Do you make God-honoring decisions? When those certain moments present themselves, do you consistently make choices that honor Jesus and reflect Him to a fallen world? Or do you please yourself and act selfishly? Life is full of choices. Some of them are insignificant, but many are moments of challenge–opportunities for us to “deny…[ourselves], and take up…[our] cross daily, and follow” Christ (Luke 9:23) by making a conscious decision to choose the harder path rather than the easier one–the option that honors Him and benefits another, rather than the one we prefer.
“…Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain…” (Philippians 1:22b-25a, NIV)
It is comforting, in some way, to know that not only I, but even Paul of Tarsus–the eminent St. Paul of the Bible–struggled with this dilemma. That is because making decisions is part and parcel of each of our lives. Those who do not know Christ have a conscience, but consistently making the right choice becomes especially significant after we have understood God’s claim on our lives–that He is the “Patre” (Latin for “Father”) from whom all “patria” (families, hence all of us, as we have all come from a family of some sort, however broken) originate. It is also why Jesus’ accusation to those who rejected the truth (“You are of your father, the devil” John 8:44) was such an indictment–it is an abomination that those God created, who come from Him and are rightly to derive their identity and character from Him, should reflect not His holy nature, but that of another.
All of life is, thus, a process of God presenting us with opportunity after opportunity–some significant, some less so–to make decisions, and these decisions reveal to whom we belong. They reflect someone’s character–whether that of Jesus Christ, our rightful Lord and Master who purchased us away from a life of wrong thinking and wrongdoing, or that of the impostor and deceiver, Satan. And these decisions typically are contingent on what gives us pleasure and comfort, as opposed to what benefits another or brings God glory more. It really does boil down to a “me or not me” choice. That’s why Jesus told us to deny ourselves–because we really have to.
This does not, of course, mean that we are bad to ourselves for its own sake. Many of our decisions do, however, impact others, and we must keep their well being in mind as well as ours. We are specifically taught, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others'” (Philippians 2:4) and “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth [benefit?].” (1 Corinthians 10:24 KJV) As the people of God, we must spend our lives serving each other, benefitting each other, loving each other, and emptying ourselves for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ and for others–because this is how Jesus, our Lord and Master–our example–lived:
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20:25-28 NIV)
Jesus emptied Himself for us. Rather than accept rightful recognition for who He truly was–for the glory He had with the Father before the worlds began (John 17:5)–the Son of God accepted scorn and ignominy for our sakes. He chose to give rather than receive.
Yet many of us today who call ourselves “Christian” no longer live this way. Rather than giving our lives away in service to others as obedience to Christ, we live for ourselves, denying Him. We imagine that spending our lives serving others is something only a select special few do. Rather than seeking the good of others, we spend our lives seeking our own good, as does the rest of humanity, and are then surprised that the world sees no difference between us and others. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13 NIV) We have have lost our saltiness.
It is typically not so in places where the gospel is not welcome. Converts in China and the Middle East frequently give up all, up to and including their comfort and even their lives, for Christ because they correctly recognize Him as the most precious pearl of the greatest value. They understand that it is worth giving up all we have to gain Him.
So, do you honor God with your decisions? Do you consistently make choices that reflect Jesus to a fallen world? Can I honestly affirm with Paul , “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11 )?
Help me deny myself, take up my cross, and follow You! Amen.