guy was. And, here’s what he said. This is what he said about his missions.
He said, “I survived my work because of an ability to get in the bubble. I can put myself into a state of utter and complete, absolute concentration because I make up my mind what I’m going to and nothing gets in my way.”
Now, I want to talk to you a little bit here about this make up of a mind. When you and I have made up our mind, what happens is we become blind to barriers. See, this guy would make a decision and, when he made a decision, the Vietnamese Army, the ants, the dehydration, the fatigue, none of that mattered. He had made up his mind as to what he was going to do and, all of a sudden, the barriers cease to exist.
But, what happens for you and me, because typically – and this is just the way it is for most of us – we’ve not made up our mind in advance of the things that we will do and the things that we won’t do, and we make decisions on the fly trying to sort of piecemeal together something that we heard, something the we prayed about or something somebody told us. We try to make a decision in that moment.
This guy had made up his mind. He’s not looking at his barriers. But, when we haven’t made up our mind, what happens is we get in a relationship issue and maybe something is not going right and we start looking around saying, “This might not work. This may fail. Our kids are doing this.” Or we’re at a job and we go, “Maybe the boss is going to fire me or I’ll lose my job and I can’t make my car payment.” And, what happens is we start looking at barriers rather than knowing what we’re going to do because we’ve made up our mind. This guy had made up his mind. I’m going to tell you another guy who had made up his mind.
In Luke 9, Luke tells us that Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem. It’s what He did. He set His face towards Jerusalem. The root word in the Greek comes form the word “flint” like a flint stone. He set His face, like flint, towards Jerusalem. What was going to happen in Jerusalem? He was going to get spit upon. He was going to get beaten. He was going to get tortured. He was going to get crucified. How do you go through that? How do you endure that? Because He had made up His mind as to what He would do. Just like Carlos, here, made up his mind. And, all of a sudden when he made up his mind he’s blind to his barriers.
Not only that, but, we don’t listen to the peanut gallery. And here’s the deal. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a couple that has come into my office – usually one of the couple will come in and say, “I’m done with this person and, listen, I’ve talked to all of my friends and all of my friends say, ‘You need to get out of that relationship. He’s not making you happy. She’s not making you happy. It’s all about you’” and whatever else.
And what happens is when we haven’t made up our mind that our marriages are sacred and we’re going to keep our marriages together and we’re going to work on our marriages and do whatever, what happens is we start listening to the peanut gallery. Or maybe you’re at work and somebody comes along and says, “Yeah, it’s no big deal. It’s just a white lie, but it’ll get you a promotion.”
And you go, “Well, you know what? That sort of sounds right.” But when you’ve made up your mind, when you’ve said, “I’m not doing this” or “I’m going to do this”, period. End of story. This is what I’m going to do. The word of God says this is what I’m going to do and I’ve made up my mind. I’ve set through it. I’ve thought about it. I’ve deliberated on it. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve sought God. God has given me His Spirit on the inside to give me the power to live these things out.
I’m not going to listen to the peanut gallery because I’ve made up my mind as to what I’ll do. Not only that but if we make up our mind, we’re able to handle discomfort and rejection. You see it all the time. People that are sort of wishy-washy and not quite sure what they’ll do at any given moment. Trying to piecemeal stuff together and put stuff together. When discomfort comes or rejection comes, next thing you know we’re making bad decisions because we haven’t made up our mind.
Or how about this one? Fear has no power when you’ve made up your mind. What happens is you get in a relationship and you start thinking, “Maybe they’re not going to stay with me. Maybe I’m going to lose them. Maybe I’m going to lose my job. Maybe my kid won’t like me. So, what I’m going to do is I’ll just go and do what…” – You’ve got all this fear going on because you’ve not made up your mind.
Now, listen to me. This is huge for everybody to get and – even those who listen via the internet and the mobile app, listen to me here. God does not give us His Word, okay, so that He can guilt us and He can make us feel bad if we don’t check off all the things. He didn’t give us His Word for that. He didn’t give us His Word so if you do all the things just right then He loves you a little bit more. He loves you already.
The things He says about for you and me, the things that we should do and the things that we shouldn’t do, God knows something about us. He knows about life. He knows about abundance. He knows about joy. And, when God says, “Hey, do these things. These are the things that you should do. These are the things that you shouldn’t do,” what happens is He’s saying that so that you and I will have better lives. I don’t know if you’re like me, but you probably are. I usually run my life thinking that most of us are similar more than we are dissimilar.
Does anybody ever remember the story when you were like a teenager and your dad was telling you, “You know, you don’t want to do this and you don’t want to go there and you don’t want to act like this. You need to stay in school and get good grades. Don’t go in the car here and don’t drink this and don’t do that.”
And you’re sitting there going, “Man. Here’s lecture 101, lecture 417, lecture 203. This old guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t know why he’s putting all this guilt on me. I don’t know why he’s doing all this stuff.”
Then, all of a sudden, you’re like 45 like – almost going on 46 – and you find yourself talking to your kids and you go, “Oh my gosh. I am saying the same things that my dad said.” I’m like, “Man. What is going on with me?”
And maybe your dad didn’t say it the best way. Maybe he didn’t communicate it in the most emotionally considerate way. Maybe sometimes he didn’t have some of the empathy that you would have like or whatever. But, I’m going to tell you something. By and large, when your mom or dad or stepmom or stepdad or uncle or grandfather was trying to tell you something, they were trying to tell you something because they didn’t want you to get hurt.
That’s what God says in His Word to you and me. It’s not a matter of getting His love. It’s not a matter of doing something so that God will love us. It’s a matter of God knows what is right for you and me and He wants us to live a life that’s better. That’s why these things are important. That’s why we have to make up our mind and advance because, when we do make up our mind and we start living this stuff out, we become a different person in the process.
I can tell you in my own life where I’ve had to get involved in situations that I said, “This is what I’m going to do because this is what the Word of God says and those situations have come into my life and I’ve made that decision to stick with what I made up my mind.” And I’ve done that. What happens is I start to develop a character. I start to develop a certain routine as to how I live my life. And, all of a sudden, there’s certain things that I won’t do anymore and there are certain things that I will do anymore.
I’ll give you an example. I made a decision a long time ago – I made up my mind – that if I was ever on a plane or ever at a restaurant or if I was ever anywhere and somebody asked me even the smallest question that could even begin to sound like they were asking about the faith that I had, I made a decision that I will always share the Gospel with them under any circumstance.
Because, what I found out was when I had not made up my mind to do that, what would happen is I’d get into a situation. I’d be on a plane and somebody would be talking about something and I might say, “I’m a youth pastor at this church. I teach here or whatever.”
And they’re like, “Oh, that’s cool.”
And then you start going, “Yeah. So, tell me about you.” Because you’re thinking, “Man, I don’t want to offend them. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
Anyways, but see, I was wishy-washy. And what I did is I decided, “I’m going to make up my mind. This is what I’m going to do.” And, I’ve done that in a lot of areas in my life. These are the things that I will do and these are the things that I won’t do. As a pastor, I won’t allow us to take debt more than what we pay to go build some building. I’m just not going to do it.
People were like, “Wow, man. We had that opportunity at that big building and you all didn’t go through with it. Why?” Because I’m not going into debt. And you could say that we love you or hate you for whatever, but I’ve made up my mind. I’m not doing that. When we talk about campaigns to go forward, I said, “Hey, I’m going to always involved the church and if the church isn’t involved, we’re not doing it.” Why? Because I’ve made up my mind on certain things.
I’ve made up my mind in my marriage. I don’t go out to dinner with a female. I don’t go one on one with a female. And you say, “Well, man. You think bad about females or you think bad about yourself or whatever.” No. I just refuse to put my marriage in any type of compromise because I believe that that is an important thing. And, as a minister, you see marriages all the time get wrecked because people put themselves in compromised positions and I don’t want to do that. And you know why I don’t want to do that? I don’t want to do it to me, I don’t want to do it to my wife, and I don’t want to do it to you.
You say, “Oh, you’re intolerant or you’re like old school or whatever.” Look, I’m not trying to be the hippest pastor in the world. I want to be a man of God. I’m not trying to be a man of the times. I’m trying to be a man that follows what God wants. And, the reality is is this: I love everybody. You know me. You can come in here and be a crack smoking homeless person that sells drugs in Lakewood Ranch and I’m going to love you. And you can be a person in the band, singing songs and raising hands, and I’m going to love you. I’m going to love everybody.
But, the bottom line is – and listen to me because this is unpopular preaching in today’s world – there are some decisions that are better than others. Let me say that again. It’s not just, “Ah, whatever. Wherever the wind is blowing. Whatever they feel.” That’s just bull is what that is. I’m from Kentucky. We have other ways to describe that as well on the farm. It’s just absolutely crazy. There are some decisions that are better than others.
For instance: You may want to walk out in front of a car. That’s a bad decision. You say, “Oh, but everybody out to have the right to do whatever they want.” That’s fine. Go do whatever you want to do. Walk out in front of that car. But, I’m going to tell you right, you can get mad at me, you can say I’m judgmental. You can say whatever you want to say. I’m telling you, walking out in front of a car is just a bad decision.
And so, we’ve got to look at this because what happens is is we decide to make up our minds and we decide there’s certain things that I will do and there’s certain things that I won’t do because of the Word of God and because I’m taking responsibility for my life. What happens is we become different people in the process and we’ve all me them.
We’ve met people that are like, “Man. They don’t give in. Their character is formed. Who they are is there.” And you know why it’s there? It’s because they’ve decided in their lives there are certain things they will do and there’s certain things that they won’t do and what happens is they become a different person in the process.
Now, if you’ve got a sheet of paper, if you’ve got an iPad, if you’ve got a lily pad, if you’ve got an Android phone, if you’ve got whatever, write these down. Take these down because this is stuff that you need to take home. This is practical stuff that will change your life.
First. Very important. Take this home. We all will have our day of testing.
“Aw, man. That doesn’t sound like the TV guy.”
Listen to me. You’re going to be tested. Some of you are going, “I’m there right now. I’m in the middle of it.”
Some of you are going, “I’m not there right now.” It’s coming. It may be a week, it may be two weeks, it may be a month. You will be tested. Do you know why I know that? Because the Bible tells me that. I’ll give you an example here.
You all have read Job, right? That’s not job, okay? You remember the story of Job, right? The story of Job? You know Job, he’s a great guy. He loves God. Satan and God talk about it and Satan goes down and just destroys this guy.
It says in Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.”
Listen to me. There was a day. There’s going to be a day in your life. There’s going to be multiple days in your life. There’s going to be stuff in your life that’s going to test you as to what you’re going to do with your finances, with your marriage, with your relationships, with your sexuality, with your job, with your boss, with employees or employers or people you work with. All of these things are coming. Peter says it this way:
He says in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved,” – Now, can I tell you something about the Bible? Whenever you get “beloved” it’s like when somebody says, “I love you, but…”, you know how they’re getting ready to tell you something? When they say “beloved” you’re getting ready to get something. – “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.”
Do you ever notice how these verses don’t get preached a whole lot? Do you ever notice that? The bottom line is here it says “don’t be surprised.” Let’s be honest. When stuff falls apart in our lives and when we’re getting tested and when we’re in the middle of storm, what do we do?
We go, “Wow, man. I can’t believe this is happening.” Peter’s like, “Stop! Don’t be surprised at this when this happens. This is part of the gig. This is the way God conforms you and me to the image of His Son.
“Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial that comes upon you as though something strange were happening to you.”
You don’t have to put your hand up but, let’s be honest, all of us, when we go through difficulties in life, we go, “Man, I can’t believe this is happening. This is really strange.” Right?
Peter says, “Don’t think that way. Things are coming.” You know, we hear about the promises of God. God will give you these things if you do this and God will do that and joy and all that stuff. Can I tell you some other promises the Bible says?
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “If you live godly in Christ Jesus, you’ll suffer persecution.”
The Bible says that offenses are going to come your way. Those are promises. You go, “Well, I don’t like those promises.” They’re coming though. Those are things that are going to happen in you and I’s lives. The day is going to come. It’s not a matter of somehow you can sidestep the days of testing. It’s not like you can sort of just walk away from the difficulties of life. They days are coming.
And secondly, our result on that day will rise or fall primarily on the responses that we’ve had to God before the test.
And I want to explain this to you because this is huge. Listen to me. Many of us go to church. We listen to a sermon, maybe say a little prayer before we eat every once in a while. Maybe read a devotional every once in a while. But, we have not sat down and said, “What does the word of God say about these situations in my life?
How am I going to be prepared for the things that come my way? What am I going to do when these things happen in my life?” And if we’ve not had those responses with God, if we’ve not sat down and talked with God, if we’ve not sat down and said, “What does the Word of God say about these things”, I can tell you, by and large – it doesn’t mean that there’s not an anomaly. Every once in a while God, in His grace, will just allow you and me to make a great decision and it will be the anomaly.
But, as a general rule when we look at our lives – and I’m a pastor. I get to see people’s lives. People who don’t know the decisions, that they haven’t made up decisions before those situations happen, as a general rule, make bad decisions in those moments.
I wrote this down on a sheet of paper and then I typed it up here. This is what I wrote:
“Our preemptive deliberations…” – that means, sitting down, you and me sitting down and saying, “Okay. I’ve got a job. What am I going to do when I’m asked to lie? What am I going to do when there’s gossip going on? What am I going to do? What does the Bible say about those things? How am I going to approach those things? Have I made-up my mind what I will do and what I won’t do?”
Those are preemptive deliberations. And, most Christians don’t have them. What happens is we just sort of go through life, we listen to a message, we read a Bible verse, we pray, and then we make decisions and then they’re not good. What about our prayers or our accountability groups? Maybe you have one person, maybe you have five. But, sharing with them and saying, “Hey, listen. These are things that matter to me, man. These are the things that really work with me, sister. These are the things that really, really, really are important to me and I want you to pray with me about these.”
I want to be a person that, when that moment comes, like Jesus says in Luke 21, He says to the disciples, He says, “When you get thrown in prison and when they’re coming after you…” He goes, “Make up your mind not to do these things.” That’s what He says to them. Settle it in your mind. Make up your mind.
What about the time with God? All of these things in this here will probably determine our outcome before the test has ever even happened.
Have we made up our mind? See, this is huge because, I see as a pastor, what I get to see is I get to see all the bad stuff usually. Most people don’t roll into my office and say, “Man, let me tell you about this.” I get that every once in a while. But, as a general rule, it’s “Pastor, can I talk to you because this is going on in my life. Pastor can I talk to you? Jennifer, can I get one of the pastors on staff because we’re going through this in our life.”
And when we sort of scrunch it down and we sort of move it to it’s common denominator, as a general rule, the situation they’re in is based on a decision or a choice that they made. And you can say, “Man, are you trying to make us feel bad or are you trying to guilt us?” You are totally missing everything I’m saying to you if you’re hearing that.
What I’m saying to you is as a dad looks at his kids and says, “I don’t want you to have to go through these things. I don’t want you to have to go through these problems. I can help you not go through these problems if you and I will sit down and we will deliberate and we will pray and we will talk about these things and make up our minds as to what we will do and won’t do. I promise you it will save you from a myriad of bad decisions in your life.”
This is preemptive preaching. This isn’t judgmental preaching. Listen, all the decisions that you made bad in the past, all the things that you’ve done bad in the past, there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let it go. Just let the past go. Don’t look behind. Press forward to the calling that’s before you. Keep your eyes on Him.
But, in the process of following and pursuing Jesus, in the process of relying upon Him to work in you, in the process of being led by the Spirit and not by the flesh and all of those things, understand something: That when you and I make decisions before we make decisions about what we will do and what we won’t do and it becomes a part of our lives. When that day comes, you will more than likely make the right choice than make the wrong choice.
Which, thirdly then, let’s make up our minds on things right now.
Now, that doesn’t men that you have to do everything in your life right now in the next two minutes. What I’m asking you to do is to take inventory in your life. And I’ve picked a few things, there might be many of these.
What about our marriages? What are we willing to do and not willing to do in our marriages? Where are we willing to go? What are we willing to say? What are we willing – You know, you get people all the time, they’ll be like, “Oh, you know. Let me tell you about my husband. Let me tell you a little bit about this. Let me tell you a little bit that. Let me talk about this” and we gossip and whatever.
Listen, you’re not creating a great atmosphere for your marriage when you do that. “Let me tell you what my wife doesn’t do right. Let me tell you about how she nags. Let me tell you about this.” When you’re saying that to the guys and girls when you’re saying it to the girls, I’m telling you right now, you are not creating yourself a great marriage. You’re just not.
And you say, “Well, man. You know, Chip. We’ve got to live. We’ve got to do this stuff.” Listen, you’re going to get my love and grace no matter what you do. I’m your pastor. I’m going to love you. But, I’m also here to tell you that sometimes you’ve got to just make a decision. You’ve got to choose.
The Bible says, “Choose this day whom you’re going to serve.” God gave you a choice. He didn’t create you as a robot. He gave you and me choices. He gave us the ability to create. I mean, we have that ability. You can take you and me. I mean, I have no mechanical skills in the world. I’m terrible at mechanics. But, I guarantee if you throw me and you and a few people out in the woods, we’ll find a way to build something that we can sleep over. Do you know why? Because we have creativity in us.
God gave you a will to make decisions. What about your relationships? Some of you young adults in here and some of you single people, can I tell you something? If you’re watching via the internet and the mobile app, too, can I tell you something? Stop chasing everything with two legs. Stop it. Do you know why you need to stop it? Because, what you’re saying is is I’m needy. You’re never going to be complete being needy. Do you know where you get your completion? You get your completion in Jesus. Jesus is the one who completes us. Not church, not relationship, not following some rules and regulations. Jesus is the one that brings us completion.
But, the deal is is until we get some of these things right in our lives, we’re not even ready for relationships and people walk around and they’re needy. And they just need this and they need that.
Sexuality, I won’t even begin to even talk about that. But, the fact of the matter is is you need to decide right now. You go, “Ah, you know. I just think you gotta wear the shoe, you know. Put the shoe on before you wear it. Whatever else.”
Let me tell you something. It doesn’t work. It has never worked. God’s ways work. They just work. Finances, you know? Some people go, “I’ve got ‘she-money.’”
I’m like, “She-money?”
“Yeah, money she don’t know about.”
Well, let me tell you, when she finds out about it, you’ll be in the whale, buddy. You know, doing that stuff, some of you guys are like, “Aw, man. He’s got a camera at my house. He knows about my she-money.” Yeah, but, you’ve got to stop that stuff. I mean, you’ve got to be honest. We’re back on jobs, now. Not Job. We talked about Job earlier. This is “job.”
What are you going to do at your job? What are you going to do with your employer? What are you willing to do? Where are you willing to compromise? Where’s the line where you say, “I’ll put everything on hold? I will trust God that not lying and not cheating and not doing the wrong thing – Would rather lose my job and trust God than to go down that road because I’ve made up my mind that I won’t do these things.”
Or ethics. The way we live our lives. All of these things matter and there’s probably plenty of other things that I could put up here. But, the fact of the matter is we need to really take inventory and be honest with ourselves. Because, everybody in here, let’s face it, we’ve all made some bad decisions. What I don’t want for anybody is I don’t want you to continue to make bad decisions. I want you to make good decisions. So, here’s what I’m going to end with. This right here:
James 1:8. James says, “An indecisive man…” – that could be person or a woman – “An indecisive person is unstable in all of their ways.”
Boy, let me tell you something. People I know that say, “I’m going to be here at seven o’clock” and then something comes up and they go to the thing that’s more important or they’re with somebody and something else comes up that’s more important. Or they decide that they want to have this or that and then they do this and that.
They decide “I’m going to do this with my children” and then “I’m not going to do this with my children. One day I’m going to come in and we’re going to pray with my wife.” Then, “We’re not going to pray with my wife.” They’re all over the board. But can I tell you something? They are unstable in everything they do. I don’t want you to be unstable. I want you to make up your mind.
An indecisive person is someone who hasn’t made up their mind. Made up their mind that this is what I’m going to do. The Bible is full of “choose this day whom you will serve.” If God is God, follow Him.
Jesus said, “I’m the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It’s all about choices that we make and one of the greatest choices that you and I can make is the decision to make up our mind before we have to make decisions. And, I promise you, if you’ll take this home and you’ll say, “God, work with me. I know the pastor wasn’t trying to be judgmental and he wasn’t trying to guilt me. He was really trying to help me.
And God, I know that it’s not a matter of what I’ve done in that past. All of that stuff’s forgiven and covered. But, the blood of Jesus. Lord, what it is is it’s about going forward. It’s about wanting to do the things that are pleasing to You. It’s about wanting to walk out Your word. It’s about wanting to be that tree, planted by the waters, that everything that it does prospers and its leaves are abundant. Lord, I want joy in my life. I want good stuff in my life.” I want that for you.
And can I tell you this? I want that for you and your family, but I also want that for the Kingdom of God because, when the Church lives lives that are better than the world, when we make decisions that are better than the world, people take notice and they want what you have. And, as a church that wants to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ, I want us all making great decisions.
Not only for our lives, not only so that we can enjoy our lives, not only so that we can have joy and peace and abundance in our lives, but so that people can see the good works that God is doing in us and glorify Him as well. Don’t you want that for your life? Don’t you want that for your life? Don’t you want to walk in better? Don’t you want to get rid of some of that junk that’s pulling you down?
Don’t you go, “Man, you know. I come to church every weekend and I just, I want something that can help me out. I just want to move the ball a little bit forward in my life. I just want to take a little bit step forward.” That’s your day right now. Your day right now is to say, “I’m going to make up my mind on things in my life and I’m going to trust God and I’m going to talk to my people about it and I’m going to rely upon the Holy Spirit and I’m going to make those good decisions when they come my way.”
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you so much for the wonderful people here at Grace Community Church. I thank you Lord for just who they are, Lord, and for what You’re doing here in the midst of this body. I just pray God, in Jesus’ name, the You would take this message, as simple as it is, and help us to put it inside our spirit and to understand the importance of making up our minds before we ever have to go make decisions.
And Lord, I pray right now for those that feel like they’re not going to make a decision. Lord, I pray that they would understand that that is a decision. That not choosing is a decision. So, Lord, it’s not a matter that we can just not choose something. We’re choosing everything in our lives. And Lord, what I pray is is that we would take responsibility, they we would follow Your Word and that we would make up our minds before we ever get there.
So, Lord, I thank You for all the great things that You’re doing here at Grace Community Church. I thank You, Lord, that You’re going to continue to lead, guide and direct us. That You’re going to help us continue to be the light that You’ve created us to be. And that You’re going to bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I just pray, God, that over this next week, we all would take a moment to pause and reflect about areas in our lives that we can make up our minds so that we can make those great decisions when it’s time to make decisions. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said “amen.”
God bless you. Have a fantastic day.