If there’s a fork in the road and one way says life and the other way says death, even for the directionally-challenged, that’s not a difficult decision. But the reality is, every time we make a decision we choose to either walk down a path of life or a path of death. This is a simple concept to theoretically understand, yet it is the most difficult task in life to faithfully carry out. We choose physical, mental, relational, and financial death on a daily basis. It’s not that we always say, “I choose death,” when we arrive at the fork in the road, but the destructive and dishonest patterns that we have already chosen fool us into believing that the death path is really the life path.
This Sunday we talk about the path that leads to life, joy, and freedom.Read More
Full Sermon Script
This will be our last message in the Extraordinary series. We’ll look at a passage from Deuteronomy 30 today.
Let me set the context for this passage.
Moses is now an old man and it’s time for him to die and to go be with the God that he has followed for so long.
He’s not going to be around to lead his people anymore. They’re going to have to figure it out for themselves.
So he wondered, “How can I let the people know the urgency of what’s at stake?” 
So he told them, “We’ve been on a journey for 40 years. Now I’m leaving, but you will go on.  We’ve come to a place where the road has a fork in it, and you will decide which of two ways you will go.” 
This is a story about a choice that stands before every human being. It’s a choice between life or death, and it gets made a hundred times every day. 
Some people choose death!
And I have to tell you from the beginning that this is something I need to be reminded of often because I can easily choose the way of death. 
A lot of us – and I don’t know how else to say this any nicer – but we just do stupid things sometimes that lead us down the road to death – either relationally, emotionally, financially, vocationally, or spiritually. 
Moses knew this was the case far too often with the people of Israel.
So these are his final words to them. Deuteronomy 30, starting at verse 11: >>>>>
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”
Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call the heavens and the 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 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
> These were the words of Moses to his people before he had to leave them.
And I believe these are God’s words for us today. 
What I want to do with this message is set two ways before you.
There is a way that leads to life, joy, freedom and purity; and there is a way that leads to death, guilt, disappointment and bitter regret. 
I know about both of these roads. 
And this matters more than you can imagine; what we’re talking about today is no casual thing
So Moses gave them their proper names.
One road is called
There is a way that leads to life.
What is it?
Moses explains it in verse 16: >>>>>
For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws.
> He gives three indications of what obedience looks like.
The first one is:
Love the Lord your God.
When Jesus had to summarize all of the commandments, he said they’re all summed up in love. Love God and love people. It’s not a mechanical or a rigid thing. Obeying God’s commandments is primarily about love. 
Then he said:
Walk in obedience to him.
Walking in the Old Testament was often a metaphor for a life of wise conduct. If you have a heart that loves God and conduct yourself in a wise way, then you walk in his ways. 
Moses said the third indicator is:
Keep his commands, decrees and laws.
Commands, decrees and laws are all overlapping terms. God did this to help make love concrete and real so we don’t get vague, fuzzy or sentimental about it. 
So love God, walk in obedience to him, and keep his commandments. 
Then Moses said the consequence of going down this road is that you will thrive, multiply and have God’s blessing on you.
And we need to understand – this isn’t something we earn; it’s not a performance deal. We will be living life as God designed life to be lived. 
Again, this way or path towards life is very clear. This is the whole point of verses 11-24.
Moses said it’s not far away or across the sea. We don’t have to go to heaven to get it.
The word is very near to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart. It’s not too difficult for you to understand. It’s not an obscure thing.
*Walk in obedience.
*Keep his commands.
It’s really simple.  
Then he said there’s another way called
And he gave three indicators for this road. He said in verse 17:
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.
The first one is:
If your heart turns away.
This is a loss of devotion. Your heart is no longer warm and tender towards God. You have a wayward heart. 
Then he said:
If you are not obedient.
If your life is filled with noise, you are no longer listening for His still, small voice. You are not attentive toward God, and you don’t seek to learn his will and do it. 
Then he said:
If you are drawn away.
Moses knew these people didn’t intend to march off to other gods.
And I don’t think you or I plan on offering ourselves on the altar of the god of success, or security, or comfort, or wealth or self.
We don’t even recognize sometimes when we’re going down this road. We’re drawn away and we allow ourselves to drift or be molded and conformed to this world. 
Moses said there is a consequence to this road.
*The consequence is disaster.
*Loss of community.
*Loss of life.
*Loss of every blessing God longs to pour out.  
Then Moses said you have to choose.
And I want to say with as much conviction and passion and admonishment as I can – Choose Life! Choose Life!
It’s so urgently important that we make the right choice.  
If you were actually driving and you came to a fork in the road. And you had to go one way or the other. If one way said life, and one way said death, even for the directionally-challenged person, that’s not a difficult decision. Choose life!
Promo for Storyteller series.
Now, in the time that we have left today, I want to talk about the danger of being on the road that leads to death.
And I want to do this by talking about three different points on the road that leads to death, and how behaviors will be increasingly difficult to stop the further you go down that road.
I’m going to go from “easy to stop” to “very difficult to stop.” 
The first point may involve
a bad choice
you just haven’t spent much time thinking about.
*You spend too much time watching television and not enough time with your children, and you realize they’re suffering from this. You’re not giving them the kind of parenting that you need to.
But you can change that. You just need someone to point it out to you and you can easily turn around.
*You may be spending money in a way that’s just foolish or self-centered, that’s not in line with your value of generosity. You’re clutching to what you have like it’s all yours. You’re not giving generously to God’s work in the world. Your life is about always getting more and more.
Maybe you’ve been choosing death financially. Maybe you’ve been drifting into less and less generosity.
If you’re honest about it, you have to acknowledge that this is where you are. If you get more money, your thoughts are not about how you can use it for God’s kingdom, or how you can help the poor. You simply think about what you can acquire.
Before you go to sleep tonight, maybe you need to go on your bank account and make amends. Give a gift and set financially-dishonest patterns right. Say to God, “I’m through choosing death. I’m choosing life instead.” 
Alright, this is the first point you get to on this road to death.
And at this point, you’re able to make a change. You just need someone to point out this pattern that’s beginning in your life.
And once you’re aware that this needs changing, you can alter your course. You can turn around and start going the other direction. 
God may be pointing out something right now in your life. 
Some of you are aware of a pattern in your life that you need to say “no more” to. You can change. You just need to make a strong resolve right now. Catch it early. 
I don’t know how else to say this. If you have something going on in your life that needs to stop and you’re just starting to head down the road that leads to death, stop it now. Change now. You will be spared so much pain if you don’t go further down that road. 
That’s just how this works. These things will cause you more and more pain the farther down the road you go with them.
If there’s something in your life that you know needs to stop, and you’re able to stop simply by resolving to do something, then, by all means, do it now. Just stop it!  
But maybe you have a problem that runs deeper, and you try to change but you don’t seem to be able to. This is the second point on the road to death:
an ingrained pattern of behavior
that you’ve become attached to.
It’s ingrained now. It’s part of the rhythm of your life. It’s deep enough in you that saying “no more” to this would feel costly or even painful, and so there’s a part of you that wants to say “no more” but there’s another part of you that doesn’t want to stop. 
This may involve a big change:
*Maybe you’re in a relationship where you’re sexually active with someone to whom you’re not married. And you know it doesn’t honor God.
*Maybe you try to escape from your spouse, if you have one, by fantasizing about someone else in inappropriate ways.
*Maybe you’re keenly aware that we live in a society that idolizes sexual attractiveness, in which beauty is power, so you find yourself too attached to the need to appear sexually desirable; or you’re jealous of someone who is more attractive; or you find yourself flirting inappropriately to prove your attractiveness.
*Maybe you’re respected at home and at work and even at church, but you have another life. You’re deeply engrossed in pornography.
You know it violates the teaching of Scripture. You know it’s not in line with your basic values. You know it’s not the person you want to be. When you get to the end of your life, you don’t want to be characterized by that kind of stuff.
But there’s a significant part of you that doesn’t want to stop. Maybe it’s because of fear. Maybe it’s because of loneliness. So you’re divided.
*Maybe there’s a pattern of anger in your life. You have little kids and your patience gives out and you find yourself sometimes trembling with rage. Not long ago you found yourself screaming, almost out of control, and it frightened you to think of what you’re capable of. You’ve told yourself to calm down, to be patient, but just telling yourself isn’t working.
*Maybe you’ve been gossiping and cutting people down behind their back.
You’re choosing death for yourself and death for your relationships.
*Maybe you have stress in your life and you find that it just kind of magically disappears if you have enough to drink; and you hope no one notices and you hope someday this need will go away, but it’s not going away.
*Maybe you’ve found that if you’re willing to cut some corners at work, and cheat on some deals, and pad an expense account, you can bring in more money. And you’ve been doing this for a while, and now it’s become a habit. Now you’re dependent on it.
You try not to think about it. You try not to call it stealing. You try not to reflect on what might happen if you get caught, but every once in a while you think about it.
*Maybe you’re a couple that’s highly thought of in your neighborhood, and by your relatives, and in your small group. But the truth is you’ve given up on your marriage a long time ago, and there’s a wall between you and your spouse, and you’re filled with bitterness and you rarely speak.  
You know, at this second point, the simple decision to say “no more” is not enough.
You don’t just need someone to point it out to you. You’re aware of your problem. You also need some support. You need a certain level of support to enable you to carry out the decision to stop.
*You may need to talk to another person.
*You need to ask that person to pray for you.
*You need to ask them to check in with you on a regular basis to see how you’re doing. 
Or maybe you need to get some information; and you need to pray; and you need to make a plan.
For instance, you need to consider, “What are other ways I can express anger?” You may need to get educated on this.
Or “How can I fill up the void in my life if I give up this physical intimacy when I’m dependent on it?”
Or “How can I make things right at work and become a person of integrity?”
You may need some structure as well as awareness.
*You need another person.
*You need some education.
It won’t be easy, but with appropriate support and structure, you can say “no more.” 
Today’s the day for you to make that decision. Maybe that’s the point you’re at.
If it is, I hope you stop whatever needs to be stopped in your life today, because it will only get worse if you don’t. 
That brings me to the third point on this path that Moses calls death and destruction.
At this point, there is in your life
a pattern that has you in its grip.
It could be a habit, pattern, attraction or addiction and it seems to have a life all its own. 
This pattern, this addiction may involve behavior that violates your deepest values, actions that are repulsive to you.
You’ve promised yourself that you’re going to quit a hundred times, but you fail every time, over and over and over again.
You hate yourself for your weakness and your lack of control. 
Moses says, “Be careful if you’re at this point. If you are drawn away.”
He says, “I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.” 
Some of you know exactly what Moses was talking about, because you’re convinced that if other people knew about the secret in your life that your life would be ruined.
So keeping this a secret becomes one of your top priorities. 
Now, if this is where you are, just bringing it into the light, just awareness is not enough. Just some support and structure is not enough.
You’re going to have to fundamentally reorder your life.
You’re going to have to say, “Stopping this destructive pattern or habit or addiction in my life – quitting and cleaning my life up – is going to have to become the top priority that I arrange my life around.” 
And the most important thing you can do at this point is acknowledge the truth.
I must come to the place where I acknowledge truth. I must say to myself and to God, “I have a struggle with sin, and I cannot control it on my own. God, I need your help.”
Alright, I want to share with you an illustration that will hopefully resonate with you beyond today.
This is written by a guy named Gary Richmond who had to work with a giant 13 foot long King Cobra. >>>>>
This is what he writes:
Our zoo had a 13-foot giant King Cobra that seemed to me the embodiment of evil. He had a scar over his left eye that made him look mean and, more significantly, kept him from shedding his skin in a normal fashion.
At least twice a year, we would get the dreaded phone call from the reptile house, “The cobra shed his skin last week, but the eye cap didn’t come off. It looks infected. Do you suppose you and the doc could come down and clean it up?”
Arrangements for this were critical because of the extreme danger. Only two people at the zoo could take responsibility for grabbing the more deadly snakes and this was the most deadly.
The snake’s venom glands contained enough poison to kill 1,000 adults when properly administered, a fact that seemed to come up every time we did this procedure.
The curator of reptiles was assigned to grab the head and the two reptile keepers were to steady the body. When the snake was subdued, the veterinarian would begin the delicate surgery. His arena kept him inches from a lethal injection, and my job was to furnish scalpel, sponge, hemostat and anything else to expedite the procedure.
The capture of the cobra was as follows. The five of us took our positions – two keepers on either side of the cage door, the curator in front of the door six feet away, the vet and I on either side of the curator ten feet from the door. The keepers’ only defense were sheer bird nets with two-foot handles.
The door was opened. Seconds later, the king cobra appeared. As soon as it saw us, it stopped, spread its cape and raised to full stature, so we were all looking at the snake at eye level.
The cobra was trembling with excitement as it, in turn, stared at each of its five enemies. It seemed to be choosing who would be its prey. The curator was chosen, and with shocking quickness, it lunged forward, hissing and growling with malicious rage.
The skilled keepers placed the sheer nets over the snake’s head, and as it pushed to get through, the curator firmly grasped its neck just behind its venom sacs. The keepers grabbed the squirming body. Then the curator nodded and said, “Let’s get this over with.”
The pressure was incredible. The vet’s hands were trembling and beads of sweat began to run down the curator’s forehead. The curator turned to me and said, “Do you have any cuts or scratches on your hands?” I looked and said no.
“Get paper towels quick,” he followed in a strained voice. I did so. “Now put them in the cobra’s mouth.”
The king cobra watched the paper towels as they were carefully positioned to allow him to bite them. He bit down violently and began to chew. The towels became yellow with venom.
The curator continued, “Did you know several elephants die every year from king cobra bites? A man could never survive a bite with a full load of venom. That’s why I’m having you drain his venom sacs.”
My hands are sweaty and my fingers are cramping. When I let go, it may not be quick enough.
[And here’s the point! He says:]
More people are bitten trying to let go of snakes than when they grab them. 
[More people are bitten trying to let go than trying to grab. You get weak quickly when you grab a big poisonous snake.
And then Gary writes:
There are many situations in life that are parallel. Easy to grab, hard to let go. So it pays to think twice before you grab.  
Think about how true this is in life.
These and many more are serpents and they will drain your strength and they will bite you to death while you’re trying to let go of them.
The writer of Proverbs says in Proverbs 14:12:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
There’s a way that seems right and seems good, but it ends in death. 
I’m wondering if you will have the courage today to name the snake in your life – to name it, because we all have them. Everyone does.
It may have to do with bitterness, or power, or the need for approval, or sexuality, or deceit, but there is a power and it is at work in this world and it is at work in your life and mine, and it’s called sin and it’s baffling and mysterious and cunning and more powerful than you or me by far.
It’s terminal, and it will destroy your soul if you let it.
So I’m wondering if you’re willing to say today, “I’ve had enough pain and enough hurt and enough guilt and enough shame. I want to resolve, whatever it takes, no more. This has got to stop. This is not who I want to be. This is not the legacy I want to leave.”
It all starts with this business of acknowledging reality. You have to say to yourself and to God, “I can’t do this by myself. I’ve got a hold of a snake that is stronger than me and I can’t seem to let go.” 
Now, whether or not you will do this depends largely on how you’re dealing with an enemy that is at work right now, and the enemy is this thing called denial. 
You see, we’re masters at justifying not dealing with this thing called sin, so we minimize the problem:
“My snake’s not so bad. Other people are worse off than me. If I had that guy’s problem, then I would get help. I can’t believe he doesn’t get help. He’s really in bad shape. If I was ever like him, then I’d get help, but I’m not so bad. He’s way down the road that leads to death. I’m barely down the road.” 
Or we try delaying tactics:
“You know, you’re right. I probably do need to let go of this snake eventually, but not right now. Now is not a good time, but I’ll get around to it at some point.”
The evil one is whispering in your ear, “Not yet. Not right now.”
Some of you hear that voice right now. You know this message makes sense. There’s some stuff in your life that probably ought to get cleaned up, but you’re thinking “Not now. There’s too much going on.”
You can “not now” yourself right to the grave. 
Or we rationalize:
“You know, I have so many difficulties in my life, I kind of deserve having this little snake in it. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He has to forgive me. That’s kind of his job. I have to provide something for him to forgive. That’s kind of my job.”
We just rationalize. 
You need to stop playing games! You’ve got to acknowledge the truth. And no one can do that for you.  
Moses said, “Your choices are a matter of life and death.” 
Do you know what your choice is?
Let me pray for you: