I don’t know about you, but when I pull up to a take-out restaurant, sometimes I am overwhelmed by too many choices. Then there is the pressure of the people behind you who are waiting to order. There are so many decisions to make. But those decisions won’t matter a lot unless you eat too much and pay for it later.
Every day we are faced with every kind of choice imaginable: What am I going to eat for breakfast? What am I going to wear? What route am I going to take? Who am I going to e-mail?
Someone asked me recently what have been the best decisions I’ve made in my life. That was easy to answer. No 1 was accepting Jesus Christ, and No. 2 was marrying my wife, Cathe. Those were great decisions.
We are all going to face the three C’s of life: challenges, choices and consequences. Those challenges may come as an opportunity or a temptation. And the most difficult thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn, because choices are important.
That is what we see in the Old Testament story of Abraham and Lot. Abraham made the right choices in life most of the time. Lot, however, made a series of wrong choices he lived to regret, which reminds us that our choices do matter. God will show us the choices to make, but it is still up to us to act on those choices.
Back when I was in school, I hated pop quizzes because I was never prepared. I never did my homework. But I did like open-book tests because I actually could find the answers. God effectively gives us all an open-book test. He said in Deuteronomy, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (30:19 NKJV). God is saying, “Here is your choice: Life or death, blessings or cursing. By the way, the right answer is choose life. I’m giving you the answer.” Yet we still cast the deciding vote by what we do.
Notice that God said, “Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (emphasis added). Our choices affect not only us, but also our children and potentially our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ungodly decisions can impact a family for generations, and godly decisions can impact a family for generations, as well.
Coming back to Abraham, a world changer who made the right choices, the Bible tells us that “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:8–0 NKJV).
Abraham is uniquely described in the Scripture as “the friend of God” (James 2:23 NKJV). One day God said to his friend Abraham that he wanted him to follow him, to leave his life of paganism and worship of false gods, leave his family, pack his bags and go. Abraham obeyed – sort of. He did leave, and that was a big step. But he took one family member with him in addition to his wife: his nephew Lot. And Lot had a detrimental effect on his uncle.
In effect, God tells us to do the same thing. We all know certain people who build us up spiritually whenever we are around them. And we all know people who drag us down spiritually when we are around them.
When I think of all of the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know, a lot of wonderful godly men and women have impressed me deeply. But then I know other people who always seem to be ticked off about something. They are always mad at someone. They always have to have an adversary or a nemesis. They are always upset about something. I get really weary of that.
Some people pull you down, and after you’ve spent time with them, you’re not looking forward to being around them again. Then there are other people who build you up, and you feel closer to the Lord.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT).
Here is my question for you: What kind of influence are you having on people? Are you a godly influence or an ungodly influence? Are you building others up, or are you dragging them down?
Now let’s reverse that question. What kind of influence are others having on you? Are you more like Abraham, the friend of God, or are you more like Lot, the compromiser? Are you a world changer, or is the world changing you?
I am not saying that Christians should not have relationships with nonbelievers. Again, Paul wrote, ” I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:9–11 NLT).
I expect nonbelievers to behave like nonbelievers. I am not shocked when I’m working out at the gym and some guy uses profanity when he’s talking to me, because he isn’t a Christian yet. I don’t expect him to exhibit the behavior of a follower of Jesus. But when I’m around a Christian, I expect more. When I’m around someone who professes to be a follower of Christ, I am hoping they will reflect that in the way they live.