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Friday, January 23, 2009

Consequences

A family therapist was discussing some of the comments he often received from parents. Many of them asked the question “Why are our kids so different than we were when we were kids? When we were kids, if our parents told us not to do something, we didn’t do it. But our kids are so different. What we say doesn’t seem to make any difference.” The therapist remarked that in earlier generations, when parents said “Don’t do that” everyone knew they meant “Don’t do that or there will be consequences.” Many of today’s children don’t believe there will be consequences to their actions. Therefore it is much easier for them to ignore their parent’s wishes. They don’t believe in the authority of their parents. They also don’t think that their parents have their best interests at heart.

I wonder to what extent we do the same thing with God. Do we have the attitude that we can do whatever we want without any consequences? Do we sin believing that God won’t discipline us for our actions? Many times it seems that way. We don’t try to avoid sin, but instead put our efforts into avoiding being caught. We don’t believe that God will discipline us for our sins. We don’t want to admit that he has authority over us. Nor do we believe that when he commands us not to do something he has our best interests at heart. This situation is caused by our having a defective view of God. We don’t believe that he is actively in control of the universe. While we may believe that he is interested in the grand scheme of things, we don’t believe that he is concerned about the actions of individuals. We refuse to admit that he is an authority figure in our lives. Therefore we think we can do what we want, when we want, without suffering the consequences.

But throughout the Bible, we see that there are always consequences to people’s actions. When King Saul didn’t follow God’s instructions in the battle with the Amalekites, the prophet Samuel told him that because of his disobedience God was rejecting him as king. Because David had an affair with Bathsheba and killed her husband, the prophet Nathan told him that he would never have peace in his family. For the rest of his life, David lived with court intrigue, rebellion, mistrust, rape, and scheming sons within his family. The Apostle Peter, speaking of false teachers, says that their condemnation hangs over them. The Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church that those living in wickedness will not inherit the kingdom of God. In each case there are consequences to one’s actions.

God is the authority figure in our lives who is in control of our destiny. We need to listen to him. When he speaks, it is for our good. Hebrews 12:10 says that “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness”. We need to listen to him and obey his commands, for they really are in our best interests. But when we don’t, we should not be surprised when we suffer the consequences. Do we believe that God both blesses us as well as punishes us? Or do we think of him more as a doting grandfather? Make no mistake, God is actively involved in our lives. He is in charge, and there will be consequences when we ignore him. From time to time it is worth doing a little self examination and asking the question “Are there things in my life where I am ignoring God’s directive? It’s time to pay attention.

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