Each day we make hundreds, if not thousands, of choices. Think about it, in this one day you’ve chosen when to get up, where you’re going, what clothes to wear, where to eat, what to do, how to relax, how to prepare for events or impending responsibilities, etc. This list could go on for pages.
DEGREES OF IMPORTANCE:
…Some choices are simply more important than others.
- Casual Choices – not that these are meaningless, but they usually have little bearing on the remainder of our lives. These are made simply and without much consideration. Some of these are made so often, they become habitual in our lives. Ex. where I’m eating lunch? Do I want coffee? How am I going to fix my hair today?
- Critical Choices – these are the decisions that tend to promote worry in our lives. These cause stress, if not stress, they are made with great consideration. What type of school environment do I want to place my kids in? What do I want to do after high school? Do I take this new job promotion?
DEGREES OF CERTAINTY:
…Some choices are easier than others.
- Certain Choices – some decisions we make are made with great certainty. This may be because the choice is habitual. This may be because the choice is foundational to who we are as individuals.
- Confused Choices – sometimes we struggle with knowing what the right choice for us may be. We are uncertain about what to do. Maybe because we’re letting worry rule us over our faith. Sometimes we may be faced with two equally attractive choices and can’t figure out what might be best.
- Vertigo Choices – A couple of years ago, I had my first and only experience with vertigo. In reality, I think we make choices in a state of mental vertigo. We know where we want to end up, but chances are we’re going to fall or run into something before we get there.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE
I don’t intend to dive off into a theological treatise here, but how do we even make the choices we do? Theologians and philosophers refer to this as freedom of the will. In the simplest terms, its probably best to understand freedom of the will as being able to do what you want to do. There’s no need to complicate things, but there are some factors that influence us in the decisions we make.
- External Influence – Most of us consider the consequences and effects of our choices on others. We do (or don’t do) certain actions because we filter our decisions on what others may think or how others might respond to our decisions.
- Internal Influence – Personal preference influences our decision making as well. When you walk through the line at the Chinese buffet, you put certain things on your plate based off of personal preference. Word to the wise – always go for black pepper chicken. Avoid the octopus.
We completely embrace the idea of personal freedom, but in reality there’s no such thing. We don’t live on an island. Who we are and others around us influence the choices we make.
HOW WE MAKE CHOICES
We tend to make decisions in one, or more, of the following ways:
- Emotional – In all honesty, the emotional influence in our decision making concerns me the most. We see this continually on our social media platforms and in our conversations where an individual is torn between options and someone will quip, “Just follow your heart.” Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?”
- Cognitive – Perhaps you try to make decisions based off of reason. This is when you make a list of pros and cons on a legal pad and attempt to decide what is right. You try to make decisions based off of reason.
- Spiritual – Hopefully, we all pray and ask God’s direction on the decisions we make The book of James is a great teacher, guide, and filter for helping us make godly decisions. That’s one reason I’m glad we’ll be studying the book together on Wednesday nights beginning in August.
RIGHT OR WRONG
Is there even such a thing as a right or wrong choice? I believe so…
- Right Choices – Some things we do are simply right. They are just. They please God and help others.
- Wrong Choices – Some decisions are made to intentionally harm or hurt others. Others are willful acts of sinful rebellion. We often make wrong choices. Probably more than we’d like to admit.
- Morally Neutral Choices – Sometimes we make decisions and feel like we’re stuck between and rock and a hard place. There’s no easy solution. There’s no clear direction, and the plethora of options may all be acceptable.
ONE CRUCIAL CHOICE
It’s easy to see why we live in confusion and worry. It would be nice if we could live life in black and white, but in reality, we don’t. There are difficult decisions. We wrestle with doubt and faith. Sometimes we worry. But what if we could simplify our lives? What if we didn’t get bogged down in the complexity of life? What if life really isn’t about making so many choices wisely or correctly, as much as it is about making just a few important choices wisely?
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
- Let’s begin with the question, What exactly IS hearing? – I think we get a good definition in verse 21. Hearing is “receiving with meekness”. Meaning a heart of submissiveness. This isn’t a heart that comes to God thinking they have everything figured out and they’re just seeking a rubber stamp of approval.
- “If the Word implanted is dynamic, working salvation, it is imperative that believers do what the Word says (the verse in Gk. reads lit., “Become doers of the word and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves”). – Kurt A. Richardson, James, vol. 36, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 94.
- Three observations: Hearing and Doing together suggests:
- Authentic Faith – It is an implanted word (v. 21)…“the implanted word”
- 1 John 2.3-6 –“3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
- The claim to know God and make no effort at keeping his commands is evidently not a new problem. It was a struggle in the first century church as well.
- James or John leave little room for gray in this matter.
- APP: True salvation should reflect the character and life of Christ. To say one follows Christ and yet live in rebellion to His ways is inconsistent and impossible.
- John 14.15 – If you love me, keep my commandments.
- Growing Faith – “become doers…”
- Let me remind you that we ARE NOT talking about perfect obedience here, but the overall trajectory of one’s life (John 1.8).
- ILL: Sometimes not so noticeable, but it should occur, much like your kids growing and then all of a sudden…senior year…WHAT?
- Joyous Faith – “he will be blessed in his doing”. Notice the ripple affect. This is why we began our conversation looking at choices. Something happens to the person who hears and does. The peace of God and presence of God accompanies them as the live their lives.
- “Apply yourself to the Word so you may be able to apply the Word to your life” – Kurt A. Richardson, James, vol. 36, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 97.
- Two observations about hearing without follow through: When we hear God speaking and have no action, we are guilty of…
- Glancing at God
- notice the texts says a man who looks intently, maybe the problem is we aren’t looking intently into the things of God.
- Our first job as believers is to know God; and know Him deeply.
- Sometimes we end up staring at things that don’t matter and simply glancing God’s way.
- If we spend our time intently reading the things of God with no action, what James is saying what you’re claiming about yourself isn’t true.
- ILL: Ever see someone out in public and think to yourself, “Have you looked at yourself today? What are you doing? Self deception can fool us into thinking I care, but in actuality I don’t.
- ILL: Women don’t have this ability, but men are great at looking in a mirror and being comfortable with self deception…when they look in a mirror, they always think…I’ve still got it. Self deception can fool us into thinking I have it, but in actuality I don’t.
- ILL: People buy the most ridiculous outfits at Disney, and they put them on and wear them around like no one is going to see them…and judge them! Self deception can fool us into thinking I’m making wise decisions, but in actuality, I’m not.
- Perhaps it’s time for a wake up call…
- Ever walk into a room and think “what am I doing here?” Many of us have simply lost our purpose. James invites us to return.