One of the magnificent aspects of the human experience is the ability to choose our own path through this world, and decide exactly what kind of person we want to be.
Animals don’t get such luxury. Mother cats do not tell their kittens, “when you grow up, you can be whatever you want to be,” and no baboon father ever corrected an offspring by asking them, “Is this really how you want to behave?” Because such creatures are what they are, and the choices available to them are rather limited.
But not so men. When God made man in His image, He also gave man an opportunity to make meaningful choices. We can frequently choose where we want to live, what kind of work and education we want to pursue, and what kind of behavior we want to engage in. We can strive to be the person that we really want to be. If we are willing to work for it, we can accomplish some pretty fantastic things in this life.
Granted, within this realm of free-will, there is a potential downside – we are able to make bad choices. And, if we are to be honest with ourselves, and honesty is always a desirable trait, we should admit that not only are we able to make bad choices, but very frequently we do choose rather poorly. Rather than working to be who we want to be, we settle for far less; and whether the cause is laziness or self-doubt, or just a lack of self-discipline, we don’t live up to our potential.
These concepts are at the heart of the Gospel message. God has created us with the potential to be like Him. Men can be “godly.” We can choose to be generous, loving, kind, thoughtful, patient, and even joyful. We can choose to treat others right. We can choose to have a relationship with God, the Creator of all things, and the Giver of life.
Unfortunately we often squander our opportunities. We learn to be sinners: selfish, proud, impatient and miserable. Instead of building strong relationships with others, we act in ways that damage those relationships. Instead of developing a relationship with God, we go our own way into sin. Instead of choosing a path that leads to life, we choose to walk a path of destruction and condemnation.
But God, in His love, gives us another chance… We read in the Bible, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17; NKJV)
All those bad choices we have made can be left behind and, in Christ, we can start again. We can have a clean slate, forgiven of our sins, and able to leave our past in the past as we move into a future of hope and joy and life.
It is somewhat unfortunate that most people don’t really appreciate what it means to have this fresh start. Jesus is not giving us an opportunity to continue making the very same choices we made before, only this time without consequences. Jesus is actively calling His followers to be someone else. To become a new person; a new creation.
Now granted, if you are perfectly happy with the person you are, then what Jesus is offering is not something you are going to deem desirable. The message of Christ has always been for those who are brokenhearted over their sins, and who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness in their lives: those who understand that they are not living up to their potential and that their choices have undesired consequences of judgment and condemnation (cf. Matthew 5:3-6; Romans 6:23).
But for those who are willing to make a change, Jesus calls us from one life of sin, into a new life of wisdom and righteousness. He teaches us through His word, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2; NKJV) He teaches that we should choose to put away “the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” and “that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22b, 24; NKJV) You can’t be a new person if you aren’t making new, choices.
We are all going to mess up in this life, and make bad decisions. Thanks be to God who allows us an opportunity to start over and do better. If you are a soul that desires to make better choices in life, taking advantage of the new birth Jesus offers, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.