Your Choices Matter by John Burke

Today at Gateway Community Church in Austin, John Burke shared a message called “Your Choices Matter.” Here are some of his insights:

“Every day of our lives, we are faced with choices. Your choices matter. They make a difference to your life and to the lives of the people around you and who come after you.

Sometimes people misunderstand why we say some of the things we say. ‘Come as you are’ has been a core value of Gateway from the beginning because it reminds us of the importance of being a community of grace. Grace is the foundation of all lifechange. Grace says that God accepts us ‘As Is.’ We don’t have to clean up, straighten up, do penance, jump through religious hoops, or prove ourselves worthy. He loves us and values us because He made us for Himself. The truth is, we cannot become what God made us to be without God in our lives leading us.

Another thing we say all the time is ‘No perfect people allowed.’ It’s the value of authenticity. When we don’t trust in God’s grace, then we hide and pretend out of our insecurity. We put on masks and only show each other our “best side,” and we hide or deny the places where we feel insecure, dirty, broken, or stained.

Come As You Are…and no pretending you’re already perfect.

Sometimes we hear the values, but don’t understand the intent. The intent is that we won’t just stay stuck so we can create the soil in which all of us can grow.

We should never use the values of grace and authenticity as an excuse to keep doing wrong. I’m convinced if people don’t misunderstand grace, you’re not living in it and offering it. Paul explained that God’s grace is big enough to cover all our wrongs—past, present, and future:

‘Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!’ –  Romans

God will never abandon you, but your choices do matter. God put it this way after spelling out his will and ways through Moses: ‘Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This[a] is the key to your life.’ – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

The key to life is to love God by trusting and doing what He says.

God says every day we make choices that either lead us toward Life or toward Death. He’s not just talking about physical life or death—though that could be—but he’s talking about something more important— he’s talking about spiritual life or death.

Every choice we make leads us closer to the fullness of Life God intended for us, or it leads us farther away from real life.

Why would anyone walk through a door labeled death? Why wouldn’t they choose life? And how can we be people who make daily choices that lead to life?

Is there some place where you’re stuck spiritually? You keep choosing something against God’s will, or you know it’s not healthy or the best for you or those around you? Is there some addiction, or sin-pattern you’re hiding, so you stay stuck? Today, choose life.

Why would anyone purposefully choose DEATH? WE don’t think we are. We get deceived into thinking this door really leads to life. Someone switched the sign!

Jesus said, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ – John 10:10

What signs have you seen hanging on the door towards death that tempts you to keep walking through it?

1. Happiness Now – This sign can take many forms, but it basically promises that You Can Get What You Want—NOW! Instant gratification is the key. Trying to get you to take a shortcut to get something good God provides but along a path that’s against God’s will. The thief says, ‘Don’t believe God. God’s ways are not going to work — walk through this door right now, and this will get you what you want. You’ll be happy!’

Healthy spiritual life takes time to grow. The thief plays on our inability to be patient, to trust, wait, and think long-term. God’s ways are not the way of instant gratification, but slow, lasting growth that rewards us in the end with a happiness not dependent on happenings.

Now, as long as you’re alive, It’s never too late to choose life. God gave us grace because we can’t go back and erase the mistakes of the past, but you can choose today to walk with God through the door He says leads to life. I

Sometimes taking ethical shortcuts looks like life, you’ll be rich, important, secure, but it ends up destroying your character, your faithfulness, and makes you a rich, materialistic, hollow soul. Sometimes having more stuff promises happiness, but it leads to financial slavery. Sometimes adultery looks like life, but the backside will destroy you and your loved ones. Sometimes a lie looks like the way to get what you want, but you get trapped in a web of dishonest relating that kills the life you wanted. Sometimes you think that the thing you lust for will bring life, but it just enslaves you. Sometimes it seems like living for ME will bring deep satisfaction, but when you don’t put God first, you end up feeling empty inside even after reaching all your goals. Is there a choice before you today?

Will you go God’s way? Will you choose life?

2. Feel Good. ‘You shouldn’t have to hurt! You deserve to feel good!’

‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.’ – Proverbs 14:12

It feels good in the moment, but it kills the deeper life that lasts.

Many of us were led through this door with the promise: ‘It will feel so good, you’ll be flying high as a kite.’ I talked to a guy a couple weeks ago who walked through this door with the promise that drugs will enhance your life, but he ended up the slave of drugs and it destroyed years of his life. I know guys who keep believing the lie that you deserve to feel good (hook up, look at porn, feel good), so they keep walking through this door for years, only to discover it eroded their ability to truly love a real person, or be faithful to a spouse, or always looking for the next Eye-Candy Fix. It actually closed life into a very small, tight, box of isolation and lack of intimacy. It robbed them of the very life it had promised.

If you keep walking through this door of death, you need to get some new friends who will help you choose life. That’s why we emphasize small groups and spiritual running partners (1-2 people to run the race of faith with).

3. No Harm. ‘It’s no big deal. You surely won’t die. It’s not hurting anybody. Go ahead, bite the apple.’

Every choice has positive or negative consequences. God forgives us in Christ, yes, but that doesn’t mean he removes the
consequences of our choices. When I was not really following Christ whole-heartedly, I kept choosing death because I didn’t think it would really hurt me or others. I didn’t take seriously the positive or negative consequences of my choices. Forgiveness is His grace, but grace does not exempt us from the law of sowing and reaping.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

I don’t think this is talking about right standing with God, but that our choices are like planting seeds that grow up to reap destruction or grow up to reap an eternal-quality of life, for now and eternity. That’s how much your choices matter!

If you keep sowing seeds of faithfulness to God’s will, following his will and the promptings of His Spirit, in the long run you will experience more of the good things He promised—love, joy, peace, patience, purpose, adventure, security, self-control. This is a growing taste of an eternal quality of life that lasts forever. However, if you keep planting seeds against God’s will, it will lead you to a place that promised life, but feels a lot more like death: isolation, insecurity, guilt, unforgiveness, bitterness, hurt, disappointment, jealousy, envy, and discontent.

I think the reason even Christ Followers would keep chosing the door that God says leads to death is we don’t take seriously the consequences of our choices – positive or negative. Both are important. When God tells us in Scripture ‘Don’t do that’ or ‘Do this.’ He’s not trying to keep something good from us. He’s always trying to either protect us or others from harm, or he’s trying to provide something better for us in the future. To protect or to provide—that’s why he gives conveyed His Will through the scriptures.

Every time we walk through this door against God’s will, someone gets hurt. We don’t believe that because we don’t see all the ripple effects that spread out across humanity like God does. We don’t see the corrosive affect on our soul that could one day hinder the life God envisions. We don’t see the generational handoff we make of our secret sins to our sons and daughters

It takes courage to trust God that this door really does lead to a better life now, but even more: your choices to be faithful to God matter for all eternity. They count for this life, but they count beyond this life too! All our right choices are building something eternal. Every time you choose to do God’s will, trusting that His ways lead to Life – that choice counts and it will be rewarded beyond this life. Your choices really matter: Choose Life!

It takes courage to trust when God says this door leads to life and freedom. A former army officer tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and a big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, ‘what will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?’

The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad. Moments later shots rang out.

The general turned to his aide and said, ‘They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the unknown. Yet, we gave him a choice.’

The aide said, ‘What lies beyond the big door?’

‘Freedom,’ replied the general. ‘I’ve known only a few- brave enough to take it.’

The shortcut feels immediate, the feel good is known, but will you have the courage to choose life?”

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