Choosing the Better Path

path_through_the_woodsProbably my favorite vacation activity is hiking through a forest. I love the way the trees and mossy floor soak up sounds, the cool of the shade, the anticipation of discovering what’s around the next bend.

Of course, there is an inherent danger of getting lost if you go too deeply into the woods. That’s why I also appreciate path markings or maps that tell us where our path leads and, if the path divides, which fork to take.

Our spiritual journey is similar. We don’t know what is ahead of us. We encounter many paths from which to choose. Unlike a forest hike, there’s no going back; we can’t re-trace our steps. We must move forward, knowing there is an end to the path, but not knowing exactly what we will find there.

Often when we think of being spiritually “lost,” we’re describing an ultimate destination: eternal punishment, separation from God. But in his book titled Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard makes this insightful observation : “We are not lost because we are going to wind up in the wrong place. We are going to end up in the wrong place because we are lost.” We have chosen the wrong path.

Which Path Do I Take?

Most people will choose their own paths, with no clear destination in mind. They follow the path that makes sense to them, the easy, wide path that’s easy to navigate. They know the path we call life will end, but they expect nothing at the end but a sheer drop into nothingness. A guide or a map seems too restrictive.

Others believe in something better at the end, but they follow a path of their own choosing, confident that somehow things will be all right. Still others have a clear picture of their destination, but they follow a false or blind leader who is just as lost as they are. Some may realize they’re lost but refuse to admit it because the path is so well-worn and well-known and so many others are on it.

When we follow Jesus as the Way, not only do we have a clear destination (John 14:1-4) but a trusted Guide to lead us; He’s been there before (Psalm 119:105, John 14:6). Even though His way is narrow and sometimes treacherous (Matthew 7:13,14), along the Way we receive and believe promises that motivate us to continue.

Though we have never seen Jesus in the flesh, we walk by faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:5-7). He has promised He will be with us to the end (Matthew 28:18-20) and has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13); the Father knows which ones are His (2 Timothy 2:19). We are also blessed by the companionship of other Christians who love and care about us, warn us when we begin to take the wrong path, and pick us up when we stumble (Galatians 6:1-2).

The End of the Way

In his first letter (1:3-9), Peter describes the end of the path for those who have been “born to a living hope through the resurrection from the dead.” Their inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away.” At the “revelation of Jesus Christ,” they will rejoice with inexpressible joy.

May we all very carefully examine the path we’re on, making sure we are following in the path of Christ and not an impostor. May we all realize the inexpressible joy of seeing Him in His glory.

God Plays Favorites

In all of God’s creation, which being has been made in His image? Which of His creatures stares in awe at a sunset, laughs at his own jokes, cries while reading a sad story, or suffers from a guilty conscience? To what creature has He given an eternal soul?

When God’s Son came to earth, did He choose to appear as some magnificent animal or other-world super power? No, He came as a small baby placed in a feed trough. He chose to be a human, one of us.

In Psalm 8, David praises God’s majesty, considers the majesty of his heavens, and wonders at the place of honor He has given man.

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea.” Psalm 8:4-8

Even before creation, God knew that, having received the gift of free will, we would sin and thereby sever our relationship with Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). He devised a plan to bring us back to Him: He sent part of the Godhead to live without sin among us, becoming a suitable sin offering for us. In the eloquent words of the apostle Paul:

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

We are God’s favorite creation. Yet within our number, as Peter preached, “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Acts 10:34-35 [Emphasis mine.]

And again,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11-15

God wants us all to appreciate and to glorify Him, to accept the honor of being His favorite. In turn, He wants us to place Him before all others. He seeks to be our favorite. (Matthew 22:37)