Friday, October 31, 2014

The Recognition, part 11: The Choice

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:24-25 NASB)

thelō. Translated here as "wishes", this word, thelō, means "to will" it or to be determined about something. That verse sounds a little different if you read it as "whoever is determined to save his life will lose it", doesn't it? When we see "wishes", it doesn't seem quite as strong a desire (or as negative), maybe because of a lifetime of "when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true".  Wishing is a fairly inefficient way of making something happen. 

Being determined, however, is a different level of commitment entirely. It is more of a stubborn resolve to have what you want, regardless. Oooh. That sounds bad, doesn't it? We do that, though, don't we? We want what we want, and we determine to have it, but we often fail to think it completely through. Maybe what God wants for us is not what we want for ourselves. Maybe what we want is not best. It's a shocking idea, but does that matter?  All too often, we decide that it does not. 

Sometimes, what God has in mind is very different from what we want and, at the start, might look like failure or heartbreak. If we allow God's plan to unfold instead of our own, we will find that there is peace in what we saw as failure, joy in what looked like heartbreak, and a deep relationship with the Almighty that develops along the way. It is a kind of "losing our life" that turns out to save it. 

This may surprise you, but the word translated as "life" is psychē, and is the root word from which we get our word "psychology". It can be used to indicate the physical life, the breath of life, or the soul. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary, in this instance, it is used to indicate "the seat of personality" or character. 

We have come to the heart of the matter now, and we may not like it. When we come to Jesus, we often come determined to stay the same. We want to keep our basic "personality" or character. God, on the other hand, is determined to change us, to mold us into the image of Christ. He wants us to become what He intended us to be (holy, righteous) instead of what the world has dictated we should become. He wants to heal our character flaws and make us good, pure. He wants us to be better than we are. God's plan is always for good and not evil, for welfare and not calamity, but we are often determined to have our own way, that sinful, self-centered way that has created havoc in our lives. 

Jesus was saying that, when we are so determined to stay the same, in character, temperament, lifestyle, it is not going to turn out well for us. In the end, we will not have the life we expected. We cannot have God's best and our own foolish desires at the same time. It is not possible, because God will not allow it. It's that simple. 

We have a choice to make. What are we determined to have? What we want or what God wants?  We can't have it both ways. As Joshua told the children of Israel, "Choose you this day whom you will serve." Make a choice. Take a stand. This choosing has eternal consequences, though, so be sure you make a wise choice. Be very sure.