You know, you can learn a lot about someone by how they talk after something happens…good or bad.  Just listen to someone after a big win or a big loss.  This could be in life, in sports, or at work, but just listen, you can learn a lot about them based on the ownership or blame they speak of!  Now some own the wins and not the losses, and some may do the opposite but listen because it’s important.  Some own what happened and some just don’t.  Did you ever notice that?  Have you ever met someone who is always late?  They are late for everything, and when they see you, they apologize for being late, and they tell you every reason why they are late, they do this every time, and it’s never their fault that they are late.  You know what, that person will always be late.  Have you ever walked through life with someone who is always, I mean always talking about the fact that they need to get into shape and live healthier?  For years it has been the same conversation, and they follow that up with every reason why that can’t happen, from their personality type to the circumstances in their lives.  You know what, that person is not going to get into shape, and years from now you are going to still be having that same conversation with them.  Have you ever been around someone who is struggling to quit doing something that they may truly want to quit doing?  Listen to how they talk.  If they talk about all the things around them that they do not control that keep them from quitting you will continue to have these conversations with them, repeatedly, for years to come.  Now let’s flip it, listen to someone who is late, and walk in and take ownership of why they were late…you can be sure they won’t continue to be late for things.  Listen to someone who takes ownership of why they will choose to start eating better or getting healthier, and you can be confident that they are going to get healthy.  Listen to someone who literally takes ownership of the thing they want to quit, and the choices they are making to quit, more often than not, they will overcome that thing in their life.  So, you may be thinking, Sam, this is a pretty blunt way to start a talk today.  I mean how do you know that one person will change and the other will not?  Well, that is what we are diving into today, it all comes down to something that is profoundly important and so often ignored in our lives.  We are talking about CHOICE today and taking ownership not only of our choices but our lives, which is a rare gift, and one that a worshipper is experiencing and I’m really looking forward to it.

This fall we are in an incredibly important conversation.  I think by now you are seeing just how important this conversation is to your life.  We are talking about and focusing on the soul.  This has allowed us to talk about an important connection that needs to be made in our lives.  We must understand that our spiritual health and soul tie directly to our inner worlds and our emotional and mental health.  While this may be a new thought for you to process, it is an important one.  Our soul is tied directly to our inner world.   The thing we keep trying to point to is the one thing your enemy and this world are trying to keep you from hearing and accepting about yourself.  We humans are spiritual beings, with a soul.  When God created us, He made our bodies, which is just a carrier for our soul, and He put a soul in us, breathed life into our soul, and brought us to life.  We are spiritual beings and must care for our souls.  The issue with us humans is the soul is one of the most ignored areas of our lives.  There is just no irony in the fact that as we choose to distance ourselves from God and ignore our souls we struggle more and more internally…and we are.  We are sitting in the middle of a mental health crisis while culturally we are choosing to distance ourselves from God more and more each day.  We are ignoring our souls, and it is destroying us from the inside out.  We must care for our souls.  Your soul is the source of your life; if you ignore it, it becomes the source of your pain.  So, this is an incredibly important conversation talking about this profoundly important and often ignored area of our lives and today we are going to talk about an area of our lives that is more spiritual than you may think.  It’s an area of our lives that quite frankly, most human beings never accept and own as something they can do anything about…it’s also not something many of us would tie to worship, but by the end of this conversation I’m hopeful that we understand just how important and spiritual this thing is…today we talk about choice.

We need to understand that our choices are profoundly spiritual.  We are learning that it’s worship that restores our soul.  We are learning that we were created to worship, and that worship is us giving all our lives to God.  It’s us all in, and a person following God, living for God allows God into their lives and allows their choices to be God-led.  A worshiper of God understands the magnitude of their choices and the fact that our choices are an act of worship.  Our choices are proving who or what matters to us, maybe who or what we worship.  So, we are talking about something very important, that will probably challenge you today because it goes against our instincts and is so opposite of human nature to see and understand and own our choices.  There is nothing more spiritual than choice and your life is all about them.  In fact, when you look at The Bible, it’s hard to not see how important your choices are to God, from the Garden of Eden and that pesky tree that God placed in the Garden, right through to the New Testament watching Jesus quite literally drive people to make a choice.  It’s all through our Bibles.  So today is a big deal, talking about something that God drives us to, and something profoundly important.  Choice.  You make a lot of choices each day, some feel small, some probably not so small, and today we aren’t going to just talk about our choices but how important it is to own them, so this will be fun.  We will get to answer some questions that many ask like, “Why did God do that?  Why give us a choice?  I mean wouldn’t it be better or easier if he just forced you to live how He wants?”  It’s an important thought.  Another question many Christians can have is this, “How do I give my life to God and allow Jesus to lead my life, and still take ownership of my life and choices?  I mean, you guys talk about it all the time, if I surrender my life to God and Jesus is running the show, am I responsible for my choices and how I live my life?” Another important thought…

So, if you remember, two weeks ago, this series really shifted to how we restore our souls.  We do this through worship, and we have been really working to help you see just how important and big worship really is.  It is so much bigger than the songs we sing on a Sunday morning, it is us living and giving our lives and love fully to God.  We want you to understand we were created by God to worship, and we are worshiping something, it may or not be God, but we are worshiping something, and that first week we set out to discuss the concept of worship, and how it can be blocked by all our “wanting.”  Last week Ken did a great job continuing this journey into worship talking about the idea of worship in our everyday ordinary lives.  If you remember he took us through some very practical and important principles that if applied to our lives could really help us in all aspects of our lives.  Do you remember those principles?

Principle 1: The Hero Principle.  We have a hero in our faith, and it’s Jesus.

Principle 2: The 5k Principle. If you want to run a 5k, you must prepare.  Race day reveals your preparation.

Principle 3: The Fire Principle.  A fire can be ordinary, but it can have an extraordinary impact.

It was an awesome talk that I would really encourage you to go back and watch or read if you haven’t because it can help us so much in all aspects of our lives.  It’s also a great lead into today’s talk, as we talk about our choices.  As we get started, we are just going to talk for a bit…because this is a very important conversation, we are getting into today…and I want you to hear this.

Choice Is Profoundly Spiritually. There isn’t anything more spiritual in your life than choice.

You know as a Pastor, one of the things I get to do is sit with people who are in profound pain.  They are in real, gut-wrenching situations in their lives, and I truly feel for them.  It’s so hard to see people in that place in their lives.  But I will tell you, one of the most challenging things about those conversations is the fact that even in the initial moments of those meetings when the emotions are high, I know there is a big moment that will take place.  At some point, if I care for them, I will lead them to a moment where we have to confront and talk about their choices and their own role in how they got to where they are in their lives and how they will get out of it.  It is a big moment and often feels like a confrontational one in so many ways.  I think this can be helpful to someone who is open and takes responsibility for their lives, and their actions.  And those are good and refreshing moments.   But, oftentimes, it’s the last time we meet because it can be upsetting, and even disappointing to someone that a Pastor would lead them to that place to see if they were open to taking ownership and responsibility for their choices and actions in their lives.  So many people think the Spiritual Life is fuzzy, it is mystical and feelings-based, and while it is those things it is also tremendously clear, it is precise, and leads us to practical handles to live our best life possible.  So, while most people struggle and are surprised or disappointed when a Pastor leaves the fuzzy, spiritual aspects behind and starts the confrontation of choices and ownership of their lives, and the very practical aspects of their choices, that really should not be a surprise.  If you read your Bible, that shouldn’t sneak up on you because that is a theme given to us all through Scripture.  God in the Old Testament is constantly pointing to our choices, and we will talk about some of those.  Jesus drove people to very simple and important questions that led them to make a choice and pointed to their choices.  Our choices are a big deal, and whether it’s Adam and Eve in the Garden, and God asking what have you done?   Or a devastated and exhausted Elijah at the mouth of the cave terrified and wanting to die, and God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Or Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda asking a man lying crippled for 38 years, “Do you want to get well?”  Or Jesus looking at the young man who was doing everything right and loving Him enough to point to the one choice he wasn’t willing to make…God loves us enough to let us make our own choices.  We just don’t own them.  Personally, I will tell you this is the hardest part of meeting with people because I know it’s coming, it can feel like a collision waiting to happen and while I see it coming a long way off, in their pain, and hurts, they often don’t and it isn’t always easy to receive but how people respond when we start talking about their choices is tough.  I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t want to hear or be asked about our own role in how we end up in the spots we are in.  It is hard to help someone who is stuck in a pornography addiction who is not willing to make the choice to put blockers and software on their devices to keep them from looking at pornography.  It is hard to sit in the home of someone devastated by their issues with alcohol while I look over their shoulder to a liquor cabinet full of alcohol that they aren’t willing to choose to get rid of.  They get disappointed with me, but the reality is they aren’t willing to make that choice.  I have sat with countless people who want to vent emotions and process their pain with me, and I’m fine being a bit of a sounding board for that, but when we start talking about practical ways to make new choices and live differently…let’s just say the conversation can end very quickly.  They want to point to their circumstances, and the situations they are in, other people in their lives but when I turn the conversation to their choices the whole tone can change quickly.  That is hard on me, and I feel for people, but the last thing we humans seem to see or want to do is the one thing that leads us to our best lives…and that is to own our choices.

Choice is profoundly spiritual, and God loves you enough to give you the freedom to choose how you will live your life.

There is nothing harder in ministry and life than understanding that you can love people and lead them, but you can’t own or make their choices for them.  Life is all about choice.  For me, the thing I have been trying to remind myself of lately is that trying to lead someone to Spiritual Health and owning their lack of health in their own lives while they continue to choose to not do anything you ask them to do that would help them spiritually, well that is like working with someone who says they want to get Physically Healthy, and you are going to help them.  Then, they go on eating poorly and not exercising while you begin a healthy diet, and workout at the gym for them and after months of feeling great and getting in shape, you feel bad because they aren’t getting into shape!   Even worse, they see you getting into shape for them, while they aren’t, and they resent you for it or blame you for their unhealth!  While it sounds ridiculous it is a reality that I continue to try to process and think through and in the end, I’m realizing just how important choice and owning our choices really is.  Most people just don’t see the impact of their choices and aren’t willing to own them.  Quite frankly, that is human nature.

I will tell you I see this in all aspects of life and in my own home.  In my house, it seems like there’s a special person that I have never met who is responsible for everything that happens in my house.  His or her name is “Nobody.”   I often joke that I should get “Nobody” a Christmas gift because they do so much in my home.   No matter what happens in my house, “Nobody” did it! Who left all the lights on? “Nobody!”  Who didn’t put toilet paper on the toilet paper roll?  “Nobody!”  Who forgot to lock the door?  “Nobody!”  Who borrowed my stuff and didn’t put it back?  “Nobody!”  Who ordered this from Amazon?  “Nobody!”  I’m telling you someday I have to meet “Nobody” because they are a highly active and productive member of my family!   You know as much as my children blame and won’t take responsibility around the home for their choices, we do this with our lives every day and we need to talk about it because this is not a new issue or something that just happens in my home with toilet paper rolls and lights.  This has been a struggle for all of humanity since the beginning of time.  Remember God is love.  You can’t have love without freedom.  God loves us so much that He wants us to love Him back.  So, He loves us enough to give us choices and ownership of our lives, and while we tend to blame others for the choices we make, and the circumstances we find ourselves in, there is nothing more important to God than your choices.  They are profoundly spiritual, and a worshiper of God not only understands this but owns their choices and their lives…and because of this, they experience their best lives possible.

So, I want to set out today on a bit of a journey that I think can truly lead to you experiencing life in a new way.  In a way that can lead you to your best life possible which we talk a lot about here at MRC, it isn’t something that we see in many Christian lives today and I think today we are getting into the reason for that.  So many Christians get frustrated in their faith.  They love God, and they set out to do the things they think they should do, but life keeps happening, and life is still a struggle.  They end up getting very frustrated with their faith, their churches, their circumstances, and even God, while never looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for their actions, or their choices.  It’s like we miss just how big of a deal God makes “CHOICE.”  Do you remember back to the Proverbs series, one of my favorite wise words from Solomon highlights this concept…

Proverbs 19:3 People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed? MSG

Well, that’s a little blunt in The Message version. Let’s switch over to the NLT and read it again!

Proverbs 19:3 People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. NLT

I know we don’t like hearing this, but it is so important to process and see this.  So many of us are stuck, and we stay stuck, and we blame so many things around us, while never being willing to own our lives and our choices.  What do we say here at MRC?  It’s okay to not be okay but it isn’t okay to stay there!  For so many of us, if we are honest, we aren’t doing anything, but we want God to fix our lives.  We pray deeply and sincerely wanting God to come through for us, or to fix our lives, but we don’t want to do the work or own our role in it.  We miss that the most spiritual part of our lives is CHOICE.  What is interesting is that so often culture and this world will encourage you to blame and point to anything but your choices in your own life.  This world doesn’t want you to see how spiritual owning your choices really is because if you own them you stand as the person God created you to be, so this world and the culture around you will keep pushing that you can’t help it!  Your life just ‘is what it is’, nothing is your fault!  Why?  Because the enemy knows that God loves you enough to give you choice and free will and the enemy is trying to keep you from owning your choices because owning your life leads you out of all the stuff you have been stuck in.  There is nothing more profoundly spiritual than your CHOICE.  Your choices are an act of worship and reveal so much about your life.  We must understand that someone living a life surrendered to Christ isn’t living passively and unintentionally but we are also surrendering our choices and taking ownership of them.  This is the secret that many don’t discuss at church…because it can be a bit of a hard conversation, it feels somewhat confrontational and uncomfortable, doesn’t it?  But we love you too much not to go there.   It’s just too important.  I hope you are thinking today and hearing me because I want to engage Scripture and show you just how important CHOICE is, and how our human instincts pull against owning our choices…and they always have!  To do that we are heading back to the Garden of Eden and the beginning of time which will allow us to discuss something that many people question today.  If God loves us, why in the world put that pesky tree in the Garden?  Well, let’s discuss, and let’s start with that tree…

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden —17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” NLT

So, God’s creation is amazing, and he places Adam in the Garden to take care of the Garden, he is told he can eat freely, and basically do whatever he wants, but do not eat from that one tree or you are sure to die.  Now with the knowledge God has of people, with our basic knowledge of human nature, this can be a head-scratcher, can’t it?  I guess because we live after the fall of sin…God pointing out that one tree makes that tree interesting to us humans, doesn’t it?  Thinking back to my childhood, God saying that to me, would have basically been like God saying, “Sam, go eat from that tree!”  But it leads to a great question that so many of us wrestle with…why put that tree in the Garden?  Well, just two chapters into our Bibles we are seeing just how important and how profoundly spiritual Choice is.  Remember you are created to love God, to be a worshiper.  There is no love without the freedom to choose it.  CHOICE is a big deal to God…let’s keep going, we know what happens next, the serpent tempts Eve, eventually gets her to eat from the tree, and she gives the fruit to Adam…this is the moment, this is the fall, and we often focus on the sin…but it’s the interaction with God after the fact that we really need to see because this is something we still struggle with today.  Check this out…

Genesis 3:8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” 11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” NLT

Do you see it?  They eat and immediately realize they are naked and cover up, and when they hear God coming, they hide.  But it’s God’s two simple questions (that He would already know the answers to) that really are leading us to the concept of the day.  “Where are you?”  And the second is the big one, “What have you done?”  God designed choice into His perfect creation, and it only took a few chapters of Scripture for the importance of choice to be seen, and the ramifications are felt to this day of those choices.  It’s amazing how we humans react and treat the concept of choice.  They make a bad one here, and instinctively cover up and hide.  But it’s how they respond to God that we must see because we still do this today.  We struggle to see or take responsibility for our choices, and a large part of our instincts is to hide, blame, and deflect ownership.  Check out Adam’s response to God’s question.

Genesis 3:11-12 “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” NLT

Does Adam own his choices?  No, he not only points the finger at Eve, but he takes it a step further and says not only is it Eve’s fault but God if you really think about it, it’s your fault because you gave the woman to me!  WOW!  I’m sure Eve was really impressed and thankful for Adam at this point as she stood there in that awkward moment, but she has a chance to own her choice too.  Does she?

Genesis 3:13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” NLT

So, Adam blames Eve and God, Eve blames the snake, and we not only feel the effects of the fall to this day, but we get a window into something so important that God built it into His original design!  CHOICE, and the importance of owning our choices, which goes against our human instincts and has since the first moments of time.   You know what is wild to me, all through Scripture, God’s Word just unrelentingly continues to point to our choices and how we live our lives…what is the very next story in your Bible?  It’s Cain and Abel, so the next recorded story goes right to Cain, and the importance of Him owning his choices…does he?  Let’s check it out…

Genesis 4:2 Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” NIV

Let’s talk here today because we are only four chapters into our Bibles and a theme is already being very well established.  Abel chose to bring his best to God and God was pleased.  Cain was upset because God loved Abel’s offering, while Cain didn’t choose to bring his best to God.  And God asks Cain some questions that literally point right back to his choice.  Why are you upset?  And verse seven is very important…and something that so many of us just aren’t willing to really accept or dive into…let’s read it again.

Genesis 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” NIV

Do you see it?  Cain, it’s up to you.  Your life is about your choices, and you have a choice in whether you live for me or not.  Sin is crouching at your door, and you Cain, you must master it…which implies what.  That life isn’t just “it is what it is” but is all about our choices.  Unfortunately, Cain continues to prove how difficult it is for us humans to own our choices and he allows sin to own him rather than owning his choices and living differently and ends up killing his brother Abel and doing what humans do when they make a bad choice and once again God points to “CHOICE.”  Listen, it comes right back to “choice.”

Genesis 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 The Lord said, “What have you done? NIV

Cain, what have YOU done? Not, what did sin do.  Not what you were forced to do by life and all its challenges and circumstances.  Cain, what did you choose to do?  If I had more time we would just keep going.  I would take you to Elijah in the mouth of the cave in an overwhelmed and devastated place in his life with horrible circumstances all around Him and God asks Him a question that stands out so much to me.  What are you doing here Elijah?  It’s a great question that Elijah doesn’t answer; he just keeps pointing to his trials, challenges, and circumstances while God is leading Him to own His choice. I would take you to countless places in Scripture where Jesus led people to make a choice, and asked incredibly simple and clear questions that often went unanswered because we humans struggle to see our choices and own them.  I mean think about what God said to Cain there and in so many ways it contradicts so much of what we want to think and believe about our lives.

Genesis 4:6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” NLT

We often walk through life and just don’t understand that we are responsible for our choices and the ramifications of them.  But your choice and ownership of your life are a big deal.  Sin is crouching at your door, eager to control us, but we aren’t helpless, it’s not just luck for some and not for others that they own their lives or not.  We live in overwhelming victory through Jesus, right?  We have a choice…and so many just don’t see that and do not take ownership of their choices and their lives.  This is so important for us to see.  There is nothing more Spiritual than Choice and for a worshiper, we invite God to lead our choices, and we take ownership of our choices, which quite frankly is a major sign of Spiritual Transformation because it’s just so opposite from the way we humans are wired and instinctively live.

Listen, we love you so much, and as we close today, I want you to really take this moment and think about your life.  Let’s get very personal here today.   Because what we are talking about, quite frankly, is a life skill that can change every aspect of your life.  The people you see around you who seem to be finding health, and success, and just living the kind of life you see and wish you would have…They aren’t just lucky.  It isn’t about their personality type, or that their life is easier than yours because it isn’t easier than yours, they face stuff just like you do.  It isn’t that God loves them more because He loves us all immensely.  I would confidently tell you that they understand just how important and spiritual choice really is and they are taking ownership of their choices and their lives.  They aren’t just praying for God to drop good things in their laps, they are owning their lives and making choices to live differently.  They aren’t just hoping God comes through while never making changes in their lives.  They are not blaming others or their circumstances for where they are in life.  They are owning their lives and grasping the magnitude and importance of choice.  So many Christians are frustrated and really do want to see changes in their lives, but they ignore their choices.  They get upset with God for not giving them the results they want to see in their lives while never inviting God into their choices.  So, they live however they want to live, never see life change, and often assume God doesn’t love them or their faith doesn’t work or make excuses as to why life just “is what it is” for them.

Here at MRC, we understand just how important owning our lives and our choices are and as we try to allow God’s Word to guide our Spiritual Family and do our best to live, love, and lead like Jesus we grasp that we must keep leading people to the choice.  This can be challenging because we care so much for people and not everyone chooses God.  But if we love you and are to stay true to Scripture, we will keep pointing to choice, to how you live your life and we will keep leading those in our care to “CHOICE.” Far too many people are struggling through life and never recognizing this essential lesson found all through our Scriptures.  Yes, God leads our lives.  Yes, we must choose to surrender our lives to Jesus and allow Him to lead our lives, but a worshiper understands the magnitude of choice and the importance of owning the choices we make each day.  Part of surrender is also surrendering our choices.  There is nothing more spiritual than CHOICE.  God placed it in His design because He loves you and created you to love Him, and love isn’t forced it’s free.  I want you to really think about your life today.

  • Do you see the importance of your choices? 
  • Do you allow God to lead your life?  Do you invite Him into your choices or just the results you want?
  • Do you look at your life and take ownership of your choices or do you blame others, your circumstances, or even God at times for the spots you find yourself in?
  • When you look at your life do you see good choices that are helping you move toward your best life?
  • When you look at your life do you see bad choices that aren’t leading you towards your best life?
  • Do you feel stuck?  Is it a new thought that you have a choice in where you are in life?  Have you been waiting for God to do something?  Could He be with you, and just waiting for you to make a choice?

We love you so much, it is our deepest prayer that you find and experience your best lives possible and you absolutely can, as you take ownership of your lives and your choices and live differently inviting God into more than just your results but your choices.

There is nothing more important to God than your “CHOICE.”