TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away and forget what you look like. – James 1:23-24 (NLT)
On this Thanksgiving Day, many of us sat down at the dining room table, surveyed the feast in front of us and started making choices.
How much roasted turkey would we take from the platter, and would it be white meat or dark? Would we dip one scoop or two of Grandma’s savory oyster dressing, and would we top it with gravy? For dessert, would it be pumpkin pie or sweet potato casserole?
At the end of the Thanksgiving feast, would we choose a nap on the sofa or a trek down to the big-box store to stand in that epic line for the 4 o’clock in the morning door-busters?
Human life is full of choices. We make decisions every day from the time our eyes open in the morning, all throughout our day at work or school, back at home before and after dinner, and even in the moments as we drift off to sleep. Some of these turn out to be pretty good choices that bring us happiness, satisfaction and ultimately a closer relationship with God. Other choices crash and burn spectacularly.
There was a song in the 1980s with the lyrics, “I’m only human, of flesh and blood I’m made. Human. Born to make mistakes.” (“Human.” The Human League, 1986) The lyrical storyline is about a man and woman reunited after some time apart and their confessions to each other that, while separated, they both were unfaithful.
Unlike most human failings, there was one good thing about The Human League’s techno-pop confessional: You could dance to it. Sadly, most real-life confessionals leave those of us telling the hard truth with very little pep in our step. We’re more likely to find ourselves curled up in a fetal position after a particularly egregious human error.
Traditionally, the biblical Book of James is considered to have been written by one of Jesus Christ’s younger brothers. The Scriptures tell us that as Jesus began his public ministry, his family was skeptical of his claim to be the Son of God. The Gospel of Mark says his family thought Jesus was crazy. (Mark 3:21)
After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the risen Savior appeared to James and the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:7), which inspired James finally to join the chorus of believers. Doubting the divinity of Jesus Christ is probably one of the worst mistakes an imperfect human can make.
Of course, not every error we modern-day humans commit rises to the level of looking straight into the face of Jesus and saying “You’re nuts.” The most common human mistake we make in our relationship with God is routine, everyday disobedience.
God has given us a pretty clear set of instructions for how He wants us to live. It’s called the Bible. When we try to build our lives without following His instructions, the end result is never quite right.
God’s very first instructions to us human beings came way back in the beginning, when He told the first humans not to eat from a certain tree. God even warned these folks what would happen if they didn’t follow His simple instructions: Death.
Of course, being human and prone to temptation by God’s archenemy, the first humans bungled that one and messed things up for the rest of us. The downward spiral of human disobedience just continued from there.
Finally, a good while later after we humans had let God down time and time again, He decided to send Jesus Christ – God in human flesh – down to earth to give us the most simple and surest way to clean up our own messes. Eternal life in three simple steps: Confess, ask forgiveness and believe in Jesus Christ.
Still, many of us remain reluctant to accept God’s offer. Sadly, even those of us who have heard the Word of God and accepted the beautiful gift of salvation occasionally decide that we know better than God and willfully disobey His crystal-clear instructions.
As the Book of James tells us, it is in those moments that we might walk away from the mirror God and the Holy Spirit hold up to our lives and simply forget how we are supposed to look as Christ followers. I know that I am guilty of that very human mistake far too often.
The good news is, God gives us countless opportunities to go back, own up to our mistakes, look at ourselves again and remember the face of a true Christ follower. To see ourselves as God wants us to be, we have to choose humility over arrogance. We have to choose to be obedient to His instructions and surrender to His will for our lives. We have to choose God’s desires above our own.
The rewards of obedience to God are peace, joy and life with Him forever. Choosing peace with God, served up with a side of peace with ourselves and others, is unspeakably more satisfying than even the heartiest of Thanksgiving feasts.
The fullness of obedience to God and what He has in store for us if we will simply follow His recipe for our lives lasts a whole lot longer than turkey dinner, too. So… what’s your choice today?