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God Loves a Good Argument

It’s rude to argue. 


That’s what my mother taught me. But as I grew, I sensed that arguing was an integral ingredient in my nature. For years I sought to repress this, but eventually I realized that sometimes arguing can be the best way to really figure out where you, yourself, stand. It can be the beginning of a new way of thinking. If done thoughtfully, it can be a window into someone else’s world. It can help to establish who you are as a person. It can change the course of history.


Did you know that there are many instances of arguing the Bible? And, maybe unlike you learned as a child, it can move the needle. Perhaps it can even move the hand of God.


There are some really interesting stories in the Bible, but one of my favorites is when God told Abraham that he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and everyone living there. Abraham was horrified. He and God actually had a debate, back and forth, about the destruction of Sodom. He asked if God would spare the city if there were 50 people that were moral, honest, righteous among its citizens and God agreed. Then he dropped the number, and dropped it again. He said, “Pardon me for overstepping, but what if there were only 45? What about 40? 30? 20? 10?” 


God responded that he would, indeed, spare the city for ten righteous people. That intense and intimate interchange back and forth, is beautiful and bizarre. It seems a bit foreign to a modern Christian view of God. Every time Abraham dropped the number, he apologized to God. They have this conversation and God engages him. He draws him in. God has been like that in every age. 


Think about Moses on the top of Mount Sinai. Moses was coming down after God hand-wrote his law on those beautiful blue tablets of stone. Moses was climbing down the mountain with them in his hand, ready to go and declare them to the children of Israel, but he found them dancing and partying, naked and drunk, at the base of the mountain. When he saw the people singing and shouting to the idols, he threw the commandments down and they shattered into pieces.


When he went back up onto the mountain, God said, “step out of the way. I'm going to destroy them all! I'm going to make a whole new nation from you, because you're the only good one out of the whole bunch.” 


Moses must have thought, “Yeah, about time I get rid of these ornery rascals! They’ve been nothing but a headache ever since I met them.” But he didn't say that. Instead, Moses has a debate with God, pleading, appealing, for their lives. He was mid-sentence, and he stopped, evidently overcome with emotion, as he was arguing with God for the salvation of Israel.


God changed his mind because of the debate and argument that Moses presented to him. He pled for them, and God listened. It was the power of human choice, exercised for the transformation and salvation of a nation. 


The story of Jonah places God on the other side of the argument. God commanded Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh. He told Jonah to tell them he would soon destroy them, burning them all up. That’s all he said, just to go tell them he was going to destroy them in 40 days.


Jonah ran the other way. The next scene in the story, he was in the boat, and then they tossed him overboard. Then he was in the belly of the whale, and then he was vomited up on the shore. He finally decided it was time he listen. He headed in the right direction to warn the people of Nineveh of the hellfire and brimstone that were coming for them. To his irritation if not surprise they repented… as in, the entire city - even the animals! They invested serious time hanging out in sorrow, “sackcloth and ashes.” 


God did not destroy them.The book of Jonah is this amazing story where a prophet of God is angry at God, argues with him, and is so mad he can't think clearly. He seemed to have an idea all along that God was going to change his mind when the people exercised their choice.


God recognizes and values the power of your choice so much. In the middle of the garden of Eden God placed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, right beside the tree of life. It was a constant reminder, every single day, that their eternal life was dependent upon their choice. It was not dependent on God's choice. God turned it over to them, as he did to you and me. That tree in the garden was a foreshadowing of the tree on Calvary, where God showed that he is committed to choice, more committed to your choice than his own.


He is so committed to your choice because he wants, more than anything, a loyalty, a love, a friendship that is freely given, not that is extracted out of us. John chapter 10 says “the thief comes to steal and to kill and destroy, but I have come that I may give them abundant life.” Jesus came to give us an abundant life. That abundant life begins with choice. It begins with what you make of it. 


This topic of freedom of choice is probably the single most important topic to understand in all of Scripture, because everything in salvation, what Christ gave to us, begins with this. It is the foundation that it is built on. 


It is astounding that we have such a plethora of records in Scripture of God's commitment to choice, and that we who claim to follow God so often do not respect the choice of the people around us. How often we try to control the choices of others, as though their choices have any reflection on us! We seem to think that it's somehow our business to do that. Somehow we think it's our job to manage other people's choices and their moral accountability and actions, and we don't even take care of our own in the process.


God is calling you to take your choice and exercise it for the advancement of your life; to grow, to reach the full potential that he has planned and purposed for you. He’s calling you to use your choices to expand and grow your influence to reach other people in a dying world for Christ. Never think that your choice is minor. Always respect the choices of others.


The power of choice is incredible, and a little frightening at moments, as it should be. I love the freedom and the wonder that God has created. Second Corinthians chapter nine, verse 6 says that those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully, and those who sow a little will reap a little.


You get to choose how much you embrace and experience in life. How much do you want to grow? Who do you want to be? That's your choice. How much will you invest to make it happen? How much time, energy, commitment, study, discipline, time with people, service? How much? How much do you want to experience financially in your life? What are you going to choose? What's going to be a priority? How are you going to order and organize your life? You are the culmination of your life of choices. 


You are not the culmination of God's choice. If God chose your life, then what would it be like now? You likely wouldn't be here, right? You wouldn't be like you are right now. Though he wants to mold and shape your character, you are the one making the choices of what you do and experience in life, of where you go and the things you focus on. You get to Choose Your Happy.

 

Had this whole story been based on God's choice, this whole thing could have been done a lot sooner than this! We would have probably never seen the light of day. But it’s based on your choices. You can develop and grow by the experiences of those choices. You can learn the value of good choices, as well as the high cost, the pain and the suffering that poor choices bring. The over all goal is to be so convinced of good, that we would never want to touch sin again throughout all time. This little experiment of choice with humanity on this planet will permanently secure the universe forever, not because God took away choice, but because he preserved it to the very end, at the cost of the greatest cost to himself. He preserved it and he will reap the benefit, the consequence, the harvest of that choice.


It’s time to think about our choices. It’s time to argue with God, to fight for what we need. It’s time to commit to the Transformationship of our lives and the lives of everyone in our circle of influence.

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