YOU ARE FREE TO CHOOSE
We all make choices every day, whether it is what TV program to watch, what we eat for
Lunch, what we pursue as a career or who we want to marry. We live in a free society, and we are free to make our own choices about most things, some huge and life changing, some tiny and unimportant .
As Australians, we actively champion the right of every person to be free to make whatever choice they want. So if someone is born a girl but wants to become a boy, or if someone wants to be a homosexual, or if someone wants to have an abortion because a baby would disrupt their lifestyle, many in our society and government champion the right of any person to make those choices.
However, while you are free to choose, you are not free to choose the consequences of your choice.
And destiny, your ultimate destination, is not a random thing that just happens to you… Destiny is the direct result of the choices you make.
John Maxwell said, “Life is a matter of choice, and every choice you make makes you!”
Proverbs 14:12 (ESV Strong's)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
C.S. Lewis said, “No one will ever go to heaven deservingly and no one will ever go to hell unwillingly.” If you end up in hell you have to practically climb over Jesus to do so. If you go to hell, it’s by your choice, so don’t try and blame someone else. You are free to choose, but you are not free to choose the consequences of your choice!
Choosing has been a part of mankind from the beginning, as have the consequences of the choices we make. In Genesis 3, the serpent influences Adam into making a choice, and his choice is fatal for mankind. Later Jesus made the choice to come and offer Himself, and through Jesus’ good choice He overcomes the bad choice of Adam…
Romans 5:19 (ESV Strong's)
For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
We think we can get away with our bad choices, and sometimes we seem to, but there will be a reckoning.
We are like kids with a credit card, and we want to rack up any charge for anything we want, whenever we want it, foolishly thinking we will never have to pay for it… but we will, and with interest!
I heard about a guy whose wife’s credit card was stolen, and the police advised him to do nothing as the thief was spending less than she was. I keep explaining to my wife that it is a credit limit, not a target!
We live in a society where most people are trying to escape the consequences of the choices they have made. We try to blame someone else, we blame upbringing, parents, society, and we try to blame God. We try to do all we can to duck and weave and escape the consequences of our poor choices.
But ultimately, like it or not, you will be called to account!
Romans 14:12 (ESV Strong's)
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
In Deuteronomy 27 there is a dramatic scene. The people of Israel are about to enter the promised land. They are wrapping up 40 years of wandering in the desert and they are headed for this beautiful and blessed place God has for them.
But the Lord is concerned about the choices they will make in the future, because He knows that choices determine destiny. So He wants to graphically illustrate the choices they face so they will remember for generations about the consequences of those choices. Moses instructs them,
Deuteronomy 27:12-13 (ESV Strong's)
“When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
So here are two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal. The tribes on Mount Gerizim were descendants of Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel, and this represented blessings. Those on Ebal were tribes from Jacob’s concubines, plus Reuben and Zebulun, and this mountain represented curses. Mount Ebal to the north is usually barren of vegetation, a sun scorched rock, while Mount Gerizim to the south is covered with vegetation. The contrast between the barren mountain pronouncing the curses and the lush mountain heralding God’s blessing would have been unmistakable.
The leaders are then instructed to list off the curses that are the consequence of disobedience to the Lord, and the blessings that are the consequences of obedience, and the commandments of God were to be listed in white plaster rocks on Mount Ebal.
God doesn’t give His laws to mess up our lives, He does it to protect and bless us.
These mountains were a graphic illustration of the consequences our choices create, and a silent plea from God to be obedient and honour Him. After Moses gave these instructions, he finished with a final discussion about the consequences of their future choices, for the, and their descendants.
And really nothing has changed. The choices you make now, don’t just affect you, they affect others around you. If you choose to rebel against God right now, then not only do you suffer the consequences, not only do you get to go to hell, but you potentially take your children, and their children with you!
Consequences are often generational! Child of a single mum often becomes a single mum. The son of a drug addict often becomes a drug addict. If you walk away from church, your children often won’t hear about God, and either will their kids. At a conference last week, I heard latest scientific analysis suggesting foetal alcohol syndrome can affect not just the children but also the grandchildren, even if the child of the alcoholic is a tea totaler! They attribute this to some kind of cellular memory, but I think it is a generational curse.
Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong's)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
God pleads with you today, choose life, for your sake, and also your children’s sake!
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF CHOICE
I use to love to watch Fawlty Towers. In every episode, Basil would lie to his wife, and then he would have to invent another lie to cover the first, then another until his lies were so ridiculous no one could believe them! What a graphic illustration of human existence!
Make a bad choice, and you know it is often a slippery slope into despair! Usually a bad choice leads to another and another. One sin unconfessed potentially develops earth shattering and life destroying sins. Here’s how the Bible describes it…
James 1:14-15 (ESV Strong's)
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
So how do you make right choices, when you have so much going around in your head?
DISCERNING THE SOURCE… THE NIKE TEST
Many people ask me about making godly choices. There are so many voices vying for your attention, and it is hard to sort out which is which in your head. We will look at this in more detail over the next few weeks, but let me give you a simple rule of thumb that often good indicator of whether a choice you face is from God or from the enemy…
When God is asking you to choose, He usually says, “Count the cost,” but the devil always says, “Just do it!”
When God is asking you to choose, He is not afraid of you knowing the truth…
Luke 14:28-29 (ESV Strong's)
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
Jesus says, count the cost. Have a look at the consequences, both good and bad, weigh them up and make an informed decision. Yes, it still takes faith, because God is always about faith, but Christian faith is informed, sensible and balanced faith, not blind, uninformed leaps into unknown craziness!
The devil, on the other hand, always says, Just do it! Hey, you want it, just go for it, and don’t worry about the cost, we will figure that out later. Put it on a credit card, buy now, pay later.
These types of decisions bear toxic fruit that can last a lifetime.
Having an affair, is a good example. Your night of pleasure has horrific repercussions, ruining your walk with God, potentially losing your marriage, your family, your children, half your home and assets… if you weighed the consequences you would never do it, but the devil says, forget the payment, just do it now!
Would you buy a car you wanted without finding out the price? Well, so many people make decisions without even thinking through the probable repercussions.
7 STEPS TO MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICES
So how can you make the right choices, the choices God wants you to make?
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV Strong's)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
So let me outline 7 steps towards making godly choices in your life…
Make a conscious decision to bring every major choice to the Lord. Prayer should be an important part of your decision making, and if you sense in your prayer that you need to go a certain way, listen to God and explore that. You need God’s wisdom in your choices, and so do I.
Philippians 4:6 (ESV Strong's)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
So when you face a big choice, don’t worry and fret about it, take it to the Lord in prayer and listen and allow Him to show you the way. He can speak in visions, words, from the Bible, from mentors, in sermons and loads of ways, so take it to Him and let Him lead you.
Isaiah 30:21 (ESV Strong's)
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
We are going to talk more about hearing the voice of God in later messages, and will run a course later in the year we hope on this very topic. So don’t just pray, listen and be open to the Lord speaking to you.
2. STUDY THE WORD
If you are going to pray, never act on a feeling or impression you get alone. God should confirm His Word to you and one of the most common and effective ways God speaks to you is through His Word. He will never guide you in a way that is contrary to His Word.
Psalms 119:105 (ESV Strong's)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
If you want a spirit filled, godly future, then reading, learning and studying God’s Word is a non negotiable. Unless you have the mind of Christ, unless you understand God’s will, God’s laws and God’s heart, you cannot consistently make godly decisions.
That is why I encourage all of you to use our Bible reading plan. We use it at a leadership level, and one recent very big decision, God miraculously gave us direct guidance from His Word. We live this stuff, so should you!
3. STEP BACK
Many foolish decisions are made in the heat of the battle, because when you are engaged at that level, you cannot see the big picture.
During the American Civil War Abraham Lincoln and General McLellan clashed often on matters of battles tactics. The general called the President an amateur, but the President explained that, rather than only seeing his portion of the battlefield, the President was getting telegraph reports from all of the fields of battle. Their perspective was different, one localised, while the other could step back and see the full big picture.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV Strong's)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
To make sensible, God choices, step back and see the big picture.
4. LOOK BACK
Experience is an incredible teacher, especially when coupled with the Holy Spirit. Looking back on your failures should spur you on to not want to make those same choices… Although not for everybody, History repeats itself… it has to, some people never listen,
Deuteronomy 9:7 (ESV Strong's)
Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness.
When facing a big choice, look back and remember how it worked out last time. To err is human, to repeat it is frustrating but to repeat it again is just plain stupid!
5. LOOK AHEAD
Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
If you have failed in the past, it’s time to make the past past at last! If your previous poor choices seem to plague you, you have to let go of those things, nimble it and move on. Don’t let the failures of the past hold you back from the successes of the future.
Just don’t repeat past failures, look ahead with hope, not fear! If you feel fear that your past failure will affect your choices now, we need to pray this through.
6. LOOK TO OTHERS
Proverbs 15:22 (ESV Strong's)
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Wise, godly counsel is an important part of making good choices. Now there is a lot of advice around these days. I always marvel at the number of people who get advice about important decisions by putting it out on Facebook, or asking their mates at the pub.
King Solomon’s Son Rehoboam had a rebellion on his hands. The United Kingdom of his father was under threat, and he needed advice. He first asked the older advisors who had served his father, and they recommended that he show kindness and give concessions to the rebels. But…
2 Chronicles 10:8 (ESV Strong's)
But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.
He turned to his mates, and they said, “No, tell the rebels you will be harsher than before… don’t let them push you around!” This advice blew his entire kingdom apart.
So don’t just seek advice, talk to the right people, someone who is spiritually mature, not just old. Age is compulsory, but maturity is optional. In Church, there are loads of godly, mature and spiritually successful people you can ask to help give advice about your choices.
7. LOOK TO GOD
If you want to make consistent, godly choices, and get it right most of the time, then take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances, and place them firmly on God.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things on earth will go strangely dim.
We tend to do worry and become anxious about so many things in our lives. What we will eat, where we will stay, who we are with. Jesus argued that unbelievers fill their minds with this stuff, but that God knows what we need, when and where. We should concentrate on Him, worshipping Him, honouring Him, seeking what is important to Him. Jesus put it this way…
Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
As we look to Jesus, as we serve Him with our lives, all other aspects of life start to come into perspective. Look to Jesus.
A story is told of a rich man who had a multi million dollar art collection, and He also had a son whom he loved dearly. The son went off to war, and sadly was killed in action, breaking the old man’s heart.
One day there was a knock at the door, and a young man in uniform stood in the doorway. He told the father that he had been serving with his beloved son, and handed the father a painting he had made of the man’s son. The man thanked the soldier with tears in his eyes.
Some time later the old man died. Because he had a huge art collection, and no living heir, the family lawyer hosted an art sale. A large crowd assembled, and the auctioneer offered the first item for sale, a painting of the deceased man’s only son.
“Get on with the real stuff,” people called out, and no one placed a bid on the painting. Finally, the family butler for years who also loved the son, placed a bid of $10.00.
“Going, going, sold!”, said the auctioneer, and promptly called the auction to a close.
People got upset and demanded he auction the other more valuable works. Then the lawyers addressed the crowd…
“My client was very clear… whoever gets the son, gets the whole lot.”
It is the same with your life.. Whoever looks to Jesus, gets the whole lot, everything!
CHOOSE WITH EYES WIDE OPEN
As I said before, you are free to choose, but you are not free to choose the consequences of your choice. In this series we want to look at the choices you make in your life and ensure that you are making godly, right choices. If you fill your heart with God’s Word, fill your mind with godly advice and fill your eyes with Jesus, you can make the right choices.
James 1:5 (ESV Strong's)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Ask God, He won’t let you down!
But it all starts with Jesus, and if you have never asked Him into your life, or if you are not walking with Him, you are in danger of making a critical bad choice, one which might even destroy your life long into the future.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV Strong's)
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
Today, some of you are facing choices, even critical, important choices that will affect yourself and those around you forever.
We want to stand with you, pray with you and help you to make wise, godly decisions.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV Strong's)
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
I want to ask you to be a part of something that’s big, and something that will grow into a wonderful ministry as Ignite grows.
Food has been an integral part of mankind from the beginning… we are the only ones who eat at tables. In our modern tech saturated, high paced, fast food world, I believe we need to get back to
Matthew 26:26 (ESV Strong's)
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
We need help in reinstating the use the table in ministry and fellowship. E need your help in the food and serving ministries. If you don’t fancy yourself singing in the worship team, doing maintenance on the building or leading a connect group, then FUEL is a great opportunity to serve, as many of you desire to do, and become a big part of what we are doing here at church.
FUEL is not about serving food, it’s a bout serving people, and we want to give you the opportunity to be a part of a winning team.
I’ve been to pastor’s conferences and meetings where the food has just blown people away. I have personally been so blessed by the quality and presentation of food, and I believe we can do that here. So far we have had great family lunches and so on, but God has shown us that, with a little bit of coordination, we could make food at Ignite a powerful ministry that blesses and touches peoples hearts in a greater way,
Acts 6:2-5 (ESV Strong's)
And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.
I know the kind of things that hold you back…
Fear. You worry that if you cook or serve that people might reject it, that your might be the only untouched plate at lunch.
Inadequacy. You don’t feel like a gourmet chef, or like you don’t cook as good as someone else.
Timidity. You don’t push yourself forward and you’re just use to not being involved and feeling overlooked, like you are not as talented as someone else and don’t deserve a ministry like this.
Forgetfulness. You’re worried you will miss a roster and be embarrassed or let people down, or that you go away too much to be of use. You say things like, “If I’m here I’ll help, but don’t count on me.”
Time and Money. You’re worried about the time this ministry might take and how much it will cost on your current budget.
You have the opportunity to be raised up in ministry like Stephen was, and the satisfaction of seeing people happy and blessed is yours.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.