Holy Choices                   Deuteronomy 30:19b

Epiphany 6A                                         February 12, 2023,                        St. John, New Orleans

Two weeks ago, we talked about setting ourselves up for faithfulness by establishing some holy habits. I called it 10 for 10. 

And if you'll recall, I suggested that we should 

strive to attend worship. 10 times over the next 10 weeks, 

we should make a list of 10 things we would pray for consistently in the next 10 weeks, 

and that for 10 weeks we would strive to be more generous in our lives. 

And so before we go any further this morning, I'd just like to ask how you're doing with these? 

Do you still have your 10 for 10 Journal out and around the house 

so that you can keep record of your attendance, prayers and giving? 

In case you've lost your 10 for 10 journal, be sure to check your inbox as we will be emailing it to everyone again this week. 

Also, I'd like to suggest that maybe you find someone to serve as an accountability partner 

and you can ask each other about your various commitments you've made 

And you can find ways to help and pray for one another over these next 10 weeks leading up to Easter.

Today, though, we will talk about holy choices, because not all of life revolves around routines and habits. 

Right or left, Chicken or fish, Ford or Chevy?. 

To be or not to be? 

Is that really a choice? 

Yes, though one which could have disastrous consequences. 

And while it would seem that some decisions are more consequential than others. 

In reality every choice has eternal consequences, 

because behind every choice looms the question, “what would be God's preferred path?

Starting with the Old Testament lesson. We hear Moses tell the people to choose life. 

We are free to follow any God, any lifestyle, any religion, any form of ethics we choose. 

God will not stand in your way. And you are free to follow them to the fullest extent you desire. 

You are free to include God as little or as much as you choose.

 From constant prayer and devotion 

to never darkening a church door once you have been confirmed. 

God is not going to take your hand and lead you in your life of faith. 

But, as Moses points out in his farewell address to Israel before they crossed into the promised land, 

know that your choices lead to eternal consequences. 

Choices that lead away from God will end in suffering and death, 

while choices that lead toward God will deliver life. 

“Therefore, choose life that you and your offspring may live.”

And then we come to the gospel where Jesus seems to be on a roll, 

giving everyone the riot act, pointing out the many ways we sin. 

Moreover, These examples include private, impure and unholy thoughts. 

Things which everyone listening to him must realize they are guilty of. 

Things which all of us here today are guilty of as well. 

And most astounding of all, Jesus presents no remedy other than excising the offending body parts. 

And since we can't sever our brains without killing ourselves. 

It would seem that our case is hopeless. 

That because of our nature for sinfulness, and even our depravity of thought, 

There is nothing we can do to be saved from God's wrath. 

And so we are faced with a gospel lesson today which would seem to be devoid of the good news. 

It would seem to be pure law, giving no hope but only devastation. 

Until you consider who is speaking these words.

It is the savior himself. The very Messiah sent from God. 

And he wasn't sent to be a crutch to help us limp our way into heaven. 

He is not an instructor poised to give us all the answers to the big test. 

He is our literal salvation. 

He is the remedy for our sin 

and that aid is only available via our trust in him to provide it. 

The point of the gospel today is to make us realize that our only chance at survival is our association with Jesus.

And Paul understood that as he wrote to the church in Corinth. 

It seemed that the Corinthians placed an inordinate importance on who it was that brought them to faith. 

So much so that they were breaking up into prideful factions, sort of like an early version of denominations. 

But Paul said none of that matters. 

The Evangelists and missionaries planted and watered the seeds of faith. 

But it is God by his Holy Spirit which makes it grow. 

Once again, the recipient of faith can take no credit for their salvation. 

God uses others to make the presentation of the gospel until it takes root in their heart 

and God himself grows it within the heart and soul of the believer.

So, if God is responsible for it all, why should we be concerned about making the right choices? 

What difference do our choices make?

Even though salvation is all the work of God, we have all the power to reject it. 

That is the power of humanity., to choose the ungodly. 

The rest of creation is on autopilot, 

Moving through life, fulfilling its creative purpose. 

While the rest of the world's creatures cannot make a wrong choice, 

we were created with the ability to err. 

And God created us with this ability so that he could have a relationship with us. 

Without choice, there is no relationship. 

And from the very beginning, God gave humanity choices. 

In the Garden of Eden, the choice was to eat from the Tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

When crossing the Jordan into the promised land, the choice was disobedience or obedience to God. 

With Jesus, the choice is to rely on our own obedience, or his. 

With Paul, the choice was rely on what others taught or to rely on the word of God and his grace. 

Yes, our entire life and its eternal disposition is in God's hands, 

But he gives us the freedom to turn away from it 

and to choose a path which leads away from him and his salvation. 

A few years ago, there was a campaign designed to get people to think about these choices and to make the rice right choice for faith. 

It was called WWJD. “What would Jesus do?” 

Of course, as the perfect son of God, everything Jesus did was perfect. He never made wrong choices. 

And this was precisely the weakness of the campaign. 

While it's good to look to Jesus for examples of right living, 

that example in and of itself can become oppressive. 

Instead of learning from Jesus and experiencing the life which comes from righteousness, 

without the knowledge of Christ's forgiveness won on the cross, 

WWJD is just another set of unattainable goals 

and a constant reminder of our sinful failures. 

And so when we look to Jesus, we look first to the cross and the empty tomb. 

Where his obedience to God was punished in death, 

and where his atonement for sin was acknowledged when he was resurrected for eternity. 

Only after we trust in his sacrifice can any attempt at our own obedience make sense. 

Because our attempts., No matter how earnest and well-intentioned, will fall short. 

But as a response to faith, they are as close to a sign of our love and affection than any other thing we could ever do.

And so, as we talk as Christians about making holy choices, They are only made in faith, but they are made for two different reasons. 

After receiving faith, we first make choices that ensure we are not taking ourselves farther away from his grace. 

Knowing his grace is delivered by word and Sacrament, 

we choose those options in life which will not hinder us from these blessings. 

And the second choices we make are those that display our love for God. 

By following his commandments both outwardly and in spirit, we demonstrate our desire to not disappoint him and acknowledge his love for us. 

And by loving the world around us, both people and his creation, we demonstrate his love to those who don't know it.

And because, by faith, we already have been forgiven, we are bold in our actions, 

Not being paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice. 

And we prayerfully advance our work together, 

confident he will forgive and correct us when we err. 

And he will steer us along the right path by his Holy Spirit. 

And guard our steps by his holy angels.

As you approach life in this manner of seeking holy choices, some choices may be harder than others to make. 

Let's face it, not every option placed before us each day is a matter of life and death. 

When you pick which kind of bread you'll have at subway, 

it doesn't Have the same weight as whether you you'll take your child to church and teach them about Jesus. 

And yet, with each of these decisions, there may be one option that God prefers for you. 

Perhaps it's more healthy, thrifty, or moral. 

Perhaps it's better for your development, growth, or resilience. 

Approach each decision seeking the choice you think God would agree to, 

not because your life depends on it, 

but because it might help your relationship with God, 

and by extension, make you even more sure of your eternal life with him.

Poor choices always lead to regrets. 

And I am always saddened when lifelong Christians are not sure about their eternal life and have so many regrets of the choices they've made. 

I've seen it in all ages, even the old, and especially at the end of life. 

And it usually occurs with those who haven't always considered God in their choices over their lifetime. 

And, sadly, because of this., their faith is weak, and they say, “I hope I've been good enough.” 

To which I always say, “That's not important now. 

What is important is that you are baptized and believe Jesus forgives you!” 

and after a little more conversation, they're usually relieved. 

Because despite their choices, holy or not, 

they know the love of God that will soon save them.

My prayer is that you are not among those in doubt now, 

That you know the love of your savior already. 

And that, because of that love you desire to reciprocate that love in your life. 

That, by considering God's heart for you in every decision, 

not only will you remain close to him, his word, and the means of grace,

but that your choices would reflect your deep and abiding affection for him as your Lord and Savior. 

May you be blessed to seek him always and choose life along the way 

as you seek to make holy choices. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.