- Advance Decision Making
- 1 John 2:3-6
- Lyndol Loyd September 4, 2016
September 4, 2016
10 Second Rule: Advance Decision Making
1 John 2:3-6 – 3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. 4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
Here at LakeRidge, we have been learning about the 10 Second Rule which is simply to “Just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do.” Then commit to it immediately – in the next 10 Seconds, before you change your mind.
Many of you have been reading the book, of the same name, by author Clare DeGraff. Some of you have been listening to the book on digital download as you walk, run or commute. Still others of you have been meeting to discuss this with a life group or friends.
Along the way we have discovered that one of the major challenges of living into the 10 Second Rule is the dueling voices that we hear. We hear the voice of God. We sense an impression of something that we feel reasonably certain God wants us to do, but soon thereafter, we often hear another voice that causes us to hit the pause button, think better of ourselves and then find a reason not to do what we felt compelled to do.
It all comes down to the scriptural principle of obedience. Jesus himself establishes it for us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” In other words, our actions demonstrate how we truly feel.
It is a principle that is easy to read and understand, but at the same time can be so challenging for us to live out. This morning we want to take a look at something we can do to help us do a better job of living out the rule.
As a college student, I learned a valuable lesson, if your professor schedules a class on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, you show up. It was my freshman year and I was enrolled in a Biology class along with about three hundred other students, it wasn’t the most exciting class and because there were so many other students, it was easy to blend in with the crowd. With Thanksgiving break in sight, it was more than a little bit tempting to skip out on the class so I could get on the road for the four hour trip home to see my family.
But for some reason, I stayed and went to class. I walked into the lecture hall that morning and initially thought maybe I had made a mistake. Instead of three hundred students there were about thirty of us. The bell rang and the professor went to the blackboard and wrote in large letters two words – pop quiz.
He asked us to clear off our desks, put away our books, and pull out a pen and sheet of paper. Even though I knew I was better off than those who had skipped out on the class, I still felt nervous, wondering if I was prepared for the test I was about to take.
Once I completed my formal educational experience, I thought that pop quizzes would become a part of my past. What I didn’t understand is, when it comes to the matter of obedience, God gives you and me pop quizzes all the time.
- You’re in a hurry to get things done and someone shows up at your door wanting to talk. Do you make the time for it or do you brush them off in favor of getting other things done?
- A pop up ad with the picture of a scantily clad woman appears on your computer screen while surfing the internet. You know you shouldn’t go there, but you find it incredibly tempting. Do you click on it or do you get rid of it?
- You see a man who looks down on his luck sitting in the corner booth of a local fast food restaurant where you are. Do you go over and talk to him or do you simply mind your own business?
- You get an email from your child’s school asking for volunteers to help tutor kids who are struggling with reading. You know it is an incredible need and believe you could make a difference, but it would mean giving up some personal time. Do you do it?
- A neighbor is going through a really rough patch in life. You know that she isn’t a Christian. You feel compelled to share your faith in Jesus with her, but you worry that she might think you’re weird or strange if you do. Do you talk to her about Jesus?
Pop quizzes come our way all the time, on a daily basis. So why is it that so often we find ourselves so unprepared for the pop quizzes that God chooses to send our way?
A word that might be helpful to us is intentionality. Intentionality helps us draw a clearer distinction between being theoretically open to following Jesus and a carefully thought out decision to obey.
I spent several years as a youth director and this was the kind of thing I used to speak to my youth group about on a regular basis. We would discuss what I liked to call “advance decision making”.
Usually the scenarios we would discuss would go something like this: If you find yourself at a party where there are drugs and alcohol, it is probably not the best time to be making a decision about what your standard is. If you haven’t already decided that these are not things that you’re going to do, chances are you will give in and give it a try.
Or I’d tell them that when they find themselves in the backseat of a car with a guy or girl, that probably isn’t the best time to be making a decision about living a life of sexual purity. If their goal was to honor God with their bodies and sexuality, it would make sense to think this through in advance and to make a decision when they were thinking clearly about their lives rather than in a moment of hormone-induced passion.
It strikes me that advance decision making isn’t a principle that only pertains to children or youth. Advance decision making is a principle that can benefit all of us when it comes to living a life of obedience to God.
Rather than waiting until we see a homeless person standing at the corner of the intersection to decide if we are going to help or not, why not contemplate this scenario in advance?
Karen Rentz and April Smith, a couple of members of the church I pastored in Florida, really prompted my thinking about the power of this. Knowing that it wasn’t uncommon to drive up to an intersection in Orlando and find someone holding a sign asking for help, they both made up what they called blessings bags which were gallon size Ziploc bags they had filled with crackers and cheese, a pair of warm socks, a bottle of water, a tooth brush, tooth paste and deodorant. They kept them in their cars and had them ready when the opportunity came for them to be a blessings to one of these folks standing on the intersection.
We don’t want to limit advance decision making to the idea of when we have the opportunity to be generous with other people. Advance decision making is something that serves us well in terms of thinking about our own personal holiness, our ability to lead Christ-like lives.
To be certain it would be impossible for us to anticipate all of the various impressions that God might give to us on any given day. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we really do know all too well the list of our own private sins that we are prone to commit on a regular basis. What we can do is decide to prepare ourselves for dealing with them.
In the book The 10 Second Rule, author Clare DeGraff recounts hearing a speaker who challenged his listeners to, “Spend an hour or two alone with God, seek his guidance, and then make a list, strictly between God and yourself, of the things you’ll never do or never do again.”
There is power in making that kind of an advance decision in our lives. Now really is the time to think through the temptations that we will someday face, not when we are out with friends or in the middle of a tempting situation.
Hopefully what happens is that any time we find ourselves getting close to violating the boundary that has been established, the Holy Spirit causes us to remember a decision that we made weeks, months or even years before, about who we are and how we want to live our lives.
Advance decision making can’t stop us from doing something wrong if we are just flat out determined that we are going to give ourselves over to passion or pressure of some kind. But what it does do for us is to function as a speed bump of sorts that warns us that we are headed for dangerous territory.
As a matter of fact, I would challenge each us this morning to take some time to pull away, call time out, get quiet before God and to make our own list of what we will never do or will never do again. What fruit might it bear in our lives to do so? What difference would it have possibly made if we had paused to do so previously? These are questions worth asking ourselves.
I’m convinced that it isn’t that we don’t want to live in accordance with God’s word. Ask almost anyone here this morning and chances are that they would tell you that they want to be obedient to God. The problem is that most of us have no plan in place for how to do that. We fly by the seat of our pants. We make decisions as we find ourselves in the middle of situations. And we live our lives without accountability.
Unfortunately, what takes place when we live that way is the pop quiz comes our way and we fail it. The Holy Spirit whispers in our ears and because we haven’t done any advance decision making to do anything differently, we face the temptation and engage with behavior that isn’t consistent with who we want to be or with whom we are called to be.
So, you have to ask yourself, why is it that we are so unintentional when it comes to dealing with our habitual sins? Why is it that we are more intentional in dealing with our stuff?
Could it be that somewhere down deep in the ugliest, darkest parts of ourselves that we don’t want to give up our sins? Is it possible that our sin, our bad habits, our compulsions are things we think we cannot live without, or believe we could never really be happy again if we did give them up?
There are certain sinful behaviors that we choose to participate in because they come with a payoff for us. They cause us to feel some sense of release from the realities and stresses of our lives. They function as an escape of sorts. It becomes our way of self-medicating so that we can attempt to numb ourselves not to feeling things we don’t want to feel or things that we don’t want to acknowledge.
In a weird sort of way, the behaviors function as a comfort to us. And the thought of devising a real plan for how to actually deal with what we are doing, feels large and looming.
It means we might have to open ourselves up to our shame and guilt. We find all of that embarrassing and uncomfortable to acknowledge so we take a pass on it. Even though we know it isn’t good for us to continue on the way we are, we find a way to convince ourselves that we are okay with or rationalize that we will deal with it later on when the timing is better.
However, here’s what the problem is with that kind of compromise in our lives. Once I go there, it becomes that much easier to go there again and again. We start to feel as if we are getting by with something so we end up tempted to push the limits again and again or we decide to push the limits in other areas of our lives as well.
We have to choose to live with intentionality, otherwise, it is a recipe for disaster in our lives. It becomes a breeding ground for doing the very things we never thought we would ever be capable of doing.
James 1:14-15 states, “14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”
Habitual sins are preventable and predictable. Think about that for a moment. This means that we can do something about them and it also means that we can anticipate them. So why would we choose to carry such baggage with us, weighing us down, day after day?
In Hebrews 12:1 the encouragement that we are given is this. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
So let’s just acknowledge that there have been times in which we have failed in the past and that there will be times when we fail in the future. But here is the great thing about the 10 Second Rule, even when we fail to follow the rule at first, the discipline of the rule causes us to ask important questions: Why didn’t I handle that better or act immediately?
We learn something about ourselves and about the subtle nature of procrastination, it really is just another form of self-deception.
Advance decision making is an intentional choice to learn from these mistakes and consider a more Christ-like response for the next time, and there will be a next time.
Advance decision making is simply God’s wisdom applied to real life. James 1:5 says it this way, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Today, I want to challenge you to do just that – to apply God’s wisdom to your real, every day, ordinary kind of life by making some advance decisions about who you are and how it is that God has called you to live.