ONE BAD DECISION: LIVING WITHOUT RESTRAINTS

INTRODUCTION

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. But, if you’re like me, we make many of our decisions spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? Sometimes a single decision will change us for the better. And sometimes a single decision will change us for the worse.

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the singular decision that some people in the Bible made that changed their lives forever…for the worse. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’ll give us reason to stop and think about both the long-term and short-term ramifications of the decisions we make. Lots of forethought and prayer, I’m convinced, will save us from the pain and regret of a hastily-made decision for the worse.

LIVING WITHOUT RESTRAINTS

I’m a minister and, for as long as I can remember, from the start, really; I’ve depended on God to give me my sermons and lesson plans. It’s been such a gratifying way of ministering because God’s people get a fresh word of encouragement and instruction from the Lord. Just as importantly for me, relying on God to tell me what He wants to say to His people has been good for my prayer life and walk with God. It keeps me constantly in His presence, waiting, listening, and writing down the words that minister life, encouragement, and hope to God’s people.

I can count on one hand the number of visions and dreams that I’ve had from the Lord. God’s never spoken audibly to me. And I’ve never been transported in spirit to Heaven to see the Lord and the unspeakable splendors of God’s very own City of Splendor.

God speaks to my spirit through His still, small, inaudible voice. The words and thoughts gently flow to my mind, much as if I was getting a mental letter from the Lord. When the Lord speaks to me I am renewed and revived in spirit. His presence and anointing are so precious and real, so heart felt, that I am truly gratified and humbled that God would even bother to speak to me and through me. When you multiply this single divine encounter over and over again, week by week through forty-plus years of ministry, I feel so richly blest and privileged to be the object of God’s love and the steward of a fresh word from the Lord.

As richly as I’ve been blest, I can’t imagine what it would be like to get visions of the Lord on a regular basis. I can’t put into words the unimaginable experience of actually getting to see the Lord face-to-face, or hear Him speak audibly to me. I look at the great men of faith in the Bible who had regular visits with the Lord—men like Moses, the prophets and apostles, and Paul—and I can’t help but imagine how privileged and blest they must have felt to be actually speaking face-to-face with God.

Put yourself in their shoes. If the Lord appeared to you in a vision or dream and you actually got to hear Him speak to you, how would you feel? Better yet, what if the Lord actually appeared to you in person? Or brought you in the spirit to His Heavenly City. Would you ever forget your personal encounter with the Lord? How would this single moment of epiphany or theophany affect you for the rest of your life? Would it make you a life-long, loyal believer living with the realization that one of these days you’ll be living in God’s presence forever? Or would you eventually lose your vision and excitement for eternity and become distracted, rather preoccupied, with yourself?

Solomon was a young man. He recently ascended the throne of Israel and was now King in place of his father King David (1 Kings 1).

Like his father before him, Solomon had a real heart for God. You might say he was on fire for the Lord. 1 Kings 3:3 describes his zeal and love for the Lord: Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. The high places don’t mean that Solomon offered sacrifices to false gods. It simply means that, instead of offering sacrifices wherever the Tabernacle happened to be, people built altars on mountains or hills and offered their sacrifices to God there. So Solomon was definitely, totally consumed with God.

Verse 4 goes on to tell us the awesome extent of Solomon’s offerings: And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that alter. How Solomon loved the Lord! Can any of us see ourself in Solomon? On fire for the Lord?

God decided He was gonna pay Solomon a visit. He appeared to him in a dream and invited Solomon to ask anything for himself. Wow! I can think of a thousand things I’d like to ask God for. But do you know what Solomon asked for? Wisdom to be a good King.

I see nothing but humility and sincerity in Solomon’s prayer: O Lord my God, You’ve made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. {8} And here I am in the midst of Your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! {9} Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong (1 Kings 3:7-9).

God was soooo pleased with Solomon’s request that He not only gave him wisdom, but long life, fame, national peace, and wealth to boot (1 Kings 3:10-13). No other ruler in history has been singularly and spectacularly blest as Solomon!

With the nation at peace and many of Israel’s enemies paying Solomon tribute, Solomon’s wealth increased enormously. With his wealth he built himself a grandiose palace. He also built an exquisite Temple for the Lord.

Upon the Temple’s completion, he offered his thousands of offerings to God and asked God to continually watch over His people and bless them (1 Kings 8).

God, once again, was moved. And He appeared to Solomon a second time (1 Kings 9). Here’s the gist of what He told Solomon. He said, Solomon, if you remain faithful to Me you will always have a descendant ruling on the throne and I will watch over Israel. And this Temple that you’ve built for Me will always house My presence. However, if you turn your back on Me and serve other gods, I will destroy both this land and this Temple and Israel will no more be feared or respected among the nations.

Can you possibly imagine just how blest Solomon was to have been gifted twice with God’s appearance and to have all worldly might, fame, and riches? Do you think it’s possible for a man so singularly and spectacularly gifted to forget the Lord and turn his back on God? If you didn’t know the story you’d think it was impossible for a person who’s seen the Lord and talked to Him to eventually turn his back on God. But happen it did.

For all his love and zeal for the Lord, Solomon had one major problem. He loved women. All sorts of women from all sorts of nations. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And all these women turned his heart away from the Lord. In his love for his wives, he built shrines for their false gods. And, sadder yet, most astoundingly of all, he worshipped these false gods too (1 Kings 11).

Solomon obviously didn’t have any self-control. He didn’t practice self-restraint in his romantic and sexual life. He didn’t obey a clear command of the Lord: The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them (foreigners), because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’ Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway (1 Kings 11:2). This last sentence haunts me. It evinces Solomon’s intent to do as he pleased despite the Lord’s command. Like Solomon and a lot of you, I’ve insisted on having my way in spite of whatever God has to say about it.

GOD’S COMMANDS ARE FOR A VERY GOOD REASON. THEY’RE FOR OUR GOOD. AND WHEN WE INSIST ON DISOBEYING GOD WE’LL END UP PAYING DEARLY FOR OUR DISOBEDIENCE.

Solomon did. The whole nation did. To this day, Israel is a mess. Because there was no godly king reigning on the throne.

Let me turn a corner here and speak about the sad condition that we’re in today. I’ll speak for myself. But maybe I speak for you too. We hear very little about the cross today. I’m talking about crucifying and denying self. Saying No to self. Not doing what self wants to do. We just don’t hear a whole lot of sermons about putting self to death. About obeying God no matter what. About not sinning or not disobeying God.

We pretty much live in a time when we do whatever we want to do. We do whatever we think or feel is right in our own eyes. A lot of Christians no longer regard the Bible as a Divine, Authoritative rule of law and life. Astonishingly, many Christians-so-called don’t regard Jesus as God. To them He was human, sinful, and imperfect as ourselves. The God that we grew up believing in no longer exists. He isn’t who we were taught He was. He’s all sorts of gods. He is who we want him, and make him, to be. We disobey God freely and regularly. And we have a thousand and one reasons and excuses why we’re right and the Bible’s wrong.

I’ll say it just so that you’ll hear it. IF WE DON’T PUT CURBS AND LIMITS ON OURSELVES WE’RE HEADED BLINDLY TO HELL. You can think whatever you want to think about me. But the words aren’t mine. Not really. They’re my adaptation of what Paul said in his Epistle: If you live according to the flesh you will die (Romans 8:13).

Solomon had a sin problem that he wouldn’t deal with. He didn’t practice self-restraint. He didn’t put his cross to use. He didn’t stick close to God. He lived flagrantly in disregard and disobedience to God’s command.

Solomon was a pretty smart fella. God gave him more smarts than any one man to date has had, Jesus excepted. But in choosing to live to satisfy his fleshly indulgences he made a pretty dumb mistake. NOT CRUCIFYING OURSELF, YOU SEE, HAS A DUMBING EFFECT ON US:  it makes us spiritually dumber to our unbeknownst.

Instead of loving God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, Solomon gave his heart and his love to someone else. He lived to satisfy himself and his flesh. Does he remind any of us of ourself? Do we live as Solomon?

Friends, if you don’t put your cross to good use and die out to self, then, like Solomon, you’re making your worst decision ever. You may not believe me. You may think me wrong to your dying day. But rest assured, you’ll know the truth when you meet up with God. EVERYBODY MEETS GOD FACE-TO-FACE AT LEAST ONCE (Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:11-12). I pray your meeting doesn’t make you an obedient-believer-too-late.

Friends, let’s learn from Solomon. Let’s not duplicate his mistake. Let’s return penitently to our Lord for He is ever ready and willing to forgive us. Let God dictate how we live our life. And at the top of our To-do list, let’s find the cross that we’ve lost and get back on it. That’s where we Christians belong. That’s where we can be found. May God bless you richly and empower you to live obediently for Him.

3 Comments

  1. Mark Yotter said,

    November 9, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    Well Spoken. We need godly reminders regularly.

  2. jan bucher said,

    November 9, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    as always love your sermons..so glad to have them again..may we all continue to read and more importantly DO his word..

  3. Brenda said,

    December 7, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Dear Gaylord ~ So glad you are doing well and back to teaching via your blog. As always, I find your messages timely and needed in my life. Thanks and may you continue… Brenda


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