Someday my life is going to consist of a record of choices. There’s going to be a day that I will exhale my last breathe on this earth and inhale my first breath of eternity. In that moment, there will be no scheme, no plan, or intention that will replace even one second of my time and the decisions I’ve made throughout my life. In that moment, in the perspective of eternity, a lifetime on earth will be by comparison the most miniscule measurements of time. In that moment of the ultimate enlightenment, only the choices that I made during my brief stay as a pilgrim and alien here on earth will matter.
The most significant of all the choices be whether I said “yes” or “no” to Christ. Have I said “yes” to His offer of forgiveness? Have I said “yes” to His offer to purchase my self indulgent and self serving life of failure and in exchange allow me to embrace the spotless life that He laid down on the cross on my behalf? Have my actions during my stay reflected the fact that saying “yes” was more than emotion and more than mere words? Did I say “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s knocking at the door of my heart and welcome His presence to not just visit my life, but set up a permanent residence with me? I’ve been a believer for around 17 years now, and these are still questions that I ask myself. Even today, I’ve been examining my life and asking if my “yes” is more than just a word. The bible talks repeatedly about people who profess faith in God, and some who even work great miracles standing before Him on that great day and hearing, “Depart from me you who work iniquity, I never knew you.” In another place it talks about a broad highway that many people travel on that leads to destruction and a narrow path that leads to life. It says that few people will ever find that path leading to life. My greatest prayer today is that God would examine my life completely and remove anything that is standing between us. Sometimes those of us who submerse our lives in ‘church’ are at the greatest risk of becoming so much a part of religion that we separate ourselves from the very God that religion is attempting to connect with.
That is not the only choice that we will give an account for however. The bible also talks about being rewarded for our actions and choices here during this lifetime, and as I was reading today I noticed again an awesome choice that Christ made. Before He was taken into custody by the religious leaders and government to be beaten and crucified, He went to a garden to pray. In that Garden, He was completely aware of all that was about to happen to Him. He was aware that one of His closest companions was going to use a kiss of betrayal as a signal to the people who had come to capture Him. He knew that He would be brutally beaten by elite and merciless soldiers. He knew that, as this was happening, He would look out to catch a glimpse of one of His best friends as this friend cursed and denied even knowing Him. He knew that He would die an agonizing and painful death. He knew that He would be leaving all of the people who He loved more deeply than anyone has ever loved another person. In full awareness of this, He made the most significant decision ever made on behalf of humanity.
I think sometimes I’m guilty of thinking that because He was God in the flesh that this decision was easy, but I am convinced that it was as far from easy as it would have been for you or I to make that same decision. Listen to His words as He prayed about the coming events. “Papa, Father, you can–can’t you?–get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want–what do you want?” (Mark 14:36) This decision was so difficult in fact that the Bible tells us that His the pores of His skin actually began to bleed as His body was suffering under the stress of most extreme mental anguish imaginable. His prayer, “get me out of this” tells me that His desire was to avoid what was ahead of Him. This request comes immediately after His statement, “Father! All things are possible for You”
What I believe is that in that moment He had a choice. If you disagree with that, you’re basically saying that God doesn’t have free will. In that moment, He had a choice to do anything. Even on the cross, He could have called for legions of angels to rescue Him. What else would he have chose? I don’t know. I might have chosen to spend a few more days with the people I loved. I might have spend another evening making sure the disciples understood their task. I may have fed a few more hungry people, healed some more sick people, or maybe even raised a dead guy or two. Maybe I would have just indulged in one last fun evening with my friends. But He didn’t chose any of those, and if 33 years of Jesus was good, wouldn’t 34 have been better?
There is another verse in the Bible that tells us that, “for the joy that was set before Him” He endured the cross even though He despised the shame. The love that was at the very core Jesus’ nature was more powerful than the fear and agony of dying a brutal death. His desire to see me freed from an eternal death was greater than all of the reasons He had to enjoy His own life. The joy of seeing me coming to know Him, and the joy of seeing you coming to know Him was empowered by a love so great that it caused the vicious death to be a worthy price to pay. He did have the option to choose, but He chose to give up His own life in exchange for mine.
In Luke 9, Jesus was talking about His death and said this to those following Him, “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
If I have one criticism of modern American ‘church’ it is that we have begun embracing a self indulgent gospel. We have swallowed so much of the prosperity message that many of us have begun to feel entitled to a life of ease and “blessing”. Perhaps we are entitled to it. In fact, Jesus was too. The Word says that for our sakes He became poor so that we could become rich. But isn’t a gross injustice when we begin to indulge ourselves on the riches purchased by Christ to the point that we have become a nation plagued by obesity – and the obesity that we suffer from most isn’t the kind that you can measure with a waist band.
We do have a choice. God has graciously given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. He has made our prosperity His pleasure, and we know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. However, we also have a choice to consume all that life affords us. We can make the choice to “save our life” here on earth, but in the process are we missing out on the life that comes to “whoever loses their life for” Him?
The world needs Jesus. Jesus loved. He loved enough to give up all that He was entitled to for anyone who was willing to accept it.
So the other thing I’ve been asking myself lately is, “Am I willing to lay it all down.” If God called me to the ultimate sacrifice today, would I be willing to say “yes”. Have I placed so much value on loving Him, that any other cost would be utterly insignificant by comparison? Would I be able to say “yes” if it meant that I wouldn’t see my daughter and wife again this side of eternity? What if it meant that I wasn’t able to see the birth of this baby? I know that’s extreme, but if you read scripture, you’ll quickly find that Jesus didn’t bring a cake and ice cream gospel. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m there. My prayer is that God would give me a greater glimpse into whatever it was He saw as the “joy set before Him” that empowered Him to give up everything for humanity, even those who would ultimately reject Him.
I guess this is a little more heavy than the things I typically write, but it’s where I’m at right now in life. I welcome you feedback, and I appreciate your prayers. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2)