Exploring God's Amazing Word
18 Bible Studies on Positive Living in Christ.
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Now revised as Chapter 21 of the book...
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Freedom of Choice
by Peter Wade
All of life is a choice. Every day we choose between tea and coffee, we choose whether to get up or stay in bed, we choose whether to read the newspaper or watch television. In our democratic countries we even have to choose our elected representatives in government. We constantly make choices. We should be thankful that we have this incredible freedom of choice.
The positive Word of God has much to say about our ability to choose, and I want to share in this chapter the tremendous power available to us specifically to make choices relative to our lives. We have the freedom as an individual to determine where our life is going and how we can make it productive for God's glory. I am going to share seven major scripture verses to give you a foundation of truth on this subject.
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Choosing by faith
The first scripture is Hebrews 11:24-25: "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time."
First let us observe that it was "by faith" Moses made his choice. Many choices involve the element of faith. Sometimes we make choices when we are not totally sure where they are going to lead us or just what the end result is going to be. So often the element of faith is present in exercising our freedom of choice. "By faith Moses... chose".
The decision that Moses had to make was whether to be true to the God he worshipped, or whether to enjoy the "good life" in a heathen atmosphere. Perhaps the choices we have to make have some similarity with that made by
It is my experience that frequently we have to make a choice whether to follow the principles of the God we worship or whether to follow the principles of the world in which we live. We, too, have to make the choice "by faith", for it often looks fine to "drift along on the stream of this world's ideas of living" (Ephesians 2:2 Phillips), but we must walk by faith and not by sight. We may not yet see the end result of following God's principles, but by faith we know they can only produce good for us.
Moses made his choice, for "he regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt" (Hebrews 11:26). Moses made the choice to have God's blessing on his life rather than all the materialism that Egypt had to offer. He made a choice by faith, and we too can choose.
In the very last days of Moses' life we have the second scripture on which I wish to focus. In Deuteronomy 30:15,19 Moses is making a speech to the nation of Israel. He is now 120 years of age, and will shortly die. He said, "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction... 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 both you and your children may live."
Moses, the spokesman for God, is giving the nation a clear and distinct choice. There is always a choice available. In verse 15 the choice is between a prosperous life or death. In verse 19 he amplifies the choices to say that life means blessing and all that is good, and death means a cursing, an absence of good.
The obvious choice is clearly stated by Moses: "Choose life..." Very few people want to die, so perhaps you may think that the choice was too obvious. The key is to determine from the context what is meant by "life". Does it merely mean existence or is there some deeper meaning. In verse 20 Moses said, "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..." To choose life was therefore to say to choose God and His principles of living. We too have to make the same choice. Is it going to be God's way or our way?
I was watching a church service on television, and heard to my surprise the minister in his prayer asking God to "bless us sinners in these, the days of our death". They appeared to be Christians; at least they were in church worshipping, yet these people were described by their minister as "sinners". Perhaps he knew more than I did about them! And if that wasn't bad enough, he described them as living in death! Now I believe the Bible teaches that these are not the days of our death but the days of our life. This is the time to maximize our potential, to enjoy everything that God has provided. If my viewpoint of this earth walk is that of a period of death, then I will be "of all men most miserable". Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christian people who are comfortable with the concept of a dreadful life, who see themselves as miserable sinners worthy of God's wrath, rather than knowing they are children of a loving heavenly Father Who wants only the best for them. My daily walk is life, not death. Let's choose life and enjoy it for the glory of God.
Choose for yourselves
Joshua took over as leader of Israel after the death of Moses, and in the closing days of his life he too spoke to the nation. In Joshua 24:14-15 we read, "Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 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."
There is always a choice. The people are again strongly reminded that a choice has to be made between the true God or the multitude of false gods surrounding them and even in their community. "Choose for yourselves..."; it is an individual matter. The man of God again makes it abundantly clear the choice he has made: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
One of the basic distinctives of the Christian message is that individuals are not robots in the hands of an omnipotent Dictator; we are not pawns upon the chessboard of life. We always have the freedom of choice. Even in Old Testament times, He reminds His special people, for whom He has already done so much, that they still had a choice. The theological term for this is "free will". Every person has free will; God has to encourage us to exercise our will to follow His will for us. Perhaps you have seen those signs in the boss's office, "Be reasonable--do it my way!" That is what God is saying. The nation was being asked to think logically of the end result of choosing either a dead god and worshipping an image of some kind, or choosing the care, love and attention of a living God.
You always make a choice
Another Old Testament example is the contest between the man of God and the false prophets of Baal and Asherah. In actual fact the odds were 850 to 1. Elijah had proclaimed a three-year drought in the land of Israel, and that is what happened. Towards the end of the drought, Elijah finally presents himself before the king and suggests a contest to decide the real issue: who was the true God. He wanted the 850 prophets to do their thing, wave their incense and shout or do whatever their religion required in order to call down fire out of heaven and burn up the offering. When they had been given a fair go, Elijah would likewise call down fire out of heaven. The one who produced the result would be recognized as the true prophet of the true God.
"Elijah went before the people and said, `How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.' But the people said nothing" (I Kings 18:21). A choice has to be made between two opinions. Yet the people did not want to make a decision. You might think that you can run your life that way too, "Whatever will be, will be!" But the truth is you always have a choice and you always make a decision. The Bible teaches that if you do not decide for God then you have already decided for the other side.
The people saw that the ritual of the 850 prophets had absolutely no effect on the offering, but they still did not verbalize their decision. In reality they had chosen Baal. Jesus said that if His hearers did not believe in Him then they were already condemned. It was not until they saw the fire come down from heaven that they decided for God.
God helps us choose
In Proverbs is a verse that is often seen on illuminated plaques in the homes of Christians. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:6). Your part is to acknowledge Him; His part is to give direction. The Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the Greek translation, renders it this way, "He shall rightly divide your paths." The word picture is that of a traveller coming to an unknown fork in the road, and he has to make a choice. When you acknowledge the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as our God, "in all your ways", then He will tell you which fork to take, either to the left or the right. It is again a question of choice, but here we have the promise of God's specific direction for our lives. If you will look to God
first in your thinking, if you will consult Him before you consult your bank manager or your stockbroker or your lawyer, He will direct your path, telling you which fork of the road you should take.
Choose the good
A prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 concerns the Lord Jesus Christ. "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us]. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right" (Isaiah 7:14-15). These verses were quoted in Matthew 1:23 as referring to Christ. "To refuse the evil, and to choose the good" (KJV). This is what we call denial and affirmation. "To refuse the evil" is a denial; "to choose the good" is an affirmation. The denial is to say, "I'm not going to go that way, I'm not going to do that". To affirm is to say, "I am going to go God's way. I am going to follow the path that will help me but it will not hurt anyone else."
There are a lot of people going around refusing or rejecting the evil, but that is as far as they go. I attended a convention a year or so ago, where our ministry was one of many displaying our products at a Christian Expo. It was interesting to walk around the Expo and discover how many of the stands had books and products about things that people ought not to do or should not be involved with. Many of those same stands did not appear to have any alternative suggestions. They were against something, but it was not obvious that they were for anything. They were correct in refusing the evil, which we as Christians have the responsibility to do. However, we must also offer humanity a good alternative.
The good news is always relevant; the positive Word of God is always up-to-date to the needs of the hour. There is always a better way to get the message across. Let us balance refusing the evil with showing the good. It is rare for me to teach against anything; I prefer to declare "that the goodness of God leads to repentance" (Romans 2:4 KJV). When I teach about the good life, the bad will drop off. This was the same principle that Jesus employed in His teaching ministry. If a denial is necessary, then immediately follow it up with an affirmation. "Refuse the evil... choose the good."
Choose God, not gold
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matthew 6:24). "Mammon" in the King James Version simply means money. It is an old word for riches or for treasure. "You cannot serve God and Money." Which of the two will be the master? The choice is yours.
This verse is not saying that you cannot be a Christian and have money. It is stating the impossibility of serving both at the one time. Which one is first in your life? Do you put God first or do you put your money first? Do you put God first or do you put your business first? Do you put God first or do you put your family first? It is a matter of choice, a matter of commitment. There has to be one exclusive choice. The context from verse 19 onwards talks about laying up treasure on earth, where there is so much uncertainty, and laying up treasures in heaven, where there is a watertight guarantee. The choice is yours. Yes, you can have God and have money, but God needs to be in first place. What is your choice?
There is always a choice. The freedom of choice is a tremendous power. In all of life's situations I can make a choice. "Do I choose to experience peace of mind, or do I choose to experience conflict? Do I choose to experience love or fear? Do I choose to be a love-finder or a fault-finder? Do I choose to be a love-giver or a love-taker?" We always have a choice. When life gets difficult, say to yourself, "I could choose peace instead of this."
It may seem as if the whole world is crashing down on you, and everybody is against you, you still have a freedom of choice. Be a positive Bible believer, and "refuse the evil, and choose the good".