Deuteronomy 30:19-20 19 This day I call heaven and 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.
In Deuteronomy 30 we hear Moses’s challenge to the nation of Israel that they were to choose life. What does that look like? In the context of this Scripture, it involves loving God wholeheartedly and obeying His commands. Notice the middle of verse 20: “For the Lord is your life.” What does it mean for the Lord to be OUR LIFE? It means He stands at the center of every facet of our lives. If God is at the center of everything, what are the implications for our lives and what does choosing life on a daily basis look like? How does knowing God and living in full surrender to Him inform our ideas about life?
I would say if God is truly the centerpiece of our lives we will:
1. Live to esteem life.
Life is important to God. Esteeming life is to hold life in high regard like God does. The Bible tells us clearly that God is love in I John 4. I doubt many of us here this morning would argue that. I could argue using various Scriptures that God is life. Life springs from God alone. He is the Author of life. He is the Giver of life. He is the Sustainer of life. For “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28 He is the Giver of new life, abundant life, and eternal life in Jesus Christ. He calls Himself the Resurrection and the Life in John 11:25-26. Jesus said in John 8:12 that whoever follows Him will have the light of life.
We need to esteem life by helping every person find life in Christ and helping them learn to live their best possible life inside of a relationship with Jesus. When we tell someone about Jesus, we are valuing life. We are valuing them as people for whom Christ has died. When we help educate people about the kind of life that God desires us to experience we are valuing life. When we warn people of the dangers of sin and the reality of Hell, we are valuing their eternal soul, their eternal life.
We also value life by cherishing every life; old lives and young lives. Children are precious. They need to be treated as the precious gifts that they are. They are a blessing, a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Life begins at conception. However, if you think about it, life begins even before conception because it begins in the heart of God. It was said of Jeremiah that before he was in his mother’s womb, God knew him. God has a plan for every life. Every life. If we agree with that statement, then to snuff out potential for the development of that plan would be to disregard all God has in mind for each person’s life. Every child is precious to God and has a God-given destiny to fulfill. If we are going to esteem life, we need to be super serious about how we are parenting the next generation.
Children need to be nurtured. They need to be instructed every day. They need healthy boundaries. They need peace and safety in their homes. They need a safe environment in which to fail. Pushing for perfection will create stress that children aren’t equipped to handle. It can cause them to be shaped by failure rather than setting them up for success that comes from trying and failing, trying and failing, and trying until they succeed. They need to learn that disappointment is part of life and it doesn’t have to be the end of their life or define the rest of their life. They need to hear that they are smart and talented, and that they will change the world. They need to be told that we are proud of them, that we believe in them, and that we will always be there for them. They need to be given encouragement,support and freedom to develop their talents and abilities. They need to be taught the Word of God and how to pray. They need to be brought to church on a regular basis.
Esteeming life involves choosing life at every stage of life for ourselves. Life, at every stage, is a gift from God. You see, For the believer, every season of life is blessed by God. We have to resist allowing changes in life to take life from us. Many pine for the days when their kids were little. They lament rather than celebrate that their children have grown and become independent. Many grow discouraged and depressed about growing older rather than seeing their maturing wisdom as an opportunity to impact the world in a greater way. Many struggle with moving from being defined by a career to finding new ways to enjoy life in retirement.
If I am going to know the joy of grand parenting, which I hear is quite fun, I am going to have to grow older. I can lament that I am getting older or I can look forward to the good things that will come in my later years. Every season of life is meant to be lived to its fullest. We can make new friends. We can learn to enjoy new hobbies. We can learn to clog! We can go new places and experience new and exciting things. We can keep growing as people and we can keep growing in our faith. Life doesn’t stop with any stage of life until God calls us home. So, let’s not quit living before God says our lives are truly over.
2. If we are going to choose life, we also need to make a commitment that we will live to protect life.
If we embrace and value life as God does, we will be compelled to protect the lives of people who need some extra help. If we esteem life Proverbs 24:11 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” That is pretty specific and vivid language. We have a responsibility as believers to protect life, especially the lives of the unborn.
I understand that there may be extreme circumstances that may result in a difficult decision being made in order to save someone’s life, but outside of extreme instances, I believe God can enable us, even when it is inconvenient or even when it is very, very hard, to choose life and to protect the lives of unborn children.
How we all remember the tragedy of 9/11 when nearly 3,000 lives were taken out by terrorist activity. Social media is lit up each year with reminders to never forget those lives lost. There are solemn ceremonies to pay tribute and respect to innocent people who tragically lost their lives. That day was crushing for us as a nation. But do you know that current statistics tell us 3,000 babies are aborted every day? What could be more innocent than a child? Who is remembering them? Who is stopping to think about 3,000 lives being taken every day? The same group that reports that statistic tells us that 22% of all pregnancies here in the United States end in abortion. (http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/)
It is a sad and sobering reality. Job tells us in chapter 33:4 that the Spirit of God made him and the breath of Almighty gave him life. We know it wasn’t until Adam encountered the breath of God in Genesis 2:7 that he was given life, and that was given by God. Life comes from God, and the Bible tells us we are not to take life. It is a command of Scripture. It’s one of the “Big Ten” in Exodus 20. Every child, conceived in its mother’s womb, has all of the DNA, all of the personality, all of the capacities as any other human on the outside of the womb. To decide to end the development of all that can be, is to take the place of God. It must not be a position we take as believers.
I read this week that “abortion on demand” is the second most common surgical procedure that is performed. It has become a big money-making industry earning hundreds of millions of dollars for those who run the clinics. How did we get to the place where this kind of lack of value and concern for life became OK? You may have heard it said, but we now live in a time in America where the most dangerous place to be isn’t in any inner city where gangs rule and threaten innocent people; it isn’t in a prison with hardened criminals where only the strongest and toughest will survive, but the most dangerous place in America is in the womb of a mother who has believed that abortion is the best way out.
Do you know that babies in the womb have detectable heartbeats at 18 days after conception? Do you know there are detectable brain-waves at 40 days after conception which is just five-and-a-half weeks after conception but that almost 100% of abortions occur after the seventh week of pregnancy? Can we think about the fact that there are doctors and nurses who are desperately trying to save babies who have been born several weeks and months prematurely on one floor when babies in the womb who are of the same age are having their lives taken? The distance between life inside the womb and life outside of the womb is really just a few inches. How have we justified ending millions and millions of lives by a few inches?
Psalm 139 tells us the womb is meant to be a secret place, a safe place, a place where God alone is at work to fashion a life and to nurture it to the place that it can be gifted to us to care for. But the womb is no longer a safe place for many. We must pray for and find ways to protect lives by loving and supporting women who find themselves in a desperate situation. We have got to step up. We must support causes that protect and honor the sanctity of life. One way we do that as a church is through our partnership with our Single Mom’s Ministry called “Heartbeat of the Valley.” We don’t want women to go through a desperate situation alone. For those who choose to go on and parent their children, we don’t want them to have to parent alone.
Protecting life isn’t just about abortion either. It’s about ministering to people who are vulnerable, like victims of Domestic Violence. It is about educating our young people about the dangers that lurk online, about teaching them to respect themselves and their bodies. It’s about helping people who are looking for love in all of the wrong places see that they are being led into a trap that will take life from them. One of the ways we protect life is by helping the emerging generation see that they don’t have to repeat the mistakes that generations before them have made. The Gospel, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, the ministry of prayer- all of these have the capacity to protect the lives of people who will commit themselves to the Lord. If we can prevent that which takes life from people, we can spare so much heartache and eventually turn our culture around.
And before I move on, let me say to any woman here who has made the choice to have an abortion, God loves you and has grace for you, and we love you with the love of Christ and have compassion for you. If you need forgiveness or healing, God has it to give. Jesus cared for the life that God was fashioning in your womb, and if your trust is in Christ as Savior and Lord, one day, you will have a wonderful Heavenly reunion with that special little one.
We live to give life.
When we become mentors to others, we give life. When we speak encouraging words to people, we give life. When we share our resources with people, we give life. When we teach people skills that enable them to live well, we give life. When we create opportunities for people, we give life. When we become friends with people, we give life. When we foster children and adopt children, we give life. When we serve others by giving them food, clothing or shelter, we give life.
As I was looking at Scriptures for this message, God spoke to me and told me that Giving life is an act of discipleship. Here is it from Matthew 10:42: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
It is from our relationship with Jesus, it is because we are disciples, that we reach out with life when people need to have their lives refreshed. Look at the same verse from the Message translation: Matthew 10:42 (MSG) “Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
Sometimes we think we can’t give life because it will cost us too much. It will take too much of our time. No. We are actually the ones who received the greatest blessing when we give lives to others. Our lives won’t be emptied of anything we need. We won’t lose out on a thing, and we will live better, more full, more satisfied, more fruitful. Remember, it was as Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many, that eternal life was purchased for us all, and Jesus didn’t lose His life. He simply laid it down for a few and was resurrected from the dead. He overcame everything awful about life by laying His life down for us. Do you think there is a message in that for us?
Matthew 25:37-40 tell us that whatever we do for someone who is sick or in prison or is vulnerable and needs our help, we actually do for Jesus Himself. When we give life to others, we are not only imitating Jesus, but we are serving Him.
What will it take for us to make it our mission to give life to others?
A number of years back, a young and very successful executive was traveling down a suburban street in his brand new black jaguar. Suddenly a brick was thrown from the sidewalk, thumping into the side of the car.
Brakes slammed! Gears ground into reverse, and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. The driver jumped out, grabbed the kid who had thrown the brick and pushed him up against a parked car. “What was that all about?!” he screamed. “That’s my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money!”
“Please, mister, please …. I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do!” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop!” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”
The mood was transformed in a moment as the young executive realized what had occurred. He lifted the young man into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts. He then watched as the younger brother pushed him down the sidewalk toward their home.
The young executive never did fix the dented side door of his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention.
Matthew 10:42 makes it so simple. A cup of cold water meets a need. A cup of cold water says, “I see you.” A cup of cold water says, “I care.” How many of us in this auditorium today have access to a cup of cold water? Giving life is basic. Giving life is easy. Giving life is decent and kind and moral. Giving life doesn’t have to be expensive. Oh, there may be moments that find us giving sacrificially, but we cannot use cost as an excuse to keep us from giving life when it comes in something as basic and as inexpensive as a cup of cold water.
Including people when an invitation is given. Remembering people upon the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Helping people get connected to resources that can meet their needs. These are “cup of cold water” acts that can refresh a life, restore a life, and connect a life to Jesus, the Life-giver.
You don’t have to have walked in someone else’s shoes in order to care.
Christianity is pretty practical. Matthew says, “It’s a cup of cold water.” Why do we make it so hard to do such an easy thing like care for others?
During this time of difficulty in our country, how can we show love and kindness? If you know of a government employee who hasn’t received a paycheck for several weeks now, and they need some help to get through, connect them with me. We will do something to help them. If you know of an addict that needs hope and support, don’t just tell them about our Made New Ministries on Friday night, but come with them. If you know of someone who is pregnant and is scared about their future, connect them with our Heartbeat of the Valley ministry. If someone is in need of clothes for their kids, we have lots of clothes to share. Get in touch with Penny Snyder. We can’t be all things to all people, but we have a pretty large network and a lot of love. My prayer is that we can do something to help every person who comes to us with a need.
During this the Year of Community, we are teaming up with organizations that are life-giving to people in our community. Next month, we will come alongside Faith in Action, a ministry to senior adults in Putnam County. They provide rides to appointments and help seniors with things like installing ramps at their homes. You can become a trained volunteer through training we are going to provide on site. In March we will have a sock drive for Foster care kids in our area. Every one of us could purchase a new pair of socks for a child in need. It is a cup of cold water!
I want to challenge you to give life every day this week. Every day. I want to help you by providing a water bottle for you to give to someone this week. Whether you call someone who needs encouraged or pay for the car in the drive thru in front of you or invite someone to lunch at your expense, I want you to give life every day for 7 days. Giving life isn’t supposed to be an occasional thing, but it is to be a regular act of discipleship.
As believers, we have more than a cup of cold water to give. We have Jesus. And the Bible tells us when we give in His name, He is present. He will work. He will bless. He will draw people to Him. He will use what we do to bring life to those who need it. When we give life we do the work of Jesus and God is pleased.
How then shall we live? We live to esteem life, to protect life and to give life every day to every person we meet.