Yesterday we received in the mail an advertisement for yet another flavor of toothpaste being marketed by one of the major manufacturers. There was a day in the not-too-distant past when there were just three or four choices of toothpaste. Today the toothpaste section of your local retailer is filled with a plethora of choices. Some offer stripes with mouthwash. Others have different flavors. Some promote whiter teeth. Others fight breath odor. A single manufacturer may offer all these options. The same thing is true for potato chips. There are multiple choices: smooth, ridged, thick, thin, fried, baked, flavored or unsalted. We have become a people of many choices. This is true in many areas of our lives. To quote an old marketing slogan, “Have it your way!” We like it that way and we expect that kind of option throughout our lives.
This week while reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers I was struck by his assessment that the Christian life offers only two choices. He writes on February 12, “Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey.” So Chambers says there are only two choices, obedience or rebellion. That is a sobering assessment for people who are used to having multi-national companies cater to our every whim and preference. Are we convinced enough that God really is the creator of all that is and that He wants our best? If so, ought obedience simply be natural and our immediate response? But we struggle with obedience. We say we cannot forgive or ask for forgiveness. We want our preachers to be engaging and the information to be easily accessible and in agreement with our pre-disposition politically, emotionally or theologically. Where are the places in our lives where we are challenged to stop living as if we are estranged from God and start having this life we have been given molded into the image of Jesus Christ?
Several years ago I heard Carl George, a church consultant, say, “Most of us are educated far beyond our obedience.” That is to say that we know much more of God and His ways than we have incorporated into our lives. Carl was arguing that small community groups where we know more about one another’s lives and where we can call one another into accountability are the most effective way of producing disciples in obedience to Christ. If that is true, what does it say about our desire and commitment to following Christ?
When we blindly pursue our preferences our ability to make choices, especially when it comes to faith, we run the danger of creating something that simply is a reflection of ourselves. Following only our choices creates a god out of us. While working on this blog, I came across this picture that suggests when we insist on our choices instead of obedience to God we confuse faith with not getting what we want. Faith in Jesus Christ is about learning to live as God’s, not living in such a way that we get to exercise our religious choices. That is a tremendous difference.
Chambers is probably correct. Ultimately there are only two choices for those who call Christ Lord: obedience or rebellion. One of my seminary professors and pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, Dr. Bryant Kirkland once said, “When you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you say ‘no’ to a host of others.” Saying ‘yes’ to Jesus gives us only one option. Full obedience is frightening. It means giving complete control of our lives to God and eliminating our choice. Yet what other option is there for those who say to Jesus, “You alone have the words of eternal life?” (John 6:68)