A common human responsibility in following God in all generations throughout the Bible is the responsibility of choice. In every generation, as long as people have existed, the people who followed God were the people who chose to follow God. Following God was what they wanted.

  1. Consider the great Israelite leader, Joshua.
    1. Joshua was an exceptional man of God.
      1. He was one of only two adults who left Egypt and lived to enter Canaan--not even the great man Moses did both those things.
      2. He was one of the two spies who believed God could give Israel Canaan the first time they came to Canaan's border [about a year after they left Egypt].
      3. This was the man hand picked by God to lead the nation of Israel in the conquest of Canaan.
      4. The period of Joshua's leadership was one of the godliest periods in Israel's history.
    2. Listen to a statement Joshua made to Israel when he is at the end of his leading:
      Joshua 24:1-3 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.
      1. This is just the beginning of Joshua's statement.
      2. In his statements that follow this opening, consider his emphasis.
        1. He talked about how God took the one man Abraham and made a huge people.
        2. He talked about the plagues God produced in Egypt to deliver this people.
        3. He talked about God's rescue of this people at the Red Sea.
        4. He talked about the ways God protected this people in the wilderness.
        5. He talked about the ways God used to give this people Canaan.
      3. Listen to Joshua 24:12, 13:
        Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, but not by your sword or your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.
      4. Now listen to Joshua 24:14,15:
        "Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
        1. "Make up your minds who will be served and honored as God in your lives."
        2. "If you go back far enough, some of your ancestors worshipped idols."
        3. "Right now decide who you will serve and follow as God."
        4. "If the choice is someone's idols, it does not matter what you choose--idols can be from your past or your present--one is good as another."
        5. "As the leader of my family, I have already made the decision, and my family agrees: we will serve the only God Who brought us out of Egypt, Who took us across the Red Sea, Who sustained us in the wilderness, and Who gave us Canaan."
    3. Joshua said, "You must make up your minds; you cannot escaping choosing."

  2. Not even God's own son could escape the necessity of choice as a human who perfectly did what God wanted done.
    1. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus endured a major conflict.
      1. His human will did not want to face the cross.
      2. The suffering and responsibility were too great!
    2. Three times he prayed, and in his prayers he endured such conflict, such agony, such suffering that he sweated profusely.
      1. Yet, each time he prayed the same prayer.
        Matthew 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
      2. The time of choice was right there right then--and Jesus knew it.
      3. He clearly understood that he could not evade the choice--either God's will was supreme in his life, or it was not--even if it was an unjust death for him.
    3. If you want to see the effect of choosing to surrender to God's will, look at the difference in Jesus as he uttered that prayer, and Jesus' behavior after that prayer.

  3. Though Paul was an extremely religious man prior to following Jesus Christ, he had a major choice to make.
    1. He had a horrible opinion of the dead Jesus.
      1. He guarded the clothes of those who stoned the Christian Stephen to death (Acts 7:58).
      2. He led a Jerusalem persecution against Christians in which he dragged men and women out of their homes and took them to prison (Acts 8:1,3).
      3. He saw the dead Jesus as one of the greatest threats facing the nation of Israel.
    2. He hated people who followed Jesus Christ so much that he went to the Jewish high priest and obtained permission to go to a synagogue in another country, arrest Jewish men and women who believed in Jesus, and bring them bound back to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9:1,2).
      1. On that trip, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Paul.
      2. Suddenly Paul the enemy of Christianity was aware that Jesus was the resurrected son of God, not an impostor who was Israel's great threat.
    3. Years later in a court appearance, Paul stated what the resurrected Jesus stated to him that day.
      Acts 26:15-18 And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
      1. "Paul, now you understand who I really am."
      2. "Now you know I am not an impostor, but the resurrected son of God."
      3. "I have appeared to you to commission you."
      4. "You have a choice to make. If you chose to follow me, I will send you to both Israelites and people who are not Israelites to give all of them a choice to make."
    4. The moment you understand who Jesus is, you have a choice to make.

    [At this point we sang 4 songs, then had Communion together.]

  4. There have been some profound changes in our society in the last 50 years.
    1. Some of those changes are beneficial and welcome.
      1. Some things are really different from my childhood--and I regard them as good changes.
        1. I really like hot water.
        2. I really like having a steady water supply, and never having a well go dry.
        3. I really like daily warm showers.
        4. I really like microwaves.
        5. I really like heated houses that do not rely on a stove in the living room.
        6. I really like houses with good insulation.
        7. I really like air conditioning.
        8. I really like having so many foods available.
      2. In 50 years the average person's lifestyle has changed incredibly.
    2. But there is one change that we need to wake up to and realize that it has occurred, or it will destroy us before we know it.
      1. Most of us who were alive 50 years ago lived at a time in this society when it placed a high value on Christian principles.
      2. In those days, our laws, our local governments, our state governments, and our national government favored Christian principles.
    3. I want to speak to you as a person, as a Christian individual, and my concern involves a spiritual focus, not a political focus.
      1. Observation one: those days are gone; we do not live in a society that places a high value on Christian principles.
      2. Observation two: I personally doubt that those days will return to this society--we doom ourselves if we live in the past or wait until those times return.
      3. Observation three: the fact that those days ever existed in this society likely did us far more harm than good.
        1. Please understand that I personally really like things easy, convenient, and unstressful.
        2. Christianity did not begin in favorable times.
        3. For almost 300 years Christianity existed in extremely stressful times.
        4. For a long time, the people who were Christians were people who chose to follow Christ.
      4. For almost 150 years in this society, our society favored Christianity.
        1. We became so used to that situation, that we became convinced that Christians should be in control of society.
        2. We became so used to that, that we substituted championing or endorsing favorable laws for being salt of the earth, light of the world, and yeast that spreads by contact.
        3. We became so used to that, that we looked at the Bible as a rule book instead of a way of life.
        4. We became so used to that, that we became spoiled and lazy, thinking there were few choices to be made between society's values and godliness.
    4. In my judgment and opinion, we desperately need to wake up.
      1. The time of choice is here, has been here, and is reality.
      2. Society is not going to favor us.
      3. If we follow God, we will chose to follow God.
      4. We will not make that choice just by coming to church assemblies.
      5. We will make that choice by personal commitments to be godly persons.

  5. As we each make our choices, we need to allow a basic Christian reality to sink so deep within us it is always a part of our outlook.
    Romans 12:17-21 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    1. The key to defeating evil in yourself is by doing good.
    2. The key to defeating evil in your relationships is by doing good.
    3. The key to defeating evil in your associations is by doing good.
    4. The key to defeating evil in our society is by doing good.

How are you defeating evil in your life? Have you ever made the choice to defeat evil, or do you try to keep one foot in evil and one foot in Christ?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 December 2003

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