Living And Dying With The Choices We Make
-I’m not a big Country music fan…but I do think that country music has the best song titles of any musical genre hands down… Here are a few:
"May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose"
"You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd"
"Thank God And Greyhound She’s Gone "
"I’ve Got The Hungries For Your Love & I’m Waiting In Your Welfare Line"
"I Got Tears In My Ears While Lying On My Back Thinking About You"
"How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?"
" Fell In A Pile Of You And Got Love All Over Me"
" Keep Forgettin’ I Forgot About You "
"If Love Were Oil, I’d Be A Quart Low "
"If The Phone Don’t Ring, Baby, You’ll Know It’s Me "
"She Done Tore My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat"
You just know that there’s a story behind everyone of those song titles…
-There’s another great country song title with a story behind it by George Jones. George Jones is a country music icon from the old school. A lot of his songs are the stereotypical country "cheat’n & drink’n" songs. And the fact that George Jones had a drinking problem was no secret. But on March 6, 1999 country music fans were horrified to hear that Jones was critically injured when he crashed his Lexus into a bridge in Nashville. The investigation showed that George had been drunk at the wheel. Thankfully he recovered, and two months later his new album called "Cold Hard Truth" came out and on it was a hit song titled "Choices", and ironically the hook line says, "I’m Living And Dying With The Choices I Made".
-This morning we’re starting a New Year’s series of messages about how we can make wise choices, because you see, we are all living and dying with the choices we make. We’re simply calling this four message series "Navigating Life".
-We can all use some help as we navigate life. Life is tricky. Its waters are filled with all kinds of unexpected and dangerous currents. Its deserts are often inhospitable and seemingly without reference points. Its mountains filled with unanticipated crevices and fissures. Its’ valleys can be both beautiful and thorny. And all along life’s journey we must make choices-that we live and die with. First, remember…
I. God Gave Us The Gift Of Choice.
A. It’s a wonderful gift.
1. God gave it to Adam and Eve in the garden. It is intelligent,
thoughtful choice--decision-making--that separates us from the rest of God’s creation.
2. A very precious gift from our Creator. God told them, But the LORD God gave him this warning: "You may freely eat any fruit in the garden Genesis 2:16
3. And before THE BIG HORRIBLE CHOICE Adam and Eve made to disobey God that we all remember, Adam was putting this gift to work in a productive way: &So the Lord God formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird. He brought them to Adam to see what he would call them, and Adam chose a name for each one. Genesis 2:19
4. And of course God has given the gift of choice to you and me also.
B. Life is full of choices:
1. You and I make hundreds of them everyday. Some of our decisions are fairly insignificant (is it McDonalds or Jack-In-The-Box?…is it paper or plastic?)
2. And then there are the choices that impact our lives greatly-choices we live and die with. Before the children of Israel went into the land of Promise, Moses delivered an important message about the important choices we make from Almighty God Himself: 19"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! 20Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey him and commit yourself to him, for he is your life. Then you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Deuteronomy 30:19-20
3. There are choices we make that are literally choosing life… choosing wholeness… choosing closeness to the God who made us and sent His Son to redeem us. And there are choices we make that are literally choosing damage and destruction. Let’s talk about
some of those…
II. Some "Big-Ticket" Choices Of Life.
*The quality and meaning of our lives in this live and the next will be powerfully impacted by the following choices we make. Of course…
A. There are the general major choices of all our lives...
1. "What kind of work will I do?"
-What are you going to do with your work life? How are you going to use your unique gifts and talents to provide for your needs and others’ need and make a difference in this world? This can mean a whole series of decisions including, "what school, college, university or training program is best for me." It’s a HUGE choice.
-And it used to be more the pattern that when a person chose a career they stayed in that career until they retired. But things have changed and in today’s world we see a lot of people who get on a career path and feel they made a bad choice and make a change.
2. "Who am I going to marry?"
-You think that’s a big-ticket decision? You think the person you vow to stay with the rest of your life will impact your life? Probably every married person in this room had wondered, "What if I had married someone else?" Go ahead and elbow your spouse in the ribs right now and say "I know what you’re thinking!" I won’t ask if you are living or dying with that choice you made…
-HUGE choice. For a Christian it becomes even more important as God tells us that we need to marry someone who shares Christ in common with us and is going the same direction. And then you add the children that come to most marriages into the equation…
-The decision you make about what kind of family to have is colossal. The great OT lead Joshua had to make just such a choice: But if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15 Another major one…
3. "Where will I live?"
-Again a BIG decision. The community you choose to live in can have enormous influence on your life. Factors like the schools, the politics, the churches and the climate all add up. Someday you ought to ask Pastor Danny why he loves Denver, Colorado so much…
-Remember Lot? He had a big decision to make about where to live, where to settle down with his wife and daughters. The lush green plain (even if it included the notorious cities of Sodom & Gomorrah, known for their wickedness and licentiousness) or the barren desert? Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Genesis 13:11 He moved his family to Sodom to the ruin of his family. Big decision. Bad decision. But I really want to focus on a couple…
B. Major choices for believers.
*Choices that we need to make again and again. Choices that determine the quality of our relationship with Jesus…
1. "Will I live a life of obedience or self-will?"
-Every day every believer makes decision after decision about our obedience.
-Will we be ethical and honest at work when given a chance to cut a corner or get-away with something?
-Will we honor our spouse and keep our vows?
-Will I do life God’s way or my way?
-Will I follow my fleshly nature or the Holy Spirit?
-One of the most poignant moments of Jesus’ earthly life must have been when He looked at some of His followers and said, So why do you call me ’Lord,’ when you won’t obey me? Luke 6:46 To choose to live by self-will is a dangerous and damaging thing for the child of God. You come the sole navigator of your life and you are bound to end up in a ditch. We must bow our knee to Christ each and every day and crown Him the Lord of our lives.
2. "Will I commit to spiritual growth or spiritual malaise?"
-I am convinced that spiritual transformation doesn’t "just happen". God can always be counted on to do His gracious work in the believers life, but God works in conjunction with our choices.
-As we will talk about more on Vision 2002 Sunday, two weeks from today, our focus this year as a church is going to be on our spiritual growth….a deeper, stronger, more mature faith. Peter exhorted the early Christians… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
-There are certain spiritual disciplines that every believer must engage in for genuine spiritual growth. You will not grow very much at all until you decide to have an intimate relationship with the Bible. (Take a look at the "Read The Bible Thru in ’02" insert in the bulletin…)You will not develop in your walk with Christ until you choose to make prayer an integral part of your day every day. You will not become a fully committed follower of Christ until you decide to invest your resources (your time, talents and treasure) into His kingdom. You will not mature in your faith until you choose to engage in some authentic, genuine, accountable relationships with some other brothers and sisters and practice the discipline of assembly as the church gathers.
-You need to make an intentional decision to grow…and that means engaging in some of these thousands of years old spiritual disciplines.
Another big-ticket daily choice…
3. "Will I live for me or others?"
-Every day we decide who we will live for. The default choice is that we will live for ourselves. The monster of self-centeredness is so strong in most of us that it is the default setting of our lives. "It’s all about me, me, me!" It’s like the actor who was telling one of his admirers about all his accomplishments and was going on and on. He finally stopped and said, "Well, enough of my going on about myself…what do you think about me?"
-One of the first things a Christ follower must learn to do is to heed the instruction of Jesus: &When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Mark 8:34
-Following Jesus means living for others-which means in simplest terms aiming our lives in such a way that we are introducing people to Christ who don’t Him and building up and serving those who already do. &3Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Philippians 2:3-4
4. "Will I live for the culture or for Christ?"
-Another choice we must make again and again is whether or not we will live for the culture or for Christ. In the early days of the church leaders like Paul and Peter called on freshly saved believers to make different choices than they ones they made before they came to Christ. Talking about a new Christian, Peter says, &2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 1 Peter 4:2-3 Live to do God’s will now…
-This world’s system pulls on us every day…trying to drag us into one sin or another. And its not always the "nasty stuff"-it can be something as subtle as the distraction of the pleasures of this world. Anything that would take our focus off Christ, Our daily choice needs to be to live for Christ and not give into the siren song of the culture.
-Sometimes this will mean hard choices. It will mean being misunderstood by family and friends. It will mean mistreatment. Moses came to an important decision in his life and it cost him. Was he going to be an Egyptian, perhaps heir to Pharaoh’s throne and ruler of a pagan empire, or was he going to be one of God’s people who were in slavery at the time? He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. Hebrews 11:25
-There are believers here this morning who are living more for the culture than for Christ. As the old saying goes, "You know who you are…" You are wrapped up in the things of this world and cold to the things of God. The biblical treatment for that is called repentance. To say, "God, I’ve made some bad choices…gotten into some bad habits. I’m sorry…forgive me… Help me make good choices today that will allow me to walk close to You." God always answers a sincere prayer of repentance. But you need to make the right choices…
5. One of the classic stories in the OT is the great contest between
Elijah and prophets of a pagan god named Baal in 1 Kings 18. It’s a great story. Read all of it this afternoon. At a very dramatic moment at the beginning of the contest Elijah challenges the people to make a choice: &Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" But the people were completely silent. 1 Kings 18:21 Some here today need to heed Elijah’s challenge and once and for all MAKE YOUR CHOICE! Don’t be a fence straddler. Don’t be a pew sitter. Choose to follow the Lord whole heartedly. Choose life.
-I hope this morning’s message will help us all to think twice about the incredible power of choice. That we will treasure this precious gift from God that sets us apart form animals and robots.
-We need to choose wisely, because you see we are all living and dying with the choices we make. Our choices have consequences. Our choices determine the quality and sometimes even the quantity of our lives. Come back tonight as we take a more personal look at what kind of decision-maker you are. Did you know that there are at least four different kinds of decisions makers? Come find out which on you are.
-The aim of the message has been to believers. But for those here who are not yet Christians, you have a choice to make this morning. I am going to ask you to give your sin, your life, and your heart to Jesus Christ. You will either say "yes" or "no". You need to know that your choice about Christ determines your eternity. If you choose to admit your sinfulness and give your life to Christ and receive His gracious salvation then you will enter into a relationship with God and spend eternity in heaven with all its wonders. If you choose to reject Christ then you will spend this life and eternity to come apart from Him and under His holy wrath. Choose life. Choose Christ.
Invitation: I Have Decided To Follow Jesus