(Pastor Jonathan calls up one of the youth to play “Would You Rather.”)
Would you rather:
Be able to fly or read people’s minds?
Eat skittles or m&ms?
Be stuck on a broken elevator or be stuck on a broken ski lift?
Be able to communicate with all animals or speak all foreign languages?
Have a paper cut on your tongue or an itch that you are unable to scratch for an entire day?
Have free Star Bucks for a year or free i-tunes for a lifetime?
Live or die?
Every day we are faced with many choices. Our Scripture for this morning reminds us that God has given us free will to choose and ultimately, we choose between life and death. Let’s read this together:
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You choose life when you listen to God’s voice. (Vs. 20) Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Drifting isn’t a good thing, but it’s appealing because it takes no effort to drift. Stop rowing and you will drift. Stop paddling and you will drift. Stop working to make forward progress and eventually you will start drifting. Drifting is easy
Listening to God, spending time in His Word, is rarely easy. The moment you decide, whether consciously or unconsciously, that you don’t need to study God’s Word, you will start to go backward. Your quality of life will change in a subtle, but bad way. When you are in a boat and you are drifting, if you lose sight of the land, it becomes harder and harder to tell how far off shore you really are. Eventually, you can no longer see the shoreline.
When you quit loving God’s Word, wanting God’s Word, and reading God’s Word, you can drift so far from truth, so far from reality that you start living in ways that aren’t God-intended and you can even talk yourself into believing what you are doing is acceptable. You don’t even know any more how “off shore” or “off base” your life is. Why? Because you have drifted. You cannot truly live life, abundant life, without knowing God’s Word. It’s impossible.
God’s Word holds the keys to true life. Look at Deut. 32:46-47: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
When people choose to ignore God’s Word, anything goes. When anything goes, the moral fabric of a community, a state, or a nation is compromised. For example, God says that life is sacred. The Bible is clear that humans are handmade by God in the image of God. God tells us in Exodus 20:13 “Thou shalt not kill.” Genesis 9:5-6 is so clear. “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”
It’s perhaps a sweeping statement to make, but I’m going out on the limb. Taking the life of unborn children is just one more Satanic attempt to wipe out the image of God from the face of this earth. Those of us who know the Word and love the world understand, it’s not a choice, but a child. It’s not a liberty, but a life. But throw the Word of God out and begin to drift and you’ll find yourself excusing murder and accepting some alternate reality that abortion is really a kind and good decision. And what seems good and kind at the time brings pain, heartache, nightmares, anxiety, and depression. Just talk to any post abortion counselor. Satan doesn’t want us to know and love God’s Word because he wants to steal, kill and destroy life; not just the lives on unborn children, but our lives as well.
Before I leave this point, let me just say that if you are here and you have had an abortion, God’s Word has some things to say to you that will bring great comfort and quality of life back into your life! Abortion is a sin just like lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, addiction, etc. There is no sin that can’t be forgiven. One of my favorite Scriptures is Psalm 103. Listen to some selected verses:
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
He knows we tend to drift. He knows we are fragile. His Word says we can re-anchor our lives to Him through forgiveness. No matter what you have done, you can quit drifting today by asking God to forgive you and give you a brand new start!
You choose life when you listen to God’s voice. You also choose life when you worship God exclusively.
We must cultivate a heart for God alone. Verse 17 in our text warns us against turning our hearts away from God. Rather, we are to cultivate a heart for God. Parents, if you want your children to have a great life, pray that they will cultivate a heart that is hot after God. One thing we routinely pray and that our children routinely pray is, “Lord, help us know more of you and love you more tomorrow than we did today.”
Verse 17 of Deuteronomy 30 talks about making sure we aren’t bowing down to idols. In Luke 4 where Satan tempted Jesus we see that not only is Satan into stealing life from you by getting you to devalue the Word of God and drift from it as the anchor for your life, but part of his strategy involves getting you to worship things other than God.
Luke 4:5-8-5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”
Jesus was referring Satan back to the law He had given His people through Moses in Exodus 20: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods beside me.” The point is that God wants an exclusive relationship with His people. He alone offers abundant life. It’s not Jesus on Sunday, but a conference with your psychic on Monday. It’s not Jesus on Sunday, but whatever the crowd is doing on Tuesday. It’s not Jesus on Sunday, but whatever your horoscope touts on Wednesday. It’s not Jesus on Sunday, but the lottery on Thursday. You aren’t trusting Jesus if you are trusting anything else at the same time. Jesus’ trust doesn’t have to be supplemented with anything else! Because God is the only One worthy of our trust, He is the only One worthy of our worship!
Satan knows if he can get you to focus on other things to the point where they become a priority over your worship of God he can cause you to have a divided heart. Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” A divided heart leads to a divided and diluted life. A divided heart leads to a divided mind. The book of James tells us that double-minded people are unstable in all they do. Why is it that some professing Christians have a hard time living a godly life? Scripture suggests they are trying to allow too much to occupy their hearts. They are pursuing the worship of more than God alone.
The reality is that behind every idol is Satan. Who do you think it is that is making something look more attractive to you than Jesus? Perhaps the biggest idol we worship today is ourselves. Self-sufficiency shuts God out. Many of us profess Jesus but lean on our own understanding. Many will punch a spiritual clock like a time card by showing up at church, but from noon on Sunday to the start of the next service the following week, they are serving themselves. We work to make ourselves happy, and the price for doing so gets steeper and steeper. We seek to “have it all” only to wind up with nothing when in reality if we would possess Jesus exclusively, we would have everything.
As one writer has said,
In Christ we have . . .
A love that can never be fathomed,
A life that can never die,
A righteousness that can never be tarnished,
A peace that can never be understood,
A rest that can never be disturbed,
A joy that can never be diminished,
A hope that can never be disappointed,
A glory that can never be clouded,
A light that can never be darkened,
A purity that can never be defiled,
A beauty that can never be marred,
A wisdom that can never be baffled,
Resources that can never be exhausted.
Jesus is our all in all!
Keep Him as the exclusive focus of your worship so you don’t miss out on everything He has to offer! Satan doesn’t want you to have any of that! He wants your life to be a hot mess comprised of compromise, failure, heart, relational heartache, financial disaster, and pain. Worship God alone and allow Him who can supply your every need (Philippians 4:19) to give you abundant life.
You choose life when you obey God’s commands.
The truth is, obedience brings life. It’s so clearly seen in the life of Jesus Himself. Scripture says “He became obedient even unto death.” (Philippians 2:8) Eternal life is only possible because Jesus obeyed the Father fully. Abundant life here and now is also only possible through obedience. Obedience is the way to true life!
The life of Jesus can never be replicated in your life or in mine if we aren’t willing to obey in all things. Compromise and disobedience are really our way of saying, “I don’t trust you, God. Your way isn’t best, and I know better.” When we get there we are back to the idol of self-sufficiency.
Listening to God’s voice, point number one in this message, is a pre-requisite to obeying Him. You can’t obey someone if you don’t know what they are asking. Worshiping God alone, point number two, is also a pre-requisite to obeying Him because our obedience flows out of our love for God, not out of some kind of religious duty. If our ears are tuned to hear God, and our hearts are tuned to worship God, it should follow naturally that our hands, feet, mouths, and wills obey God.
The Bible is clear in James 4:17 that if we know what we are supposed to do and we don’t do it, we are disobedient and we sin. Sin separates us from God. Apart from God we cannot experience abundant life. So, a choice to listen, worship and obey God fully is the best decision we can make if we want to experience our best possible life.
Finally, we see in this passage that we choose life when we possess what God has in store for us. Look at Deuteronomy 30:16b: “Then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
True life is experienced when we possess what God desires for us to possess. Listen, Child of God, You have a Promised Land with your name on it! You have a place to occupy in this life. You have a job to do. You have a harvest to reap.
What is the land for you? What haven’t you yet taken possession of? Are you not using your gifts in ministry? Is your family still not dwelling in spiritual safety? Is your time management a mess and you’re being controlled by your schedule instead of the other way around? Are you emotionally stressed and strained to the point where you have lost productivity? Is your physical health out of whack? Is your marriage a battle instead of a blessing? Are you a slave to unwanted habits that are compromising your health, your witness and your checkbook? Is your past haunting you instead of being used as a trophy of God’s grace and a testimony that God can bring you out? Is there something God wants you to do, but you are scared to do it or you think it’s too late to do it? Some educational pursuit? Some job pursuit? What is your promised land? Start to claim it. Start to walk toward it.
God told Joshua in Joshua 1:3, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” That is abundant life, friends! It’s time we start possessing what God has promised. You and I are to live as possessors, as conquerors! In fact, Scripture says, “We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us!” Romans 8:37
Taking possession means standing toe to toe with our enemy. It may seem overwhelming. It may seem too big. It might feel impossible, but when God is for you, nothing that is against you will stand. Look at your neighbor and say, “Your Promised Land, is worth fighting for.”
Remember little shepherd boy David who faced the giant Goliath? He took the giant out with a sling shot and some stones. You don’t have to be bigger than your problems. You just have to have God on your side! Someone needs to speak to your giant problem today, just like David did and say, “I come against you in the name of the Lord, and you’re going down!” “I’m done with you, financial instability.” “I’m done with you toxic relationships.” “I’m done with you addiction.” None of these give life, but drain it from you.
Possess it. Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies. You can do it. Had David listened to all of the people tell him he couldn’t defeat that giant, history would be written completely different. Some of you need to start writing history differently by speaking the truth over your situation instead of accepting the labels and lies that the enemy wants to put on you. What does God’s Word say about your ability to possess the Promised Land? Start claiming those promises! That’s shut Satan and his imps up in a hurry.
Possess your Promised Land by taking one step at a time. The Promised Land was taken one battle at a time under Joshua’s leadership. Sometimes there are sudden breakthroughs. Pastor Thom was delivered from ten years of drug and alcohol addiction in one encounter! God can and does still work that way, but more often than not, it’s a faith walk which means we possess the Promised Land one step at a time. Look at Exodus 23:29 and 30: “29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” God isn’t always going to hand your Promised Land to you, but He will take your hand and walk you to it one step at a time! Why little by little? Why one step at a time? Because everything He wants to give you flows out of being in relationship with Him that is more than once a week for an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday. It’s a day by day trusting and walking by faith.
Don’t let your age be a determining factor in your ability to possess what God wants for you. David was just a teenager when he defeated the giant. Some of you young people may think, “I’ll wait to embrace all God has and do my own thing now.” Doing your own thing won’t bring you life, but it will delay your ability to truly live! WM Lewis wrote, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends too soon, but that we wait too long to begin it.” Don’t settle for just living. Make the choice to experience abundant life by taking possession of all God has in store. Too many of God’s people are settling for getting by, when God says it’s time to “go over” to the Promised Land.
Choices. Life and death. Choose life. Listen to God’s voice. Choose life. Worship Him exclusively. Choose life. Obey God fully. Choose life. Walk into the Promised Land without delay.