A Clear Choice
Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.(Deuteronomy 8:3)
“Your word is truth,” Jesus said to His Father(John17:17) Nothing less than knowledge of that truth is demanded of Christ’s disciples. That knowledge comes only from fervent study of truth- study of His Word. This is indispensable to genuine discipleship. It is indispensable to loving God.
Perhaps the real reason we do not pursue the radical discipleship rooted in the Word of God is that we have not recognized the clear choice before us. That choice is most clearly illustrated for us in the sharp contrasts of two biblical accounts: Eve in the Garden of Eden(Genesis 3) and Christ in the wilderness of Judea(Matthew 4). Consider the responses of each when confronted with Satan’s challenge regarding the Word of God.
Eve knew what God said, but when put to the test, she disobeyed His Word. Her disobedience caused the fall of humanity.
Jesus also knew what God had said. Put to the test, He obeyed and trusted His whole life to the Word. His obedience- even unto the death on the cross- is the way of our redemption from the fall.
If presented with the choice to be like Eve or to be like Jesus, most of us would hasten to line up with Christ. We Christians are usually quick to say we want to “be like Jesus”. But if we are honest about what those familiar Sunday School words really mean, we’ll see they compel us to adopt His attitudes; and that means belief in and submission to, the Scriptures. Instead, we find a thousand ways to resist their truth, to rationalize their calling on our lives. For deep inside we know that obedience to the Scriptures without concern for consequences is penetrating and painful. It requires us to die to self and follow Christ. It demands that we recognize the sin in our lives and that we acknowledge and repent of this sin.
The gift that God gave to us is the gift of choice, even the choice of whether we are His or whether we continue as slaves to sin and Satan. There are those who contend that belonging to God is a one time thing and from that moment they will always belong to God. How I wish that were true. For 46 years now, I have had to make a choice every day who I will follow and to whom I will listen. I wish I could tell you that at all times, every day I have followed Christ since salvation but I find myself far too often yielding to that siren voice of Satan who offers kingdoms with no sacrifice and lack of consequences for poor decisions. I wrestle with living in the now rather than living with eternity in view. Paul captures this struggle in Romans:
So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully delight in the law of God in my inner self [with my new nature], but I see a different law and rule of action in the members of my body [in its appetites and desires], waging war against the law of my mind and subduing me and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is within my members. Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin.
While it may be easy to say the words, it is another thing to live them out. Paul gives us the solution to this struggle. After acknowledging this struggle, and we must keep in mind that he was a fully practicing Hebrew who kept the Law of Moses, he concludes that it is only through Christ that we can ever be delivered. He also indicates that this is a continual struggle. On the surface it may seem hopeless to ever attempt to live a godly life. Some may say it’s futile and some have developed the doctrine of security that implies since we are prone to sin anyway, we just continue to sin and in the end because we have been baptized God will overlook our sin. That’s not the concept the Bible gives. Listen to the words of John:
This is the message [of God’s promised revelation] which we have heard from Him and now announce to you, that God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection]. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]. If we say that we have not sinned [refusing to admit acts of sin], we make Him [out to be] a liar [by contradicting Him] and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:5-10
So then the biblical solution is to openly admit that we have sinned when we have done so, without excuse or justification, confessing that sin to God and trusting Him to not only forgive but to cleanse(remove the stain and desire) of that sin. We trust the Holy Spirit to convict us and to purify us. Our role is to choose to submit either to God or by default to Satan. May we say what Joshua said:
If it is unacceptable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord .”
Dr. John Thompson