This Thing Called Choice

Recently I came across a posting for a job that I considered applying for. So many people encouraged me to apply but I wanted to hear from God and get the final green light. For days I kept praying, looking for a sign and after many days of waiting it hit me. God was not going to give me a sign! Instead, He would bless my choice like He promises in His word:

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1:6 NIV

God doesn’t make the choices for us. He orders our steps; He points us in the right direction through His word (Psalm 119:105) and through the counsel of trusted men and women (Prov 15:22); He may go as far as to give us the desire of our hearts to pursue certain choices (Psalm 21:2). But God will never make that final choice for us.

Two things intrigue me about Psalm 1:6 quoted above. The first is that my choices are not automatically the right ones because I profess to love and serve God. This scripture and others in the bible emphasize that this privilege is reserved for the godly, for the righteous. I need to be in right standing with God. When I am godly, I attract the presence of the Holy God into my affairs and He comes in, rejoicing over me with singing! How can my choices be horrible when God Himself delights in all the details of my life and is excited to share my successes and joys with me?

If you do what the LORD wants, he will make certain each step you take is sure/The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23 CEV/NLT

The second thing from Psalm 1:6 was the emphasis on the word way. There is a binary contrasted here: the way of the righteous and the way of the sinner. Let’s read the entire passage that culminates to this ending.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1:1-6 NIV

By our choices, the way in which we walk, we are either blessed or condemned. I recently heard an argument by a so-called preacher for a God that loves so much He cannot send people to hell!  Well… to that I say God does not send people to hell. People send themselves there by the choices they make. What God did for man in that regard was that He himself paid the ultimate price of death for atonement of sin for everyone. He continues to love everyone regardless of race, creed,  sexual orientation, and any other socially constructed categorization. He earnestly wills and desires that everyone will be saved (1 Tim 2: 4). What God will not do is make the choice of life everlasting or eternal damnation for anyone.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. Deuteronomy 30:15 NLT

There is a way that leads to life and prosperity; and one that leads to disaster and death.  And the choice is yours to make. Scripture describes the way of life as narrow – a path less trodden; a path that seems contrary to mainstream thinking; a path you might be alone on in the company of your family, your coworkers, your spouse, your friends (Matthew 7:13-14). Finding the narrow way is very easy- Jesus said I am the way to life! That’s the first choice. Now staying on/ in the way of the righteous is a series of choices that we make daily. A line in one of my favourite songs is that “every choice is an act of war”– a war to stay on the path of the righteous or to walk in the way of the wicked. The comforting news here is that God watches over the way/ path of the righteous!

So what do you choose today?

…follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous. Psalm 2:20 NLT

Yours Truly.

 

Forgiven

I have done some really stupid things in my short existence here on earth… some of them I have chocked to immaturity but no matter how much I excuse others,  they have got a hook in my conscience and can bring me to a place of shame with just a fleeting thought. And yet most days, I strut about guilt-free, not carrying the weight of my careless past around. More often than not, I feel FORGIVEN. I say more often than not because there are a few days where a random event triggers memories from my past and with the memories come a twinge of condemnation. But even then, I still feel FORGIVEN.

Over the past few weeks, I have come to the realization that forgiveness is not free and should not be taken for granted. It always comes at a cost both to the forgiver and the forgiven; a cost which is manifest in expectations.

As we continue with our series on the Lord’s Prayer (sorry for the hiatus), I have had time to ponder over the next section:

Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 GNT

Two expectations of the one who is forgiven are that:

  1. He or she does not become a repeat offender.  John 8:11: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” BSB. Jesus expectation of the woman caught in adultery was that having been forgiven, she’d not put herself in that position again.
  2.  He or she would replicate such forgiveness.

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” Matthew 18: 23- 35 NLT

The expectation of the forgiven is that they will, in turn, become the forgivers.

Forgiveness needs to be given freely and often. It is to be given without any demands of the offender; knowing full well that the offender may require to be forgiven for similar or other offences over and over again.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! Matthew 18:22 BSB

It seems like a difficult task and frankly a futile one. Why forgive with the understanding that you can be hurt again? Another lesson from weeks of pondering is that forgiveness is not easy. It is easy to say to someone who owes you money, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!” only if you can afford to do so. Cancelling another’s debt  (sin, offence, trespass is likened to debt in scripture) like the King in the story above did can only come from one place: abundance.

It is not the abundance of things that I speak of; cos life does not consist in an abundance of possession (Luke 12:15). Rather I speak of the abundant life that Jesus promises: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10 ESV). This abundant life is the impetus for forgiveness. When God forgives you of all your wrongdoing, and you walk about guilt and condemnation-free, that’s winning the lottery of abundant life! You’ve got it good. You’ve been made and so you can afford to freely cancel other’s debt.

That’s not even the best part. The best part is that as we forgive others, God forgives us too. For those who love science, that’s a positive feedback loop! The more you forgive, the more you are forgiven and the more you are forgiven, the more you forgive. It sounds glamorous, I know, but forgiveness is far from glamorous. It is painstakingly difficult.

The reality of it all is this: To whom much is given, much is expected. The expectation of the forgiven is to become a forgiver. And if there’s anyone who has been forgiven much it is me! And so for me, forgiveness is not a choice. It is God’s expectation of me. And I know I can count on God’s spirit to fill me abundantly with His love and grace in my time of dryness so I can graciously forgive as God has forgiven me.

Give me this day my daily bread, O God,  so out of my abundance of love, and grace, and truth, and mercy, I can confidently say to those who offend me, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!

Yours Truly.

 

Picture from Clear Sky Group. (2018, November 23). The importance of forgiveness in recovery. Retrieved from https://clearskyibogaine.com/the-importance-of-forgiveness-in-recovery/