I'm not a big fan of country music, much to my wife's chagrin. Well, I should be more specific, I'm not too fond of most country music, being created and played these days. It's not because I don't respect the musicianship or the artistry at times, it's because I find it predictable and at times pretentious. "I drive a John Deere, I like ice-cold beer, trucks and dirt roads," it seems every song goes... That said, occasionally, I will encounter country music that is undeniably good. Be it the musicianship (Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Brad Paisely), or the raw and real honesty and poetry (Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Chris Stapleton, George Jones), some of the music in this genre does it for me. I've only recently gained a bit more appreciation for some country music.
There's a song by George Jones, perhaps his most famous, called Choices. In it, he reflects on the choices, in this case mostly poor choices, that have brought him to the place he was in life, with broken relationships, substance addiction, and regrets. It's a raw, honest song to listen to. The really sobering part of it is the lyric, "If I had listened, I wouldn't be here today, living and dying with the choices I've made." It's a harsh reminder wrapped in a catchy tune that the choices we make every day in our lives add up and carry consequences.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, "I thought Christians choose Jesus and are saved by grace, and that's that." You are right to think that we are saved by grace, through faith, and that Jesus's blood has the power to wash away the guilt and shame of the sins of our past, hallelujah! But, just because we are covered by His grace doesn't mean we have let His grace transform us into someone better, truer, more human, more like Jesus.
Christians have to live with the consequence of the choices they make in life, just like everyone else.
One of the biggest deceptions of the Devil to believers is to convince them that Jesus died for your sins and has endless grace for you; therefore, it doesn't matter how we live day by day. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus didn't just die to save our lives from death and going to hell someday. He died to save us from the death and hell in and around us every day. A life of following Jesus isn't just about making one big choice to believe in Him; it's about making thousands of little choices in an effort to be like Him, to follow Him, and to be transformed by Him.
The grace of Jesus that saves you also is meant to transform you, little by little, day by day, and the way we are transformed is by the daily choices we make.
CS Lewis, in his famous book "Mere Christianity" (a must-read for every Christian, in my opinion) spoke about the power of choices when he wrote;
"Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other."
Choices. They matter. The invitation of Jesus is to choose him, not only once and for all, but daily, seeking to do what he does, obey what he asks, to turn ourselves toward him intentionally, knowing that, despite the challenge or cost, this will produce the best life imaginable in the long run.
Paul wrote along these lines in Galatians when he said: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 7-10)
Choices carry the potential to lead to life and joy or regret and sorrow. George Jones's choices led to a sad song of regret; you can have a different song with different choices.
What choices have you been making?
What choices will you make today?
With Jesus, we can truly live now and live forever with the choices we've made.
May the song you write with your life be full of joy, peace, and life, free of fear, shame and regret, in Jesus Name... Amen.