Life is full of choices. Every day brings new challenges and decisions for you and me and everyone around us. Every day is a new day, and every day means we either choose to live for God, by the standards He lays down in the Holy Bible, or we live for ourselves by our own standards of right and wrong, as in the days when, ". . . every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Jud 21:25). How does the Christian learn to make right choices and live in the center of God's will every day?
by Jerry Gentry
"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Jos 24:15).
Every land has its gods. The Arabs of the Middle East serve Allah; East Indians serve the many gods of Hinduism; the Chinese serve a well fed bulging Buddha and Tao; and American Indians worship the gods of wind and fire and rocks and rain. Central Africans worship a Voodoo of ancestors and demonism and reincarnation and superstition.
The Caucasian Western World serves the God of the Bible, the Christian God, or so you might think. You can witness cathedrals and churches scattered across lands from Armenia, cradled in the Caucasus Mountains (from whence we derive the word "Caucasian") to Amsterdam; from Cologne to London, from Portland to Portugal and Paris; and from Los Angeles, California, that once blessed "city of the Angels" to Mainstreet, Anytown, USA.
Yes, in name at least, we are a Western World of Christianity. We once served the true God. Our churches still stand, but does our faith? Today we might still be called at least "the Western World of Churchianity." Our world is full of churches in every city and town and country village and hamlet. What went wrong? When did our faith lose its vigor, its verve, its very salt? How does Hollywood and football and television and all the world's pomp and glory command our attention, while we neglect the faith of our fathers?
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve."
Breathtaking cathedrals and modern church meeting halls that seat ten thousands and more still dot our great lands. Travel not too far and you may still spot a quaint country church in the wildwood, or even that little brown church in the dale, with sunbeams gleaming against its steeple and gospel hymns echoing from its wooden walls. Yes, we are a "churched" populace of the Caucasian Western World, with ample buildings and altars and holy places and trappings. We can pray and sing and hear choirs and listen to preachers; we can go to confessional, receive holy communion, and kneel to God. But is God personally real to us? Is He real to you, today, friend?
All across the countryside the Bible was carried everywhere and by it we became the Western Christian world. It was named and read as the religious book of kings and commoners, of gentry and peasantry, of lords and ladies and laity. No one disputes that the spread of Christianity is as Caucasian as apple pie is American. Historic Christianity is as Caucasian as kangaroos and koalas and crocodiles are Australian.
But something has happened to Western Christianity between the days of Christ and his disciples, and today. We read in the New Testament that Christians, though not all, lived differently from the world. A new way of living is central to the message of the gospel. Jesus taught: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1John 2:15). He taught, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [the physical necessities of life] shall be added unto you" (Matt 6:33). What does this mean? How do these commands apply to our lives today?
We all certainly live in this world, but we are commanded by Jesus not to love it. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world," he said. What is this world we are not to love? The Bible gives us the clear, definitive answer:
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1John 2:16). Now these are broad categories of things which every Christian is commanded not to love&emdash;"the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," summed up as "the world." Lust and pride form the heart of worldliness. Christian, this world of lust and pride may not prevent your salvation; however, for sure, the unbridled pursuit of lust and pride will bring chastening and just might cause you to lose your crown in the kingdom.
What does your flesh demand that you know is wrong, but you cannot seem to get a handle on? Do you worship your child or mate or buddy or boss or the television set or your clothes or car or even your cat? Where do you draw the line? Is it your neighbor's wife or husband? Is it a dirty magazine or romance novel you have sold your soul to? Is it your unbridled appetite for food or gossip? What is the level of your personal Christianity? What part of the world do you still love more than you love God? If you will be honest, you must admit to such an area you struggle with daily.
Paul spoke of such a sin in his life: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebr. 12:1). Be honest and you must admit, at least to your self and God, that you struggle with something like that, called, "the sin which doth so easily beset us." Yes, brother and sister, there is such a sin in your life, if you will search your heart and not be too proud to admit it.
What have you seen today that you desire enough to sell your soul for? Now that could be just about anything. Is it that shiny new car you just saw on the road? Or is it a trip for two to some far away place you saw in a magazine travel ad? Is it new golf clubs you cannot afford but want so bad you put them on your credit card? Is it a football game? A boyfriend or girlfriend? Is it the guilt of unconfessed secret personal sin that you express as blame toward someone else? What is that piece of "the world" you are holding onto,&emdash;"the sin which doth so easily beset" your life? You should admit that sin to God today and purpose by His help to make the right choice when you are beset.
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Since the days of Joshua long ago, Christians are commanded to make right choices.
Do you choose to serve the gods of gain or deception or two time love or even faithlessness. Joshua's words of old are just another way of saying, "Love not the world," with all its pomp and glory. Who will you serve, Christian? Will you be "churched" while you live a "good" but worldly life? That is what "Churchianity" is all about. He is an unreliable soldier who marches with one foot on high ground, the other dragging in the ditch. Will you be a part-time Christian, first to the prayer rail for confession; then first back to the feeding trough of the swine's pen called worldliness?
Our forefathers once gathered themselves together and heard Moses' stern warning:
"Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,
"Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:
"That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:
"That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
"Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
"But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:
"(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
"And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
"Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;
"And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
"The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.
"And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law: (Deu 29:10-21).
Let's get personal. Do you have a pipeline of Hollywood's false gods into your home? Do you sometimes settle down to HBO or Sin-to-the-Max or even Turner Classics? Do you read Playboy magazine, or other not-so-explicit romance novels to get your thrills? Do you privately smoke, cuss, drink or chew tobacco? You could get your news from radio, you know. And why not rekindle your love affair with Jesus Christ, through reading the Psalms before bed at night. "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world" (1John 4:17). Christian, you are called to a life of holiness amidst an evil world. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Friend, you may fool yourself and others sometimes, but you will never fool God. You choose either God or the world, but not both.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). Mammon is what this world is made of, friend. "Christian" fence straddlers may feel uncomfortable living their disguised worldly lifestyle, but they are not fooling God. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:2). If you treasure God, you will be yielded to him and his Word, without excuses, without blaming others for your own shortcomings. If you are serving God, you will make yourself accountable to your authorities even when you don't feel like it.
Are you yielded to Him as a way of life, or do you really serve this world, through the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life? Lust and pride, or God&emdash;which will it be, friend?
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Lust and pride&emdash;or God. You make the choice, every day, in every way.
Jesus prayed for all Christians, including us. He said: "I pray not that thou [the Father] shouldest take them [Christians] out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15).
How are we to be kept "from the evil?" We must, as Paul taught, strive to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Here the Christian life is called a race which we are to run. Every day we make choices. Every day we get up, spend our time in various activities, then go to bed at night. How we live from morning until night is how we run the race.
Brother, are you neglecting your most important calling? Sister, are you running away from your God-given responsibilities? Be honest. Are you ducking out on your duties, while you think no one notices? The honest answers to these questions tell whether you are just "churched," or whether you are a Christian indeed. Your calling is clear. Will you rise to the occasion, lay aside your lust and pride, and choose to live for God every day?
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods [of lust and pride] which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."