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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

The wonder of decision making

In a few minutes to the Ministry Centre, there to vote. Then the plan is to leave the country. On my return, one week later, I trust that there will be a working government in place. But as I write this, unusually for many years there is no guarantee. Which simply adds to the drama. Voting is important. To misquote Joshua 24:15 we are “choosing for ourselves this day who will serve us.” And this is a high calling, a hard-fought privilege, one we must exercise. But such decision-making isn't just at the heart of belonging to a democracy: it is at the heart of being human. Our ability to choose, to make decisions, comes as part of being made in the image of God. Amazingly God has so made this remarkable creation that we may have genuine choice. We are not locked into a hugely complicated machine in which any outcome could be predicted in theory. Essentially we can choose to love God, or as in the case of Adam, to decide to do our own thing. We live with the consequences. I’ve just finished an excellent book by Eugene Peterson: The contemplative pastor, in which he asks “Is growth a decision?” He writes of human decision-making: “My will is my glory; it is also what gives me the most trouble. “There is something deeply flawed in my that separates me from the God who wills my salvation, that “something” seems to be located in and around my will.” He writes about the moment “I begin exercising my will, I find that I have put a fox in charge of the chicken coup!” The apostle Paul could see this only too clearly; “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Clearly we need help. As Peterson himself translates Paul’s cry in his Message translation “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?” (Romans 7:24). It is the Big Question – where God’s will and my will intersect, and they intersect at the Cross. For the apostle resolves the quandary in the next verse: “The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” But here we enter the mystery of God’s wisdom – God wills our freedom, one no longer distorted by Adam’s self-ambition. This comes at some cost – to God, seen above all at Gethsemane, where Jesus, drained by the effort, chooses to do not his own will but the will of his Father. And that changes everything – if we so choose. That is why the New Testament is written –to decide to live for Christ, as both a one-off event and as a daily discipline. “We're not like robots,” observes Joyce Meyer. “God promises to guide us through the Holy Spirit, but he gives us the freedom to make our own decisions.” Strangely such freedom, the ability to make decisions, can be unnerving. I can recall a young Christian nurse totally unnerved by having to make a career choice. In the end she resolved this on the basis of seeing which kind of nurse would next walk onto the corridor. The equivalent of tossing a coin rather than actually trying to reach a Holy Spirit-inspired conclusion. And of course, this day we will be making all kinds of choices, many made out of routine. But the Holy Spirit is schooling us, not simply to make the right decisions but actually to do them. It is he who renews our minds, the way we think and decide. And it is he who gives us the strength to deliver them. And it is a lifetime process. Regular reading of the Bible has a key role here. As the evangelist D. L. Moody concluded: “The Scriptures were not given for our information, but for our transformation.” So the apostle Paul continues his argument in Romans: “Be transformed (present continuous tense) by the renewing of your mind.” And the consequence? “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (12:2). It is our high calling, no less, as human beings.

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