Choosing the Good Life

A sermon idea based on Deuteronomy 30:15-20.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 NRSV

[15] See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. [16] If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. [17] But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, [18] I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. [19] I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, [20] loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Angle

The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…

Life is a long series of choices, each affecting the next, moving our lives in the direction of either flourishing or faltering. God invites us to choose the path of life.

Anchor

I highly recommend Andy Stanley’s book on this subject…

The Principle of the Path, by Andy Stanley

Buy the Book »

The heart of the message, a potential outline, key truths to share, special notes for interpreting the text, etc.

Can we, with a single wrong decision, wreak havoc on relationships and leave a trail of carnage in our wake? Yes, of course. But that one big destructive decision almost never happens in isolation. Instead, it’s usually the culmination of a series of smaller decisions, made every day.

This passage in Deuteronomy comes at the end of the second giving of the Law of Moses to the people of Israel. We’re apt to think these rules were given merely to express God’s behavioral and moral limitations, but the law is filled with practical words about how to care for wounds, how to use proper hygiene, how to quarantine a sick population, and more.

In other words, the law contains wisdom in addition to regulations, and this is an important feature to note. All of those rules, regulations, and bits of wisdom were designed to give the now-freed, fledgling nation of Israel some guardrails to help them flourish in the promised land.

So the lawgiver now offers a big application. Live within these boundaries and you will flourish and experience a richer life. Stray outside of these boundaries and you’ll struggle and experience harm and death.

While the passage wasn’t written to us as individuals loving in a post-Jesus age, there are some big principles that still hold true.

1. We all live along a trajectory.

All of us are living in a situation that is the result of decisions we have made and the decisions others have made that have affected us. Our steps can usually be traced back through our decisions all the way to the moment we started acting on beliefs that were either healthy or unhealthy, true or false.

Right now, you are moving either toward or away from flourishing in life based on the choices you keep making and the patterns you keep living.

2. God reveals his wisdom to guide us.

The Creator and Author of the human story has decided to make himself and his ways known to us, at least partially. We can see how God works in nature, in history, in our experiences, and through sources of wisdom such as scripture and the counsel of other people.

He doesn’t leave us to flounder. God comes alongside us with principles that protect us.

3. God frees us to make choices.

It’s universal. We all make choices. We can’t avoid it. From the moment we’re conscious until the day we die, we’ll make choices that impact ourselves and others. Why? Because God loves us, and rather than forcing us to conform to perfection, he allows us the freedom to make choices along the way.

4. Our choices have consequences.

Some choices lead us to thrive, such as the choice to draw near others in community, to serve the needs of others in love, and to grow personally.

Other choices lead us to struggle. When we turn inward, get selfish, isolate, and choose fear, hate, and anger, we wind up distant from love. Our choices can lead us to the loss of our health, our relationships, and even our lives.

Choices have consequences. Always. It’s the universal law of being human.

The bottom line is this, if you want to be healthyholy, and happy… if you want to be more like Jesus in your character, make the next right choice.

And how do you know what choice to make? You won’t always know, but you can have your heart ready. One of the best ways is to pray regularly, as Thomas Merton did, that your desires are aligned with the life-giving desires of God.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

“The Merton Prayer” from Thoughts in Solitude

Application

The big call-to-action in the message…

Begin to pray today that your heart’s desires would be shaped to align with God’s life-giving desires for you and for those around you.

 

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About the Cover Art: Photo by Norbert Kundrak on Unsplash.

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