Reflecting on a time when a prior employer was outsourcing a process to another well staffed company, a collogue who was stressed by financial uncertainty told me, “It’s different for you. You have the choix de vie”. At the time I remember thinking, “don’t we all?” and so I responded with an inappropriate comment about people having the ability to choose their reactions to situations. This term “choix de vie” is translated from French to “Choice of Life” which ultimately stems from a philosophic question: Can a person choose a way of life? In reality, it was the LORD’s grace that she labeled as the “choice of life”. I certainly had equal reason for concern; however, I had hope, faith, and a sense of security. I had peace despite the dark cloud forming.
Every human being makes either contemplative or non-contemplative choices regardless of any circumstance they are in. To not make a decision is a choice. Even in the worst situations that are forced upon a person (which feels horrible to say), choices made are still based on their preference over something else. While these statements are true in part, my response lacked compassion and sensitivity for my fellow human being and I failed to recognize it at the time. In effect, I was being prideful as if I actually earned the right to feel more secure based on my choices. Ha! Wrong. In retrospect, I believe the LORD would have wanted me to love my neighbor as myself and show compassion to her. I’m thankful God does not treat us as as we deserve and that He uses life circumstances to mature us.
I now understand that without reliance on the Holy Spirit, choices made originate from the inclinations of the natural heart (the most powerful of desires within a person). This means if a non-regenerated person chooses to do good, the action would still be their strongest desire that won over the other choices. There is only one way to choose a life course. Jesus said…, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14:6 NKJV; “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. – John 15:1 NKJV. If this scenario were to occur today, I hope that I would share the reason for my peace and hope. This would acknowledge a person’s concerns and share the truth of the Gospel so that the LORD might draw them by the Word spoken to them.
My colleague seemed to hold to the philosophy that I was able to choose my way of life because of personality or my life circumstances. First of all, philosophy in of itself is not evil. It is defined as the study of knowledge, reality, and existence. To apply thought to these areas can have some value but the problem rests in a human beings’ thoughts which are innately corrupted and dark or with little light. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. – Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV.
Higher learning institutions consider philosophy as an academic discipline that aid a person in thinking systematically and critically about fundamental topics ranging from the meaning of life, social structures, religion, death, nothingness, and anything in between. Some say the goal of philosophy is to answer how human beings ought to react to any given thing or situation. Of course, Scriptures defines this for us – (Read Galatians 5:16-26). The LORD Himself desires that we reason with Him so that He might teach us The Way that is right. He created the law to reveal the wickedness of man’s heart by showing him what was right and wrong morally and in that same law provided a method to atone for sin until the Messiah’s final sacrifice.
- The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; – Psalm 19:7 NKJV.
- I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. – Romans 7:25 NKJV.
Having provided the perfect law of God, our LORD did not want meaningless sacrifice (i.e. if the practice was just “religion”, or just a means to achieve something, or a reprieve from penalty). Hear what our LORD said in one passage about His desire to reason with us, the heart, sacrifice and repentance; sacrifice and repentance being two different things.
So God invites reasoning; Christ demonstrated it in discourse with disciples and others. Instead of secularly adopted philosophy, religions have reasoned using apologetics (from Greek – ἀπολογία; Latin – apologia; English – “speaking in defense”) which is a discipline of applying systematic argumentation and discourse to help solidify thoughts and defend beliefs. Argumentation is simply the thought process used to conclude an idea and is intended to determine whether another statement is true. Argumentation can be summarized as simply as “and if …, then …” and is frequently used in mathematics, computer logic, etc. Since God is the only One who actually knows the entire truth, then the Word of God is the only correct basis for forming the standards and criteria to evaluate arguments.
The earliest Christian apologist would be the Apostle Paul (the book of Romans is a great example). Paul who only began to understand and never completely comprehended God’s ways stated: “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!… His judgments and His ways past finding out!” – Romans 11:33 NKJV. It is difficult for 3 dimensional beings to understand beyond their own limited dimensions. This is one cause of error in some Christians and Churches that limit the Scriptures’ full truth based on human comprehension.
We need to have both compassion and conviction to: (1) share the Gospel Truth in a loving way; and, (2) stand firm in the Word of God to support other disciples of Christ. If we do this by the Holy Spirit, we are not responsible if the message is not received as intended because love plus truth is compassion. We do not always like the things that are good for us. Without the Saviour, people will go to a lost eternity after living a potentially defeated life.
- But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; – 1 Peter 3:15 NKJV;
- “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; “for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. – Luke 21:14-15 NKJV;
- Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. – Colossians 4:6 NKJV.
- The Spirit will give you the Word of God that you have sown into your heart and mind. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. – John 14:26 NKJV
The reasons I wanted to understand what the world’s philosophies were relative to a life approach or way of life were: (1) to understand how different non-believers have approached life so that I could better love them and share the Word; and, (2) to understand opportunities to grow as a believer. Often times Bible-believing Christ followers do not realize how much of the world’s philosophies have entered into our expressions. Please note the redundancy (Bible-believing & Christ followers) is intentional because: (1) bible-believers do not necessarily equate to Christ followers; and, (2) Christ followers ought to grow deeper in their knowledge and belief of what the bible says. There are different seasons in life and different demands. I believe that if one prioritizes some meditation of Scripture daily, the LORD knows and is faithful to multiply the Word sown. It is important to read it for yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth. Scripture states: Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. – Proverbs 4:23 NKJV; Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45 NKJV; and, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. – Matthew 15:18 NKJV
I felt it necessary to look inward and determine if any of these widely accepted philosophies have been incorporated into my life. If so, I ought to renew my mind with the Word which is … mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV. I realized I have used colloquialisms such as “I had to be true to me to be happy” not even realizing the deception in this thinking. You might ask, “what’s wrong with that?” or “aren’t you just trying to be real/honest?” The deception rests in believing that by being “you” happiness will ensue. If this were true, why would one seek pleasure outside of themselves? No, I need not be true to me, I ought to be true to Christ. While I did not knowingly adopt the world’s ways of life, they were subtly slipping in.
There are so many good things the LORD wants for His children and He takes pleasure in blessing us. But know this, blessing us with things that make us happy is not the LORD’s main priority; it is an awesome benefit of the LORD. The focus of our LORD remains to make for Himself a people from many nations who will love Him completely and enjoy relationship together forever (Psalms 16:5-11; Psalms 86:9; Psalms 144:15; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 60:21; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 31:1, 33; Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 37:23, 27; Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 8:8; Luke 2:10; Romans 9:26; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Philippians 4:4; Hebrews 8:10; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 21:3-4). Because He is truly good and the source of everything good, we have a great promise and inheritance! Considered this: He enjoys Himself (this triune God) completely and He (the Benefactor) wants to fill more people with Himself; Kingdom expansion with many beneficiaries. And we who enjoy Him, should desire His Kingdom expansion and therefore share love and truth that others might receive Him.
If I compare the LORD’s will to some of my wants, I realize how many of my so called good desires are purely motivated by my own selfishness (and sometimes rationalized by including benefits for others). In fact, Jesus said there was no-one good but God (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). If a person has the Spirit of God within them, then a person can demonstrate some level of goodness from God.
The Lord does bless us and He came that we may have life more abundantly (John 10:10) and He is the one that defines what abundant life is. If I really believe what the Scripture says, then I really ought to re-evaluate the things I say, my motives, and how I classify things. I’m trying to be more thoughtful, to be less casual with my terminology to avoid harmonizing with worldly standards and thereby negatively impacting the testimony I have with others. We are Christ’s ambassadors (Read Ephesians 6:13-20)
Secular “Way of Life” Philosophies
Without Christ, all of these philosophies “fall short of the mark”. The Lord has warned against “illumination” that is dark: “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. – Luke 11:35 NKJV
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. – Proverbs 16:25 NKJV Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20 NKJV
- The way of hedonism allows you to live for your pleasure – instantly, gradually or even eventually but these pleasures are often empty and don’t last creating a constant need to seek self gratification.
- The way of eudemonism comes from the Greek word “eudaimōn” which means having a good attendant spirit, happy, from eu- + daimōn spirit. This philosophy believes that a system of ethics based one’s moral value will produce good actions and have a great likelihood of producing happiness. Example: if you are true to you, you can use who you are with your dominant talents everyday to bring happiness. As such one lives for what they are good at doing.
- The way of meaning is choosing to direct life to something that is personally important to you and is believed to impact the world which gives you the feeling of synergy with the world or something bigger than you.
- The way of having a full life is to combination of the hedonism, eudemonism and meaning. Many people who actually apply all three, “feel” “happy” because they are achieving a life that is full of what they expect with the gratification of being proud, “good” and satisfied with the volume of experiences.
- The way of an empty life is one with no commitment, no fun and no mission. People who live this way allow life to pass by without enjoying it, without planning better times, and without affecting the world. They avoid disappointments.
Colossians 2 addresses the fact Christ is the only way to fulfillment and warns against both philosophy and legalism as ways to live. We are justified by faith alone: …that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. … As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. – Colossians 2:2-4, 6-10 NKJV
Let’s remember that we were also at one time struggling to attain happiness. Now that we are free, are we willing to allow Christ to extend His grace using us? So many people do not know truth and are trying to fulfill their inner needs with that which can not satisfy. We have said good-bye to the philosophies of this world and the performance of purely religious traditions. We are to simply follow Christ’s teachings. The New Living Translation puts it this way (verses 6-7):
Christ’s command (not a suggestion) stated clearly was: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. – John 15:4-5 NKJV. The result of abiding in Him is the increasing overflow of a thankful (satisfied, joyful, acknowledging) heart that produces the choicest fruit. We can not produce anything good that lasts without our LORD!
With this great privilege of abiding in Christ comes fruit bearing for His purposes. I’m praying that the love for and of the LORD continue to make me more:
- devout in worship of Him (abiding, strengthening and overflowing)
- sensitive and aware of those around me;
- compassionate in areas where a person has less “light” than I; and,
- bold to speak in all truth even when it is uncomfortable while having the humility to remember it is God’s grace that has saved me.
Please join me in praying that these scriptures be rooted in our hearts:
Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. … So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Psalm 85:10 NL ; 1 John 5:20 NLT; Romans 5:1-5, 11 NLT; Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJV