8th October 2023

Exploring the Significance of Human Decision in God’s Plan

Passage: Philippians 1:19-26, Psalm 8, Hebrews 2:5-10, Galatians 2:19-20
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

I don't know about you, but one of the things I like in watching a movie is where, whether it be the hero or the heroine or whoever, is put in a position to have to make a difficult decision, put on the spot, and it's always of interest to me about why human beings make the decisions that they do. I've learned from Kieran recently that the field of economics, which I always thought was about counting money at the university, but he tells me it's about how humans make decisions and what motivates them and influences them. And that's actually something in movies I like to see where someone comes to a circumstance they didn't expect and have to make either a rash decision or a very brave decision or one that gets them killed. And that's the part of movies that really grip me. And I think that's been a part of me even before I watched many movies at all. And I have a great interest in the human decision mechanism.

Some of that also comes about because my involvement in Christian ministry has been, in my younger days, very much about calling people to come to Christ and wanting them to make a decision. And there's a big discussion that goes on in intellectual circles about whether or not we are free or whether we're all decided by how the little molecules are bumping together and the ones in our brain. And it's all been set by the fact that the same set of molecules are going to bump into each other and make our decisions. That sense of total, it's already been decided by fatalism. Some people believe that. And when you spend time in the university, these sorts of discussions come up as to how free we actually are to make a human decision. And that was something in my own background of becoming a Christian because I always thought I was one until I began to come under a conviction that I'd never actually done business with Christ. And there were a set of meetings that my dad was involved in arranging and setting up and my family had to go every night. And every night this same conviction came over me that I was yet really to make a decision to come to Christ. And on the last Sunday afternoon, they had the final meeting on the Sunday afternoon and we'd all go home and relax.

And the preacher, in my mind's eye, as he got to the end of his message, suddenly, he didn't disappear, but he looked to me as though he was not there on the platform. And Christ was there. And he was calling for me to make a decision. Now I was youngest son, youngest child of three, older brother, very successful at doing everything, person sitting next to me. He's a lot bigger than me. And I had a history of following him. He's the person who once led me to try swimming to an island out at sea a mile off through shark infested waters, not that I knew then. And I followed him as best I could and we eventually got back to the shore and we weren't eaten. I would never have done that had I known. But I'd follow him anywhere. He got a job giving out, selling football, you know, brochures, what do you call them? Not the order of service, the list of the players. And you make money at it and you spend the money on the way home on chocolates or whatever. But so he led the way and he got a job doing that. And he got me in on it. Sometimes he'd want us to go to the footy so that he could send me up to buy the tickets. And I was a little chubber fella, not chubber, a little skinny fella.

And I get two tickets for children and then give one for him. And we walked through the turd stale isles before they could stop him because he was six foot two and he was still young at primary school. And he's a lot bigger than me. And before they asked him how old he was, because he was a child, but he didn't want to get stopped. So he'd get me to buy the tickets and we walked through in a hurry. I was used to following him. That's the point I'm trying to make. And when this happened and I was being called to make a response to Christ, I jibbed. I hadn't made a response. I stood there and it was raining and we had raincoats on. And then my brother made a move and he went to respond. That gave me the courage. And I know from my history that my making a decision to come to Christ had a spiritual side to it, the sense that Christ was there. I saw him as it were like a vision and he was calling me. And the human side, I was used to following my brother. I remember he moved, he was next to the aisle and he went out. And so I had the courage given to make that decision, follow my big brother. My raincoat got caught in the nail and I had to rip the raincoat to get to go out. But I did. I got desperate, ripped it, and went down.

They had a man who counselled us and the man, it had already happened to me in taking the step to go. So I let him run through his counselling and said whatever prayers he wanted me to say. But it was making a move to say yes that was the moment for me. I've always been interested about what influences people to take a step and choose to come to Christ. And the pastor of the church eventually, when I was a teenager, was an old friend of my father's. They went through training college to become ministers together. They were best friends. And we ended up, because my dad moved to be teaching at the Baptist College in Adelaide, we ended up moving near this fellow's church. The college was just down the road from the church. And this man, one of my father's special friends, took care of me a lot on account of dad. But he got a phone call from a missionary lady whose nephew had moved into town. And she was concerned and had been praying for her nephew because he hadn't yet come to Christ. And I've discovered there's an awful lot of people that when you talk to them when they want to come to Christ, that they've got an uncle or a nephew or a friend or someone who's been praying for them.

You'd be staggered at how many people when you get talking to them about your family's Christian and then they start telling you who's been praying for them. I mean, it doesn't happen every time, but often it came up. So I added to the factors in my mind as to what makes people choose is the fact that prayer is somehow involved there, people praying. Well, anyway, the lady, the missionary lady, rang up the pastor of the church and told the name of the young man. He was the same age as me. And we were in, I think, doing our first year of tertiary education in Adelaide. And he rang me up. And why he rang me up was because he'd spotted that my interest in talking to people about Christ. And I brought some of my friends from school who had eventually become, or one in particular became a Christian and others I'd get to come along at least. And so he rang me up and said, this is a name I've got here of a young man. And he's not a Christian yet, but he needs someone to talk to him. And he gave me the address. It was across the railway line from where I lived. I didn't have to go very far. Then he said, go get him. So I went around and invited him to come to a youth rally. And eventually he became a Christian. As a matter of fact, he did that very night. But he didn't tell me when we came back from the rally, he got down next to his bed. And he said yes to Christ.

And partly because he didn't have any friends. And he was new back up in Adelaide in the city, come from the country. And there's another reason, circumstances. And all these things, what is there about this decision to come to Christ? And so I've been interested about the decision and the Christian lifestyle that comes as a consequence of that decision made. And so when you go to the scriptures, you look for a place and then you've got some people who are very eloquent writers in the Bible, like the Apostle Paul, and you wonder about them. There's a verse I want to show you for a start. The reason why I'm showing you this is because this is someone who made a sudden decision, very different from his background. And it's in Philippians chapter one. So Philippians chapter one and verse 21. And this is something Paul said in explaining his having become a Christian and becoming an ambassador for Christ. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. It's talking about whether he'd get persecuted and killed or which would he prefer, go to heaven to be with Jesus or stay on earth and get to do more good things, more things to do with Christ. And he said, for me to live is Christ.

Now at first glance, understanding what he's actually saying here takes a bit of thinking, but he's actually explaining that there's a decision that's been followed by a lifestyle, that he ended up with a lifestyle, that everything was absolutely how it related to Christ. Nothing else mattered. I'm going to show you some other verses about that. But to live is Christ, meaning it's the totality of what he's interested in. And he set his life for that to be the governing philosophy or governing, you know, it's the decision lived out in a lifestyle. So I was wanting to ask you tonight, whether you have a lifestyle that's been governed by a very important decision as to what you do with the call of Jesus. Whether you decided to be a Christian, whether you've decided, you might know all about it, you might even have been taught properly and said a few prayers along the way, as someone may have led you. But is your lifestyle built to put feet to this decision that for you to live is Christ, like the Apostle Paul? Now, it's very interesting about how people do make these decisions, because I listened into my family, and they're all into these ways of describing different personalities. And they've got me down to a T as to a certain personality with letters that they talk about. And I don't really know how true that way of describing personality works, but they've got me understood. Glad someone does. And I wonder about what is it, you know, that causes a person to make a decision?

Because in my case, to tell you the truth, I make many of my decisions instantly. Or some people might say I'm impulsive. And I think I come from a background of people who are impulsing. My grandfather once took me to the Adelaide show. And he was a very old man in his 90s. And he used to imagine things, the arteries to his brain clogged up now and then, and he'd make some funny decision. And anyway, my mother wanted me to look after him, because he was talking of going into a business meeting that she knew didn't exist. And he was going to go into Adelaide City, once had been a big businessman back in the ages past. And so she got me to go with him on the train. And we ended up at the show, the showgrounds. And there was this beautiful Mustang car, the very early models that came out that were there being shown. And he said, Oh, you like it? Jim, I can't remember his exact words, I'll buy it for you. And impulsively, I said good. Thank goodness that he couldn't find an owner anywhere. It was just on sale. I could just imagine if I had to let him do it and turn up home what my mother might say, letting him do it. But I know I'm impulsive. And you I can buy a new car real quick. And that's my nature. And, but also was like that becoming a Christian. And my nature was such that I had a call and I went, I might have lingered because I was scared. But my brother moving gave me the courage. And so I've been very interested to see if other people are there other people like me who can be impulsive. And I saw a movie, which is really had me fascinated, because of the chief event in it was when a really famous singer had run into a younger girl who was, had a good voice, but really wasn't known at all.

But he'd invited her to come to one of his digs. Now, this is a film, so I don't know whether there was any real event behind the film. But you will probably some of you know better than me, because I don't really remember details of movies. But the young girl at the time is now known as Lady Gaga. I think she's not so young now, because there's something that happened in the film was one, which was produced in 2018. But she wasn't that young in the film. And the man who was in it was a fellow who was a very famous rock singer. And the scene that the film set for him inviting her to come along to one of his gigs was where there are the mass of thousands of people. And she turned up according to the invitation. And there they are singing before thousands of people. Bradley Cooper was his name. And the name of the movie was A Star is Born. Now, why this is significant to me, as an illustration, because I was amazed that she was unaware of what she was getting into. And she promised she'd come and sing with him. And but when she got there, she's standing back in the crowd, seeing all the people and having a great deal of stage fright, not knowing what she'd given herself a promise to do. And he's out the front singing to the crowds, and then he sees she's here and hiding back behind some people. And he said, Come on, come on, and she won't. She won't go. So he walks over and encourages her to come and says, Just trust me. Just trust me.

And he goes back and sings another big song with all the crowds cheering. And then he, Come on, come on. And she had to make a decision right on the moment to do something that would have been the scariest thing in all the world. If you're ever going to sing a solo in front of a big group and make a fool of yourself, she couldn't have picked a bigger one. And eventually, he sings a bit of it, then he stands back. Come on. And she in the moment of hesitation, but then just walk forward, grab the microphone. And sang so well, that was the making of her become a very famous singing star in the film. All right. I did do a bit of research to discover that this particular film, A Star is Born, has been done about three or four times. At least two or three of the two of those times were musicals, American musical and film drama, indeed. In fact, an earlier person who'd played the role of the young female was Judy Garland. And they invited Elvis Presley to be the famous singer. But because he was only being listed as number two building in the whole thing, he refused. Somebody else got to do it. So it was a very big event picked up. And it happened, this thing, in 2018. So it's not so long ago they made the film. And it was such a moment demonstrated in a drama. And the song became so famous that it made an enormous amount of money for the people who put it together. And Lady Gaga, if you want to know her official name is Stephanie Joanne Germanotti. She had a European background, I guess. And anyway, that this Lady Gaga, known by that name, was invited by President Biden to sing at his inauguration in America.

Which I imagine would have to be the biggest invitation you could get if you're a person who's a singer. I can't think of a more honourable moment to sing, even singing at our grand finals isn't quite as big a deal as singing at an inauguration with the whole nation listening in. But there's a decision someone had to make, suddenly put in the position, and they could have said no. And all the development of life for that person will be different. The very title A Star is Born is because of the conclusive event of someone taking the step. Now, although not all people are like I am, I suppose someone who is very able to make quick decisions in a hurry, and I often regret some of them. But, or you might be a person who thinks for a long time over things very carefully and writes all the positives and negatives down and thinks over it for several weeks. People are all different. There is nonetheless being demonstrated in that film something about human decisions and about life that they touch the spiritual areas too. And that introduces to you the whole question of where does God come into it? I don't have a problem with that question because in my case, I always thought I was a Christian from early years, my father being a principal of a Bible college, and I believe, I've always believed. I didn't have any doubts that if I were to be squished by a steamroller I wouldn't go straight to heaven.

I don't, I think that's true. But I still didn't belong to Jesus and there came a day when he put me on the spot to make a decision. There is something about God's respect for humanity that he doesn't make us little robots. I know on the internet sometimes they want to know whether you're really there as a person and they want you to tick a box you're not a robot. You notice that? Because even in our people who run the computers and all, they want to know that they're not just dealing with a robot. And the story that the Bible presents to me indicates right from the beginning when Adam and Eve were created, they were told how the Garden of Eden ran, but they weren't forced to keep the rules. They were told what God wanted. In fact they were put in a place of probation where to show themselves to be obedient they could, or to disobey they could listen to temptation and not. And the fall of the human race has in it that fact that God recognizes the integrity of humanity that we are made as moral agents that have a choice. We're not like the animals who've got often, they've got often a, excuse me, they've got a lock, interlock between them and God that is what their natures are. Which natures, by the way, got changed when humanity sinned and they suffered the result of that. And the Bible tells us that creation groans, all of creation, waiting for the time when the deliverance of us from sin and the grip will also be applied to them and they'll be taken out of the result that our sin did to them that produced all the predation and the difficulty that animal life has.

I won't go into that now. But my interest is in the fact of God creating humanity with integrity to have a place to make a decision. Now in talking about this topic often, excuse me, often there is a thing that we sometimes want to go back to the beginning things or we want to go back to the idea that God has made a decision before the creation of the world and then bring that forward to us. What I want to do is to start with Christ and to look at him and what the scriptures teach about how Jesus is. And to that, to do that we need to see Psalm. Did I give you a Psalm reference? Yeah. And it's in Psalm and in chapter 8. And in Psalm and chapter 8 we have the fact of a beautiful picture of the wonder of God and what he's done. And a part of it is a description of how he's made humans. This is in Psalm 8 and supposedly it's David or somebody the writer of the Psalms who is amazed at what God has done in creation. When I look at your heavens, let me just take a step down here, look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, the stars which you set in place. What is man that you're mindful of him? By man that's the word for humanity. Adam is the name of what we all are as well as the name of the original fellow. What is man that you are mindful of him? That God should have us on his mind. And the son of man, the offspring of man, that you care for him. And this is David.

He's not aware of Jesus being called the son of man. Though I wouldn't mind guessing that Jesus knew this verse and called himself son of man to emphasise his humanity and the fact that he is fully human. The son of man that you care for him. You have made him a little lower than the angels, some versions read, or the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. And you've given him dominion over the work of your hands. Now what does it mean for dominion over the work of your hands is that God has given the superintendency, the administration, the looking afterness of what God made into humanity's hands. The respect that God has to the decision making and to the energy and the thinking and the oversight of humans over the rest of nature which is why we have responsibility over what is happening to the climate. Though I always believe God will be taking care of that too. But there's something about humanity that we have been given of God to make decisions. All sheep and oxen, everything's put under man's feet, all sheep and oxen, also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas, we can decide that we need to cull the great white sharks or we can decide to treat them and to let them eat what they like and we are in positions to make decisions. How majestic is your name in all the earth?

Writes the psalmist to recognize what God has done in putting things under our control. Now let's go to another verse and I've shown this connection too in previous sermons but go to the book of Hebrews and let's see our Hebrews verse and here you'll see there that it's quoting that psalm and what's really interesting about that is quoting the psalm, for what is not to angels that God subjected the world to come. Our decisions make a difference to the world to come. Don't throw out over board the place for us to take care of nature. God has subjected the world to come, the future of this world to us. Elsewhere it's been testified and he then goes on to quote the psalm spot. What is man that you're mindful of him or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels. It's an exact quote from that psalm. You've crowned him of glory and honour, putting everything under his, everything in subjection under his feet. Now I'm putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing aside outside his control. At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. Humanity hasn't, you know, still got a way to go to really fulfil what God wanted. See if we can get in the next verse, is that possible? But what you'll end up realising that the difference between the psalms and this quote in the psalm and this quote in Hebrews ends up being that the son of man that's being talked about in Hebrews is Jesus. Verse 10 I think, oh no no, now I'm putting everything, read it as it is now, putting everything in subjection to him. He left nothing outside his control. At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to him, that's the same, but we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels. That's in the coming down of Jesus in taking up humanity. Namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death.

For it was fitting that he for whom and by whom all things exist in bringing many sons to glory should make the founder of their salvation perfect or complete through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified, that's Jesus and us, all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers. Jesus calls us when we've come to him as brothers. But there's a an enormous implication about what we've just seen. I don't know whether you've caught it yet, but if God made Jesus in the role of a person who has respect for the integrity for the position that he's in, to make decisions and look after all the world, if Jesus also shares, like us, the ability to make decisions and the responsibility for what we do make, then I'm saying that that means, of course, that we have the capacity to say yes. Did Jesus have to exercise that decision making to do the will of God? Yes, all the way along. He did and demonstrated he was willing to obey the father. But did it get tested? Yes, in the garden of Gethsemane for a start. Well, no, for a second time, but that's probably many times. But in the garden of Gethsemane, he prays about going to the cross and understands what a terror it will be for him, the perfect son of God, always holy, the one who'd always been in relationship with his father from all eternity. Never there being a thing in between, but suddenly the difficulty that if he goes to the cross and he bears our sins and becomes accursed, the Bible tells us, for our sins.

Do you think that he did that lightly? And did you think he escaped shuddering at the very idea? Yes, he found that difficult and he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, Father, if you will, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. And he was willing to make a decision to go through with the death and the cross and the bearing of our sins, which entailed the blackness, the darkness of the moment when he separated from the father because of your sins and mine, because of the sins of all the world and all of history and the sins that are yet to be committed by this foolish human race that's having its wars over in Israel right now. This Jesus had the capacity to face the issue and say, yes, I'm in. And if Jesus was in a position to have the integrity of personality that God took seriously, so he is a representative of humanity. He who has the same humanity as us, except without sin, we also too are treated by God that he doesn't force you to be a Christian against your will. He does indeed go through the rigours of winning you and wooing you and longing for you to respond and calling you and giving you a choice, sometimes helping you by having your big brother whom you always followed everywhere. I admired my big brother and we did only have a few little fights, but he was six foot six and he's lanky like me, but bigger than me. And it's very hard to get close to him to get in the punch because his long arms could knock me out of the way quick. But this big brother of mine, the fact that he moved and helped me to move, he did it for me.

Don't downplay what the meaning of that Psalm 8 is really saying is that God has respect for how he made humanity a little lower than the angels, but crowned with honour. And the honour that he gives to you is to not force you to be a Christian. And as the previous Sunday was it that I was preaching on Revelation 3, behold I stand at the door and knock, the door of the church, but if any individual hears my voice and will open the door, I will come on into that one and fellowship with him and he with me and the central truth of that verse is that he waits on our response. He does a lot of things that he could make a lot of things happen, but nonetheless he doesn't do it in a way that takes away the integrity of the human choice. Now when we get ourselves lost in sin, the sin is destroying our spirituality. The sin is wrecking us and getting us in bondage. And if it were not for the Holy Spirit to lift us by his conviction and lift us in the invitation, that we wouldn't even have the capacity to respond. But all that the Spirit does is in order for us to have that moment when we can say yes. I had a whole list of Bible verses to use tonight, but I don't need to. I think you can get the point. But because of Jesus and his humanity, of which it's representative of ours, so that he could go to the cross and bear our punishment. But him also being the infinite God-man to have the capacity to die for the sin of the world and to die a death that was cosmic salvation for the whole of everything. He's been able to achieve the offer to bring us back to God and eventually will fix up everything in this troubled world of ours.

So he's done his part, but he won't do your part, which is to be willing to come. And if perchance you find yourself tonight offside with God because you've been away from him or because you've never actually come. My story was that I thought I was a Christian because of my family and because of Sunday school. But I learned in those meetings, there was a series of them. And it was for me like every night this preacher got on the same topic. And wouldn't let it go, the topic that we're sinners. And I knew I had never deliberately come to Jesus as a saviour. I just assumed I'd get in the door because of my family and other things. And the call was to me to say an eternal yes to Jesus, to let him be mine. Now the Apostle Paul was an enemy of the Christian religion at first when he bumped into it, when he heard about it. He persecuted it. He kept minding the clothes as Stephen got murdered, martyred. He was busy going to different towns to catch Christians and have them put in jail or killed. When Jesus called him, but he had to say a response. It wasn't that he got zapped against his will, but he made this decision that, Philippians verse, I'll read it to you again, for me to live is Christ. Is Christ. And that's a lifestyle that's the outworking of a definite decision. And so it is my purpose tonight to press on you this decision to do like the Apostle Paul. Now part of how he gets to do this is because to use his own words, he gave up every other thing as important. And we'll go to one more verse, which is Galatians 2 and verses 19 and 20. Galatians 2, 19 and 20. And this is how he sums up where he's at. This is the lifestyle that he lives out. It is the decision applied to everything. He says, I have been crucified with Christ. Now that's the truth.

His sins was on Jesus on the cross. But it's also that he's taken to himself. The attitude of being taken to the cross. I have been crucified with Christ. He so loves Christ and is committed to be everything that Christ wants him to be that he says, I have been crucified with Christ. It's no longer I who live. It's the outcome of that. But Christ who lives in me, he vacated the throne of his life and let Jesus be the one that rules in him. And the life I now live in the flesh, which means bodily. I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify, make it as if nothing, the grace of God. For if righteousness were through the law, which was the old Jewish way. The Jews took the law to me. Then Christ died for no purposes. If there were another route for you to be an excellent person other than Jesus, then why did Jesus come and die for you? If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. He could say I'm crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live yet not I. But Christ who lives in me, that's the lifestyle. Applying all the action of the cross and the fact that he now belongs to Jesus and invites you to follow suit. Your readers of his Philippians verse to say for me to live is Christ. He had a bit of a difficulty wondering would be better for me to die or go to be with the Lord.

He loved the Lord so much. But then he said, if I die, I won't be able to help you. I won't be able to help the Philippians. I won't be able to do more for Jesus here. He didn't know which was the best. And when you really love Christ and you discover the joy of walking with him and working on his behalf of being someone that knows the joy of being in his things, then you know you will get to heaven eventually. And so you don't mind being around a few more troubles as Paul was. What a fantastic thing. Tell me about your life. Is it a lifestyle you set up because you've made a decision you're going to belong to him and totally is and nothing else is going to count? I'm going to leave that with you. And if God is calling you, do something about it. Sometimes it is you can go and ask a Christian, you know, please help me. If you came and asked me, I'd want to lead you in a prayer. I'd show you a few Bible verses, but lead you in a prayer to tell Jesus that you want him to be your Lord and your saviour. And you're happy to do it now. That's what I will do. But I'll leave you to live through thinking of this sermon. For me to live is Christ. To die is gain because you just got to be with him in heaven. It's a fantastic verse, isn't it? I love this one too in Galatians 2.20, but I'm crucified with Christ. It's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you tonight for the Lord Jesus Christ. And we thank you for his persistence in working on us. We thank you for the opportunity he gives us. What a moment. It's not a famous singer that's calling us to be a star that's born like that film is about. It's something 10 times more dramatic. It's the eternal Son of God who has conquered all, who's returned to heaven. Wow. It's not just a crowd of thousands. It is all eternity who know of him as Lord of lords and King of kings. And one day he shall be seen for what he is. And he's inviting us to join him in the song. Wow. May there be someone who lets Jesus know that it's a marvellous opportunity and you're going to take a risk and step out with him. We pray that in Jesus' name. Amen.

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