So, you think our choice to sin won’t affect anyone else? Remember Eve! You believe we can make a decision apart from God’s counsel without some far-reaching consequences for us and others? Consider Abram, father of Ishmael!
As humans, we like to think we can control our own lives. We want to make our own choices, our own decisions. “It’s no one else’s business,” we say. We foolishly believe that what we do does not affect anyone else, so if we choose a wrong course, only we will suffer for it. Wrong! There are many examples in the Bible to prove it. There are many examples in life!
Everyone is familiar with the creation story. We all know that the serpent deceived our first ancestor, Eve. She was in full knowledge of the command of the Lord, that she and her husband could eat of the fruit of any tree except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowing this, she still made a conscious decision to follow the suggestions of the enemy of her soul. She ate the forbidden fruit. To make matters worse, she offered some of that fruit to Adam. He, too, made a deliberate choice to defy God’s order. He followed his wife’s leading. He ate the fruit.
The immediate consequence, of course, was that they had broken fellowship with the Lord. What followed was banishment from the garden of Eden into a harsh world where all would be done with toil and pain. It didn’t stop there. Their decision did not affect them only. It had a far-reaching effect. Every person born since that day has come into the world with a sinful nature, separated from our Creator and in need of a Savior. Sin always has a ripple effect. When you deliberately choose to sin, you hurt all those around you: your family, friends, those you work with, the people in your church. They will never know, you may think. No, perhaps consciously they will not. But the result will nevertheless become evident in your lifestyle. Your relationship with God will cool. You will draw away from those whose desire is to serve the Lord. Guilt will eventually separate you from those you love, emotionally if not physically. Yes, your sin will have consequences for more than just you.
“I am my own boss,” many say. “I have a right to make my own decisions. I am intelligent enough to choose the right course for my life. I don’t need any help from anyone. I know what I want!” Well, we must go back to the Bible and read the story of Abram. God had made him a marvelous promise: “…he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”1 This when Abram was an old man and Sarai an old woman well past child-bearing years. Note Abram’s response. In verse 6 we read, “And he believed in the Lord.” He seemed to have no problem accepting the truth of God’s word. Yet in chapter 16 we find Sarai taking matters into her own hands. She did not believe the Lord; at least, she did not believe that the promise had anything to do with her personally. She made a decision based on human assumption. “I’m too old,” Sarai thought. “I’ll just offer my handmaid Hagar to Abram in order that she might bear him a son.” Sarai had it all figured out how God should fulfill His word. Though Abram had experienced a mighty encounter with God, he didn’t bother to consult Him in this matter. He simply accepted his wife’s proposal. The outcome? Ishmael. From him issued twelve tribes that have ever since been antagonists of the descendants of Isaac, God’s chosen offspring. The world is still affected by that one choice made outside the counsel of the Lord.
You may ask how your choices can affect people centuries down the road. Perhaps they won’t. But they may impact your generation and their children. Your children or grandchildren could pay a price for your choice to sin, or for some unwise decision you make outside the will of the Lord. Is our imagined freedom to choose worth the price it may cost us and those we love? This, too, is ours to decide.
There are countless stories about people who put off a decision to serve God. “When I get my life straightened out, I’ll serve Him,” they say. Or, “Once my career is established, I am married and have a family, there will be plenty of time for God.” Others would prefer to wait until their retirement years, or until they have had their fill of fun in life. How often these people are not given the opportunity to live that long. Their lives are cut off in their prime. Car accidents, sudden heart attacks, strokes or cancer take their lives before they have a chance to make that all-important decision. When you put off saying, “Yes,” to the Lord, by default you are actually saying, “No.” It will have eternal consequences.
Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had such a huge crop that he decided to pull down his barns and build bigger ones. He thought he had a great deal of time left to live it up and enjoy his wealth. He did not reckon on God. That very night his life was required of him, and his possessions were then left to others.2 He enjoyed none of it. That man made his own decisions. He made his choices without contemplating the consequences, and paid dearly for it.
Let’s go back to the book of Genesis, chapters 13 and 19. Lot was faced with a choice. He made his decision on what, to his eyes, looked like the best proposition. He did not consult God. He did not investigate the details. He did not foresee the dangers that lay hidden within the evil city at the center of his choice of land. Lot coveted the best of both worlds–superb pasture land for his flocks and herds, and the convenience and lifestyle of the metropolis for himself and his family.
Though the Bible tells us that Lot was a righteous man whose soul was vexed by the sin in Sodom and Gomorrah, yet his choices brought dire consequences to him and his family. In the end, he lost everything. His future sons-in-law refused to heed Lot’s warning, and so were destroyed with the city of Sodom and all that was in it. Gone now were his daughters’ prospects for marriage. Lot’s home was gone. His wife was turned into a pillar of salt when she stopped to look back with longing. Even though he begged the angel to allow him to stay in the small town of Luz, fear conquered him and he fled to the very mountain to which the angel had first directed him. Two sons were born out of incest in this mountain retreat. Thus was the beginning of the nations of Moab and Ammon. They would one day become hindrances to the people of Israel.
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.”3 And who so wise as the Lord our God? Seek counsel from Him before you make decisions whether big or small, and follow what He tells you. Then your plans will be established and you will succeed in what you do. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.”4 Forget about doing things your way. It can only lead to failure. God’s way is infinitely higher and better. Oh, the glory that is ours when we choose God’s path! How much more wonderful the consequences of walking in His footsteps! The blessing that will come into our lives will spill over to everyone around us.
Thought for the day: Choosing your own path in life will ultimately lead to tragedy. Seek God’s will for you and live the abundant life.
Prayer: Jesus, I pray that no one reading these pages, myself included, will deliberately go against Your will in order to live according to their independent decisions. I ask You to convict us in any area where we are following our own course. Show us the dangers of such action. Help us to know Your will and to willingly choose it over any personal desires that do not line up with Your plan for our lives. Keep us on the right track, Lord. Do not let us wander astray. When we do wander, it is often so hard to find our way back to You. The farther and longer we wander, the harder to return. I pray that everyone reading these words will find their joy and fulfillment in doing Your will. Bless them, I pray. Amen.
1 Genesis 15:4
2 Luke 12:16-21
3 Proverbs 1:5
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