Saturday, July 27, 2013

Love is a Choice

Each day, everyone of us wakes up and throughout the day makes thousands upon thousands of choices.  You have subconscious decisions: to breathe, to go to the bathroom appropriately, to open your eyes when you walk; and then you have conscious decisions, the ones you have to think a little about: what should you wear? what should you eat? or some days bigger decisions need to be made: is this the girl I should marry? Where should I go to school? Where should I live?  Now when you were younger, going to the bathroom appropriately seemed liked the hardest task ever! I am sure your parents attest to that.  You just went on feeling.  "I have to go now, change my diaper!" But as you grew older, you were slowly but surely trained to hold it until you could make it to the bathroom.  Soon that became so second nature your body just naturally held it, even while you were sleeping.  The Christian life is a lot like that!  There are areas where each of us struggle and its only through continuous self training and reliance on the Holy Spirit that handling those struggles appropriately becomes second nature.  That is the life of sanctification! It's when we turn to God and follow Him that he changes and molds our hearts.  each time.  each year.  a lifetime of training. 

"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;  and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

Tribulations are basically just really hard choices.  When you first start experiencing tribulations, they test you! Sometimes you fail and make the wrong choice. Other times you succeed. Either way you learn from your mistakes, you rely on God a little bit more, and with each tribulation perseverance grows.  Soon, you are going to God every time and relying on the Holy Spirit.  The choice becomes second nature.  It has now grown to be part of your character.  You have seen God come through countless times now in your tribulations.  After years you can confidently expect God to come through every time for you in your trial.  And that confident expectation is called hope.  

It's all about the choice.

You may have heard this verse before, its kinda popular! But look at Joshua 24 with me.  A little context: This is right before Joshua dies and the time of the Judges begin.  In the entire book of Joshua, we have seen a young man who needed encouragement to be strong and courageous and to not fear right after Moses dies.  He has to lead an entire nation across the Jordan river and into the promised land and evidently he doesn't think he can. We see both God and the Israelites repeatedly reaffirming Joshua to not fear.  That might ring a bell with you. Maybe you know the choice that God wants you to make, you are just afraid.  Afraid of yourself, afraid of how others will treat you, afraid of failing.  Whatever it is, through the entire book of Joshua, we see how he attacks his struggle head on by relying on God and being courageous.  Battle after battle, trial after trial, Joshua has produced perseverance, character and now listen to this in verse 14 and 15 

"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! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose 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" 

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.  You can almost hear him saying it.  Such resolve! we WILL serve the LORD.  I love that.  He just gives the Israelites a choice and an encouragement.  Through Joshua's life, he has learned what choice to make, whom to serve, and now we see him here exhorting the nation to serve the LORD, but that no matter which choice they make, he and his house are going to serve the Lord just as they've done.  

"I 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; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey his voice, and that you may cling to him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (emphasis mine)

Here we see Moses saying the same thing after giving the second reading of the law.  I have given you a choice.  It seems like an easy choice.  And yet so often we thing God is keeping us from something, that the law is bad or too hard.  Choose life guys! why? so that you may love the Lord! Loving God is a choice.  Jesus Christ came down to give us life! He died in our place out of the greatest love there ever has been! All we have to do is choose to believe Him! We dwell on that love He has shown us and we choose to love him back, daily following and seeking after Him, daily calling on the Holy Spirit to guide us, daily coming to the Lord in prayer.  It is a choice we make to love Him.  Its not some feeling.  

For some it is hard to see this lived out and so to draw it back a little and give maybe a more prevalent example in our culture, look at relationships.  Today (and probably for the history of mankind) we have a poor example of love in relationships.  It's all about yourself.  What can this person do for me? If I do this for him/her, what will he/she give me back? We jump into relationships based on poor reasoning, and then when times get tough, the choice is all too often to give up.  A relationship is hard work, its a commitment, its a daily choice.  We choose to love that person when it's fun and easy, and we choose to love them when it's hard and there is bitterness and tension growing.  We choose to love them when they are pretty and healthy, and also when they are sick and disgusting.  We choose to be humble, we choose to be selfless, we choose to serve.  

Love is not a natural tendency.  Loving our enemies is completely against our nature.  Loving others above ourselves is against our nature.  loving God is against our nature.  It is not a feeling that comes naturally and gives us butterflies in our stomach.  it goes against all of our selfish tendencies. What if God takes away everything? What if everyone turns on me? Do we love God then?

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good." Romans 12:9

ABHOR! don't just dislike, don't just begrudgingly obey, don't just hate, UTTERLY LOATHE what is evil.  

No matter where our lives have taken us thus far.  Shame.  Defeat.  Anger.  Countless mistakes.  Pain.  Loneliness.  Broken relationships. We can choose right now to love the Lord.  "Therefore, having been justified (meaning just-if-I'd never sinned) BY FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace IN WHICH WE STAND and rejoice in hope of the Glory of God" Romans 5:1-2 (emphasis added).  Through the faith that God sent His son to die for us and that His death has paid for everything I have ever done and will do, we have peace with God.  We can STAND in the presence and rejoice through the grace we have been given. 

May we choose today, and everyday from now, to love God, to love our spouse, to love our brethren, our friends, our enemies.  The choice is hard. But we can make it easy through perseverance.  If you make the wrong choice, get back up, remember you're justified through grace, and get ready for the next choice.  Never give up.  Pray and rely on the Holy Spirit to be there to give you courage and strength for every trial and tribulation.  May it become our character and our hope! May we resolve to serve the LORD like Joshua! It's not going to come easy.  relationships aren't. but always remember.

Love is a choice!