Choices and Decisions: So Many and Yet Only One: Part I
To Please Self or God
Introduction: This two-part series: Choices and Decisions: to please God or to please self addresses man as a chooser by God’s creative design. Decision-making and choices are prevalent any time but more so during the holiday seasons and especially at Christmas. Christmas is a time of so much hustle and bustle and the proverbial questions: who gets what and when? Life is full of choices always in relation to God, to self, and to others. These are linked. Basically, choices and decisions are to please God or to please self. They are at their core theological!
God created man a revelation receiver. He was created to make choices and decisions which are to please God or to please self. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve chose to please God. After the Fall, choices and decisions involved pleasing God or self. Man still receive information from that which is outside of him (nature and the created world –Romans 1:18-20; Psalm 19) and from Scripture (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). He also has information within himself both in his inner man (the heart – Romans 2:14-15) and the outer man (his brain – man is a rational, thinking being). Every person uses the totality of the information in the various areas of his while person to make choices and decisions to please God or to please self. The results of any choice may be covert. No visible, physical actions follow. Thoughts, desires, and considered actions are known only to the person and to God. Or the results of any choice may be overt – there are visible, observed actions which follow thoughts and desires.
Man is also an information and revelation interpreter. Man is bombarded with information especially in our technologically advanced culture. A study from Columbia University found that we are bogged down by the many decisions made in a day. It was surmised that the sheer number of decisions we have to make each day leads to a phenomenon called decision fatigue, whereby your brain actually tires like a muscle. These are interesting ideas. I wonder if Jesus’ brain was overloaded. I wonder what these people say regarding the true nature of man as a whole person such that we think in both the heart and the brain. Man is a duplex being – inner (heart) and outer man (body including the brain), soul and body.
It is true that our days are filled with a constant stream of decisions. According to multiple sources on the Internet, the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day (How many decisions do a person make in an average day …www.quora.com/How-many-decisions-does-a-person). Another study reported that every day, we face thousands of decisions both major and minor — from whether to eat that decadent chocolate cupcake to when to pursue a new romantic relationship or to change careers (Making Choices: How Your Brain Decides By Maia Szalavitz @maiasz Sept. 04, 2012. Follow @TIMEHealth). The authors of the study stated that decision-making is a “brain thing.” It is purely physical and material. The authors concluded that the brain decides and it does so by relying on two separate networks: one that determines the overall value — the risk versus reward — of individual choices and another that guides how you ultimately behave. They purport the significance of cognitive control and value-based decision-making tasks. The postulate that cognitive control is what keeps this network in check.
The studies mentioned above have no room for biblical truth. They would not agree with the premise: choices and decisions are to please God or to please self. In fact, they deny the Creator’s design of and plan for man. The authors ignored God’s creative design of man. They failed to acknowledge that God created man as a duplex being and a whole person (thoughts, desires, and actions both in the inner man – his heart – and the outer man – his body). The authors excluded the spiritual and supernatural. By God’s design, man is a rational, emotive, faith-based being. Man thinks and desires in his inner person (biblically the heart or mind) that affects the non-material and the material aspect of man (body) including the brain. What a person thinks and desires regarding God and His word influences every decision. Life is theological: it is lived in or out of a proper relationship with and to God. Thus, choices and decisions in their bottom-line state will always be to please God or to please self.
The number of times a believer is faced with the choice of pleasing self or pleasing God in incalculable. Jesus was faced with the choice of covenantal faithfulness or unfaithfulness daily, 24/7. Choosing self would have disqualified Him as Savior. God would have failed and Satan would be the victor. I wonder what number the authors of the above cited studies would place on the choice of pleasing self or pleasing God.
The believer has a different interpretative grid – saving faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). He rightly divides and interprets what he takes in with his physical senses. By the eyes of saving faith, he looks beyond the now and see eternally (Ecclesiastes 3:11; 1 John 3:1-3). He is able to be of earthly good. The believer is not simply his brain being bombarded with decisions. The one decision or choice the believer is faced is pleasing God for His sake and glory. Choosing for God is in reality for self. Life is simplified.
Mankind since the Garden and in any and every culture is and was faced with choices. The choices date back to the fall. Adam and Eve were faced with the choice of serving and pleasing God or serving and pleasing self. God’s creative design for man was and still is pleasing God and enjoying Him forever. Post fall, man became a rebel and enemy of God. Every person has a frame of reference – a presupposition – that influences his decision and choice. Only the believer, by the Holy Spirit through His word, will correctly interpret God and His Word. When he does, the believer implements truth as a patterned lifestyle of choosing to please God over self. He rejoices in his God-wrought and God-directed capacity to choose that which pleases God: thinking God’s thoughts, desiring what God desires, and acting accordingly to biblical truth with the proper motivation – pleasing God simply because He is God and deserves to be pleased.
1. What is man? What source do you use to answer the question?
2. Man was and is created the image bearer of God as a thinker, want-er, and actor.
3. Do you agree that man thinks and desires both in the inner man and outer man and that God’s grace covers the whole person – inner and outer man? If so, what is the significance of God’s design of and for man in terms of motivation?
4. How do thoughts, desires, and actions flow from motivation?
5. According to Romans 8:28-29 and 2 Corinthians 5:9 what is God’s design for man?
Choices and Decisions: So Many and Yet Only One: Part II
To Please Self or God
Choices are critical and the most important choice for anyone is God’s choice of His children (John 6:35-37, 44-45). God chose a people for Himself from eternity past. He brings them into His family and kingdom at a certain moment in history most often one person at a time (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:28-30). A person’s decision for Christ rests entirely on God’s decision of and for him. The reason God chooses any person in time and history rests entirely on His eternal plan and His sovereign will (Ephesians 1:4, 11). The implementation of His plan picked up tempo with Christ’s incarnation: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of son (Galatians 4:4-5).
Choices matter; every choice has consequences. That truth began in heaven with God’s choice of His people. Daily, every believer makes the choice to please self or to please God. He is able to choose God because God chose him. God by His Holy Spirit regenerated, adopted, and justified every believer. Moreover the believer is being sanctified as he moves from being saved to godly, holy living. In the process, he becomes more like Christ as he thinks God’s thoughts, desires what God desires, and acts according to biblical truth with the proper motivation.
The Bible describes and contrasts patterned living by using various antithetical ways of thinking, desiring, and acting. They include:
• Trust in the Lord or trust in self (Proverbs 3:5-8);
• Love the Lord your God and your neighbor or love yourself (Matthew 22:37-40);
• Bondage by following falsehood or deliverance by seeking truth (John 8:31-32).
• Living according to feelings, experience, and or logic divorced from biblical truth – sensual living – or by biblical truth – suprasensual (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16-18).
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul declared that believers are to walk by faith not by sight. Walk indicates patterned living – thoughts, desires, and actions. Paul taught the Corinthians, and us, the differences sensual and suprasensual living. Facts are everywhere and they will be evaluated and interpreted. Sensual living refers to the senses not only as a conduit for receiving information but also the grid for interpreting that information or facts. A person takes notice of facts and takes in information via the senses and evaluates the information based on the now: that which is temporal, material, physical, and sensational. Feelings, personal experience or that of another, and or logic divorced from biblical truth are the final grid for evaluating the information.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul called the Corinthians to walk – conduct themselves in thought, desires, and action according to saving faith not by physical sight which means relying on non-saving faith, reason divorced from biblical truth, and or feelings as one’s interpretative grid. God made man a sensual being – sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch – to be used for His glory. Sensual living flows from a sensual mindset which is characterized by making choices that best serve self. This lifestyle is antithetical to evaluating information according to biblical principles.
Christians are to be pupils of the Word. Believers have been called to and are equipped for discernment and godly living. They are to make wise choices based on the application of biblical truth (Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12; Hebrews 5:11-14). Wise choices simplify life. Living by feelings results in sinful choices and a complicated life. Feelings, good ones or bad ones, can’t be the believer’s guide or navigational system. Every believer must remember that choices and decisions are to please God or to please self. Acting according to that simple fact helps the simply life for the believer.
Paul captured the gist of an antithetical lifestyle in Galatians 5:16-18. He contrasted the way/walk (patterned lifestyle) of living by feelings, experience, and or logic divorced from biblical truth with a Holy Spirit-directed lifestyle of thoughts, desires, and actions. Please note that these antithetical ways of living are mutually exclusive. One can’t be pleasing God if he is pleasing self and vice versa. One can be pleased because he is pleasing God. Such it was with Jesus.
One can’t trust self and be wise in his eyes and simultaneously trust in the Lord (or fear the Lord). Growth in Christlikeness requires an understanding of the importance of choices. The only choice that an unbeliever is able to make is one of self-pleasing (Romans 8:5-8). In contrast, the believer has a changed “wanter” and “thinker” as a result of regeneration (salvation). Therefore, he is able to think God’s thoughts and desire what God desires; when he does, God-pleasing actions follow. Feelings may or may not change, at least initially but good feelings can never be the believer’s goal. But a patterned lifestyle of pleasing God brings contentment and satisfaction. Pleasing God is more than duty. It is a blessing and a privilege (1 John 3:1-3; 5:1-4).
1. What are some of your daily, even mundane, choices that you encounter?
2. What is your faith-in-action plan for evaluating each situation in order to please God rather than self?
3. Determine what makes it easy to please self and what makes it easy to please God.
4. In terms of decision-making and choices, what difference does it make that you are a Christian?