How many choices do you make every day? [What time to get up / what to wear / breakfast? / way to drive to work / use my time etc.] 100’s? 1,000’s? every day? It was simpler back in the 1920’s – Henry Ford’s famous quote – “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
Now, we expect to have many choices – Skim milk, 1%, 2%, whole / white, chocolate, even strawberry! Our young children know this – Mom asks: “For your snack would you like an apple or a banana?” The child says, “Can I please have a cookie?”
Some choices are a matter of life or death (e.g. band aid on a paper cut or call 911 at the signs of a heart attack!)
God’s Word to us comes from some of the last words that God gave Moses to write just before his death, recorded for us in Deuteronomy 30. “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…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
That’s a rather easy choice, right? Surely if given the option of life and blessings or death and curses, we would naturally and enthusiastically choose life! But the command: “Choose life” is more than a decision to keep on breathing. God’s command to choose life is defined in Deuteronomy 30:16: “For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments.”
First, “choosing life” involves loving God. Not the grade school valentines kind of love; nor the infatuation or selfish kind of love that says, “I love you because you make me feel so good!” Rather, it is the Godly marriage kind of love – exclusive, whole-hearted love, Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Second, “choosing life” means to walk in God’s ways – At the very beginning of time, Adam and Eve had a choice – obey God or do what they wanted. To obey God meant life and perfection / to choose their own way meant rebellion, death and curses; and we know what happened – they DID IT THEIR WAY! “By one man, sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death passed to all people, because all have sinned.” Romans 5:12 By nature, on our own – we want it “our way!”
Third, “choosing life” means to keep God’s commandments; but we make loopholes / excuses as we rebelliously do it “our way!” In the Gospel reading, as part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-37) Jesus clarifies what it means to “choose life.”
Jesus says: “You have heard that is was said… but I say to you” four times in our few verses! The Scribes and Pharisees had “watered down” God’s Law – had actually changed it! So it appeared that they were obeying God’s Law. But Jesus very boldly and clearly teaches that “murder” includes anger and contempt; “adultery” includes lust and what is going on with our minds, our eyes and hearts; “divorce” should be extremely rare; and “oaths” and “swearing” should not be necessary for those who are trustworthy. “Let your yes be yes and your no, no; anything beyond that comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:25-37 And Jesus emphasizes the impossibility of “choosing life” on our own with one of the “hard statements” of Scripture – “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” ( Matthew 5:29-30) Jesus is not telling us to mutilate ourselves, but He is saying: STOP MAKING EXCUSES / STOP choosing the way of death / STOP DOING IT YOUR WAY! It’s not just your eyes or hands that make you sin, but your heart!
Therefore, to “Choose Life” we MUST have a change of heart! And that change can ONLY come through faith in Jesus, who graciously teaches us: “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father (no one Chooses Life) except through Me.” (John 14:6) and again Jesus clearly teaches us: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…” John 15:16
“Bearing fruit” / “Choosing Life” / living by God’s commands is God’s gracious work in us, daily turning us away from sinful self and in true repentance “being turned back” to Jesus.
This weekend, we celebrate another baptism. God’s Word tells us: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7
Through the daily blessings of Holy Baptism – through the daily blessings of God’s gracious Word and Sacraments – we CAN and DO “Choose Life” / live in the blessings of Eternal Life with Jesus, now and eternally. With the apostle Paul we rejoice: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
The peace of God that passes all our understanding keeps our hearts and minds centered in Christ Jesus, until life everlasting. Amen.