February 11, 2008

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Life or Death Which Will It Be?

Epiphany 6 February 11, 1996 IN THE NAME OF HIM WHO LOVES US AND DEMANDS THAT WE LOVE HIM ABOVE ALL AND SHOW THAT LOVE IN KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS; DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS:

Life is full of choices. From the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, you are faced with all sorts of choices. Most of these choices are for a short duration. What clothes do I wear today? What job do I do first? What do I want to eat? What TV program do I want to watch? These are just a few of the choices you have to make during the day.

Then there are those choices that are for a longer duration. What am I going to do with my life? What college or university will I attend? Where am I going to live? Whom shall I marry? Where shall I plant corn next year? What projects around the house have to be done this year? I am sure that you could add even more choices to this list.

The vast majority of choices that you make have little or no real consequences to them. It doesn’t make a whole lot of differences whether you eat peas or carrots or which job you do first as long as you do the rest. Certainly the vast majority of choices that you make have no eternal consequences.

There is one choice that does have eternal consequences. This is the choice which God places before you this morning. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. Where and how you will spend eternity depends on the choice that you make. The choice which God places before you this morning is the choice of life or death. This morning and every morning I urge you to seriously and carefully answer God’s question: LIFE OR DEATH WHICH WILL IT BE?

For forty years the Children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness. During that time all the Israelites who left Egypt had died except for Moses, Joshua and Caleb. The new generation of Israelites were camped on the plain of Moab ready to enter the Promised Land. Because of his sin of disobedience Moses would not be permitted to enter the Promised Land. At the Lord’s command Moses appointed Joshua as the new leader of the people.

Before taking leave of this new generation, Moses renews God’s covenant with the people. The name Deuteronomy means “the second giving of the law.” In the Book of Deuteronomy Moses repeats the law of God for the new generation of Israelites who were not present or were too young to remember the first giving of the law at Mount Sinai. After repeating the law of God, Moses, as God’s spokesman, offers the Israelites a choice. It is the choice of life or death.

Moses told Israel what choice would result in life. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, 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.

Life is found in God alone. He gives all living creatures life. Spiritual life is also found in God alone. That life is found in loving God above everything and everyone else. To love God means to desire him above all else. It means to long to be with him. God wants you to love him above everyone else you may love. He demands the very first place in your life.

God wants more than a half-hearted love. He wants you to love him completely. He doesn’t want you to love him part of the time, nor some of the time. God doesn’t want you to pick and choose when and under what conditions you will love him. He wants you to love him all the time with your whole being. His command to you is this, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. [Deuteronomy 6:5]

Such love of God will be evident in your walking in his ways and in your keeping his commandments. All the commandments of God can be summed up in one word, love. You would have no problem keeping the commandments of God, if you could love him with your whole being. Loving God with your whole being, you will put your complete confidence in him. You would let him guide you through life firmly believing that no matter what happens to you happens for your good. Loving God above all else, means that you will not misuse his name by cursing and swearing. Loving God above all else, means that you will gladly hear and learn his Word. Loving God above all else, means that you will honor those whom the Lord has placed over you. Loving God above all else, means that you will help and befriend your neighbor in every bodily need. Loving God above all else, means that you will honor your marriage vows and hold marriage in high esteem. Loving God above all else, means that you will help your neighbor improve and protect his property and business. Loving God above all else, means that you will speak well of others. Loving God above all else, means that you will be content with what you have and not cast a covetous eye on those things that you cannot have.

Loving God and showing that love by walking in his ways and by keeping his commandments will result in life and blessings. The life that results from such love of God is a full, rich and productive one. Loving God leads to eternal life. Not that you gain eternal life by keeping his commandments. You gain eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Such faith will show itself in loving God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.

The opposite of choosing life is to choose death. 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, 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.

Israel is an example of just what God through Moses was saying. The parents of the Israelites Moses was addressing were guilty of worshiping a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. Many of them died as a result. Later on as Israel took possession of the Promised Land, they became guilty of forsaking God and worshiping the heathen gods of the Canaanites. God allowed the enemies of Israel to oppress them. Later on God allowed the Assyrians to carry the northern tribes away into captivity, never to be heard of again. Little over a century later God allowed the Babylonians to carry the people of Judah into captivity. All these things happened to Israel because it had forsaken the Lord God and had worshipped other gods.

You are not guilty of worshiping other gods, are you? You don’t have an idol in your backyard or a statue in your home that you worship or do you? Any time anyone or anything becomes more important to you than God, than that person or thing has become your god. Then you are guilty of worshiping other gods. When you can’t find time to worship on Sunday morning, or read your Bibles at home, or spend time in prayer than something or someone else has become more important than God. You are guilty of forsaking God and worshiping idols.

The result of worshiping other gods is death. Those things that you consider to be more important than God cannot give you life. Material things and recreation may be good for the body. They do nothing for the soul. While enjoying them may give temporal satisfaction to the body, they do not satisfy the longings of the soul. Continuing to follow after them instead of walking in God’s footsteps and obeying his commandments will result in eternal death.

These are the choices before you. Life or death which will it be? To encourage you in the right choice Moses wrote, This day I call heaven and earth as witness 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 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.

Moses calls upon heaven and earth as his witnesses that he is offering life or death to the people. In ancient times when an agreement was made between nations or individuals, each would call upon its god to witness the agreement. By calling upon their gods as witness, each was saying, “May the gods bless me if I keep the treaty. But may the gods curse me if I break the treaty.” Since there isn’t any other god to call on, Moses called upon God’s creation as his witness.

Moses urges Israel to make the right choice. Moses could only urge the people to make the right choice. He could not make that choice for them. They had to choose for themselves. Sometime later Joshua also asked the people to make a choice. It was the very same choice. Joshua told the people “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” [Joshua 24:9]

The choice put before you this morning might also be put in New Testament terms. Life or death is also determined by your acceptance or rejection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible puts the choice this way Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. [John 3:36]

What you believe about Jesus will be shown in how you live. Like Moses in our text, Paul, in his letter to he Romans, encourages you to make the right choice. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life – - – You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. [Romans 6:12-13, 18]

This morning I urge you to make the right choice. Life or death, which will it be? Each of you has to make the choice for yourself. No one can make it for you. No one else will experience the consequences of your choice, but you. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction which will it be?

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