Setting the Course of Your Life
March 8, 2020
We are nearing the end of the book of Deuteronomy. I have loved the book of Deuteronomy. It is filled with such amazing insight and application for our lives. The book of Deuteronomy I've mentioned before is Moses giving his last speech, his last opportunity to speak to Israel. They'd been in the desert 40 years and it's coming to close.
They're just getting ready now to cross over that Jordan and enter into that promised land, and so Moses is pouring his heart out to these people because he wants them to do well. He wants him to succeed. He wants them to prosper. He wants the blessing of God, but he knows that the only way that this is going to happen is if there is revival. If they stay near, if their hearts stay in love with the Lord. Over and over, you see it's one of the great themes of the book. He admonishes to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul.
The most important words that God ever said are found in this book of Deuteronomy. The highest, the foremost of all that God's ever said, "You shall love the Lord your God." Moses, then he gave instruction in the chapters just leading up to this, that once they enter in, once they crossed the Jordan and go over to the land of Canaan, the first thing that they were to do was to bring the people into this valley. It's a Valley between the Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. There they were to station men on each of these mountains, some on one mountain, some on another.
From Mount Ebal, they were to call out over the people the curses of God. The troubles, the difficulties that would come if they turned their heart away if they followed after the gods of the world, the destruction that would come, the poor decision that would be. From Mount Gerizim, the men were to call out the blessings on their lives of following God with all of their heart and all of their soul. Then he says, "Choose, I set before you, now see I set before you life and death and now choose life," he says, "That you might live."
There are things in your life of which you have no control but determine the course of your life. They have a tremendous influence on the course of your life and yet you have no control of them. For example, the family you're born into, you have no control over that. The country you were born in, the community you were born in, whether you are born into privilege or poverty, you don't have any control over these things. Yet in many ways, they influence the course of your life; but there are other things, there are many things that are within your power to choose that will determine the course of your life.
The people were brought into this valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim and they listened from Mount Ebal then they heard the disasters and the troubles and the difficulties that would come if they did not serve the Lord their God. Moses said, "With joy and a glad heart for the abundance of all things," but from Mount Gerizim, they heard of all of these blessings that would come and overtake them. "The blessings of God will overtake you," he said if they would just obey and to love the Lord and to serve Him with all of their heart.
I. Your Course Can be Corrected
He said, "Blessed shall you be in the city. Blessed shall you be in the country. Your crops will be blessed. Your herds, the young of your flock will increase, your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed. Blessed you will be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out." That's the blessing of God. Then he says, "See, I set before you life and death, choose life."
It is within your power of choosing and it will determine the course of your life. Choose life that you may live. I'll tell you every parent understands this heart right here. Every parent knows his heart because you want your children to do well in life. It's a deep desire of parents. You want it to go well with them and you know, like with your children, you know that there are key things, key decisions that they will make in their lives that will determine the course of their life.
We're not talking just about the career that they choose. We're talking about the content of their character. We're talking about whether they choose to follow after God. You know that if they would follow God and love him and follow and serve him, that it would be blessed that God will bless their life. You know this as parents and you want that for your kids. How much more is that true of God? He knows that this would determine the course of your life.
God wants them to choose life, but he also knows, and this is an interesting part of that, he knows the human condition. He knows the human heart and so he understands. They may crash their lives, they may choose to turn their hearts away. Then he says if they do that, the results will be disaster.
He wants them to know and he wants them to know in advance that should this happen and they turn and come back to the Lord, that God will take them back. It's never too late. It's never too late to come back to God. It's never too late to start your life over. It's never too late to make the right decisions and it's never too late to correct the course of your life. What an encouragement?
God sets before us today, "Life and death," he says, "Good and evil," and choose because the course of your life hinges on the decisions that you make. "Choose well," He is saying, choose God, choose life. It determines the course of your life. Let's read it. Chapter 30, we'll begin in verse 1, "So it shall be when all of these have come. The blessing is in the curse, which I have set before you and you call them to mind in the nations where the Lord your God has banished you."
In other words, if they turn their back on God and it turns into a disaster and they're banished, and they're dispersed amongst the nations. "But you," verse 2, "Return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all of your heart and your soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you. He will restore you from that captivity and will have compassion on you and He will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you."
Some of this now becomes almost prophetic because he knows, he knows and we know the history of Israel, but it also has an interesting prophecy connection to the latter days in which we are seeing now unfold before our eyes. There's a prophecy unfolding. Verse 4, "If you're outcasts or at the ends of the earth and from there the Lord your God will gather you, from there He will bring you back." In other words, I don't care how far you've gone from the Lord. You turn your heart to the Lord and He will bring you all the way back.
"The Lord your God will bring you into that land which your father's possessed and you will possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your father's. Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart." That's an interesting phrase that has a deep spiritual meaning, "And the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God." Here it is again, "With all your heart and with all of your soul in order that you may live. The Lord your God will inflict all those curses on your enemies and those who hate you and those who persecuted you." We have seen that in history.
"You shall look again, obey the Lord and observe His commandments which I am commanding you today. Then the Lord your God will prosper you, abundantly prosper you in the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body, in the offspring of your cattle, in the produce of your ground. For the Lord will again," look at this, I have it underlined, it's a great word.
"For the Lord will again rejoice over you. He will again rejoice over you for good, just as he rejoiced over your fathers. If you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in the book of this law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul," but would you notice verse 11, "For this commandment which I command you today is not difficult. This is not difficult, nor is it out of reach.
It is not in heaven that you should say, 'Who's going to go up to heaven for us and get it out and get it down and to make us hear it that we may observe it.' No, nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us and get it for us and make us hear it that we may observe it?' No, the word is very near you.'" Paul quoted from this. "The word is near you. It's in your mouth. It's in your heart that you may observe it.
See," verse 15, "I set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments so that you may live and multiply and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you will perish.
You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, by holding fast to Him, for this is your life and the length of your days that you may live in that land which the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
These are the verses I want us to see because there's so much to apply starting with this understanding, your course can be corrected. The course of your life can be changed. It can be corrected. It's not too late. God knows in advance that there would come a time when they would turn their hearts away. God knows the condition of the human soul, that it's a wandering soul, but in that day, when you turn your heart away in disaster and trouble come and then you look to God and turn your heart toward home--
He wants them to know in advance. He says that this is what God will do. He will welcome you home. It's not too late. It's not too late. It's not too late to correct the course of your life. Many of you know the story of my father who was an alcoholic and difficult all his life, but at 75 years old, it's not too late, 75 years old, he realized that the course of his life had been wrong, that he had wasted most of his life. At 75 years old at a service very much like this, he received Jesus Christ. He came forward and received Christ.
What a celebration in heaven and what a celebration right here, because it was a glorious day that day and I got to baptize him with my own hands.
A. Return with all your heart
It's not too late. It's not too late to change the course of your life but notice what he says. "Return," but he says, now notice, "But return," he says, "With all of your heart." It's the best possible way to correct the course of your life. If you've fallen away from the Lord, if you've wandered, if you've gotten too far, correct the course by returning with all of your hearts.
What are the most important themes? I tell you it's-- One of the most important books of the Bible, one of the most important themes of the book, when things have gone badly, remember God's heart, God will not reject you. He will welcome you home. See, if they get off course, come back, but come back return with all of your heart. That's the best correction possible for the soul.
Notice what he says. He started the book, Deuteronomy 4. He started it in a similar theme. It's the bookends. Deuteronomy 4:29, "From there, from that place of distress and trouble." When you've turned your heart and adversity comes and you find yourself in big trouble, "From that place, seek the Lord your God and you will find Him. If you search for Him with all of your heart and all of your soul, when you are in distress and all of these things have come upon you in the latter days," a prophetic word, "You will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice for the Lord your God is a compassionate God and He will not fail you."
I tell you, I've been a pastor a long time. I cannot tell you-- Well, okay, 30 years or so. I will tell you, I've seen many, many people who have found that the word of God is true, that there is adversity that follows when they turned their heart away from God and walked towards the world, the adversity follows. I can tell you that it is a glorious thing when you see someone who turns their heart back to God and they turn their heart fully back, they returned with all of their-- It's a glorious day, it's a day to celebrate.
I've also seen others who, they get in the adversity and the trouble and they feel the heat of the adversity. You know what I'm saying? They become contrite and even somewhat humble, but only so much, only so much as to get the heat off, which is I suggest to you is not real repentance. I suggest to you that it's not real revival. The correction of the course is to come with your heart. That's the best change of life, it starts with the heart. Joel 2:12, "Yet even now," it's not too late. That's what it means.
"Yet even now, return to me with all of your heart. Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord. He's gracious and compassionate. He's slow to anger. He's abounding in loving-kindness." Notice it's a theme of the Bible. It's one of the themes of the Bible. You know why that's such a theme? Because people misunderstand God. Many people misunderstand God.
Many people are convinced that God's not gracious and compassionate, God is an angry God. You messed up your life, and you make trouble for your life, He's angry. That's why you got all this heat. He's making trouble because He's trying to make that trouble to get you for what you've done. Then you come back, "You're too late to come back. I'm angry now." Many people are convinced God is like this. It's the theme of the Bible to convince you that that is not so.
God is gracious. God is compassionate. He says He is slow to anger, and He is abounding, generously abounding in loving-kindness. "Turning your hearts away from God," He says, "Was what got you in trouble in the first place. Return with all your heart." Then notice what he says in verse 6, he says, "God will circumcise your hearts." That's an interesting phrase. The Jews would understand that more than we would. It meant a lot to a Jew to hear that phrase, to circumcise the heart. What does that mean exactly?
Well, it means that it's a spiritual thing. It means the cutting away of the flesh, cutting away of the influence of the world. That's what it means, to circumcise your heart, and because that's the key to revival. That's the key to the correction of the course. See, because after all, what benefit did you gain from those things? What good did it do you when you went after those things, did you gain anything? Did it help you at all? Did it not result in trouble in adversity and in death?
See, when you see it that way, when you ask yourself this question. In fact, I'll tell you what, that question really comes out of the Bible. Romans 6:21 Paul says it this way, "What benefit did you gain?" How did it help you? "What benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed, for the outcome of those things is death." That verse has meant so much to me over the years. I'll tell you when I was a young man, someone challenged me to memorize Romans 6. When you memorize something, you repeat it in your mind over and over and over.
When I got to Romans 6:21 I started repeating this, repeating it, repeating it, and then I started to see it differently. I started to see it from a personal-- I started to see how right it was as a young man. See, young men particularly I think got to figure this thing out. They struggle a lot with this-- The life course and the direction that you pursue. Young men got to figure this thing out because there's a struggle in life. You got to figure this thing out.
B. The Lord will rejoice over you again
As a young man, that was such a revealing, powerful verse because it made me think, it made me turn my perspective differently. What benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed? I had to ask myself. That's a good question. That's a good question because I had to answer it. Nothing, I gained nothing. See, when you see it differently, that's a glorious day. You're seeing it rightly, you're changing your perspective. You're seeing it from God. That's why He wants you to know these things.
That's why he says, and I love this part of it, he says, "The Lord will rejoice over you again." See, there's the heart of the Lord. He wants you to know the Lord will rejoice again. We know that when a person first comes to Christ, we know that God rejoices. We know God has said this. I've mentioned this verse several times because it points it out so beautifully. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exalt over you with joy. He will be quiet in His love. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
We know God's rejoicing when a person comes to faith, but when you come back, when you return after you've wandered away, that's where we often need to see God rejoices again. He will welcome-- There is open arms waiting, a loving father waiting. It's like Luke 15:7 and 10, "I tell you, Jesus says, "In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance. In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
There's a glorious declaration. See God promises He will rejoice again and then there's this prophecy, very interesting, in verses 3 through 5. This is like this prophetic word. God's going to restore. He will restore. God's going to restore, rebuild their nation even, gather them from the places where they were scattered, bring them back. You know what's interesting? We are living in times when we have seen the fulfillment of that.
There was a fulfillment when they came back from Babylon, there was a similar fulfillment in 1948 when the Jews came from the nations and re-established again their nation in 1948, but there will be in the latter days a greatest fulfillment yet of those words because something is still missing.
After the Babylonian captivity and today when they came back in 1948, God is still waiting for a spiritual revival. That's what's still missing. God is still waiting for a spiritual revival.
See, when Jesus comes at the end of the age, when their Messiah returns, the word tells us there will be a great awakening in Israel. There is yet to be, and this is important for us to know because of the days in which we are living. We are living in days where the world is changing before our eyes. Can anybody sense it? The world is changing before our eyes. There is a cloud on the horizon that's growing deeper and greater in strength. There is a darkness that is arising in this world. Anybody sense what I am saying?
There is a darkness arising in this world and the scripture tells us that the center of prophetic fulfillment will be in Israel. The epicenter will be Jerusalem and the very center will be the Temple Mount. Keep your eyes on Israel. Yet there will be in the latter days a returning of Christ Jesus in the latter days and there will be yet an awakening in Israel. There is not an awakening in Israel today. If you go to Israel, you'll know that it's many secular people. God's going to send His Messiah.
Jeremiah 31:31-34, "Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, and this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will put my law within their heart. I will write it and I will be their God, they will be my people. I will forgive their iniquity and their sin, I will remember no more." At the last supper whenever we do communion, we are remembering the last supper.
At that last supper, He took the cup and He said, "This cup is the cup of the new covenant." That very new covenant it is initiated in my blood. This is first Corinthians 11:25, "In the same way He took the cup. This is the cup of the new covenant initiated in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me." The new covenant is initiated in His blood and it will be completed for Israel when Jesus returns at the end of the age and Israel receives their Messiah and Our King and Our Lord and they will receive forgiveness.
C. There is a sadness that leads to joy
What's interesting, and it's important for us to recognize these things because of the days in which we are living, that there will be a sadness in Israel, but it's a sadness that leads to joy. Moses is telling them of the rejoicing of the Lord at the returning of those who fall. Their hearts will be circumcised when they return and love the Lord their God with all their heart and all their soul, but there's a prophetic word.
At the returning of the Messiah in the last days, the awakening in those latter days begins with sorrow." That's an interesting thing. An awakening? How can awakening begin with sorrow? How can a revival begin with sorrow? That's an interesting insight. Zechariah 12:10 tells us, "I will pour out on the house of David," this is a prophecy of the latter days, "And on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, I will pour out the spirit of grace and the spirit of supplication so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn."
When the Messiah comes, they will mourn. They will mourn as one mourns for an only son. They will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Why? Because they will look upon Him whom they have pierced and realized, "We betrayed our Messiah all those years before." When their eyes are opened to what they have done, this begins with a morning and a sorrow, but it also says He will pour out upon the spirit of grace and the spirit of supplication.
Now, this is important because there is a sorrow that leads to repentance that's good. Revival oftentimes begins with a sorrow. When a person opens their eyes and they see their life for what it really is, actually there's a sorrow. Well, see, when my dad at 75 opened his eyes, something happened where he said, "I now see I've wasted my life, help me make something with what I got left." Opened his eyes. See, when you open your eyes and you see it, the first response oftentimes is sorrow. "I see now, I see the pain. I see what I've done, oh Lord."
I tell you, it's a good thing. Paul says it's a good-- Repentance often starts with sorrow, revival often starts with sorrow, but I'll tell you what, it will be followed with joy. See, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, "I now rejoice," Paul is writing the New Testament, "Not that you are made sorrowful, but that you are made sorrowful to the point of repentance. For you are made sorrowful according to the will of God so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that's according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret."
II. God’s Word is not too Difficult
You will never regret the day that you came and gave your heart to the Lord. You'll never regret the day that you returned to the Lord. You'll never regret that day because he says, "It leads to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." Then I love this in chapter 30. He says that God's word is not too difficult. He says, "This is not too difficult. This is not hard. This is not hard." I love this because there are many who seem to think that the things of God are difficult or they're out of reach.
He says, "If you love the Lord with all of your heart, with a glad heart," he says, "That's when the commandments of the Lord are not burdensome."
There's a great verse. 1 John 5:3, "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments and the commandments of God are not burdensome." Why?
A few weeks ago, I gave an illustration and it's a perfect illustration of this point and it bears repeating, so bear with me because it's important to apply it. It's the story of a farmer who had been plowing for years with these two plow horses. Then all the other farmers around him are getting these new tractor things, but he's faithful to his plow horses. One finally dies and so he decides it's time, time to get finally the tractor.
He buys the tractor and goes to the last of the plow horses and comes to the barn and takes his harness off and says, "You've done well, you've served well, be free. Go off, retire," basically. He goes and hooks the plow to the tractor, brings it around to the field. As he starts plowing the field, to his surprise, here comes the horse walking alongside the tractor, which is to say, "I love what I do. This is what I do. This is no burden to me. I love what I do. This is what I love. This is no burden to me."
I love that illustration because it's a beautiful illustration of what he is saying. It's not difficult when you love. The key is to love. Someone says to me, "This Christian thing is not working for me." I say, you got to draw nearer. You got to come closer. You draw nearer to the Lord and you will find out how beautiful the Lord is. You will find out how love, grace, and joy is poured out near the cross. You got to come closer. You draw near the fire, you're going to catch fire. Come nearer, draw closer. You need to have revival by drawing near.
A. God’s Word is as close as your heart
See, because that's what he says, God's word is as close as your heart. That's what he says. It's not far. It's not high. You don't have to go far to go get it. He said this is not out of reach. You don't have to accomplish some great feat in order to demonstrate that you mean repentance. You don't have to climb seven great mountains and reach the spiritual state of Nirvana. It's as close as your heart. That's what he says. It's not hard. It's as close as your heart.
In church history, there was a concept of this, of making it hard, of making it difficult. There was a concept in Christian history called penance. Maybe you're familiar with it, if you were raised in the Catholic Church you might know some of the history of that. The idea of penance is that you must do something to demonstrate your contrition. You must do something hard to demonstrate that you mean it when you say that you're coming back, that you are repenting. You got to prove it.
One of the illustrations of this is a movie that came out some years ago called The Mission. It was about this Rodrigo Mendoza, who was just a despicable fellow, just a despicable person. He had abused and mistreated and tried to enslave the Guarani people, the tribe in South Africa. He was an angry man. One day he found his brother in bed with his fiancé, and in a fit of rage, killed his brother. The movie goes on to describe that he goes to a Jesuit priest who tells him that he must do penance as a demonstration of his sorrow.
Because he was a man of hate and a man of war, he must take all of his armor and his weapons, and he ties them in this net and then he must tie it around his waist and climb the great Iguazu Falls up to the Guarani people. Two priests will walk with you to make sure you do it. He takes all of his armor and his weapons and ties them in the net, puts a rope around his-- and he starts climbing the falls dragging this net of burden up, up and higher. Climbing, climbing, climbing, and you can see the pain. The movie does a great job of expressing his pain and agony as he's climbing.
Maybe halfway up and there's this ledge and he can't get it over. He's just exhausted. He's come to the end of himself and he can get it over the ledge. One of the priests, out of just a moment of the outpouring of sorrow takes a knife and cuts the rope. Now, if that was the grand part of the movie, we would all go, "Wow, there's a point there." Cut the rope. Let the burden fall. That's a picture of Christ, isn't it? It's a picture of Christ. He cuts the rope, but that wasn't the point of the movie.
They should have asked me to direct it. I would have made that the point of the movie. No, that wasn't the point. The point was-- Then he looks at the priest with, "How dare you," eyes. How dare you? Then he goes all the way back down, ties it back together again and starts all over. Then he climbs all the way with great pain and agony, he comes all the way to the top and in tears the Guarani people welcome him. It's beautiful. The movie is absolutely beautiful. It's just wrong because he says it's not hard.
No, it's not difficult. It's not out of reach. It's as near as your heart. It's as close as your mouth. When you come and you mean it, you come with your heart, it's so near to you, he says. You may feel that you're far from God. You may feel that God is far from you, but he's trying to make this so clear to us. God is near. God is near. Correct the course of your life by returning with your heart. It's as near as your heart. It doesn't matter what kind of life you've been living. Doesn't matter what has taken you far. Anyone can be saved and anyone can return and He wants it to be so clear.
B. God wants you to choose life
God will welcome you home. Here's what we got to see, we got to see the heart of God. He says God wants you to choose life. I love you. You are a treasure to me. You are precious in my sight. I want you to choose life. It's not that God set before them, I set before you life and death. Now it doesn't matter to me, choose what you wish. No, he sets before them life and death and then He says, "I want you to choose life. I love you. You're precious in my sight."
The decisions we make determine the course of your life, but God wants to influence your decision. He wants to influence you by saying, "I love you. You're precious to me. I love you. You're the apple of my eye. I sent my son to die on the cross." I'm asking you to be reconciled to God and to know that He loves you. I love those words in 2 Corinthians 5. "We are ambassadors for Christ." It is as though God is entreating through us. You know what that word entreating means? It means asking. God is asking, sincerely asking, isn't that amazing? Isn't that amazing to you?
I am amazed at this. God is entreating. He says, "Therefore we beg you." This is amazing to me. "Therefore, we beg you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God." God wants to influence your decision. I love you. Come and come with all of your heart and when you come, you got to know that He will rejoice over you again.
Father, thank you so much for showing us. We love to see your heart. It's beautiful. We love to see your heart. God, you're calling us tonight to correct the course. Church tonight if you're here, anyone in this room tonight that needs to correct the course, it begins with the heart. It's not too hard. It's not out of reach. It's as near as your heart and God is the one inviting, God is the one pursuing, God is the one who's asking you, he's entreating. Therefore, He says, "We beg you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God."
Would you say tonight, I need to correct the course. God, I want to love with all of my heart and all of my soul. I return to you God, sincerely and genuinely. I want to be near and nearer and nearer to my God. Thank you for pursuing me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the forgiveness that you bought for me. I correct the course of my life.
Would you just raise your hand if you would say that to the Lord tonight. Just be bold. You got to be bold sometimes in the Spirit. You just be bold and say, "I want to correct the course."