In 1 Samuel 24 David has an opportunity to take Saul’s life and bring an end to a long, dangerous, abusive episode. But instead, David decides to cut only the corner of his robe.
Small decisions can lead to big mistakes. David explains the ‘why’ of what he did by saying, “I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.” As much rage, anger, and frustration as there must have been in David in that moment, he made a clear-headed decision that kept him from committing a personally damaging sin.
Our bodies are full of feelings, our mind filled with fantasy, our ears are filled with condoning voices, our eyes are filled with gratification, our lives are full of passion; all of which make us easy prey for temptation. But we are not animals, we are living souls that are capable of self-control. If you can question yourself, you can control yourself. Here are five questions to ask before you make a small decision that may lead to a big mistake.
QUESTION YOURSELF/CONTROL YOURSELF
Will I hurt or embarrass my family?
In the moment what you feel or think to be harmless may be extremely shameful to your family. It may be gratifying to you, but it is embarrassing to them. Sin is never an act of self, it always impacts others. Think of them before you do for you!
Take it a step further. In your mind you may be able to justify what you are about to do, but ask this question before you lose control, can I tell my family what I’m about to do? Before you visit that website, can you tell you wife without it bringing harm to your relationship - probably not. Before you give yourself to that conversation with that guy, clear it with your husband - no chance. Before you go to that party - ask your parents! If you have to hide it, it is harmful! Good questions help you get control.
2) Will I fuel slander and gossip?
There are plenty of people who feed on failure. Starve them! For the Christian, the stakes are even higher. We know the battles that rage within us. We know we are not perfect. We know about the struggles, but we are also well aware of the standard - Christ! Will your decision give people something to talk about that would diminish the glory of Christ? Would it hurt the witness of your church? Does it give people more reason to turn away from the gospel? Be careful before you lose control.
Let’s give them something to think about rather than something to talk about.
3) What will I have to give up if I get caught?
When David made the decision to spare Saul’s life he did so because he knew what he would gain in the ‘now’ would cost him most ‘later.’ He could have ended Saul’s life and become the king he was anointed to be, but he could have also incited civil war. This was a way to become the king, but this was not the right way to become the king.
Temptation promises pleasure now, but it blinds you to the coming chapter of the consequence. The immediate gain is not worth what you really stand to lose. It’s not about what you get, but about what you give up.
4) What is the clear Biblical teaching?
Mark Twain said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand that bother me.” The Bible is more easily understood that we desire for it to be. Most of the problem we have with the Bible comes down to the fact that we don’t want to do what it says.
Because the Bible is God’s inspired word, disobeying the Bible is disobeying God. Temptation would lead us to exile the Bible from our minds and hearts and to place it back on the shelf of forgetfulness. The Bible gives clear, simple guidance about the goals of Christ-likeness in all things that it draws clear boundaries of morality for those who would dare to love God and live for Him.
5) Can I get permission rather than forgiveness?
It is a humorous quip, “I had rather get forgiveness than permission” but it is a massive mistake. We would presume that God gives forgiveness for anything, at anytime, to anyone. That is a mistaken assumption. The Bible is very clear that you are playing with fire when you commit presumptuous sin. Presuming on God’s grace is deadly ground.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26–31 (ESV)
Many call that a hard saying of the Bible. It may be hard to fully explain, but I think it is very easy to understand. I may not be able to offer you a satisfactory explanation of every nuance of it, but the big picture is plain to see - don’t mess with God’s grace. I can summarize it like this, don’t go there - it’s bad!
So before you lose control, why not reverse confession? Confess to God what you are going to do rather than confess to God what you did. What do I mean?
Many people make a mistake in confession. They simply say something like, “God forgive me of all my sin.” That is a statement, that is not a confession. A confession is an explanation of what one has done. The essence of the word confession is agreement. You agree with the authority that what you did was wrong.
Confession is an ugly conversation with God. You are naming your sin before holiness. In true confession, sin has a name - fornication, adultery, gluttony, perversion, violence, envy, jealousy, slander, rebellion.
So before you do what you are about to do, go before a holy God and see how it sounds. Tell Him what the temptation promises and what is in your heart that entices you to disobey him. That is indeed a sobering moment that may just save you from a tragic mistake. It is worth the pause to get control!
What are the questions you ask yourself that help you make decisions? How do you establish accountability and control in your life? Leave a comment, I want to hear from you.
This content was taken from the later part of a sermon I preached entitled Personal Fouls. Watch it here: