Choices

Exodus 14:15-16

As graduates, you have reached a crisis point in your life. You will or are making critical choices that will affect the rest of your life. Work and advanced education brings new demands on your time. More freedom from parental direction is experienced. For many young people, graduation from High School and College are crises points in their walk with God.

In 1 Chronicles 28:9, David sets before his son Solomon a choice at a critical point in his life—

And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Solomon is about to become king of Israel. With kingship, there comes absolute freedom, power, and wealth to do as he chooses. Solomon did not handle his newfound freedom well. The cares of this world soon began to choke his wholehearted devotion and service to the LORD. At the beginning of his walk with the LORD, we read in 1 Kings 4:29—

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.

But at the end of his life, we read in 1 Kings 11:4—

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

Solomon’s failure to heed God’s Word when he was younger finally caught up with him at the end of his life. He shipwrecked his own life, and the nation he ruled. The old saying is true—

“You reap what you sow. You reap more than you sow. You reap later than you sow.”

All kinds of opportunities await you! To be a success at life does not necessary mean that you are successful in life. Solomon succeeded in life. He amassed power, prestige and wealth for himself beyond measure, but he failed at life.

Do you want to be successful at life? Follow David’s advice to his son:

Acknowledge God

Serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind

What does it mean to acknowledge God? ACKNOWLEDGE is the Hebrew word for KNOW.
Knowledge of God is important for only through knowledge of God can an individual have true wisdom and enter into what the Bible calls eternal life.

Knowledge of God gives us knowledge of this world: its good and its evil, its past and its future, its purpose and its impending judgment at the hand of God. The world is a confusing place until we know the God who made it and learn from Him why He made it and what is to happen to it.

Knowledge of God is the highest science, the most mind-expanding area of all. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul as a devout, earnest, continuing investigation of the greatest subjects of all—God.

What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the “eternal life” that Christ gives? Knowledge of God according to Jesus in John 17:3—

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God according to Jeremiah 9:23-24—

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

We have given to the High School Graduates THE QUEST STUDY BIBLE. On the inside cover page, it quotes Proverbs 2:6—

For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

My prayer is that you will read it with a QUEST TO KNOW GOD—for—

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is
understanding.

Like David, I want to give some fatherly advice to the graduates this morning. We will begin where we left off in the Book of Exodus. God is really ticked-off with Moses in Exodus 14:15-16—

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

WHY ARE YOU CRYING OUT TO ME? reveals that Moses has not yet grasp the greatness of Yahweh and the power that it is available to him as God’s servant. Probably both hurt and angry God must tell Moses what to do.

TELL THE ISRAELITES TO MOVE ON. This is a crisis point in the life of God’s people. Several options are available: Turn back to the enemy, run into the desert, or move forward with God.

It is time TO MOVE ON—TO GO FORWARD! In chapter 14, this has not been the route of the Israelites. The LORD had them TURN BACK in verse 1. In Exodus 14:3, the Israelites appear to be WANDERING AROUND THE LAND IN CONFUSION.

TURNING BACK and WANDERING AROUND IN CONFUSION are major two obstacles to GOING FORWARD with the LORD. You cannot move on forward with the LORD if you are going backwards or going around in circles.

What is God is teaching here? That turning back towards Egypt and going around in circles will lead them in the future to the place of trial, testing and temptation.

Moving backwards or in circles always hinders one’s progress in the Christian life. Unfortunately, this important lesson at the outset of Israel’s experience with the LORD is not heeded. Stephen asserts in Acts 7:39—

But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.

One of the most woeful sights in God’s eyes is the HEART TURNED BACK TO EGYPT—Egypt typifies the World and the unredeemed life. Habakkuk 2:3-4 and Hebrews 10:37-39 warns—

For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

2 Peter 2:21 warns concerning those who TURN BACK—

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

Clearly, keeping one’s heart moving forward with the LORD is the most important thing in life. What is the HEART in the Bible?

The HEART is the center and seat of spiritual life from which thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors arise. It is the source of one’s will and character. Being the seat of understanding, the heart is the source of thought and reflection.

It is the place in you where God bears witness to Himself. Rejection of God and His Word causes hardening of the heart as was the case with Pharaoh. The hard heart cannot receive the Word of God when it is sown. According to Jesus, as soon as hard-hearts hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

The second type of hearts Jesus speaks about is like rocky places, where there is not much soil. The plants spring up quickly, because the soil is shallow. But when the sun comes up, the plants are scorched, and they wither because they have no root. “When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, the rocky-soil-hearts quickly fall away.”

Today, we might call this the power of peer pressure. One is tempted to compromise his own identity in Christ in order to be accepted by peers. It is driven by the fear of what friends, co-students and coworkers might think of you. As a result, you might be tempted to build relationships without offending anyone. When this occurs, one develops the knack of blending in—this choice is a spiritual disaster when a Christian seeks to blend into the world instead of with other born-again believers.

Not only heat can kill a tender plant, but the lack of water. The four essential nutrients for Christian growth are:

1. Study of the Scriptures
2. Prayer
3. Worship
4. Fellowship with like-minded believers

Growth and moving forward with the LORD does not take place without these ingredients.

To turn one’s heart back to Egypt is to turn it back to the cares of this world. This is like the seed sown among thorns. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

This third seed takes root, sprouts leaves, and grows into a plant. It may even bear fruit in the beginning. But it becomes barren, choked by thorns. There are many thorns waiting to destroy our faith. It can be stripped away by concerns of prestige, position, or power. Spoiled by a heart set on money and success; rotted by unquenched passions of the flesh, made impotent by grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit through disobedience.

Prosperity tends to give a false sense of self-sufficiency, security and well-being. That is what happens to Solomon. He decided to do it his way instead of God’s way.

Additionally, Jesus said, “For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also . . . “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:21, 24).

As graduates, you face new choices regarding finances in your life. In regards to giving to the LORD, 2 Corinthians 9:6 says—

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

If God and His kingdom do not come first with your finances, it will never be first in your life. The choice is yours!

Tithe—Keep yourself out of debt—Live below your income—and your life should be less complicated and certainly more content.

One of the greatest problems you face today is the peer pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses.” If you attempt to conform to the standards set by the world, your faith will always be in danger of being choked by the cares of this world.

One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much you had in your bank account, nor what your clothes looked liked. Regardless of your station in life, you accumulate nothing for each person’s wealth and possessions amount to nothing upon death. But it will matter where you are spending eternity and what you have laid up for it.

Your choice of a career should have absolutely nothing to with the amount of money you can make! It is far, far better to live at poverty level and enjoy going to work every day, than to make tens of thousands of dollars a year and tread your job! The harsh reality is that most of your adult life will be primarily spent working—more hours will be devoted to the occupations you choose over your lifetime than any other activity. King Solomon, who tried all aspects of life to the fullest, writes in Ecclesiastes 3:9-12—

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.

Work is toil! It is a burden! But be happy and do good while you do it!

To have good soil that will produce a plant with much fruit, you need to remove the thorns and weeds. Otherwise, they will steal moisture, and choke the plant. Weeding and pruning is an essential part of all wise fruit growing and living.

There are many ways in which faith can be hindered, but the good news is this, It only happens when the choice is made to allow it to be hindered.

Marriage is the biggest and most important decision you will make after your decision to follow Jesus. Choose a born again Christian who is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Be one yourself!

To marry an unbeliever is to marry out of the will and blessing of God! As a Christian, the person you marry MUST belong to the Lord according to 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 states—

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.

Picture two oxen tied together at the neck by a wooden crosspiece so they can pull a plow. They are two animals of the same species who have been joined together to do a specific job. They have been carefully trained to respond to the same commands, and once they are united, they are considered a team.

Now picture an ox yoked together with a horse. Do you think they will ever make a team? NO! It is very simple. I guess that is why it constantly amazes me that so many choose to ignore God’s wisdom, thinking in vain, “It will work out fine in the end.”

One of the main problems is that too many Christians approach the idea of dating with far to casual of an attitude. They have adopted the world’s view on this, instead of God’s. There is no such thing as “playing the field” when it comes to Christianity.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. The time to ask Jesus for wisdom is BEFORE you start a relationship—not after. It is much easier than you think for your heart to overrule your conscience. Once your own desires are demanding priority, your zeal to put God first starts quickly to fade away. Your emotions are a powerful thing, and if you do not control them, they WILL control you!

Dating is not to be done lightly—or without God’s approval! This doesn’t mean that you have to feel called to marriage with someone before you spend any time together—but you must be able to see the qualities of a sincere lover of God in this person, and the fruit of their faith should be evident for all to see. If they pass this most crucial test, you still must seek God to see if it is all right to take the time to get to know this person better.

Does all that sound a bit strict to you? Well, just ask someone who has chosen the wrong mate due to a lack of patience, counsel and prayer. They will tell you that they wish someone had told them the same things I am now telling you. So many are bound in miserable, unhappy marriages because they ignored Jesus and they let their own desires drown out the voice of God.

Why even put yourself into the position of possibly making the wrong decision? Since God’s Word commands us not be UNEQUALLY YOKED, it is foolish and open rebellious to even consider it. You will be headed towards almost certain disaster if you lean to your own understanding instead of trusting God and taking Him at His Word.

There cannot be TRUE INTIMACY in an unequally yoked marriage according to the second part of 2 Corinthians 6:14—

For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

When it comes right down to it, someone who loves Jesus just does not have that much in common with someone who doesn’t. Sure, you may enjoy the same hobbies, or be engaged in the same type of work— but when it comes to the things that really matter, you will be miles apart.

In marriage, when that first rush of excitement wears off, you will find yourself yearning for the true intimacy and oneness that can only be experienced with someone of “like mind.” You will be unfilled and strangely lonesome in this closest of all partnerships, if due to different beliefs, you cannot experience true intimacy.

Neither of you would be able to share the deepest longings of your heart with each other, because your whole basis of looking at life—your reasons for living—would be totally different. Your hearts and lives could never be truly united because there would be no common bond to draw you together and keep you together.

Many Christian girls seem to be pacified by the fact that their unbelieving boyfriend doesn’t seem to object to their Christianity. Even though he does not believe, he seems extremely tolerant and even goes to church with her sometimes. Heartache is written all over such a relationship!

In science, the SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS essentially states that as time passes, anything that’s left on its own will deteriorate. Things left on their own will not be built up, but they will eventually break down. In other words, as time goes by, things get worse, not better—and a life, left on its own without God, will get worse.

You never know what’s around the corner. People who have married “occasional drinkers” have later found themselves married to alcoholics a couple of years down the road. You can’t judge the future by present circumstances when you are dealing with someone who has chosen to go his own way in life. If you have the Lord, you should be able to expect grow and maturity. If you don’t have the Lord, you won’t know what to expect.

One of the hardest aspects of a marriage where the partners are unequally yoked is the feeling of COMPETITION between them. However subtle or unspoken it may be, the competition is felt. Your values and ideals will constantly be challenged as you live out your day-to-day life.

A believer, when put in this position, is many times tempted to COMPROMISE faith in order to maintain a peaceful marriage. The believer can no longer serve the Lord in an open and free way, because if he or she does, the marriage may fall apart. What a terrible spot to be in! When you start to compromise, your walk with God faith becomes weak, undernourished and ends up like Solomon’s faith.

Often bitterness and resentment enter into the picture putting an even bigger distance between the two of you because citizens of darkness and light are truly opposites. So the believer compromises his or her faith to avoid the probable death of the marriage, and then experiences either spiritual death or gnawing guilt feelings that kill all joy.

Therefore, you are faced with a choice: Who is in charge of your spiritual life? Will you lead or follow? Christ’s invitation is “Come follow me” in every area of your life.

As with the Israelites of the Exodus who had the Fiery Cloud to follow on their life’s journey, we have the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to lead us on the narrow road to abundant and everlasting life. The choice is to TURN BACK, RUN AROUND IN CIRCLES or MOVE ON—FORWARD with the LORD.

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