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Knowing His Will Requires Discernment
Scripture: 1 Kings 12: 1-14
Track 4 of 8 in the Inside~Out: Discovering the Will of God series
Running time: 32 minutes

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"Knowing His Will Requires Discernment" October 21, 2007

So many voices, all of them out there trying to convince you that you ought to do something, buy something, be something, wear something. Do you ever have that nagging feeling that you just weren't quite sure which voice was the right voice? Who do you listen to? That's been around a long time. That's not new.

Back in the 1933 two scientists, a fellow by the name of the Arthur Kallet and another by the name of Frederick Schlink, wrote an article called "A Hundred Thousand Guinea Pigs," subtitled Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 1933. By they started publishing a thing call Consumers Union Reports, had a circulation of 4,000.

By 1942 they shortened the name to simply Consumer Reports. You're probably familiar with the magazine. By that time, 1942, there were a hundred thousand people who subscribed to that magazine. By 1992 they had crossed the 5 million subscription mark. In 2002 there were 1 million on-line subscriptions to Consumer Reports, people trying to get the information they need to make a reasonably intelligent choice so that when you feel like you've done all you can do to choose you don't come away with that nagging feeling, I could have got this cheaper someplace else, a better product, or something more reliable.

That's so many voices, all of them out there trying to convince you that their way of doing things is right, that they are the only one that you should pay any attention to. The voices are absolutely incredible, and they are everywhere in every arena.

I ran into this in the library. It's called "Pop Culture, Opposing Viewpoints." It's fascinating. There is just a whole series of these books. I can't hardly wait to have a chance to sit down and kind of gander through them. You think there aren't a lot of voices in our world? I'm not going to read the entire table of contents to you, but just try some of these for example. Video games, violent video games can promote an understanding of human nature, violent video games produce violence. Television programming has become increasingly coarse, cultural conservatives exaggerate the coarseness of television. Pop culture encourages girls to wear revealing clothing, revealing teen fashions do not harm children. Media violence promotes violent behavior, media violence promotes healthy behavior. I won't continue to read many more of these. You get the picture.

One article says one thing, one article says the other, and it pretty well captures the way life is. Somebody is out there to try to tell you something, and you got to figure out which one of those voices you are going to listen to.

A marvelous little book came out sometime ago called "Coercion." It's a fellow's attempt to try to help us understand the power of advertising. I can't hardly wait to get past the first chapter. The opening introduction is entitled, "They Say." "They say" that human beings only use ten percent of their brains. "They say" polyunsaturated fat is better for you than saturated fat. "They say" our children's tests scores are declining. "They say" you can earn $15,000 a week in your spare time. "They say" that the corner office is the position of power. "They say" people won't do anything under hypnosis that they wouldn't do when conscious. "They say" you can be hypnotized and made to do anything. "They say."

Did you ever wonder who "they" was? Who in the world is trying to tell us all of this stuff to get us to believe that? Well, "they are," the voice of culture that tries to convince you that doing things in a particular way will be the right way.

And every time I think about this, I'm drawn back to a text in the new testament that I wish every person who is a christian, particularly those who are parents, would get their hands around, Hebrews Chapter 5, Verse 14. Those who are mature have learned through practice to discern right from wrong. It's a great text. Those who are mature have by practice learned to tell the difference, learned to discern between right and wrong. There is an assumption alive in our culture, particularly among our parents, that if we just hang out long enough eventually we'll wake up one day and say, wow, I'm pretty good at making decisions. It doesn't happen that way. The writer of Hebrews says that with a language, with a vocabulary that says, we are disciplined at making, at practicing good decisions. This is a word that literally is the gymnasium, the gymnausium. You go there relentlessly to work out your brain and your mind so that you know how to make right choices, learn how to tell the difference. Not everything is good. Oh, by the way, learn. It's not just these guys.

Now, I did something this week that I try not to do very often. I went out there and found some blogs. I'm not big on trying to read what other people think is that important that the whole world ought to know about, but I found one that was incredibly interesting to me because it illustrates this issue of knowing the difference between right and wrong and trying to figure out how to train yourself to know the difference. Here is the initial blog.

"I'm 13 years old and decided to have sex. Me and my partner talked about it and practice safe sex, but something went wrong and I ended up being pregnant. What should I do?" Here is the response. "I'm sorry to hear that you're pregnant when you don't want to be. There are three options a girl has when she is pregnant: Abortion, adoption, and teen parenting. They are all legal, valid options."

Now, I can't get that far into blog before my ire is already up. First of all, there are not three valid options. I know, because I was born to a -year old unwed mother, and the first option listed in here is not valid in my mind. I'm grateful to be alive. My adopted mother may have had days when she wondered.

"Only you can know what is best for you." Right. At 13 you can know what's best for you. That's why you are 13 and pregnant. Now, here is the cynicism in that. Do not hear the lack of compassion for a 13-year old. Hear the frustration at a culture of multiple voices trying to give advice? "I suggest," she says, "that you talk to your parents." What a novel idea. How about doing that when you are 12 before you end up pregnant at 13. "Or talk to your partner." Well, that got her a long ways. "Or a neutral third party, like a blog partner." This 13-year old is getting advice from a wise experienced 18-year old. "Like a counselor. Talking with others can help you see all the process and cons of your decision."

Well, there is nothing wrong with talking to other people. You just might want to be careful who you talk to. The whole issue is knowing enough to be able to actually make legitimate decisions. Do you realize that out there, wherever out there is, you can have anything? There is an opinion out there that will agree with yours, I guarantee it, if you just look.

You won't believe this one. I even wrote this one down so I would not forget. Are you ready for this? The title of this is "Toward a Framework for Christian Pornography." Christian pornography. Here are the guidelines. For those of you who are interested in going into the porn industry and want to stay christian, here are the guidelines. This is the framework in which you have to try to work.

Number one, it can only depict sexual activity between married couples because, you know, you can't have any extra-marital sex. It must portray sex within the context of a christian marriage. It has to be instructional. You have to be able to learn something from it. No extra-marital sex unless -- don't you love that. I mean, there is always an unless. Unless it is to illustrate the down side of adultery. It must be uplifting and inspirational. And you can't have any profanity.

I'm not going to waste your time with a lot more illustrations of that, okay. My point is, we live in a world that calls for discernment where you have to be able to sort out the voices and be able to actually make some legitimate choices, and you're not going to get much help.

The text I want to look at is First Kings Chapter 12. It's a story of Rehoboam the king, and it's a great illustration of a lousy decision. So if you got First Kings, I want to walk through the first part of this chapter. I want to set it in its context just so you know where it is. First Kings Chapter 12 is the story of Rehoboam assuming the kingship after his father dies, Solomon.

Now, back at the beginning of this story God has allowed Israel to demand a king, and he has relinquished his own sovereignty at the level of saying, okay, if you want a king, I'll give you a king. He selects Saul to be the king. Saul didn't do a great job. For 40 years Saul was the king of Israel, and it really wasn't all that great of a reign.

He transferred under God's direction leadership to David. David, as you know, did a pretty good job as king most of the time, but he had a couple of little minor problems like committing adultery and having somebody murdered. Other than that, he did all right. Most of the time. But for 40 years he reigned, and he became the test against which all other kings were measured. If you read first and second Kings, first and second Chronicles, what you'll discover is every king in Israel is measured against David. He either reigned like David or he didn't reign like David. David had a pretty good reign.

He turned the reins over to his son Solomon. Solomon on the one hand was a very, very wise man, very, very wealthy, and advanced Israel to a place of great prominence in the world. Solomon was also stupid. I'm not sure how you can be wise and stupid at the time, but he managed. He had multiple wives and concubines, and he brought in adultery and idolatry together into Israel. And after 40 years he hands the reins over to his son Rehoboam.

That's where we pick this story up. First Kings Chapter 12, verse number 1, we pick it up with Rehoboam. "Rehoboam went to Shechem for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam, son of Nebat, heard this (he was still in Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon) he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke that he put on us, and we will serve you.'"

That sounds like good advice. You got to think about this for just a minute just from a merely practical standpoint. For 40 years Solomon has been advancing the kingdom. He has been building a temple in which to place the ark of the covenant. He has been building his own massive house, castle. They have amassed a huge army. He has put together a magnificent nation, and it took a lot of effort. That meant a lot of people were constricted into the army and that they paid a lot of heavy taxes. It was a demanding season in the life of the kingdom. People were tired of that heavy load of taxation and responsibility.

And so he goes to these older men who -- they come to him and they say, lighten the load, just ease up, and we'll follow you. "So King Rehoboam says, 'Go away for three days and come back to me.' So the people left. The king consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. 'How would you advise me to answer these people, he asked?' They said, 'If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.'" That's great advice. Just back off, let them have a little space here, give us some room to breathe. These are the men who were older. They had served under Solomon. They knew from experience what Israel had been through, and they were giving sage advice.

Now, look at Rehoboam's response. "Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who served with him, who grew up with him and served him." You know, it almost sounds like he has already got his mind made up, doesn't it? And that's the key, isn't it? If you look long enough, you will find somebody who agrees with, I promise. So just start with people your own age, people you have grown up with. Ask your 14-year old or your 13-year old advice because they are so wise in the ways of the world.

So Rehoboam goes to his young friends, asks them what their advice is. "The young men said," Verse 10, "tell these people who said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, make our yoke lighter,' tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father's scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'"

I always wondered if they thought about what they were saying in light of the fact that they were going to have to carry that load, too. That never gets addressed in this text.

"Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam as the king had said, 'Come back to me in three days.' The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, 'My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' And so the king did not listen to the people."

Now, if you know the rest of the story, you know what happens. The ten northern tribes followed Jeroboam and they seceded from the nation. From this point on the history of Israel we now have a divided kingdom, ten up north, two down south, and we have a series of reigns until 722 B.C. when Assyria comes across and destroys the ten northern tribes, and we never hear from them again. Talk about consequences to a decision. This destroyed Israel forever.

When it comes to trying to figure out what God wants you to do in your life, when you are trying to decide how to make decisions as a believer, you really do need discernment. You need to learn to ask the right questions. You need to learn to think things through. And this text offers us, I think, some pretty good advice about how to go about making the kinds of decisions that will be God honoring decisions, that will be good for your life because the practice of discernment is something that you have to work on. It does not come naturally.

And I think the very first thing that you learn in this text is so obvious in Rehoboam. He really didn't want the advice. This was cursory. You go away for three days, I'll get some advice and think about it. He had already made up his mind. As soon as he got the advice he wanted, he was fine. But he wasn't about to ask for anybody's advice that wasn't going to agree with him and then listen to them. You know how that works. You often go looking for advice, and the only thing you are really looking for is somebody to say, yeah, that's a good idea. And you'll ask until you get there.

Okay. You don't believe me, do you? Back in the dark ages when I was 14 I had a driver's license. You could do that in Idaho in those days. 14 you could drive legally during the day. You couldn't drive at night. By the way, are any you 14? This is really scary. Because I knew I was a good driver. I didn't have any reason not be out after dark. I can still see after dark.

And there was an all night movie, and I wanted to go, but that meant driving at night. So I went to my parents, and I said, I want to go. And they said, no. I said, that's not the answer I'm looking for. You know, it took me an hour to get the answer I wanted because I was going. When I went and asked, do you think I should do this, do you think this would be a good idea, I wasn't looking for them to say, that's a great idea, or, that's not a great idea. I was looking for them to say, yeah, that's what you want to hear so you do it. Because often that's how we seek advice. We go looking for the answer we want. And we ask and we ask and we ask until somebody finally says, well, yeah, I think that's a great idea. Why don't you do that. And we do it.

But you really ought to think about who you are asking, because in this text there is something of incredible importance, and that is the asking of people who are wiser than you, who have had a little life experience, who have had an opportunity to figure some things out and know how bad some decisions can be. I am now on that side, and I can't for the life of me figure out why you people won't listen to me, because I know. I have been down those roads, at least some of them, and they do not always lead where you want to go. But when you are 14, it doesn't matter, because you think you know better.

Wise advice comes from people who have had an opportunity to experience enough of life to know the consequences of their choices. That's why the bible talks about those who have white hair. That's why it talks about elders in leadership. That's why it talks about listening to those who are your parents because we do know, believe it or not.

But part of that would mean that you actually were going to listen. I mean, he got good advice. It wasn't that he didn't get good advice. It was that he didn't listen to the good advice that he got because, quite honestly, that's the way we do it. It's rare that we are really seeking advice that we are going to listen to. We are seeking somebody to agree with us.

And here is the bottom line. I think one of the things that is so important to come away from this text with is this. You need to ask yourself, what are the consequences of these choices? It is not that hard to figure that out. It is not that difficult to ask yourself, what will happen if I make this choice? If you choose to give in to the nonsense that your co-worker is giving you about having an affair with them, it's not hard to figure out that in six months or a year your wife or your husband is going to divorce you and your children are going to hate you. It's just not that hard to figure it out. You know, all you got to do is look around. You have seen it happen to so many other people. It's just not that hard to figure that out.

You decide that you want to cheat at school because you think you can get a little better grade today than you might otherwise get. It's not hard to figure out what's going to happen when you get caught. How bright do you have to be to realize that an "F" doesn't factor in very well? And since you aren't always willing to listen, let me just say that I'm on that side of the teacher's desk. I know what zero's do in a grade book to an average. All you got to do is just think about it.

If you're the 13-year old girl and you're thinking about having sex with your boyfriend and you ask yourself, what happens if I get pregnant, how hard is that to figure out that you are 13 and you don't want this? So you have three options. Spend the rest of your life as a parent, one child trying to raise another child; give it up for adoption, which is a really legitimate option, and then live with the pain of that because there is pain involved in that, I've been involved in adopting children; or have an abortion and live with the scars of that.

It isn't hard to figure out the consequences of our choices if we will stop long enough to ask, what would happen if I did this? But most of us don't think about them.

I'm a senior in high school. I'm on crutches. It's a home basketball game, and we've just beaten one of our rivals, and things have been really heated. Quincy would know nothing about that. We're going out through the parking lot. There are players from the other team, football players and others who attended the game, and they are out there going to their cars in the parking lot as well. Me and my two buddies -- did I mention that I'm on crutches? I'm not fast on two feet. On crutches it's even worse.

And in the midst of going out toward the parking lot, one of these friends decides to say something to some of the players from the other school, things that I can't repeat. And I'm thinking to myself, are you out of your mind? Have you ever seen anybody on crutches trying to make their way through a parking lot to get to a car before somebody kills them? I'm trying my best to get in the car.

I manage to get to the car, throw the door open, cram in the stupid crutches in, slam the door, and lock it before my friend got in. I let him in. I mean, how stupid can you be? As if you couldn't anticipate five minutes from now what's going to happen when you get done making that stupid comment. And we're going to get killed, me particularly because I got no defense.

A little discernment, a little wisdom, a little asking of some serious questions before you make choices that are going to affect you and everybody else for the rest of your life. You want to know what God wants in your life? Learn to ask the right people the right questions. Learn to listen. Learn to take advice from people a little older than you. I am fascinated by a story in the new testament, there are lots of them, but I'm fascinated by this one particularly. Peter, James, and John have been called to the mountain. We have come to call it the Mount of Transfiguration. It must have been an incredible experience for these three guys to go up on the mountain with Jesus. Because as they go out there there is a cloud that settles down over the top of the mountain just like the story of Moses up on Mt. Sinai. And a cloud comes down and a voice comes down out of the cloud, and in this conversation Moses and Elijah show up. Can you imagine being Peter, James, and John, three good Jewish men, and the representative of the law Moses and the representative of the prophets Elijah shows up and is there in your midst and you are watching him have a conversation with them.

And all of a sudden this voice comes out of the cloud, "This is my son. Hear him." And the cloud lifts, and the text is so clear, "And they saw no one except Jesus only." Do you hear what the text has done? Do you hear what the writer has done? He has laid this thing out so you cannot miss the emphasis. "They saw no one except Jesus only."

He wants you to understand as the reader if you are going to listen to anybody, listen to Jesus. It isn't the law. It isn't the prophets. It's not the Torah. It's not your past. It's not even the important things. If you are going to listen to someone, if you want to know what God wants in your life, there is one voice, and only one, Jesus. You listen to him. And once you listen to him, then you can begin to sort out some of the voices. But until you've listened to him, you have not listened to the right voice. And that's always the invitation, listen to Jesus.

Listen to him as he calls you to come to him. Listen to him as he pleads for you to live faithfully in his presence. Listen to him as he offers you forgiveness from your sin. Listen to him as he gives you direction in your life. Listen to him when he says, I will be with you always even in the worst of circumstances. Listen to him. Let him in. Let him in. Make room. Commit yourself to him. Let him be the focus of your life. That's the invitation, to commit yourself to him, to let him take your life, to give everything you are to him.

Let's stand and sing then. Let's make this our commitment. Take my life, let it be, always to you, hands and feet and lips and heart. And if you've got a decision you need to make today, if there is something you need to say in public, then come. If it needs to be one of those private conversations, then don't leave the building until you've had a conversation with somebody that can give you the answers to your questions.

[Transcribed by GN12]