Ever think of yourself as a historian? Yes, you are writing history every day. You are the author, and your decisions are the chapters. Every choice is another page.
Decisions, decisions. This is God’s plan from the beginning, that we be free moral agents, responsible for our destiny. God gives us the tools, and we are responsible to use them. He can’t make the decisions for us. He doesn’t write our history. That is our job.
If He made the decisions, we would be robots, doing only what we had been programmed to do. But God doesn’t want robots. He wants our decision, our commitment, our heart, our will.
This has been His plan from the beginning. It was God’s proposition to Israel:
Deuteronomy 30:19 19I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
They had to choose, WE have to choose. Again and again and again, all through life we are constantly choosing: Life or death; blessing or cursing. And always from above is God’s strong appeal: “Choose LIFE!”
The opportunity for LIFE attracts us! ETERNAL life. Life WITHOUT END. Life EVERLASTING.
No way to get this kind of life on our own. We need God. We need His guidance, His directions. This brings us to respond to the familiar passage in Proverbs:
Proverbs 3:5–6 5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
“He shall direct your paths”—how? Not by a voice from heaven; not by some mysterious wavelength transmitted directly to our brain. God’s directions come to us in the form of an instruction manual (the Bible) that we must read and study and apply in our lives so that we can make the right decisions. That is the very reason for Scripture. As Paul said,
2 Timothy 3:16–17 16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God provides His Word as light for our path.
Psalm 119:105 105Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
His Word is a lamp, but a lamp doesn’t keep us on the path. (It would if we were robots!) We have to follow it, walk in the light, voluntarily CHOOSE where we walk.
God’s plan is to make His knowledge available to us, gives us the tools and the support system we will need, and the rest is our responsibility. God does not make us what we are. We are not robots.
Yesterday we at the church office had to work on lin with the bank to resolve some issues with our on-line banking access. It involved a lot of time and numerous log-ins, and with each log-in I had to affirm that “I Am Not A Robot” by correctly identifying skewed, mixed or awkwardly placed letters or numbers. I’m sure you have seen the like.
Why did I have to do this? Because they are trying to be sure they were working with a real person, and identifying varied letters was something a robot could not be pre-programmed to do—at least not yet. By naming the letters correctly I was showing that I was reading them, that I was making the decisions, and not a robot.
That is how God works with us. He could do everything for us, but He has a wiser plan. He wants OUR response, OUR obedience, OUR commitment.
God does not make us what we are; we are responsible for our decisions through life, we are not robots. It comes to us from Joshua’s last meeting with the Israelite elders before he died.
First he reminded them of all that God had done for them.
Joshua 24:13 13I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’
Then Joshua set this proposition before them. They had to make their own decision. They were not robots, they were RESPONSIBLE before God.
Joshua 24:14–15 14“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15And if it seems evil to you 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 dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
No question on his side, his decision was firm:
“…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua’s position went on record for all time to come. He was DECIDED! Shall we say that the people responded in kind?
Joshua 24:16–18 16So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. 18And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
They were not robots. They were making their own history. Yes, their words sounded good at the moment, but we know the rest of the story. Their decision did not last; their hearts had not changed.
Contrast with the apostles of Jesus. Far from being robots, a number of them made an immediate and complete turn-around. Take the account of Jesus calling the fishermen, Peter and Andrew.
Mark 1:16–18 16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Immediately. They were not robots, no pre-programming here. It was an immediate and firm decision. Immediate career change. They “left their nets and followed Him.” They saw it as an opportunity to be quickly grasped.
The calling of James and John follows in Mark’s gospel.
Mark 1:19–20 19When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
James and John were saying positively, This is MY decision. I am not a robot. Decision made. Immediately.
Notice also that they left their father “in the boat with the hired servants,” and followed Jesus. Did he object? They had a successful fishing business, but following Jesus meant more than the money.
Obviously their father was not of the same mind with his two sons. At least he let them know, “I’m not going.”
What about Matthew the tax collector? Surely he showed himself to be not a robot. Maybe he had something good for this world, but he could see that Jesus had something BETTER!
Luke 5:27–28 27After these things [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
No robot here, but a quick and solid decision. Surely Levi had thought about it before this moment. Surely Levi had heard Jesus preaching. When Jesus presented the opportunity, he was ready.
28So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
What about Zaccheus? Didn’t he show a firm decision for Jesus? Of course he ran and climbed the sycamore tree to see him, then…
Luke 19:5–10 5And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
There were objectors.
7But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
Tax collectors were hated and despised. How could Zaccheus follow Jesus—wasn’t every tax collector dishonest?
8Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
Think about it. Zaccheus wanted to be RIGHT. No robot response here. He wanted to make a straight course following Jesus. We have to wonder how many may have come demanding his refunds!
But Jesus commended him.
9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
What about Paul’s decision? Surely he was no robot! And the family very likely had strong objections. But Paul didn’t ask them, or leave it up to them. His own account says this:
Galatians 1:13–16 13For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,
“Flesh and blood” would be his family connections. Paul did not go there. It was his life, not theirs. And it was his decision, not theirs.
He could have lots of reasons to talk it over with them. He could have had lots of reasons not to go Christ’s way. But Paul saw in Christ something we see—there is no other way to get LIFE. There is no other way to get beyond MORTALITY. Every other career ends in the grave.
But the decision is one WE have to make. There is no other way to get it. That is why Paul said,
Philippians 3:8,11 8Yet 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 11if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
“If by ANY means…”
That is why Paul said, “This ONE thing I do.” His own solid decision, no robot.
And that must be OUR decision also, renewed every day, all day. It is the ONLY way to LIFE! Because we are responsible. We are not robots!