NOTE: This is, likely, the longest piece I will ever post. But, it is foundational to where I am coming from. This piece was originally written several years ago. —lrd
Have you ever thought about how many choices you make in a day? Now, I don’t know the exact answer to that question; but, in general, I know it is a lot – a whole lot.
I once heard that the single hardest thing refugees from the former Soviet Union had to deal with when they immigrated to America was the number of decisions they had to make on a daily basis. A trip to the grocery store for example, could almost paralyze them. They could scarcely believe that there was shelf after shelf of different kinds of bread; and ditto for laundry detergent and many, many other products. They had never before been in a position where they had to make so many decisions and it simply overwhelmed them.
Some of the choices we face seem insignificant. Some are so simple we aren’t actually aware that we have a choice. We simply do what seems best at that moment; often without giving it much – if any – thought. But, every choice has consequences – sometimes BIG consequences.
Belief in god is a choice. If you agree with that statement, the first thing I want you to do is ask yourself, “Why is it a choice?” “Why did I ever even consider if there is a god?” Well, if there is no god, how can one have any form of reference to even frame the question? Why would it even come into your mind? Have you ever asked yourself if you believe in rano? No? Why not?
Yet, at some point in our lives we arrive at, ‘The Question’. “Is there a god?” (Not coincidentally, even the most primitive cultures on Earth – or advanced cultures in the most remote places – have also asked this question; and come up with the answer… “Yes!” But, why? Why does our mind create the concept of some… thing, or someone… bigger, higher, more powerful …Supreme? Why does everyone on planet Earth deal with this question?
Some would say it’s because we cannot otherwise explain what we see and experience. But the true answer is, “Because God ‘hard wired’ a bit of Himself into us”. Think about it all you want, but I think you will come back to this: at some time in our lives, we think about God.
That is not the critical point, however. What is critical is the choice (decision) you make. It is a decision that will change your life forever. (And, by ‘forever’, I mean for eternity).
And, yes it is a decision you make. You have the choice because you have free will. This tells us something about God. He doesn’t say, “You must believe in me and do my bidding”. Nor does he say, “If you believe in me, you must do my bidding”. Rather, God leaves all the choices to us.
How do we know which choices to make? This is what it came down to for me. These are the conclusions I came to.
- There is a God. (I made this basic choice when I realized it was no accident that I was wrestling with the question).
- O.K. Given that God hard-wired me to seek Him, would he then just leave me high and dry with no guidance? No, there has to be directions (or at least clues) on who He is and how to relate to Him.
- One thing I already knew. God wasn’t going to force me into anything. After all, I didn’t have to decide there is a God. (That there is, seemed the logical answer to me, but I could have decided to be an atheist. Or, I could (and did for a short time) claim to be an agnostic. But then it occurred to me that agnosticism was just a cop-out and a very dangerous position. If God doesn’t exist, no problem. But if He does (and I had a deep conviction that he did), then claiming ignorance was – well, less than ignorant, it was stupid.
So, given that God exists and I have free-will, I decided to exercise it. I was going in search for the truth. (Once I decided this – I was 19 at the time – I started a quest that took me on a lot of false trails and tangents; and lasted 12 years.)
In (college) Comparative Religion 101, I learned about many religions I had never even heard of. It took me years to distill it all down to this. Most religions (and belief systems) rely on good works to admit you into the presence of god (or “enlightenment” if they don’t have a god). So, all you have to do (pretty much) is be a little bit more “good” than you are “bad” and you are on the track to gaining Nirvana, Enlightenment, Paradise, Heaven, whatever. Pretty simple, really. However, it begs several questions, “…just how bad can I be and still make it?” And, “…how do I know exactly what “good” and “bad” is?” Or, “…what are the different degrees of each? (i.e. How many little goodies does it take to offset a big baddie?)”.
Then in Philosophy 101, I learned about all the secular …”isms” – pluralism, relativism, socialism, communism, etc. Believe me there are a lot of them. (And, coincidentally [?] they all make room for the atheist).
Being honest, I have to tell you that relativism had its attractive arguments – at least to a point. It was very inclusive. One could say, all-inclusive. After all, a lot does depend on your perspective or point of observation. Let’s take a simple example. (If a train is moving east at 30 mph, and a child on the train is running west at 4 mph, which direction, and at what speed is the child moving. West at 4 mph – if you are in the coach he is running through. East at 26 mph – if you are sitting at the crossing watching as the train passes by. But, how about if you are in near-Earth orbit? That kid would be moving east at over a thousand mph – accounting for Earth’s rotation (at the equator) and not considering Earth’s movement around the Sun (approximately 67,000 mph). But then there is also the movement of our solar system in the Milky Way and our galaxy’s movement in the universe. So, really it is relative. And further, since there are an infinite number of potential observation points, all possible answers are correct. There is no one correct answer. Or so a relativist would argue. And, the inevitable result of that reasoning is the conclusion that there is no absolute truth. And, if there is no absolute truth, there is no God. My, what a slippery slope! (But, as I noted, it is inclusive, …except for God).
This led me back to questioning the existence of God, and the question, without God what is the basis for any kind of moral code. If there are no universal truths, and everything is relative, then morals are strictly up to the individual aren’t they? And, that begs another question, “…what about law and justice?”
My next conclusions were:
- There has to be such a thing as absolute truth. Again, given that there is a God, then God certainly knows exactly how things (and people) should operate. He would have laws, guidelines and expectations for us. Relativism as a moral code is a contradiction of terms. Everyone can’t be “right”. Everyone can be “wrong”. Oh yeah, that’s going to work real well as a basis for morals and a legal code.
- Therefore, God has to be the source of all Truth.
- Reconciliation with God, based on works, can’t get me there. For instance, how about that question concerning “multiple little goodies” making-up for a “BIG baddie?” I know I’ve done lots of small and medium baddies, probably even some big baddies – that would depend on God’s definition of each, and how he “weighs” them. And what about “intent” and “motivation” – they too have to be weighed, don’t they? This all gets very confusing. How can I ever be sure I’m “right” with God. After all, if God is God (and He is), how can I ever begin to understand His mind?
- I ought not to presume that I will ever understand everything God does, or how he thinks. My mind is finite. His is not. In other words, there will be questions for which I will be unable to find specific answers – or, answers that make logical sense. Therefore, I have to rely on faith. (Just like scientists do with scientific questions for which they can find no answer. They do not conclude there is no answer. They have faith there is an answer that has not yet been found. So, I have no excuse for not studying God and learning all that I am capable of learning about Him and His Truth. But where do I find the information?
- Reading the various sacred writings wasn’t much help. All it did was thoroughly confuse the issue. The arguments that, “…all religions have equal validity” and, “…it doesn’t make any difference what you believe if you truly believe it and live it you will be all right” are wishful thinking and dead wrong. This led me right back to Paragraph B) (above) …God has to be the source of Truth, Right, and Wrong.
All through this “journey” I had gone out of my way to avoid the Bible and Judeo-Christian thought. Why? Well, that was how I was raised. I knew all the stories and most of it I wasn’t buying for one minute. The Bible seemed too… convenient. I didn’t trust its authenticity. Also, I was simply rebellious, “…there had to be something else”. Yet, I was coming up dry and finally, I begrudgingly looked to Judaism. (Christianity was still too fantastic [think fantasy] for me to consider).
I started with learning about the Bible. I found many books have been written discussing the veracity of the Bible. The net result was that while some things can’t be proven, (the meta-physical and the truly ancient history) much of the historical information (certainly back to 2000 years BC, or so) can be proven – with very good veracity. Indeed, as archeology continues in the Middle-east more and more evidence for the accuracy of the Bible is found. Prophecy was repeatedly proven. In fact the early Jews had a stiff standard for prophets. If they prophesied falsely they were stoned to death. (A profession one would not have casually taken-up). Anyway, this was encouraging (except, I was finding the same applied to the New Testament and I simply wasn’t ready for that encounter).
The more I read, and the fact that it was verifiable, the more convinced I became that the Old Testament was God’s Instruction Manual for Man. But oh, what dilemmas that created for me! The Jewish Law seemed impossible to live by. Besides being incredibly complex it was based on keeping the Law, which to me was the same as works. And I had already decided that “works” wouldn’t… well… work.
If God not only exists, but also created this entire universe, and then put man on Planet Earth, I thought… He must have done it for a reason.
And, according to what I now accepted as God’s written words, He originally made us as a reflection of Himself and actually communicated with us, one on one – or, (more accurately) One on two. Therefore, God wanted a personal, intimate, relationship with us. And, that being the case it just made no sense to me that my reconciliation to him would be through works. That would be just too impersonal, too “iffy”, and too improbable.
With “works” being my first sticking point in the Old Testament, my second became the obvious references to, and prophecies about, Jesus that are found there. I kept finding myself pushed towards the encounter with Jesus that I had been doing my best to avoid. And finally, it was staring me in the face. Either this was all so much fiction, or it was (all of it) THE TRUTH. Again, I had a choice. And again, I was free to make my decision either way; except, I had done my homework to this point far too well. I was convinced it was True; and now, what was I going to do with it?
Well, if it was true, it was all true. Any other decision was unacceptable to me. (Kind of like saying 1+1 = 2, but 2+2≠ 4.) The Bible, both Testaments, are either true or they are not. If God didn’t create the universe, then I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. (By the way, when I first started this journey, the scientific “truth” concerning time was that time was infinite and that the universe had always existed. Of course now there is general (but not complete) agreement that space has always existed; but, time and the universe came into being at the instant of “the Big Bang”. And, last I knew, the scientific jury was “out” regarding a forever expanding universe or a finite universe that will eventually stop expanding and collapse back upon itself.” I find that I have two very interesting points of agreement with the scientists. The first is that something has existed forever. That something is God. The second is that time and the universe had a beginning. It did, when God spoke it into existence. And, it’s a lot easier for me to imagine God’s “Big Bang” than I can imagine how ‘nature’ violated its own scientific laws (the laws of thermo-dynamics) to create something from nothing – especially something with the energy and mass of the entire universe. But I digress….
My question was, what to do now that I had come to the following conclusions:
- There is a God.
- Jesus is God’s Son.
- Jesus was sent to Earth to offer a Plan of Redemption for my sins.
- God (the Triune God) wants a personal, intimate relationship with me.
- It’s my choice to accept it or walk away.
There is a big difference between knowing something and doing something with that knowledge. Between knowing someone exists; and actually knowing that person on a personal level. In this case, Jesus is the point. Believe me; Satan knows Holy Scripture and Satan believes in Jesus. Satan has chosen to contend with God. The results have been catastrophic for Man and not too good for Satan either. (And, prophesied to get much worse). I made the choice to dedicate my life to Jesus.
When I made that decision, it was as if floodgates opened inside me. Not that I had more knowledge; but rather, I had intimacy with God. And, somewhere in my mind’s eye I saw Jesus standing there with his arms wide , chuckling and saying, “Well, it took you long enough”. (And, it had. I was 31 years old at that time).
Let me be the first to tell you that since that fateful day I have not lived a sinless life. I voluntarily gave my free-will to Christ. But, sometimes, I snatch it back. It always seems like a good idea at the time, and sometimes it works out …O.K. (But, then I wonder what might have been had Jesus taken care of it.) And, far more often it doesn’t work at all to my advantage. Then when I realize what’s going on and go back to Jesus, he still chuckles, shakes his head and says, “Larry, Larry, will you never learn? Welcome home.”
Well, I guess it’s a process. That type of visit seems to be less frequent as time goes by. Oh, we still visit (not often enough, but that’s my fault): and trust me, there is never a shortage of things to “discuss”.
Anyway, after making my choice for Christ, I’ve learned more. Such as…
- I still get to make choices – and I still don’t always make the best choice.
- Involving Jesus in my decision process helps immensely.
- God’s Grace is boundless – and that’s a very good thing for me,
- In God’s Grace is a very secure, although not always comfortable, place to be.
Some After thoughts…
Even though this essay is entitled “Choices…”, belief in Jesus is a matter of FAITH. Yes, I used what seemed logical to me; but, it is ultimately, all based on Faith. I have not seen God in any physical presence – yet, I know He exists, and loves me. How? Through Faith. I would say fact-based Faith, perhaps. But, Faith, none -the-less.
Some might argue that point about ‘God’s Grace being a very secure place to be’. I understand why. However, I think they confuse the terms security and comfort. When you make your choice for God, you get Satan’s attention. Satan recognizes that as a new believer you are more vulnerable to attack than you will be as you mature in your walk of faith. Satan will attack – sometimes forcibly, some-times very subtly. Either way, life can get …uncomfortable – sometimes, extremely uncomfortable. You will need to stand your ground. Then, the more work you do for God, the more likely you are to again draw Satan’s attention, and life will again get quite uncomfortable. (Satan hates effective witnesses). Stand your ground. You quite literally have the power of God dwelling in you. So, you are secure!
”Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is”. *
You, in the security that God is with you, can always stand your ground.
And, another thing I’ve learned (the hard way) is that, as a Christian, we can exercise our free will and choose our sin. But, remember this, we cannot choose the consequences of that sin. And, oh yes, there will be consequences. And, when they come, we must talk to God. Ask for forgiveness, accept the consequences, turn it all over to Him and then, we just might be surprised by the ultimate outcome.
* I don’t know who fist said this, but, they have it right. And, I certainly couldn’t say it any better.