Getting Out and Staying Out of Personally Destructive Choices
Sunday, September 17, 2006 -
Last week we studied the four sources of problems:
a) Problems coming as a direct result of the Fall and the entrance of sin into this world
b) Problems coming from circumstances and situations beyond our control
c) Problems coming as the direct result of personal choices
d) Problems (or at least apparent problems) coming from the purifying love of God in our lives
Today we focus attention of the third category - problems coming as a direct result of personal choices. As we look at this it’s very important to remember some of the background from last week’s study. One of the deforming effects of sin on our minds is its tendency to encourage our inclination toward situations that are personally self-destructive - Isaiah 64:6 - “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” This means we need God’s grace and help us turn from sin. Because the painful consequences of sin aren’t usually immediately apparent there is frequently no self-motivation to turn from iniquity. Recognizing this in advance is a tool of the Holy Spirit to quicken our inward moral honesty and wisdom.
1) IF I’M ALREADY IN A PROBLEM SITUATION OF MY OWN CHOOSING, I NEED TO GET OUT OF MY SIN BEFORE I CAN STAY OUT AND WALK IN NEW LIFE
By this I mean it will be fruitless to focus my attention on relief from the pain of a sinful choice until I work with the Holy Spirit to take the steps to undo, where possible, the wickedness of that choice. Taking drugs to relieve the pain of the tumor isn’t what’s needed first. The tumor must be surgically cut out. Here are the three steps to getting out of a sinful action:
a) The first step out of sinful choices is confession
1 John 1:9 - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession brings God into the situation. Confession means more than wanting to be out of a jam. Even atheists can want to avoid the pain of their choices. Confession means facing personal responsibility before God:
Psalm 51:4 - “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”
b) Thorough confession must be immediately followed by belief in both the cleansing and delivering power of Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:8-10 - “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Notice that phrase, “...believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead...” This relates to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:17 - “...and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is set out as essential because it relates to my future delivered life from my confessed sin. This leads into the next important point:
c) Confession and belief must be followed by an instant, unqualified obedience to the very next thing the Lord calls me to do. In other words, forgiveness is related to my future as much as it is to my past. This is frequently missed. Jesus knows my future safety is directly related, not to the tears I shed for my past, but my commitment to Him with my future. These two things - forgiveness for my past and protection for my future - must be kept linked together. In other words, obedience is both the supreme proof of devotion to Jesus as my risen Lord and the supreme condition for successful living:
The supreme proof of devotion - John 14:15,21,23 - “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.... Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.... Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
The supreme condition of success - Joshua 1:8 - “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Question: If I ask Jesus to forgive me for a bitter attitude to my enemy and He tells me I must go to him and ask forgiveness - and I don’t go - do I get forgiveness for my bad attitude? And how does our answer to this question relate to the promise of 1 John 1:9 (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”)?
Obedience to Jesus always brings ultimate success, though usually not without a personal price. But remember, there will be no lasting deliverance from the pain of wrong personal choices apart from renewed commitment and obedience to the Word of God. Confession without obedience will only lead to deeper sin and discouragement farther down the road. Without the commitment to turn from personal sin I will enjoy forgiveness of sin only briefly and find my future bondage to the same sin more discouraging because I will come to doubt the power of the cross to bring effectual change to my moral behavior.
This, it seems to me is the painful lesson set forth in the difficult words of Hebrews 12:15-17 - “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;  that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”
Esau’s sin was not unforgiveable. Rather, this passage highlights the danger of, like Esau, playing fast and loose with wanting and yet not really wanting to come to God on God’s terms. Esau didn’t like the mess he was in. But that is not the same as wanting to honor God at all costs. Remember, God’s plan is not only to get you out. His delight and goal is to keep you from falling. Next week we’ll study three key principles designed to keep life on track and out of the mud of poor personal choices.