|Volume 18 Number 8 August 2016
Charles J. Aebi
One man, given a job cutting potatoes for planting, quit because he just couldn’t stand making decisions about where to cut the potatoes to leave at least one eye in each piece! Decision-making is difficult, and carrying out one’s decision after it is made is probably even harder, but life is full of decisions. Some decisions are momentous, making all the difference in our lives, as Robert Frost pointed out in his 19l5 poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Some choices made all the difference for Bible people. Joshua set the stage for all decision makers when in Joshua 24:15 he set forth the options and chose for himself and his family to serve Jehovah rather than other gods.
Moses made a choice that changed his life dramatically (Hebrews 11:24-26). One alternative could have led to his becoming a mummy like Ramses whose remains people viewed in the USA some years ago. Instead, he is known as the deliverer of Israel, a converser with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and the first in a whole line of prophets who were “like unto Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 19).
Ruth chose to cast her lot with Naomi’s people in Israel (Ruth 1:15-18). Staying in Moab would have been more comfortable, and going to Bethlehem meant hard work gleaning, but it made all the difference – she is listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ (1:5). Many other Bible people made choices that have resulted in all the difference for themselves, for their people and even for us today. The decisions of the apostles to follow Christ resulted in their delivering to us the Gospel. Further, the decision of Jesus in Gethsemane to follow the dictum of “Not my will, but thine, be done” makes all the difference for us today. Had He then or at any other time chosen not to die for us, we would be lost and without hope in the world.
Choices determine destinies, so our decisions today still make all the difference in many cases. The choice to become or to not become Christians will have both earthly and eternal consequences for us and for those we influence. All decisions have consequences. All our lives long we live with the principle of sowing and reaping of which Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:7-8. If we sow good (to the spirit) we will reap good (eternal life). If we sow evil (to the flesh) we will reap evil (corruption).
Decisions must be made with a view to their effects. Short-range consequences are the ones most folks consider and care about, but long-range consequences are the most important, as we can easily see in Lot’s case. His short-sighted choice of the green valley had horrible long-range effects. The most important single thing in decision-making is, “What will be the results?” The most important decision one can make is to opt for becoming a Christian.
After that, how can we make the best decisions as Christians? One important thing is to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each of the alternatives we have. Draw a line down a page for each alternative to separate the advantages from the disadvantages. Write as many of each as you can think of. Take time – three or four days if necessary. Try to weight them to counterbalance one another; some on each side will be heavier than others. Choose the option with the most/heaviest advantages. Of course, it is vital to be sure that the option you choose is one acceptable to God.
In deciding between alternatives, consider: Which is the kind of thing a Christian should do? What will be best for the Lord’s church? What will be best for me personally, building me up spiritually? What will be best for the Christian welfare of my family? Which is possible or likely for me to actually accomplish? (There is no virtue in setting one’s goals impossibly high.) Will the end result be better with this than with other alternatives?
Many people make bad choices early and regret them later. When you have grandchildren, will you be glad for the way you have made choices with and for your children? When your son or daughter gets as old as you are, do you want him or her to have the same emphasis on spiritual things versus material things as you now have? Or on church versus sports? Or on the choice of a mate? How do or will your daily decisions affect your children and your grandchildren? This is a question not often asked, but one that should be. To reap good things, sow good seed, make tough decisions that will be harder roads, but that will make all the difference in the end. Remember Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Elijah, Paul, the Twelve and, most of all, Jesus.
Paul’s inspired writings in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 are somewhat scary on the surface. If Satan and his servants can disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and angels of light, how can we ever know when we have encountered one of them? If their disguise is so good, does it not stand to reason that we are surely going to be led astray? As we look into the subject and the particulars a little further, the situation is not so hopeless, and we are not so helpless as it might appear. Verse 15 records, “whose end shall be according to their deeds.” That sounds very much like Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 to some people of great reputation for they at least claimed to have cast out demons, prophesied in Jesus’ name and performed many miracles in Jesus’ name. Jesus said they had practiced lawlessness and were shown the way of departure from His presence. This “snapshot” is in context of Matthew 7:15-20 where Jesus warned of false prophets and how their disguises of sheep’s clothing could be unveiled by noticing their works.
We see a very similar scenario in Paul’s second letter to Corinth as he spoke about the brethren being deceived like Eve had been (11:3) and this by “most eminent apostles” of some degree of reputation (11:5 – in the Greek, it is literally “super apostles”). Paul continued in v. 12-15 to refer to them as “false apostles,” “deceitful workers” and “transforming themselves into apostles of righteousness” (NKJV). Second Corinthians l1:20 reveals that they wanted to “bring into bondage,” “devour” and “takes advantage of you.”
Paul dealt with such deceivers in greater detail in his letter to the Galatians. There he called for these “false brethren” (2:2-5) to be accursed (1:6-9) for their actions that led to “hypocrisy” (2:1l-14). Peter and Barnabas were exempt from this because they repented once confronted. Paul characterized false brethren as leaders of a “different gospel” (1:6) “as ones who have bewitched” (3:1) and “troubled” (5:10) the Christians in Galatia.
Since their confidence was in the flesh, Paul went on to liken them to those “born according to the flesh” who persecuted him “born of the Spirit” (4:29-31). The solution was to “cast out the bondwoman and her son.”
If we run into Satan’s servants who are disguising themselves as servants of righteousness, we will see fruits, deeds and evidence. They will seek every opportunity to build their reputations often by quoting Bible passages as instructive in ways that are not obviously apparent to any other reader. Among these servants of Satan there will be an emphasis on physical things rather than on spiritual matters. (Battles will be common over how buildings are used, and the thought of worship ever happening out of the building will be frowned upon.) They will seek to use the Old Testament as a pattern for Christian worship instead of recognizing it as a tutor. Paul said the Old Law of Moses did its job of bringing us to Christ, and we are no longer under it (Galatians3:24-25). They will seek positions of authority more than positions of service, and they will demean those who are doing Christ’s work. They will seek every opportunity to speak evil of others, especially those with whom they have had no conversation and who are not present to give other insights. Paul experienced this.
May we stay true to the Gospel, on guard against all false teachers and their teachings, and active in proclaiming the true Gospel. Let us hold firmly to our first love.
[Editor’s Note: Dangers lie within and without of the Lord’s church (Acts 20:29-30). Even brethren seem to forget that the churches of Christ, in fact, belong to Jesus Christ and not to any mortal. Some are led through impure motives (Philippians 1:16), while others are ‘heretics’ (Titus 3:10 KJV), ‘divisive’ (NKJV) or ‘factious’ (ASV) men. Some are self-serving (Romans 16:17-18) or are simply bullies (3 John 9-10). Satan will use anything and anyone, even members of the church if he can, to work his evil (1 Peter 5:8), especially if it is possible to derail Christians and the congregations that they comprise. The faithful, like Nehemiah of old, must be careful not to descend to “the plain of Ono” and let good “work cease” (Nehemiah 6:2-4) when disturbed and distracted by troublers. Yet, we need to be astute enough so as not to be suspicious of all brethren (Romans 15:14). “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11 NKJV). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]