Where's the restart button?

One of the greatest Christmas presents, in my opinion, that my older brother ever received was the original Nintendo game system. It was one of the coolest toys that I can remember playing during my childhood. I can clearly remember sitting in front of the television and watching my older brother play Super Mario Brothers for what seemed like hours, while patiently waiting for my turn. When his luck would finally expire and it was my turn, I would immediately swap games to play - Duck Hunter. This is where I became the lawful owner of a bright orange piece of plastic in the shape of a Star Wars laser gun, armed to annihilate any mallard ducks who might chance crossing my path. I would endlessly point the end of my barrel against the screen of our television and for hours – really only minutes – lay waste to the vermin of the skies. How could life get any better?

As my knowledge of the game progressed, I soon began memorizing the flight patterns of the ducks and upon any initial miss would simply hit the “restart button.” While this would anger my brother, who was impatiently waiting on his next turn as I had done, it was my only way to prolong the inevitable end of my turn and being shamed by the old laughing dog in the game. I wanted to be perfect and when things did not work out just right, I would just hit the restart button. This made my aim for the high score much easier, while also cheating in the process. In the end, my process was foiled by my parents who made me stop playing and made me think about the consequences of my actions.

In all of our weaknesses, how much easier would our lives be if we had a “restart button.” A button that could be pressed and immediately every bad decision would be forgotten. A button when pressed would grant us fresh starts with blank canvases. Certainly, this “restart button” would be coveted by everyone who saw its potential. It would give us the ability to learn from our mistakes and make better decisions in the future. We could learn which environments are the most hurtful to our quest for perfection and avoid them altogether. The “restart button” would enable us to achieve life without having to endure the anguish of bad decisions. This would simply be the greatest invention or tool ever given to man.

The dilemma that we face is that there is no such “restart button” in life. Our lives are rather the consequence, whether good or bad, of the choices that we make. While this does not detract from our ability to learn from previous mistakes and grow in wisdom for future choices, there still remains no “restart button” for our entire lives. Life is simply one and done. There are no second chances or do-overs. How then am I living my life?

The biblical precept that teaches that life is the culmination of all our choices is written in Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” If we allow our lives to be carried by our every desire and fantasy then certainly there will be consequences to these choices. Paul, earlier in his letter to the churches of Galatia, had wrote about the contrasting lifestyles of living according to the flesh and spirit, and by consequence their end results.

The life given to the flesh is clearly manifested by its certain deeds and actions. Paul listed these different conditions as follows: “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21a). The one who lives according to the flesh is in complete rebellion against the will of God. The final consequence of this lifestyle is that, “…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21c). This person is not promised a “restart button,” but rather “for the one who sows to his flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (6:8a).

The apostle Paul contrasted the conditions of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. He wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22-23a). Where the works of the flesh were evident by their outward nature, the fruit of the Spirit is made evident through their inward nature. The fruit of the Spirit originates from a heart desiring to draw near to God and fulfill His will in its life. Paul concluded, “but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (6:8b). A person who has chosen this course in life will be rewarded for his faithfulness toward God.

The desire to obtain a “restart button” for all of life’s mistakes may not be a possibility, but the choice to look to God and His forgiveness is certainly a gift without compare. While we may never forget those things we have done, by the grace of God, they can be forgiven and erased from the memory of God (Hebrews 8:12). This choice is a matter of our own freewill. May we always remember Paul’s warning – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7)!