“To be, or not to be? That is the question …” – Shakespeare, Hamlet
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24
Shakespeare had it right. The primary question we face in life is a simple one. “To be, or not to be?” And though you may have never thought if it as such, it is a God question. It may be THE fundamental God question.
All God questions require us to make a choice. God’s questions do not come with frustration, anger, or contempt. God asks his questions of us simply, straightforwardly, without frustration or coercion. He simply asks and we must choose. Him or something else.
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.” – Joshua 24:15
God’s questions are binary. There is no grey area. No wiggle room. No space for negotiation or compromise. When God asks us a question it is either him or something else. Simply put the choices are quite simple –
God or the World – every place we go to try to live life apart from God
God or the Flesh – our sin, old and new
God or the Devil – our enemy, the father of lies
These choices are simple. But, many times, they are not easy. The World can be quite enticing – the house, the car, the friends, the mobile device – the activity, the job, the school, the team. Similarly, The Flesh can make our choices quite difficult – the lust, the greed, the addiction. And, of course, the Devil’s schemes are always aimed at separating us from God and from others – the misinterpretation, the self-righteousness, the confusion, the frustration.
You know how this works; the World entices you with a better house – “You will be happy if you just have that new house.” The Flesh steps in through your brokenness – “Yes, everyone I know will be impressed when I get that new house.” And then the Devil cements the move away from God with a whisper, “God wants to bless you. You’ve worked so hard. Your family deserves that new house.”
The choice is made. The deal is struck. We choose self-satisfaction and our perceived comfort over God. How many times have we stopped and asked God … “Is this the house you have for me? Is there something better?” “Is the timing now or in the future?” And then to wait for an answer. Uh, never? When it’s convenient?
Oh, and what happens when there appears to be urgency and you don’t hear? Will you have the patience to wait, even when it means not getting what you want? Will you wait?
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” – Lamentations 3:25
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:18
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:24-25.
For most of my life, waiting has not been one of my strengths. My impatience stems from a wound to my young soul when I was fifteen and it has followed me well into my adult life. I know what its like to yearn for something I thought would make my me happy, make my life or my family’s life better, what I believed to be right.
In my “me” centered view of life I chose other than God. And yet, the questions God asks and the choices we are asked to make are not as hard as I made them out to be.
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.” – Deuteronomy 30:11-18
Ouch! I for one am busted!
So back to the binary question we started with “To be or not to be?” Or, as the Apostle Paul put it in Ephesians – “to put off your old self”, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds”, and “to put on the new self”.
To be or not to be? To be old or to be new? Life or death? Self or God?
Out of his love and respect for us God has given us the ability to choose; what Blaise Pascal called the “dignity of causality”. And, in the fullness of his love and respect for us we get to choose. It is our privilege as his sons and daughters to choose.
The choice is simple. It may not be easy. But it is a clear choice. There is no ambiguity.
I am not perfect, and I still make wrong choices, and I still fight the same enemies as everyone else. But I can say that I am much better at choosing than I used to be. Less old, more new. I can also truly say that my heart longs to echo Joshua’s words in all things - “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”