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Testing from the Inside; Purpose of Testing – Judges 3:1-6


As we have examined Judges I have shown that there are basically three divisions in the book of Judges.  The first division extends from Judges 1:1 down thru 3:6; this is the introduction, this sets the theme of this book and the orientation and summary of what is going to take place in terms of the cycles of discipline and the problems that are going to plague Israel because they failed to apply doctrine.  They reject the Lord and in His place they turn to idols.  There is always that option.  When God is removed the only solution is idolatry; you do not go into some position of neutrality.  There are only two options.  Now because Israel rejected God and replaced God with idol worship, today we may not replace God with external concrete idols of wood and stone but we certainly worship more sophisticated idols of the mind. 


In the New Testament it says that materialism or greed, materialism lust and money lust is idolatry.  Whenever you substitute anything in terms of its priority in your life, whether it is sports, whether it's family, whether it is your job or career or education, whatever it is, when anything becomes of higher priority to you at that point you are in idolatry.  This may occur on a daily basis for some people, it may occur on a weekly basis, but at some point we all make the error of failing to live up to the ideals of our priority, that doctrine is number one.  And when we do that and God is no longer number one, then at that point we have succumbed to idolatry.


Because Israel succumbed to idolatry and did not turn back to the Lord in terms of confession and true genuine repentance, and remember repentance does not mean to feel sorry for your sins, to have remorse or anything like that, it means simply to change your mind with the result that you change the direction of your life for the most part, and in this sense they would have, instead of forsaking God and turning from God and serving the idols of Baal worship they would have turned from the idols back to God and sought to go forward in their spiritual life.  As a result of that we saw that God is going to discipline Israel. 


Starting in Judges 2:20 he describes that process and he uses the phrase in verse 22 that He will no longer drive out these nations that had inhabited the land before Israel, "in order to test Israel by them."  So these nations are now going to be a source of testing for Israel.  This is reiterated in Judges 3:1, "Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan."  Now the Hebrew word that is translated "test" is the word nasah and that final "h" is silent.  Now nasah means to test, it can be translated a trial, it means to prove in the sense of demonstrating the value of something, to assay something like you would assay or weigh gold in order to demonstrate its value, to put something to the proof, to put it to the test and it even means in some instances it has the concept of training.  And I think that's part of this whole concept, that God has left these nations, these various peoples to live in the land in order to train Israel, to test them.


Now as a result of that last week I started the doctrine of testing and I've already had two or thee questions so I'm going to try to back up a little bit.  The trouble is that many have come out of various backgrounds, some come from religious backgrounds, some have come from non-religious backgrounds but there's some sense in which we pick up this idea that a test is something that is serious, that a test is some kind of major problem or major calamity that comes across in our life, some sort of major disaster or intensified suffering or perhaps some unforeseen obstacle that suddenly rears itself in our path.  So whenever we talk about testing or suffering what I discover is that what people are really hearing is that this is what you do, and sometimes it's conveyed in the term that I sometimes use, problem solving devices, that I use these things when I have some problem in my life, some difficulty.  Now if that is your concept of testing and suffering and problem solving, not only have you misunderstood most of what I have said by the time you finally engage any of the solutions you have failed so desperately and so tragically that it will take you years to recover. 


A test, as I defined it last time, let's review the definition because I crafted it very carefully.  A test is any situation in life, and I define that further as saying any everyday mundane situation, from the mundane to the extreme, whether it's pleasant, whether it involves prosperity, whether it is an unpleasant or adverse situation, it's any situation in life that engages your volition.  90% of the time that we need to use our problem solving devices most of you aren't even thinking there's a problem.  It has to do with very mundane things like just sorting out your priorities for the day and how you're going to spend your time and what you're going to think about when there's nothing pressing on you.  Are you going to be thinking in terms of doctrine or not; what are you daydreaming about, are your daydreams related to doctrinal priorities.  You know, just simple things, how you spend your money, how you manage your money, whether or not you stay out of debt, whether or not you are getting yourself into hock for the next six months so that you are not free financially to support the Lord's work and engage in your priestly responsibility of giving.  A pastor once told me wise advice, that if you cannot disengage from your obligations within two months to go where the Lord seems to be directing you then you are enslaved to things you should not be involved with.  And I think that's true in large part because that destroys your flexibility before the Lord in opportunity to do things. 


And I find that most people are failing in the test because we think of test in terms of the major crises in life and the real issues in life, where the real battles are fought are the day to day mundane decisions as to what's my priority today, am I going to put the Lord first, am I going to put doctrine first or not, am I going to arrange my schedule so that I'm going to make it to Bible class tonight or am I going to let ultimately unimportant issues keep me from being in Bible class.  Parenting decisions are also part of this, your philosophy of parenting, how you lead in the home.  Husbands, the decisions you make on a day to day basis in relationship to loving your life; wives, the decisions you make on a day to day basis in terms of following the leadership of your husband.  Those are the tests that really determine the focus of our lives.  It is not how we respond to the fact that we wake up one day and we've lost our job and the bank closed and we don't have any money or the stock market crashed and everything's gone. 


If you're not practicing the stress busters on a day to day basis in terms of the simply mundane decisions that you think have very little consequences beyond the next hour, then you will not be prepared to utilize the stress busters on the major crises of life.  That's why I call them spiritual skills because a skill is developed by consistent habitual practice.  It's not practice that makes perfect, it's perfect practice that makes perfect.  And you need to be practicing confession, filling of the Holy Spirit, faith rest drill, claiming promises, doctrinal orientation on a day to day basis because that is what builds those blocks in our spiritual fortress that strengthens our lives, produces edification and leads to spiritual maturity.  And if you're not doing that on a day to day basis then you are just following a prescription for disaster. 


Back to our definition:  A test is any situation in life when the believer has the option of choosing between applying doctrine or using his own resources to solve the problem.  And that just starts off with anything; it's how we spend our time.  It may involve how you spend your leisure time, how you spend your money.  I find that how people spend their time and their money says more about what their priorities are than anything else in life. 


This is what's going on in Israel.  The thing I want you to understand and that I want to point out here and the reason I'm taking time away from a verse by verse exegesis here of Judges is to set a framework in our minds so that we can understand, not only what's going on in Israel in terms of God's plans and purpose and testing, why He does things the way He does, but this is going to set up a hinge for helping us move our transition, to help us move from what was going on about 3,500 years ago, and what is going on in your life today.  Just because this happened with a bunch of people who dressed funny and talked differently and lived in a different culture and a different time, they didn't have the technology we have doesn't mean that the basic issues are any different.  And what I'm trying to help you understand is that these aren't simply stories about people and events, this isn't just history but there is meaning to this. 


Those of you who are involved teaching kids, we were talking about some things we need to add to the curriculum and one of the options was Bible heroes.  One of the biggest problems that parents and Sunday School teachers make is they teach Bible stories in and of themselves.  So what?  Noah built an ark?  Why?  Samson, all the things in Samson's life, he tore down the temple and he died; why?  David slew Goliath, why is that important?  See, the issue isn't simply telling the stories but why are they significant?  What does this teach?  Why is this in the Bible?  God isn't just telling us a lot of history, a lot of stories, a lot of what may be to some people interesting and not quite so interesting to other people, events in the history of Israel.  They have a purpose and a significance to teach eternal truths that are as relevant for that period as today.  And that's why these things are taught and when you are a teaching and you're teaching I find that in the Old Testament you have doctrine lived out in the flesh and blood of people's lives and those doctrinal principles are explicated and developed in the New Testament. 


And I find that it's very helpful, especially with kids, that when you are teaching them, and this applies to parents because remember it's the father's responsibility to bring up children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord; most fathers want to abdicate that to the wife instead of assuming their responsibilities as a male spiritual leader in the home which his… you know what, that's one of the things we're going to discover is a symptom of pagan thought.  That's exactly what happened in Israel, the men began to abdicate their role of spiritual leadership and so the women had to step into the vacuum, and that is not God's intended order and priority.  And a mistake that most parents make is they expect the church to be the trainer of their children, the husbands expect the wives to do it and somehow it never gets accomplished and then the kids grow up and you wonder why they don't care about spiritual things.  Because it was never made a priority and a lot of people sort of numbed themselves to it as a priority by saying well I take them to church on Sunday morning and they go to Sunday School and maybe once in a while you read a Bible story to them and that assuages your guilt complex about training your kids and it really hasn't done a thing, it has to be a priority. 


Remember the model, the Mosaic Law is not a mandate for today, you know that but it is a model and there are principles and patterns there that we need to pay attention to and God told the Jewish nation that if they were going to have doctrine perpetuated in their culture then the parents were responsible to teach the children continuously throughout the day.  You go to passages in Deuteronomy 4, Deuteronomy 6 and you read those passages and it talks about how the Law of the Lord is taught when they're standing up and when they're sitting down.  The only thing that's left out there is when you're lying down, supposedly you're asleep and you can't teach then.  Standing up and sitting down encompasses everything in life.  In other words, whatever you're doing in life, morning, noon, day in and day out, and it's not the formal type of teaching where parents sit down with their kids and we're going to have our daily 15 minute devotional and we're going to read 5 or 6 verses and talk about it, pray and we've done our little nod to God for the day.  It is that you as a parent are involved in doing exactly what God's doing to Israel in this passage. 


You are to nasah your children, you are to train them, you are to test and evaluate them.  It is your job and no one else's job to prepare them to be a successful adult.  And as a believer you define success in terms of being prepared spiritually to go out in the world and make decisions from a position of strength and not on the basis of the sin nature.  Now of course, your wonderful little children that you adore so much have sin nature's and at some point they can exercise that independent of your authority and go negative to the Word, and that's your fault, and you can't browbeat yourself for the reset of your life over failure.  What you need to pay attention to as parents is what you are doing, especially between the ages of 1-12.  I think that if you haven't won the battle by age 13 you're in serious trouble and you're going to wonder what hit you when that kid hits puberty. 


God trained Israel and that's your responsibility as a parent is to train your children and that involves a lot of thought, it involves a lot of planning on your part as a parent.  And that's what God told Israel to do, is that you are to train your children.  That means that whatever you are doing in life you stop and you say okay, let's have a little test Johnny, what doctrine applies here; what do you think God wants me to do?  How do we know that?  Give me a passage of Scripture.  Of course the reason most parents don't do that is because most parents can't do that; they don't do it in their own lives because they don't know enough doctrine to do it but that's what the Biblical pattern is.  We teach in life situations, as you go through life, as you engage in whatever it is that you're engaged in doing with your children you prepare them.  You ask them questions like that so that you're engaging their mind in learning how to look at life, look at the situations and decisions that they have to make.  And any decision is a problem.


Any decision is a problem!  Now I'm defining "problem" not as some adverse situation but like a math problem, it is something that needs to be solved, a decision that needs to be addressed.  And so as you go through life the best time to teach your kids is when they're young and to make this kind of practice a habit in their lives and in their thinking so that when they are older they have been trained by it.  Now they may go through periods of rebellion when they get older, trying to figure out who they are and what they want but Proverbs says, and it's a general rule of thumb that as long as you train up your kid in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.  That's a proverb, it's not a promise; you know the difference, I've tried to teach that.  A promise means that you can count it 100% sure; a proverb is that it's just generally true.  It's not absolutely true because that kid has their own volition and they can be negative to the Lord.  I had some seminary professors that are well-known throughout the Christian community and throughout the world and they had children that were not believers.  I know of one man who had four or five children and two of them were not believers.  And to this day they are not believers.  Most people have heard of a man named Donald Grey Barnhouse.  Barnhouse was one of the greatest Bible teachers of his generation; I think he died in the 60s.  One of the greatest proponents of New Age mysticism and New Age garbage in the Dallas area is his youngest daughter, Tiffany Barnhouse, who's a professor at SMU.  So just because you are a parent who teaches your kids well, you can be a success as a parent and have your children go negative to doctrine.  Don't use that as an excuse to blame…success, we need to understand some things about success as God measures it. 


Success as God measures it is your faithfulness to the Word, not the results.  We live in a culture that defines success in terms of results.  You can't always guarantee results.  That's why when I first came as a pastor I warned the congregation, I said be careful of false expectations or unrealistic expectations.  When you have a new pastor or you go to a new job or any kind of change you always have…we all do this, I think it's typical of human nature, we have unrealistic expectations sometimes, especially in a small church in a rural area like we are, it's typical sometimes to think well, we'll get a new pastor and maybe things will be different, we'll grow a little bit, because we all want that, not because we're impressed by numbers but because it would just be nice to have a few more people and realize that we were having an outreach and impact on the community.  And I warned people against that, we live in a pagan age; we live in an age of negative volition and we live in an age when you can do everything right, like Noah did, and not have a single convert.  The same thing can happen as a parent.  You can do everything right as a parent and still have a child that rejects doctrine and goes into rebellion.  But the issue is not what they do with it eventually; the issue is between you and the Lord, your priorities and what you have done as a parent before the Lord in terms of instilling and inculcating Bible doctrine into your kids and that's done both through your example and how you demonstrate that doctrine is the number one priority in your life and how you teach it and explain it to your kids. 


I think parenting is one of the biggest tests that some of you are facing in life right now, just trying to keep your priorities right and remember that as a parent that is, next to learning doctrine and your own spiritual life, your highest priority.  And your job as a parent is to train that child in doctrine and that takes second place to nothing else, not your job, not your career, not your hopes, not your dreams, that's just self-absorption and arrogance.  Your job is to train that child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and that responsibility primarily falls upon the dads. 


A test is any situation in life and for the most part I think you understand by now that that involves day to day decisions, it involves finances, it involves your various responsibilities, it involves your performance in your job responsibilities.  You are to do your job as unto the Lord, not as unto man; you're to do it not as man-pleasers Colossians 3 teaches.  That means you are to work as if your boss is the Lord Jesus Christ.  And that means there is no excuse for doing anything less than giving about 150% to doing the best you can because how you perform on the job and your priorities and your attitudes towards work is part of your testimony, not only before men but also before God, and it has always made me somewhat bilious when I hear people say well, when I hire somebody to do a job I always make sure I hire a Jehovah's Witness.  I've heard that from at least 20 people in my life because they really do a good job, they're honest, they have integrity.  They're trying to work their way to heaven, of course they do.  But that's a big thing with some cult groups, they so pound that into the people that I've heard several people say I want to try to find a tradesman who's in one of these groups because I know that they will do a better job than anybody else.


I've also heard Christians who say the last person they want to do a job is somebody who's a believer.  That's sad.  One friend of mine who was an elder in a church I attended many years ago and he said you know, as soon as I find out somebody I'm doing business with is a Christian I immediately start getting nervous.  Isn't that a sad testimony?  This was a very mature believer but his experience is that as soon as some Christian finds that he finds out he's doing business with another it's like some excuse for being sloppy or cut him some slack or not be as honest or not work as hard because you know, we're in the family so that's okay, he'll understand.  Whatever it is, it's amazing how many believers fail to understand that one major test in your life is that you work as unto the Lord and your work ethic is a serious part of your Christian testimony.  So these are just some of the everyday mundane tests that we all face and we have to decide on a day to day basis whether or not we're going to apply doctrine. 


A test is any situation in life when the believer has the option of choosing.  Volition is the issue in life; you are what your decisions have made you.  The same thing is true about your children.  That's why it is so important for you parents to be emphasizing personal responsibility with your children and why there ought to be serious and immediate consequences, of course the punishment ought to fit the crime, but the ought to be serious and immediate consequences to any level of disobedience because you need to teach your children discipline and you need to teach them priorities and that the issue in life is volition. 


I heard a wonderful interview, I don't even know who it was, it was on a Christian radio show which normally I don't like but the lady was talking about training your children to be debt free and training them in finances.  I have always thought that parents produce a lot of financial failure in their children because they're afraid to give them any financial responsibility before they leave the home.  This woman was talking about the fact that when a child is 11 or 12 years of age you ought to have them in a savings account, they ought to have a checkbook, and she suggested, I thought it was an interesting idea, I'm not promoting any of this, I'm just using this as an illustration, she said instead of giving them an allowance, give them a salary and tell them what that salary is for, that as a parent you used to pay for their food and hamburgers and snacks and maybe some school supplies, when they're 11 or 12 you start off with just some general things, you may keep control of money for their hair cuts and clothes and things like that but say $200 a month I spend on this stuff for you, or $100 or whatever your budget allows, you figure out what you spend on your kids and I'm going to give that to you.  That's your salary for the month.  Now they had rules, certain rules that you had to put so much into a savings account, you had to give so much to the local church, as a child you can put them under legalism because you're training them, you're giving them some priorities.  And they had to plan out a budget for that money, you know, what are your responsibilities.  So the first time you do that you give a kid $100 and that's supposed to last a month, he may spend it all the first week.  She said the hardest thing is you don't bale them out; make them go the rest of the month without any money, the next month they'll be more careful.  The first time I got a check book was the day before I left to go to college.  It took me years to figure out how to balance a checkbook.  I'm convinced parents ought to give their kids a checkbook when you're ten years old, now you control it.  If you give it to them when they're 15 maybe you ought to co-sign every check but you begin teaching them and training them how to handle their money.  Kids today, I found even…I knew this was true about college kids but even high school kids are being targeted by the credit card companies.  And debt and staying in debt, and of course the goal of credit card companies is to get you head over heels in debt and keep you there because that's how they make their money.  But that is going to destroy their future and bankrupt them and all kinds of problems so parents to train their kids to do that and to teach them the discipline and let them suffer the consequences of spending all their money the first week and not having any money for the next three weeks and let them suffer, let them go without, let them not be able to go to movies or have any entertainment or do whatever it is they do. 


That's just part of training, but that's something parents need to be involved in because your job is to prepare your kids so that when they're 18 they don't need you any more, period.  That's your job and that they can be a successful adult and engage in adult decisions without asking you.  Now ideally they are still going to ask you and they're still going to need you and all of those things but your job is to work yourself out of a job.  That's the goal of parents, to train children to be produc­tive functioning adults and that means you have to teach them discipline and you have to teach them priorities, you have to teach them that doctrine is number one and you have to model that in your own life and that's probably the number one reason there's parental failure in all these areas is because most adults, especially if they came up in the baby boom generation don't know how to do that because they rejected the whole concept of discipline 30 or 40 years ago.  The World War II generation did many wonderful things in terms of providing our freedoms and victory in World War II but after the war they bought into, for the most part, the parenting philosophy of Dr. Spock and they did not teach discipline and authority orientation to the next generation.  And then that generation, which is my generation, grew up, and because they had rejected authority and rejected discipline, they didn't teach any discipline to their children.  Now those children are in their 20s and 30s and they're raising up spoiled self-absorbed brats who are dependent upon everybody else for their happiness and have no sense of discipline and no sense or priority.  And that involves some of you I think, and it all goes back to the fact that is part of the fourth generation curse that's described in Scripture.  The only thing that breaks that is doctrine and volition and for you to decide as a parent that you are going to start applying doctrine as a parent and making the training of your child a high priority and making doctrine a high priority for them. 


Which brings me to another point that came up the other day.  When I was 6 or 7 years old, from that point on, I always sat in Bible class.  We did not have this option of kids not going to church.  There was no Junior Church, there was no prep school, there was nothing for us to do from the age of 6 you had to be in church, you had to sit still.  And I've heard that there are parents who actually use it as an excuse, the reason they don't come on Wednesday night is because there is nothing for their kid.  There is something for their kid, it's called Bible class, you bring them with you and you sit them in the pew and let them sit there for an hour and at least absorb it by osmosis.  When I was 6 or 7 I didn't care, I'd just lean my head on my dad's shoulder and went to sleep and I did that until I was about 11 or 12 and then all of a sudden one day I heard something and I thought well, I think I'm going to pay attention.  And after that I started paying attention but if you sit there and say my kids can't sit still for an hour or an hour and 15 minutes, guess whose fault that is.  That's not their fault, that's your fault.  The reason you're not in Bible class is because you're failing as a parent and you need to be in Bible class.  And the greatest thing that you parents can do for your kids is to demonstrate that doctrine is the number one priority in your life and when you make decisions about where you're going to be on Sunday morning or Wednesday night it's in Bible class, and that's going to mean more to them over the long run than getting them involved in sports, getting them involved in music lessons, getting them involved in karate or whatever it is; not that those things are wrong, it's a matter or priorities.  That's the test; that's the number one test most of us fail at most of the time is we talk one thing and we do something else.  But the greatest gift you can give you kids is to demonstrate to them that your relationship with God is more important than anything else, especially things that you love.  And we all have to make that decision at times.  One of the greatest loves in my life is to stay home on Sunday morning and read the New York Times and listen to opera.  Guess what?  I don't ever get to do that.  Doctrine is more important than anything else in life.  I think I have communicated what testing is all about. 


Point number 2, a test is the opportunity to demonstrate the doctrine that we have learned and assimilated into our own soul.  That test, we wake up in the morning, we have to make a decision about how we're going to spend our time that day.  Guess what?  That's an opportunity for us to look at the plan for the day and say okay, how does this relate to spiritual priorities, what the Bible says my responsibilities are as a husband, as a father, as an employee.  What is my responsibility in terms of learning doctrine today?  What comes first?  One of the hardest things I think for people in our culture today is the distractions that are available.  There are probably 10,000 more distractions available for you today than were available to our parents or our grandparents, everything from vacation, vacation homes, we have prosperity as a nation, we are going through prosperity testing.  Now you may say well I missed the boat but we are.  We have access to incredible labor saving devices from computers to microwaves to televisions to whatever it might be, all kinds of things, the automobiles that we drive that give us a tremendous amount of free time that our parents never had. 


And yet what we do with that free time is squander it on entertain­ment, on other things that we do rather than focusing on doctrine.  When other generations didn't have all those distractions, it was real easy when all they had was a horse and buggy to get to Bible class at night, because you didn't have the option of going to a movie, you didn't even know what a movie was.  So because we have all of these distractions it's real easy to get involved in things that are good, they're enjoyable.  The older I get the more I realize that many of the things I like, I love to ski, I've been up here two winters now and I haven't even seen a ski slope.  And I'm beginning to discover that that's because as wonderful as it is, as much fun as it is, there are other things in my life that are higher priority and that just has to go by the wayside.  There are many wonderful things in life like that and we have to put our focus on what has eternal significance.


So tests are the opportunities for us to demonstrate the doctrine that we've learned in Bible class and that we've assimilated into our own soul.


Point number three; tests may originate from one of three sources and these are the three enemies to the spiritual life.  They are the devil, and the demons.  Now most of us are not under direct attack and even if we are you don't know it, the solution is still the same.  The second enemy is the cosmic system and the cosmic system has to do with a way of thinking that is antagonistic to and in opposition to the Word of God and Bible doctrine.  And all of us have grown up in the cosmic system.  You were trained by the cosmic system.  Third, we have an internal enemy which is the sin nature.  And your sin nature gravitates like iron to a magnet to cosmic thinking.  So from the day you came out of the womb you started learning cosmic thought.  And that's why the spiritual life is so difficult is because by the time we become believers and start learning doctrine we have let our thinking become entrenched in human viewpoint cosmic thinking and paganism. 


Now the thing that we're going to see to set up our analogy and analysis in Judges is that God has left an internal enemy in Israel.  They have the land so we're going to scope it out something like this.  They have the land of Israel that God has given them and in that land there are various hostile enemy forces that have been left alone so that they can continue to provide situations for Israel to make decisions.  They're going to be a source of negative influence on Israel from inside.  Now who are these nations?  They're listed in Judges 3:3, the "five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon," and verse 4, they were for testing.  You have some others listed down in verse 5, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  With the exception of the Philistines, when we go through Judges we are going to see that there are seven different cycles where Israel comes under external oppression from a foreign enemy.  Guess what?  Those foreign enemies aren't listed here in verse 3 and 5.  Those are the internal enemies.  You don't find the Midianites listed there; you don't find the Amalekites listed there, you don't find these external enemies listed there.  What this builds for us is an illustration that just as Israel had to deal with internal enemies that tested them, they also had to deal with external enemies.


This is analogous to the fact that the believer had to deal with the internal enemy of the sin nature, which is the source of testing, and we are also oppressed by a hostile thought form which is called worldliness or cosmic thinking.  When we are disobedient to the Lord and we make a decision to be influenced by our sin nature, then the result is cosmic thinking invades our soul and dominates our thinking and leads us to making bad decisions from a position of weakness and the result of that is self-destruction and reversionism, and the only solution is confession of sin and then learning doctrine and applying doctrine in our lives.  But this is what we're going to see in Israel, they have these internal enemies that are going to influence them, just as the sin nature influences you. 


The sin nature is not the source of sin; the sin nature produces sin but the source of sin is your volition.  The sin nature simply influences you; you have volition to go positive or negative to God's Word.  The sin nature sits out here in the DNA of our bodies, it pervades everything in our lives and the sin nature says maybe there's an external circumstance.  Okay, there's an external circumstance that puts some sort of pressure on us and the sin nature says I have the perfect solution to help resolve this external pressure and offers that solution to our volition.  Our volition is either going to go positive to the sin nature or it's going to reject the sin nature and go positive to doctrine.  That's the test.  So the real issue in every single test boils down to whether or not you're going to let the sin nature rule.  That's why Paul addresses it in Romans 6 that we're not to be slaves to the sin nature, that whenever we follow the sin nature we enslave ourselves to the sin nature and once we go negative to doctrine and positive to the sin nature, at that point we come under the control of the sin nature and we're either going to produce personal sins from our area of weakness or we're going to produce human good from our position of strength. 


Since I spent a lot of time addressing you parents this morning, let me encourage with something that you need to do to help yourself a little bit.  You need to analyze your kids in terms of the trends of their sin nature.  Some of you have one child that has a sin nature trend that is toward antinomianism and personal sin; they may be strong willed, rebel.  Then you have another child and that child is just as sweet and good as he can be, he does everything you want him to do.  This kid is operating on human good and he's just as out of line as the other kid.  But he's got you buffaloed and if you can't figure that kid out and deal with him in terms of his self-righteousness legalism you're guaranteeing just as much failure as the lack of discipline on the one who majors in personal sin.  Just a little extra added insight.  That's one thing you ought to do, really break down everything I've taught you on the sin nature and then use that to get a better understanding of the behavior patterns in your children.  And once you do that then you ought to be able, under the wisdom of some doctrine that you've learned, to be able to train them a little more effectively because what works for one kid doesn't work for another kid.  Every one is different, they have different personalities and they have different sin natures and you need to deal with them on an individual basis.  Some kids you need to take the belt out and you need to have a little private session with that kid every day.  Other kids all you have to do is look like you're thinking about that and they straighten right up. 


So as a parent you have to have some wisdom and some flexibility and do some good analysis on your kids.  Some of you really need to work on that a lot more because your kids are not as calm and disciplined as they ought to be and I say that because over the last 25 years, both as a teacher before I ever went to seminary, and as a pastor I think this is the greatest failure among most Christians, is that they don't discipline their kids enough.  Most parents think they're too tough on their kids and the reality is they're not tough enough.  And we need to build discipline into our kids.  That's the only place, I say this over and over again, the key to success in life is authority orientation and self-discipline.  And the only place they're going to learn that is from you as a parent and if you don't teach it to them you are almost guaranteeing failure in their life.  One of the greatest things my dad did for me when I was a kid was…my dad was a Marine; he was a first wave Iwo Jima, he got two purple hearts, a bronze star and a silver star in about 24 hours and I was always very proud of my dad. 


The third point on testing is testing may originate from any of the sources and external sources, the devil or the cosmic system and those are thought forms; we are constantly living in enemy territory, and I know that when Dan was here he developed the soul fortress analogy a little more in the sense that over here is the kingdom of God, or heaven, and here we're on earth.  The only way to get over here in perfect environment is to die or be raptured, absent from the body face to face with the Lord.  While we are on the earth we are in enemy territory, continuously.  The only way to survive in enemy territory where we are being attacked day in and day out is to develop some sort of defense and that defense is our soul fortress which we build one doctrine at a time, one element as a time as we learn doctrine and apply it to our lives.  Now as we erect that soul fortress through the use of the stress busters we can exercise negative volition in which case we are living outside of our soul fortress and we're trying to solve problems and live life on our own resources.  The only way back in is through 1 John 1:9 and when we get outside of that soul fortress and we're in enemy territory, we're walking abound with a target on our back, every one of us.  And the amount of time that we spend outside that soul fortress is the amount of time that we are producing human good and personal sin and that ultimately leads to failure at the judgment seat of Christ and the loss of rewards.  It also is a way to guarantee failure and misery in this life.  So the solution is constantly to get back inside the soul fortress and then to apply all of the stress busters so that we can continue to grow. 


The fourth point; tests may be the result of our own bad decisions.  Sometimes we just make bad decisions from our sin nature and they create worse scenarios and worse situations and develop negative consequences and then we have more problems.  Now it doesn't matter how badly you have failed, it doesn't matter how terrible the decisions have been in your life, as long as God is there and you are alive there is still hope for recovery.  That's why we have 1 John 1:9; you can always recover.  That's what grace is all about; God is not going to punish us in terms of making the spiritual life irretrievable simply because we have failed for a number of years.  But always remember, just because there is grace doesn't mean you get off scott-free.  Bad decisions limit future options.  Just because you say oh I can sin and I can get away with it or maybe the Lord won't punish me too badly doesn't mean that there aren't consequences and those consequences may be with you for the rest of your life.