This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, the account of a British Christian provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)
"Will you choose to live or die? What do you say?"
The questioner was Henry VIII, the King of England, who had unrestrained power in the land. The "criminal" who stood before him, charged with heresy, was John Lambert, a Greek and Latin tutor.
Lambert audaciously challenged his pastor for delivering a sermon that didn't agree with Scripture. Lambert was brought before the archbishop of Canterbury and later before King Henry. Quoting from the Scriptures and explaining the original Greek, Lambert presented his case to an assembly of bishops, lawyers, justices, and peers. The two sides argued strenuously back and forth until Henry, bored with it, presented Lambert with a final choice: "After all the reasons and instructions of these knowledgeable men, are you now satisfied? Will you choose to live or die? What do you say?"
Lambert took a deep breath and answered confidently, "I commend my soul to the hands of God, but my body I give to your clemency."
"You must die." Henry answered scornfully, "for I will not be a patron to heretics." Convicted of heresy, Lambert was burned at the stake.
Lambert was unbowed in his slow, torturous death. He lifted up his hands in worship, declaring, "None but Christ! None but Christ!"
FURTHER: In the modern age of possibilities, our right to choose has grown nearly insatiable. Two hundred (and more) television channels are a "basic" right, tantamount to freedom itself. We want options. Variety. Assortment. Even mundane decisions are delivered daily to our doorstep--what to wear, eat, drive, or do. However, our choices are no longer utilitarian--they are virtually limitless. In contrast, when life's greater questions come to us, we have only one answer to give: "None but Christ." Is there another way to heaven? None but Christ--He is the Way. Is there another priority in life that deserves one's full devotion? None but Christ--He is supreme. Can someone else satisfy the longing of the human heart? None but Christ can satisfy. Truth has no alternative, you see. When life's greater questions come, and they will, are you prepared to testify that of all the possibilities, "none but Christ" will satisfy?
A moment of consideration: "Choice", an adjective and noun, and akin to "choose". Every day we make choices--what to wear, what to eat, who to talk with, what errands to run, where to go to, etc. Often, we choose to be happy or perhaps sad, to be ready for the day or to avoid its call upon us, or we choose to do good for others or not to do so. The apostle James provided some guidance to us, in making choices as believers in Christ (James 4:11-17). Joshua's choice in the Old Testament is well-known, historically, but also is a challenge for us, today. Whom do we serve? Christ Himself spoke to this choice of Who we serve, in Matthew 6:24; in the Lord's eyes, one cannot serve God and serve monetary wealth as well. God requires much of us, just as wealth/money requires much of us, and each can be (and often are) contentious in the pairing. As Christians, we are asked to serve the Lord and His goals/commands.
Ours is the privilege of choosing the Lord in our lives--as a website for young believers has stated it:
"Believing in Jesus doesn't mean that you will automatically stop sinning. Sorry, but that's not how God wired us. We can still make our own decisions. But with Christ, we don't have to be a slave to those bad choices--we have the power to choose NOT to do the sinful stuff the world loves. We can choose not to keep the corrupt darkness in our minds that the world wants to shove into our eyes and ears. We have the freedom to choose Jesus now (Romans 12:1-2). It's a daily thing, a commitment, but remember that you have power in Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9)--you're not alone."
Daily, we are asked to live John Lambert's rightful claim: "None but Christ!". Only He can truly satisfy the longings of our hearts, of our souls. The world promises much, but the dazzle of worldly attractions fades; the "hope" it offers is vacuous and disappointing. Rather, as stated by Charles Caleb Colton [a famous British Writer, priest and art collector, 1780-1832], the world "...often presents us with a choice of evils rather than of goods." Such evils cannot satisfy us seekers of Christ. Tryon Edwards (an American theologian, minister, and great grandson of Jonathan Edwards; August 7, 1809 to January 4, 1894) wisely advised us, "Between two evils, choose neither; between two goods, choose both."
As children of God, citizens of heaven, aliens in this worldly realm and servants of the Almighty, let us maintain that eternal perspective that evokes within us, "none but Christ!" Let us choose the good, of Christ Jesus. Recently, a child stood gazing at a freshly opened box of chocolate candies--lips pressed together, concentrating fully upon the decision at hand. The rule was "Only one, no more than one, but any one you want." Should it be the biggest one, or would the small round one be the favorite peppermint cream? Then again, the long one might last longer. Which to choose? And how to decide?
Perhaps a child’s decisions seem trivial to us as adults. Oh, we recognize that they are important to the child, but we have a broader perspective. That is the question in making choices, isn’t it? To have an eternal perspective on life and its decisions is to know how to choose. (Michael P. Green. (2000)) The Israelites fleeing the persecution in Egypt and being led by Moses, were finally brought to the "promised land"; Moses offered them a choice (Deuteronomy 30:11-20). The option offered to them was a "life or death" decision--spelling out the results of each choice. In many ways, we Christians daily must choose between life (serving Christ) and death (setting our minds on worldly attractions/snares); the choice should not be an onerous one for us believers in Christ. Yet we sometimes acquiesce to the siren calls of this life, of Vanity Fair (A Pilgrim's Progress) whose town motto would be "none of Christ!" May heaven forbid that protestation would be ours. Bob Mumford's book (The Purpose of Temptation) explains the reason we are faced with temptations in this life: to present each of us a choice to obey what God, in His Scriptures, tells us to do, or to obey the ruler of this world (the fallen one) in what he bids us do. In the book, Mumford explains that "Temptation is not the cause of trouble or wrongdoing. It just presents us with a choice." Will we be faithful to God, to Christ? Even Christ Himself was tempted on earth as He wrestled with accepting the way of the cross or not (Luke 22:39-46). At the start of His earthly ministry, He was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). In each temptation Christ showed Himself to be obedient and faithful to God. And the Scriptures say that Christ provided His life as an example to us (John 13:15, Romans 15:1-7, Philippians 2:1-11, etc.), that we also might choose wisely and faithfully to our God.
In our everyday lives, we are at times subtly and yet at times plainly confronted (met face to face) with hostile intent by the world and the devil who prowls like a lion (1 Peter 5:8), by temptation--and coerced to choose. Do we yield to Satan who "shouts", "None of Christ!"? Or do we abide in Christ and proclaim, "None but Christ!"? (John 15:1-11) The choice is ours--"to have an eternal perspective on life and its decisions" and to therein, know how to choose. John Lambert has demonstrated for us the solid rock that we stand upon. In our choices may we, with him, say boldly, "None but Christ!"; choose Life (John 14:6). L’chaim!