The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: "The Sin of Choice"

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost OT           Deuteronomy 30:15-20

ILT Chapel                                                                                    Psalm 1

Brookings, SD                                                                    Philemon 1-21

September 4, 2013                                                             Luke 14:25-35

“The Sin of Choice”

Greetings to you on this day that the Lord has made–a day for us to rejoice and be glad.  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

“if your heart turns away, and you will not hear…” (Vs. 17) Moses preached to the people of Israel gathered before him.  They had been on the move for forty years in the wilderness.  Now they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land… the land promised to their fathers and mothers as they left the land of bondage… the land of Egypt.  Only their fathers and mothers no longer live.  None of that generation remains.  Moses is the last of them and his time is drawing to a close.

In just a little while he will ascend the mountain for a glimpse of the Promised Land.  His successor Joshua will lead the people into it.  Moses will die upon the mountain, the last of the generation of people who failed to hear and heed the promises of their God when He said that He’d deliver the Promised Land to them.  Because they didn’t hear their good God’s good Word, they wandered in the wilderness until that unhearing and unheeding generation died.  Their failure to hear was a death sentence.

Moses was the last of them and he wouldn’t set foot in the Promised Land either.  Yet he preached to the people gathered before him awaiting their entry into it.  He preached the importance of their listening to… of their hearing… of their heeding the Word of the Lord.  All they would receive would come from that Word.  Heeding it surely meant life and goodness.  Not hearing it surely meant death and evil.  God’s Word would be their life.  Outside of that Word there was nothing but death.

Moses seems fond of the word “obey” or at least his translators are.  While the origins of our English word “obey” rest in the combination of two Latin words for “direction” and “hear,” its ancient sense is obscured today.  In those bygone times, those who heard, did.  They could do no other.  In the contemporary religious situation, the use of the words obey and obedience cannot be separated from an act of the human will—a choice.  The human act of “willing” is inserted between hearing and doing.

Moses was well aware that the people before him still carried the idols their parents brought with them out of Egypt (cf. Jos. 24:23; 1 Sa. 7:3).  He knew their hearts were already turned away so he tells them “choose…” “choose life…” choose to have the Word of your Lord in your ears.  They were already sinners under a death sentence. Only the Word of God could give them life once again.  Only the Word of God could repent them of their choice.  The Word of God would give them life instead of death wandering among the idols.

So, too, you who best online casino wander among the idols of your own making:  Choose to hear the Word of the Lord.  It will repent you of your old self and its “willing” and make you the new person whom God wills.

In this contemporary religious situation, a common idol has been raised up.  It is a feature of what is called “post-modernity.”  This idol has been around for centuries, at least since the days of the bible’s translation into English.  But for the post-modern religious situation, this idol has become common… widespread… insidious.  What is this common idol?  It is obedience… or more precisely, the act of the human will inserted between hearing and doing. Choice is the idol of choice in this post-modern religious environment.  For the postmodern person everything has to be a matter choice… even God is optional… even the good is optional… determined by one’s choice:  “If I choose it, it’s good.”  “It’s my choice, don’t tell me otherwise.”

Even the good and great promises of God become a reason for choosing… a reason for obedience.  The idolatry of choice… the idolatry of human willing… turns the Word of God into a means to an end rather than an end in itself.  Instead of the ancient, biblical holding together of hearing and doing, the idolatry of choice separates them to make room for the human act of willing… of choosing.

Now… now I can just about hear you thinking, “Pastor, Scripture tells us to choose… Scripture tells us to obey.”  Yes, you are right, both choice and obedience are there in the bible… even in today’s words Some truck traffic school online have tuition subsidies available for financially needy students. from Moses.  The answer is two-fold:  1)  both choice and obedience are demanded of sinners not of the righteous; and, 2) neither choice nor obedience make sinners righteous.

You can recognize the first in Moses’ words to the people.  He knew they’d already chosen to have other gods in the midst… other words in their ears… other promises in their hearts…  The people were already choosing.  They were captive to their choosing… in bondage to choice.  So Moses sets before them their idol, choice, and demands that they choose… choose life or choose death… choose which god’s words you will have in your ears.  Moses demands they worship their idol:  choice so that the Word of God can free them from that idolatry.  The words of idols which are the words of choice… choosing … and free will… are a death sentence. The words of the Lord their God are words that take away choice… take away choosing… and bind those hearing it into a new identity.  Hearing and doing are inseparable for this new identity… the identity of faith… faith given by the will of God, not by the will of the human creature… in faith the human creature now has no will but God’s will.  The Word of God establishes the new creature of faith… the new creature of righteousness.

There you can recognize the second part of the two-fold answer:  only faith is counted as righteousness… not choice… not obedience… only faith… only faith in, from, and because of hearing the Word of God is not idolatry… is not sin.

So, too, for you… you who wander among the idols of your own choosing.  The God who has chosen to be your God relieves you of your choosing.  God wills so you don’t have to.  You can know, now, how deep sin has penetrated into you… so deep… so pervasive… that even the reality of your choosing… even the necessity of your obedience… convicts you of being a sinner.  Sinners must choose… choose to hear the Word of their God… choose to hear the Word that takes all choice away… choose to hear the Word that establishes in them the unity… the integrity of hearing and doing… choose to hear the Word that carries out a death sentence upon their idolatrous old being in order to establish a life sentence for the new creature of faith.

So, too, for you… your sinful self chooses to hear the Word of God today… to be placed beneath its authority… to be given over to the death sentence of choice in order that the life sentence of hearing God’s Word would be worked upon you.  You, now know that the Lord your God has chosen you and relieves you of your choosing.  Your God now wills you life so you don’t have to.  The Lord your God has taken choice from you by establishing you as a new being… a new creature of faith… a creature that knows no distinction… no separation between hearing and doing.

Let the one who has ears, hear!

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