by Emerson A. Wilson

Deuteronomy 30:15, See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil:

16 In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;

18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.

19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.

Life and Death…

God sets before us life and death throughout the Word of God. Life, here and hereafter, is what Jesus came for. He tells us in the tenth chapter of John, "…I am come that they [you] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (verse 10) Over and over in the Word of God are warnings to you and me to not listen to what the world has to say. Christ tells us, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

I'm fearful, that we're in a day and time when people don't take these Scriptural warnings seriously. Yet, how we react to God's Word is a matter of life and death. Some people feel they can do what they want to, about some portions of God's Word, but when God speaks His Word, He's setting before us life and death. We choose whether or not we want to obey it, believe it, walk in it, and be blessed by it.

When God talks of life and death, He's not talking about physical life and death, in the truest sense. He's talking about life in fellowship with God, living under God's blessing (spiritual life). Spiritual death is living separated from God or living under the curse of God.

Therefore, when God sets His Word before us, we need to be attentive and hear what God has to say. When He sets His Word before us, He sets before us the greatest blessing, which mankind can enjoy here on the earth or the worst curse, which could be brought on mankind from any realm. There's nothing I am any more serious about than the Word of God; nothing else can be set before us in such positive terms as this.

In our text, He says, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed [children] may live." Oh, how many children are lost in sin, under spiritual death, because of the attitude the parents took. We're in a time when people feel they can turn their children over to God. Nevertheless, the Word of God comes right back and lets us know that the choice we make, whether we choose to obey or disobey God, not only affects us, but also affects our children.

Our lives are made up of choice and no-choice situations. That's the simplest way I know how to put it. In some areas of our lives we have options; in others we don't. To start with, we had no choice about being born.

Have you ever heard someone say, "I wish I'd never been born?" Not a one of us had a choice of when we would be born, who would be our parents, or what would be the circumstance; there's no option about that whatsoever.

In other words, we have to live. Someone might say, "Oh, I could commit suicide." Well, they'd still have to live for a while. They have to come to a place of, a knowledge of right and wrong. They have to have opportunity to have life and death put before them. Even the individual who commits suicide has to live for a certain length of time. With absolutely no voluntary participation on our part, we came into being.

We Choose How We Live…

Even though we have no choice about our birth, we have a choice about how we live. There's too many people who feel that they have no choice about some things, which God has given them a perfect right of choice about. There's others who feel that they have a choice about things, which they have no choice about whatsoever.

We can choose whether we live selfishly or unselfishly. We can live timidly or boldly. We can live, as many are, on the 'animal plane', gratifying our physical desires only. Far better, God has given us a choice to rise to the level of the things of the Spirit, where we can set our affections on things above. This's where we find real and complete happiness, living right here in this life.

Too many are bound with sin and the gratifications of the flesh. They look at the mass multitude around them in the same condition and are made to feel that they have no choice. Friend, I'm here to tell you that you don't have to live "low down" in the corruption and the bondages of this old world; Jesus Christ came to give us a choice.

Man had no choice of being free from those conditions until Jesus came. Man was under death, spiritual death, until Jesus came and said, "…I am come that they [you] might have life..." (John 10:10) Oh, how happy I am, that Jesus came, and brought us a choice and broke that terrible condition that we were all under, bound in the gratification of the flesh and the power of sin.

The devil would like to have people feel that they're bound eternally. Thank God, we don't have to go on, separated from God, bound in the darkness of sin. We can be set free from sin and live free from sin, if we choose the way of life.

Good News…

So, there is a choice, since the Gospel has come. This is the good news of the Gospel. We don't have to go on being an alcoholic or an addict; we don't have to go on being a thief; we don't have to go on being a liar; we don't have to go on being an adulterer or an adulteress!

We can live honestly or we can live in a world of pretense and suicide. I want you to study with me on some who are committing a more subtle form of suicide, by giving themselves over to deceptive practices, attitudes, and habits, which are resulting in 'slow death.'

It's proven by the Word of God (as well as the government), that when we inhale tobacco into our lungs, we're destroying our body. The only difference between putting a gun to our brain and taking your life, or smoking, is that one method is a fast process and the other is slow; we're committing suicide, either way.

People, today, are pouring all kinds of poison into their bodies through the bottle or shooting it into their veins; it's the devil's subtle way of causing people to commit suicide. We're shortening our life by years every time we lay hold of these things.

The Scriptures tell us to honor our father and mother that it might be well with us and that our days might be long on the earth. (Exodus 20:12) We have a choice about it. We can't be careless in our living and say, "Well, it makes no difference. I'm just here for so long, and when I reach that appointed time, I'm going to go." We can shorten that time. The Bible speaks out very plain on this.

When people fail to get rest and waste their strength in riotous, careless, unrestrained living, they can shorten their days. I'm not talking about spending ourselves for the Lord. Certainly, He's the One who gives us strength. Brother, if He doesn't bless, we can lie down and sleep ten hours and get no rest. I've worked all night and only rested an hour and forty-five minutes, but, with God's blessing, I was more rested than if I'd been in bed twelve hours. He's the rest-giver, physically and spiritually!

A Merry Heart…

We can prolong our lives by proper eating, rest, and maintaining (by the Bible) a merry heart. Pressures, carrying circumstances that are against and not conducive to real Christianity, and holding attitudes against people can shorten our physical life. This temple (body), which we live in, is so closely connected to the real "me" (soul) down inside, that when the real "me" doesn't live right, it affects this temple and shortens its life.

In Proverbs 17:22, Solomon said, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." In other words, it takes the marrow out of the bones; where we used to pick our feet up and 'step lively,' we kind of scoot 'em. A merry heart makes the difference?...Absolutely!

I'm talking about a medicine that'll do us more good, than all the contrivances, which the doctors and the pharmacists can put together. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." I repeat: There's an intimate connection between sorrow of the soul and sickness of the body. A good physician will try to keep you up in spirit and cheer you even if he has to lie to you. The doctors learned in medical school, that there's a close connection between the soul of man and the body. If a person's spirit's down, the very treatment they give them won't have the right effect.

On the other hand, cheerfulness of the spirit relates to physical health. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…" I say, this's convincing proof of the 'mysterious synonymous' between the soul of man and his earthly temple.

When Solomon speaks of a merry heart, he speaks of a heart that's at peace with God. He's not just speaking of a person, where everything has gone well, and they're happy and merry about it; he's speaking of a heart that's at peace with God.

It's a proven fact, that certain poisons taken into the body can deaden the capabilities of our feelings. This's why some men drink, and others shoot all kinds of dope into their bodies. It's also a proven fact, that opium may send a man to sleep, but it's a sleep that neither gives refreshment nor strength. The same thing's true of any other kind of poison that's put into the body.

Someone may ask, "Well, how can I have a merry heart?" First of all, a quiet conscience is the first and indispensable element of heart-cheerfulness. A merry heart's a heart that has peace with God. Paul said in Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." My friend, being justified by faith is a sense of standing in right relation to all that's right and true in the universe. When we know we're right with God and our fellow men, no matter what circumstances befall us, we can have a merry heart.

Living With Others…

Let's study more on the thought of choice and 'no choice.' We have no choice, but to live in relationship to others. Some may say, "Oh, I wish I could just get out somewhere and be alone." This's always been the move, seemingly, of man. Whenever the world gets rough, they want to get everyone out of the world and get them separated in a little flock somewhere else. Nevertheless, my friend, we have no choice but to live with others -- no option.

God has ordained that we must live in relationship to others. The Bible tells us that no man lives and dies to himself. (Romans 14:7) We might as well get down to a solid foundation and realize what life is, and what it's made up of. We're going to have to live with all kinds of people. There's two things we have no control over: circumstances and other people! We're going to be thrown right into the midst of circumstances, which we have no control over. We're going to have to work with, and live beside people whom we'd rather be away from. Nevertheless, 'this is life.'

We have no choice about living with others, but we can choose how we live with them. We can retire from our job, but we can't retire from others. Others are going to be here, just as long as God sees fit to let us live.

We can live in suspicion. Too many live there -- afraid to trust anybody and suspicious about everything. Oh, what a terrible way ta live -- suspecting that everyone's out to 'beat us' or suspecting that 'everyone's crooked,' if we give them enough opportunity.

Living in hostile competition, is another detrimental way to live. There's always going to be somebody getting something, and if we try to live in competition, we'll live in the most miserable state that a person can live in. We'll always be striving to get hold of something that we're unable to.

One of the main reasons that Jesus came was, so we'd be able to live with others, right here on earth. He said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me…" (Matthew 11:29) One of the things, which we learn is, how to live with each other. Why? This life is the proving ground; here's where we're 'in school.' We're going to live with people throughout eternity, but here's where we learn how to live with them. If we don't learn how to live with them here, we'll never grace the inside of a new Heaven and a new Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.

We don't have to live in suspicion; we don't have to live in hostile competition. We can live with a supportive and cooperative attitude toward one another. We can actually be thankful someone else has something, and wish them well.

We can try to always take or always give. We can go back to the Word of God and learn that we have to both give and take. I've talked to people who had to learn hard lessons because they 'stubborned up;' no one was going to give them anything. What a lesson they had to go through to learn that you have to receive.

Life's a matter of 'give and take.' There's homes broken up, which wouldn't have been, if they'd learned the lesson of 'giving and taking,' 'bearing and forbearing.' We have no choice about living with others, but we do have a choice about how we live with them.

Death Awaits All…

We have no choice, but to die, if Jesus tarries. We're quickly going from 'life here' to 'life hereafter.' I can't find in the Word where God thinks enough of me or anyone else -- that He's going to send a special 'chariot of fire' to 'take us in.' I don't think there will be any 'express runs' from 'here on out.' I think we'll all ride the same, 'slow train' - death.

We do have a choice, however, of how we die. We can either die with 'composure and confidence' or with 'regret and despair.' I've been with many people at death. I could relate many different instances; some of them, I'll never forget. I've been in death rooms, where men faced hell; they pled for prayer, "Please get hold of God for me!!" Sorry to say, they'd passed the point of no return. Their testimony, just moments before they expired, was, "It's dark here, and when I shut my eyes, it's ten thousand times darker. Can't you please get hold of God for me?"

On the contrary, I've been blessed by having witnessed the deaths of children of God. They died with complete composure, because they were confident that they were entering a far better life.

We're all going to die, but we can choose how we die. The only way we can choose how we die, is to choose how we live. Our death will be one hundred percent affected by how we've lived.

Down in Grand Cayman, there's a sign about twenty-five feet long, with large letters right up over the preacher. This's what it says:

I must die, but when?
I must meet God, but how?
I will live in eternity, but where?

We must die, but we have a choice, on how we die. We have no choice, but to live again -- but we can choose what our life hereafter, will be like. Many people seemingly confuse 'necessity and choice.' Some tell us that they don't want to live forever; they feel, death will end it all. They see no need of looking at the option of life in eternity.

Our Future Existence Is Certain…

Man has no choice, but to live forever; we're made that way. It's just like being born, just like living with others, and just like dying; our future existence isn't optional. People commit suicide, because they want to end it all. Little do they realize, that when they end mortal life here, they step into the very beginning of an 'eternity.' We're going to live forever; we have no choice. People, today, are so weary with life, that they welcome death. They say they're sick of 'the whole thing' and would like to 'end it all,' but they can't 'end it all;' man's ordained of God to live forever.

Jesus, in John 5:28:29, said, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." There's going to be a resurrection and amplification of the life, which we've lived here.

There'll be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. The Bible makes it very plain, that when death comes on us here, the spirit goes into the place called Hades, a place of departed spirits. If it's a lost soul, it goes to a place of torment (hell) to he tormented between death and the second coming of Christ. The soul that 'dies saved,' goes to another part of Hades, which is called Paradise to rest from their labors, until the second coming of Christ.

When Christ comes again, He'll bring all the spirits with Him; every grave will give forth a new body, and the soul will move back into that body. We, who are alive on the earth, when He comes, will be given a new body and will be caught up to a final judgment. We have no option about it; man is ordained to live forever.

Life Has Power Over Death…

Life has power over death. This is why you and I can live as a Christian; there's more power in life than there is in death. We're going to resurrect, but what happens after our resurrection, is optional. Luke 20:27-33 tells us: "Then came to him certain of the Sadducces, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all, the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife."

Let's stay right with the point; they're not asking if we're going to marry after the resurrection. The question they implied was, if the marriage vows taken here, would be effective in eternity. Jesus answered in verses 34-36: "And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. "

Jesus, in His wisdom, knew that the Sadducces, came to Him because He was teaching a resurrection, and they didn't believe in a resurrection. They, merely 'set up an equation,' of this woman with seven husbands, to try to catch Him. Jesus knew where the real problem was. Verses 37-38 explain: "Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him." Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been gone many hundreds of years when Moses referred to them; yet, he could say that they were alive.

To God, they were even already resurrected. Verse 38 tells us that all live unto Him. You and I, being finite, are limited in a 'time frame;' we speak of past, present, and future. God looked on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as being already resurrected, because there's no past, present, or future with God; He's infinite.

This's why Paul said in Romans 4:17, "…God…causeth those things which be not as though they were." The Lord gave John a picture of millions of saints reigning with Christ in Paradise, when they hadn't even been killed yet. John received the vision in A.D. 96(?); the martyrdom had just started. In a long period of time following that, fifty-five to sixty million saints, would be killed. God showed John a vision of them reigning (already having had their heads 'cut off') -- with God. Everything with God, is, as it has already happened. Whatever God says, that's the way it'll be.

Heaven and Hell Are Real…

Heaven and hell are real "places" for "real people" just like you and me. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible speaks very little about Heaven. People take Revelation 21 to teach of streets of gold and all those wonderful things we're going to enjoy. All you have to do, is read verse nine to find that this's a symbolic picture of the Church, today (present tense). There's very little spoken of about Heaven in the Word of God, because we can't comprehend it. There's nothing to liken it to. We can take symbols and teach about the Church. We can teach about life (good or bad) by using symbols.

However, what would God liken Heaven to? He'd have to liken it to something earthy for you and me to comprehend it. Paul just made it up to the third heaven (into Paradise, where the souls wait), and he "…heard unspeakable words, which is't lawful [possible] for a man to utter" (2 Corinthians 12:4).

It's too great for us to understand. Because of this, the devil takes advantage and tries to sow doubts about the reality of heaven. Some, with their human wisdom, go to work on the Word of God. They declare the same Greek word used for atmosphere (the celestial heavens where the sun, moon, and stars are) is the same Greek word, which's used for God's abode.

We have to own the fact that the same Greek word (just like many other Greek words have many different meanings) is used when it speaks of the physical atmosphere. Therefore, man just comes to a quick conclusion that Heaven's the sky.

Solomon said, "…the heaven and heaven of heavens can't contain him…" (2 Chronicles 2:6). Paul said that, when Jesus ascended up, He "…ascended up far above all heavens…" (Ephesians 4:10).

Science tells us that space is a mighty, mighty big place. Well, somebody may say, it'd take you forever to get there." Again, they don't understand God. Jesus told the thief on the cross when he truly repented, "…Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). That was late in the afternoon; they went to Heaven (Paradise) before dark. I don't know what kind of a 'ship' He has, but it's fast (smile).

Heaven's a real place, for real people. I join with the poet; my faith is fixed just like his: "There's a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar." I have accepted the fact; I know Heaven's there.

Believing Brings Carefulness…

Believing in Heaven, affects my living. If I didn't believe Heaven was there, I wouldn't be so careful of how I live. We see or accept it by faith. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. for the things which are seen are temporal [You can only see them with the temporal eye]; but the things which are not seen [that you see by faith] are eternal." Furthermore, if we'll keep our eyes on the things not seen, it'll put an exceeding and eternal weight of joy in our soul.

There's a land out there that's fairer than day; there's a better Place than this earth. God never created this world with all of its beauty, as an 'eternal abode.' When we realize that God would go to such pains to make a beautiful world such as this for us to have, just as a 'dressing room' or 'proving ground,' we wonder how beautiful Heaven must be. How beautiful the place must be, where we're going, to live forever with Him.

Heaven's real. In Luke 6:23, Jesus made it plain, that Heaven's a place, where those, who have suffered on earth for righteousness, will be rewarded. Heaven's a definite place, for a real, definite people. He said, your reward is great in heaven…" It's a Place where rewards are passed out. We'll have the personal identity and self-consciousness to receive the benefits.

We'll he real people. When He says, "Here's your reward, for the suffering that you went through for righteousness sake," we'll know what He's talking about. We'll have a mind; we'll have a memory. What blessing would there be in reward, if you didn't know what you were being rewarded for? He made it personal when He said, "…your reward is great in heaven…" It'll be an individual measure, for individual people.

Hell Is to Be Avoided at Any Cost… In Mark the ninth chapter, Jesus talked about the reality of hell. He said: "And if thy hand offend thee, cut if off: it's better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (verses 43-44) What's Jesus teaching? He's not talking about us cutting off an arm; that won't keep us from going to hell. Our trouble is in our heart. The eyes and hands operate from the desires of the heart. We can cut off both hands and still feel; we can pluck out both eyes and still lust and commit adultery.

He merely sets forth the eye, foot, and hand to teach us one lesson: It would be better to go through great suffering here, giving up things which seem hard to give up, than to hold on to them and end up in the torments of hell and the lake of fire, forever. Hell is a real place, for real people. So when He says to cut off a hand or pluck out the eye, He's merely telling us that hell's to be avoided at any cost.

In other words, there's no sacrifice too great to make Heaven. It's ridiculous, the things, which people keep rather than sacrifice them to the saving of their soul from hell. In selfishness, people refuse to deny themselves. In the Bible, the rich young ruler kept his wealth and went to hell. Demus chose the world in place of salvation and went to hell. Judas chose to take the route of hell and sold Christ for a paltry thirty pieces of silver. Ananias and Sapphira decided to hold back just a very small part of the price, chose hell, and went there.

The Word of God tells us in the seventh chapter of Matthew that many, many people (even preachers, miracle workers, and just plain people) who refuse to go God's way will be told to "…depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (verse 23).

Too Busy…

There's others who unconsciously get caught in the 'busy program of life' and fail to do the work of Christ. We get a preview of the judgment in Matthew 25; it reveals two different pictures. May God help us, as Christians. We can pick up our 'self-righteous skirts' and say, "Thank God, I don't drink, I don't take dope, I don't commit adultery, etc." We'll not be asked one of these things, at the judgment. The Bible definitely teaches that we must live modestly and stay away from worldly things; that's necessary. Nevertheless, they're not points, which will come up at the judgment.

Therefore, what's going to cause so many people to be lost? They unconsciously get caught in the program of life and don't have time to do the real work of Christ. What's going to be the decisive thing at the judgment? The Lord will say to them on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire…For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink ... sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not" (St. Matthew 25:41-43).

How are people going to answer these questions? "Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?" (verse 44) Nevertheless, the reply will be, "…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (verse 45). How long has it been since we've visited anyone sick or in prison?

If we could only get 'lifted high enough' to 'look over life's horizon,' we'd see, that there's some certain realities. Please, please, please, dear children, don't get caught in the busy program of life and allow the devil to 'shade the reality' of a real Heaven and a real hell, which awaits us.

When I use the word "hell," I'm aware that there's a place of torment called "the lake of fire". Hell's between death and the judgment. When the rich man was 'in hell,' his brothers were still living here on the earth; so hell is an experience between death and the judgment. If you read into the Revelation, it will tell you that death and hell was cast into the lake of fire that burns forever and ever and ever. Hell is a place where men are tormented in the fire, for a time. Then, when time comes to an end, hell will be cast into an eternal lake of fire.

Jesus has put before us life and death, He's put before us Heaven and hell. The choice we make, is ours. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death…therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19) Please! choose life!! [The End.]

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