Scripture: Mark 8:34-37; John 3:1-10
We have come to our last sermon in our series, The Ripple Effect. Last week, we discussed how our society creates peace through our criminal justice system. We talked about how we trust our system to keep the good guys on the streets and the bad guys off the streets. The ripple effect of this trust is that when the wrong person gets convicted of a crime, we have trouble seeing the error.
However, on the other side of the innocent who get convicted (which is admittedly a minority) are those who find themselves guilty of a crime. These crimes are often committed because they are not thinking through the long term implications of their actions. In our final sermon, we’re going to look at one of the most important factors in the ripples that impacts the course of our lives—impulse control.
Scientists who study impulse control often do so through the lens of delayed gratification. This describes the process of resisting the temptation to receive an immediate reward in favor of receiving a better reward at a later time. A good example of this is academic achievement. In order to be successful in school, you have to spend time studying to learn the required information. The problem is that most people don’t enjoy studying.
So let’s say you have a test tomorrow. If studying is not your thing, then you are faced with a dilemma: do you put off studying to do the things you enjoy (watching television, playing video games, texting on your phone, etc.) and risk not knowing the information well enough for the test, or do you delay the immediate gratification of the things you enjoy so that you can study and ace the test?
This is the concept of delayed gratification in a nutshell: can you endure something you don’t like to get something better you do like in the future? Although it might sound strange, delayed gratification is essentially the central thesis of what Jesus teaches in the gospels, just on a much larger scale. When Jesus tells us we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross, he is really telling us about the need to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.
We need to give up our own personal aspirations and set aside the things we want for ourselves to embrace Jesus’ mission. We need to stop living for ourselves and start living for Jesus. By doing this, we help create God’s kingdom on Earth. We will explore this idea and many others this Sunday. I hope you have a great weekend. Stay safe and warm with your friends and family!