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Message for 8-18-13 CHOOSE TO DEFY YOUR DNA

“CHOOSE TO DEFY YOUR DNA”

Joshua 24:14-15

 

            In recent years, I’ve been making some intriguing discoveries about my ancestors.  In Cambridge, I learned that it was apparently Thomas Hobson who built the first conduit to drain the city’s toxic waste.  I’m proud to be a descendant of the guy who cleaned up that town!  I also learned that my great-ancestor Paul Mrovka from Poland had to come to America because he had been shooting off his mouth about the Kaiser. 

After my grandfather Edmund Mrovka died, the editor of the Collinsville Herald wrote, “We’re going to miss old Ed.  He was always writing fiery letters to the editor.”  (Sounds like me!)  Grandpa almost moved to Russia to join the Bolsheviks after their revolution, but someone said, “Ed!  You can’t go there!  They don’t have freedom of speech.  What would happen to you over there?”  Ed wisely decided to stay here.

            I can see a lot of myself in some of my ancestors.  However, God did not give me the organizational ability that enabled my father to organize the supply department for the Brazilian Air Force.  And thank God I don’t have to be like the one ancestor who both fought for the Confederacy and seduced his brother’s wife, or the one who smuggled liquor during Prohibition.  Not all of the DNA of our ancestors always gets passed to us.

            And even the traits and talents we have inherited from our ancestors are not the determining factors in how our lives turn out.  What makes all the difference is not the genetic hand of cards we’ve been dealt, but what we do with it.  In one of the Harry Potter stories, the headmaster Albus Dumbledore says, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

            Movies like “Back to the Future” and “Peggy Sue Got Married” illustrate for us how just a few crucial decisions can have a monumental impact in someone’s life.  In “Back to the Future”, George McFly makes the decision to stand up to Biff the bully, a decision that dramatically alters the economic future of his family 30 years later.  Peggy Sue travels 20 years back in time and seeks to prevent her disastrous marriage by resisting the advances of her boyfriend.  In both stories, the audience gets to see the far-reaching consequences of the characters’ actions.

            Life is like a volume of interactive fiction.  It is a story where we get to write the plot by the choices we make each day.  As Doc the mad scientist says at the end of “Back to the Future Part 3”, “Your future hasn’t been written yet!  No one’s has.  Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one!”

            Each of us is the product of a long list of decisions we have made.  Just a few of those decisions can radically alter the course of our life.  Not all of our decisions carry the same weight.  It doesn’t matter a whole lot whether we get the best deal on a new car or a new home.  And it may not matter whether we landed the best job or the best salary we could have gotten.  But there are a few decisions that profoundly affect our lot in life and even our final destiny.

            In many ways, I am not the expert decision-maker I wish I was.  If I were a purchasing agent or a store manager or a hiring officer, I don’t know how well I would perform.  When choosing between brands of cars or investment opportunities, I’m not sure I’ll always choose the best deal. 

But I have made a few good decisions in life that truly mattered.  One of those decisions was my decision to accept Jesus Christ.  Accepting Christ is a decision that has radically altered my emotional health, my sense of ethics, and even the way I handle intellectual issues.  My commitment to Christ has put me in touch with answers to life’s questions that I never would have discovered otherwise.  Knowing Christ has given me a reliable foundation on which to build my life.

But that’s not the only crucial correct decision I have ever made.  Another crucial correct decision I have made was to marry the gal I married 33 years ago.  I can only imagine how different my life might have been otherwise.  The spouse we choose will have an impact on our home life, our finances, our career, and our children.  The decision of whom to marry is not a question with only 1 right answer (otherwise second marriages would never work).  To marry or not is a question in itself.  But if we marry, choosing character matters more than finding compatibility.  A couple with character can work through their differences, but even the best-matched couple is sunk without trustworthiness, care, and commitment.  Choosing such a person is a life-altering choice.

Choices about intimacy are choices that involve the totality of who we are. Choices that can lead to addiction can also be landmark decisions.  I’m glad I never tried a cigarette.  I’m glad I said No to all the marijuana I was offered while I was in college.  Such decisions make a more powerful difference than the traits we were born with.

Near the end of Joshua’s life, Joshua calls the nation of Israel together and proclaims to them that they must choose for themselves once and for all whom they will serve.  They must choose between the God who led them out of Egypt, and the gods of the surrounding nations.  And the choice they make will make a world of difference.

Joshua reminds his people that idolatry is in their DNA.  Their distant ancestors used to worship the gods of Mesopotamia.  Their immediate ancestors used to worship the gods of Egypt.  Joshua calls them to make a break from the DNA in their past.

Joshua knows that a decision to serve the Lord is a decision that each person must make for themselves.  No one else can do it for you.  Your response to God is what counts, not your family’s nor anyone else’s.  Joshua gives them space to make their own decision.  He knows this kind of decision will be meaningless unless it’s truly our own.

Decision is an act of the will.  It happens when we say, “I will seek counseling for my emotional problems.  I will seek treatment for my addiction.  I will destroy my credit card.  I will keep a separate roof over my head until we are ready to be married.”  One fact that sets us above the animal world is the fact that we humans are not locked into our instincts or conditioning.  We humans are free to choose our own response.  What makes us humans most like God is our ability to rise above our programming.  We are capable of making life-transforming decisions, including the choice to defy our DNA.

We’ve seen how the sins of parents are visited upon the children for generations; like parent, like child.  We see the constant cycle of violence, the constant cycle of dysfunctional family behavior.  Our families pass down powerful scripts to us that shape our sense of who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.

But instead of being locked into a dysfunctional script passed down to us by our ancestors, the good news is that we can write a new script for our lives.  As Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “a tendency that’s run through your family for generations can stop with you. You are a transition person, a link between the past and the future. And your own change can affect many, many lives downstream.”

Catherine and I have both inherited dysfunctional family histories.  But we are determined to make a break with the past.  We are determined to be a transitional generation.  We are determined to write a new script for our family’s future, to do as Joshua does where he says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years that our faults have all been programmed into us by genetics.  We’re told there’s an adultery gene, a violence gene, and all kind of other congenital excuses why we do what we do.  We say, “God made me this way.  That’s just who I am.”  But none of us is stuck with what we were born with. 

The human brain is born with only 25% of the neurons we have when we grow up.  The other 75% are produced by our responses to our environment, by the choices we make.  And although it may take a lifetime to reprogram ourselves, with God’s power, we can choose to rewrite what our experiences and our choices have wired into our brains.

God created the basics of who we are, although God did not create our selfishness or other defects.  We all have desires and impulses that are rooted in who we are.  But God did not create us to be slaves to our natures.  God created us to rise above our nature.

God is not glorified by robots who are controlled by our DNA.  God is glorified by beings who are free to make choices that are pleasing to God.  No one can condemn a robot for doing what it is programmed to do.  The fact that God will hold us responsible for our actions only makes sense if it’s true that we are more than machines, more than robots.  Unlike machines, robots, or even animals, we have the power of choice, the power to defy our DNA.  We can rise above the scripts we’ve had drilled into our heads.

Our life is the product of a long list of decisions we have made.  Some of those decisions will have a profound impact on how our life turns out, far more than anything written in our DNA.  But the most important decision we will ever make is our decision to let Jesus Christ put us right with God and take control of our life.  What we do with Christ is a decision that will determine our eternal destiny.  The choice is up to us.  As Joshua says, “If you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Let us pray.  Lord, in our watershed decisions in life, help us to make choices we will not regret in the future.  Help us to rise above our programming, whenever it gets in the way of Your loving plan for our lives.  And help those who have never done so before to make that life-changing decision to turn their lives over to Christ’s control.  We ask in His name.  Amen.

 

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