It’s all about choices:
Good morning to all my brothers and sisters in Christ and to any visitors that may be here today.
Our lives involve choices on a daily basis. We are constantly making choices, the first one of the day normally being "am I going to get out of bed today?"
This may sound silly but we actually make that one choice every day of our lives. You may think getting out of bed is automatic but it’s not. If you do get out of bed every day without thinking about it, it’s because you have made the same choice over and over so many times that you have created a habit out of making that same choice.
So where do choices come from? What inside us enables us to make choices?
I want to refer to four points today regarding our choices:
GOD CHOSE US FIRST
Genesis 1:27 says that ‘God created man in His own image’, meaning that He has created us with the same root moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature.
Ephesians 1:4 says
'For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.'
So the origin of choice lies with God Himself, and He chose to create us to have the ability to choose, just like He can.
Bring out pipe. (visual guide)
This is a slight diversion but its actually very important to understand in the bigger picture. I have here, in this pipe, time from God's perspective. Picture us being this yellow band in the pipe. I’ve made it close to the end because I believe we are close to the end of time. God is outside of time looking in and able to see the end from the beginning. He has known before He created time, who would live when, and more specifically who would choose Him.
Do you know that if you search on Google ‘’how many people have ever lived?’’ your answer is 107 billion people. It’s also estimated that currently 30% of people identify as being ‘’Christian’’. If you take 10% of that value to be those who truly are born-again believers in Jesus, you have a minimum of 2.7 billion people through out time who have chosen to accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Visually, if you look at the yellow in the pipe, that’s a rough idea of how many people over time actually put their faith in God.
So let’s understand that God knew, before HE created time or any of us, how many people would choose Him. The incredible thing for me is that HE still chose to create mankind, knowing full well that the bulk of mankind would reject Him and live their lives for themselves.
CHOICES FOR AN UNBELIEVER:
So, choices, we all can, and have to make choices every day. For someone who is not a Christian the ultimate choice is simply, do I or don’t I? Do I or don’t I put my faith in the fact that Jesus died on the cross for me to pay the penalty for my sin? Ultimately for the unbelieving person there are two choices, one, do I keep living my life independently from God, essentially, god of my own life, or two, I acknowledge my sin to the true God and surrender my life to Him as both Lord and Saviour.
I don’t know if any of you have heard of a New Zealand street preacher named Ray Comfort. If you haven’t you can watch 180 DEGREES ON YouTube. How he approaches people on the street and shares about us having broken the ten commandments is very effective.
However, one day when you stand before the Lord as an unbeliever, regardless of how moral a life you may have lived, or how depraved a life you may have lived, He will be asking you one question…..’Why did you not accept the sacrificial death on the cross by my son Jesus for your sins?’
Many of you may have heard the phrase ‘’There’s a special place in hell reserved for that man or woman’’. The assumption is that here are worse places in hell than others. Being in hell, in constant torment, eternally separated from God is bad, it’s as bad as it gets. There is no sliding scale.
So, once again. Two choices. Two very simple choices. Do I insist on being my own master, my own god and in so doing choose hell? Or do I choose to confess my sin of rebellion and independence, accept the truth that Jesus died on the cross, in obedience to His Father to pay for my sin, and then surrender my life fully to Him and become His disciple?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO CHOOSE JESUS?
Once you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and Saviour your position changes instantly.
You have been transported from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light’’. You are now justified before God…..Just as if I’d never sinned. It’s that simple …..and that difficult. Many people war their entire lives against God simply because they choose not to surrender themselves to Him.
17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new [a]creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
We have been justified, and now we are being sanctified, being meaning that this is a continuous work that carries on until we see Jesus.
So, choices……choices for the believer. We have already made the ultimate choice and chose to put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, hallelujah, we are saved. We spend eternity in Heaven, rather than in hell. We have been born from above.
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
So we know according to scripture that God himself will continue to work in us through His Holy Spirit. The goal being to make us more and more like His son, Jesus.
How do our choices effect our faith moving forward from here? If God is going to be working in us and changing us anyway, why are our choices so important?
CHOICES MADE BY PEOPLE IN THE BIBLE:
I want to take a little bit of time to run through choices made by people and the outcomes these choices made, not only in their lives but for generations to come.
Noah made the choice to hear God, to risk all and build an Ark so that the animals and his family of eight can be spared. Consider that it took a maximum of 75 years to build the ark. That’s quite a choice he made. The result being that he fathered the rest of humanity.
Imagine had he not made this choice?
Abram made the choice to hear God, abandon all he new and head out into the desert. He became the father of Israel. He could simply have stayed home and lived a quiet life.
Lot made the choice to take the best land when he and Abraham parted. The result being that he and his family were influenced by the cultures in those cities. He had to be rescued from Sodom by two angels. In fact he even hesitated to leave. The angels literally pulled him out. And despite being told not to look back. Lots wife did and was turned to stone.
Abraham was counted as faithful in Hebrews 11 but he did make a choice to follow his wife’s plan to have a son with another woman, Hagar. The plan succeeded but this led to enormous strife in their relationship and to this day there is strife between the descendants of Ishmael, his son by Hagar and the descendants of Isaac, the Jews.
Jacob wrestled with God until day-break and would not let God go. He was blessed and called and Israel. He then made peace with his brother Esau whose birthright he had stolen.
Joseph of the techni-colour coat story who was arrogant and sold into slavery by his brothers, chose to make the best of his life and was obedient to God. He became the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt and saved Israel from starvation.
Moses, raised as an Egyptian, who ran away into the desert to escape after he had murdered one of the Egyptian overseers, made the choice to hear God and return to Egypt and help rescue his people. He also could simply have stayed in the desert and lived a comfortable life.
Joshua and Caleb, unlike the other ten spies who were sent out to scout the land, did not give a fearful report and chose not to live in fear. The other ten spies died from disease and the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. Joshua was blessed and led the Israelites once Moses had passed away.
Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho made a choice to put her faith in the God of Israel and helped the spies hide. She became one of Jesus descendants.
Deborah, the judge who made the choice to step up to the plate when the men did not was blessed and she was instrumental in bringing peace to Israel for forty years.
Samson is known to be one man who made bad choices more than once in his choice of wives which brought him terrible strife. His final choice though was a good one and he destroyed many of the Philistines in the temple with him, but also lost his own life.
Ruth made a choice to stay with and look after her mother in law Naomi. She took her advice was obedient and was then later married to Boaz. Their child was Odeb, the father of David. Ruth is also in the genealogy of Jesus.
David made some good, and some bad choices. He was determined to do the will of God and was faithful to God and was blessed.
He also decided to murder Bathsheba’s husband and take her as his own wife which serious consequences. They lost their first child as a result of his bad choice.
Nehemiah made the choice to risk all and as the kings cup bearer asked that he could be allowed to re-build Jerusalem and the temple. The king gave him permission and blessed him and he was instrumental in getting the exiles back to Jerusalem because of his faithfulness.
Esther made the choice to put her own life on the line when she was made queen and pleaded for her people Israel to be saved from Haman. She will always be remembered as being brave in the face of her own possible death.
These are all examples of people in the old testament who made choices, both good and bad.
It is so clear that God loves those that put Him first, who are prepared to sacrifice their own comfort or their own ambition and even their lives for His sake.
So where does that leave us?
I have thought sometimes that it would be far easier to simply be ruled over once we had made the choice to follow after Jesus. If we had made that decision to surrender to Jesus and then simply be controlled from then on by Him.
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Our Heavenly Father has decided that our choices are left with us though, even when we are born again. SO the onus is on us to decide, daily, how we will live our lives and this often involves how we deal with sin.
Please open your bibles toRomans chapter 6 verse 1
and read with me.
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Before we were born again, and this is true of all unbelievers. The choices we could make regarding sin is when, where and how to sin but we couldn’t choose not to sin. Sin reigned within us and we were slaves to sin.
Once again I want to emphasize that you can be a morally good, unsaved person, but you are still going to sin, you cannot choose to not sin as a permanent lifestyle.
I distinctly remember waking up the morning after I was born again, knowing that the power of sin that ruled over me as an unbeliever, was broken. The clear implication being that if I sinned from then on, it was by choice.
Galatians 5:17 says
'For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.'
So how do we work this out practically in our lives?
We’re told that the power of sin is broken when we are born again. We are called ‘a new creation’. We also know that our old man, flesh or human nature is in direct opposition to the spirit of Christ that is now in us. We are literally in a battle between our ‘old self’ and the spirit of Christ inside us.
Many new Christians are filled with a zeal and love for God that is amazing too see. They know they are a new creation, they can see the changes that their Heavenly Father is making in their lives through the Holy Spirit. They can see their old life and how it’s changed into a new life. Many sins fall by the way-side and ‘’progress’’ is huge.
But once you’ve been a Christian for a few years things can change. I’m by no means saying this is true for everyone but I know for myself and I’ve heard from others that doubt can start creeping in.
This doubt may well even include doubt about your salvation, and at the very least you may doubt your standing in Christ.
This year has been an incredibly tough year for most people. Its exposed the flaws in our governments, in our medical fraternity. This year more than any other has made people feel isolated and alone, perhaps even from God himself.
So today I want to encourage you, as I have been encouraged, about who you are in Christ.
Not only are you still a new creation, you are sons and daughters of the living God.
You can approach the throne of God with confidence and bare your soul to Him, because of what Jesus has done for you.
Your emotions and circumstances don’t dictate how God feels about you.
Jesus is not only your brother, He is your friend. He’s always there for you.
God is at work in you whether you feel it or not. He is changing you daily to be more like His son.
It’s good for you to anguish about sin in your life. We need to worry when we are oblivious to our sin.
When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin or things we need to deal with, this draws us closer to God.
Satan, the accuser makes us feel guilty in order that we may run from God.
Take some time to examine yourself, just as scripture says we should, to see if we are still in THE FAITH. This means to check that we haven’t moved away from the gospel, that we haven’t been moved away from what we know to be true.
The bible tells us that we need to remind ourselves who we are in Christ. The very fact that it says this means that we can forget who we are in Jesus.
All of you sitting here who have put your faith in Jesus, were chosen by Him first. He chose You. My encouragement today is not to be discouraged by what is happening in the world around us but to keep choosing Jesus every day.
Yes, we have made the choice to choose Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, but it doesn’t stop there. We need to choose Him daily, and to keep choosing Him.
You see, it’s all about choices.
Even though God knew how few would choose to surrender their lives to Him. He chose to create mankind anyway.
We had the choice of either rejecting Jesus or surrendering to Him.
Now that we are born again. We still need to choose Him, and His will, every day.