“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.” ~ Deut. 30:19
It is time to continue the “Choose Life” series. Previously we discussed the importance of Choosing Life in our thoughts and words. This installment will cover the aspect of Choosing Life in our actions. Again, it is all about choice. The things we do, for good or for bad, are a result of making a choice. Each day we have hundreds of choices to make. Some are significant, most probably aren’t, but they all lead to either life or death.
When we are young and in school (though I don’t remember what year – it’s been awhile), we learn the concept of cause and effect. For every action, there is a reaction. It can be staggering when you really think of the enormity of that. Most of us don’t think that way on a regular basis, but that doesn’t make it untrue. One thing I’ve learned, and say on a regular basis, is “all actions have consequences – for good or for bad, they all have consequences.” We may not always like the consequences, particularly if they’re bad, but they’re there nonetheless.
Some of the choices we face every day are in the form of rules, commandments or laws. Others are not so clear. For instance, there is no law or specific rule about returning extra money back to a clerk who has incorrectly given you the wrong amount. Some might make the case that keeping anything that isn’t truly yours is stealing. Others may see it as a blessing or good luck. Which is it? In reality, returning the money is the right thing to do. When we do what is right, what is good, we are choosing life. When we do what is wrong, or sinful, we are choosing death. This is where our integrity comes in – right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of whether anyone else knows we are doing it. And even if no other person knows the actions we take, the Lord always knows. “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” ~ Prov. 15:3
We as humans tend to be ruled by our sinful nature. And we humans attempt to quantify sin, such as murder and gossip are both sin, but murder is much worse. That’s not how God sees it though. To God, sin is sin, and regardless of what the sin is, it leads to death. Consider Gal. 5:19-21, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” If we choose to behave in such ways, we are choosing death. Look again at the behaviors mentioned above and think on them a moment. What else fits in with them. Does immodesty, manipulation, substance abuse, laziness, disobedience of parents or authority, betrayal of confidence or trust, lying or greed belong in the same category of sin? Yes, they are all sin, they are all characteristics that thrive in the darkness of this present age, and they all lead to death.
But there is another way - a way that leads to light and to life. When we make the choice to do the right thing, we are living righteously and choosing life. We should make every effort to consistently do the right thing, not because of legalism, rules or fear, but because we love God and are grateful for the new life He has given us through His Son Jesus. Our salvation comes to us through faith, not works, however our works become an outward expression of what He has done for us. We read in James 2:17-18, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”
So what does it look like to choose life in our actions? It can be telling the truth, serving in ministry, exhibiting kindness, obeying the commandments, having integrity, dressing modestly, keeping promises, not gossiping, standing up for what is right, reading the Bible, averting your eyes when they are exposed to something you shouldn’t be seeing, and innumerable other ways. We all have a conscience, and more importantly, as Christian’s, we have the Holy Spirit, so we basically know what is right versus what is wrong. And the Holy Spirit gives us power to make the right choice when it may be easier not to, but it’s still up to us to do it. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation." ~ Phil. 2:12-15
This is not to say that we must be perfect, because we are human and we will make mistakes or just plain screw up. But if we come to God with a repentant heart, He will always give us mercy and forgive us. He sees our heart and understands we have a continuous battle going on between our spirit and our flesh. One thing to keep in mind though, is that while we may have forgiveness according to God, that doesn’t mean we don’t also have consequences according to man. If we lie to or otherwise deceive our spouses, parents, friends, etc, we will lose their trust, we may even lose the relationship, and we will most likely receive some type of “punishment” for our actions. If we rob and kill someone, or engage in any other type of illegal activity, we will have to answer for that in a court of law and will spend time in jail. Again, God will forgive us if we are repentant, and even those we hurt or offend may forgive us, but there are still consequences.
God created us all with a specific purpose, to do good works and to serve. It says in Eph. 2:10, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” When we volunteer our time and talent at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, Crisis Pregnancy Center, or any other of the thousands of ministries available to help others, we are choosing life. When we visit with a lonely old person who is alone or offer to run errands for someone who is unable to do it themselves, we are choosing life. When we comfort someone who is hurting, encourage someone who is fearful, welcome someone who is new, and when we love the un-lovely, we are choosing life. When we find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it, we are choosing life.
There is one other thing to remember here. We will answer for our deeds and we will receive whatever we deserve. The Bible is very clear about this. It reads in Gal. 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Then in Jer. 32:18-19, “O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.” And finally in 2 Cor. 5:9-10, “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” One day, we will stand before God and be judged for the choices we made and the actions we took here on this earth, and we will be rewarded accordingly. Personally, I long to stand before Him and hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, here is your reward!” Therefore, I am choosing life!
The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden. ~ 1 Tim. 5:24-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ~ Heb. 10:24
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. ~ Rev. 2:19
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