The world subscribes to the philosophy that self-fulfillment, instant gratification, and pride in one’s self are not only permissible desires, but are, in fact, ones we should actively pursue. If you spend any amount of time around a teenager on Instagram, Twitter, or the like, you are no doubt familiar with “YOLO”, the contemporary rendition of “no regrets.” “YOLO” sums up well the philosophies of the current generation and much of the generation that raised them.
YOLO, the acronym for the catchphrase, “You Only Live Once,” not only sums up today’s self-centered, immediate gratification attitude of life, it’s also one of those adages stemming from a distortion of the Scriptures. I think of two verses in particular. The first is James 4:14– “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” The other is Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Both of these verses inspire and instruct people not to hold back. Since we only live once, we shouldn’t resist the desire to do absolutely everything to serve the Lord.
The premise of YOLO itself isn’t necessarily unbiblical. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus reminds us, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In 2 Corinthians 2:6, the Lord through Paul proclaims, “For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” However, where these verses remind us of our fleeting mortality in hopes of helping keep our focus on Christ and His Gospel without fear of the temporal consequences we might face for doing so.
Typically, someone shouting “YOLO!” is generally cheering on or persuading himself or someone else to do something immoral, irresponsible, and/or dangerous. At best, YOLO encourages people to forget about God, His rules, His loving law, and careful judgment. And as would be expected by anything promulgated by the world, it further implies the need to make such decisions without careful reasoning, rationality, or even common sense.
When speaking with young girls who struggle with decision making (whom do not have godly people in their life) my wife often tells them, “If you’re unsure of what the right thing is to do in a situation and you don’t have any godly people you can look to for advise, then ask the most worldly person you know and do the opposite.” The world is nearly always in direct contradiction of God’s Word. YOLO’s mantra is no different.
We know, of course, and it’s certainly our encouragement, that the Christian’s life is to be motivated by God’s great and sacrificial love for us, guided by the Holy Spirit, and measured according to the Word of God. As believers, our sole desire should be to magnify and exalt Jesus Christ. This is a goal we’ve not yet attained nor will fully attain in this life. No doubt, we’re guilty of violating God’s perfect law each day and in ways we aren’t even aware of (and some of which we’re painfully aware). Our redemption is in Christ and we can rest assured, knowing that He is our Advocate, our Restoration, and our Mighty Counselor. That being said, I’m reminded of countless regrets that compel me to seek Christ all the more in my life, to repent (change my heart and mind) from the sin I’ve committed against my Savior, and grow in His Word to live a godlier life by the power of His Holy Spirit.
The world, on the other hand, wants our every ungodly thought and desire to have unrestricted access to our hands, feet, and tongue with no advanced notice or preapproval required. The cliché of insisting one should have “no regrets” because “you only live once” is a clear frontal assault on God’s judgment itself and encourages outright rebellion against Him. Not to mention, it’s a completely calloused disregard of those whom have suffered the consequences of our thoughtless and selfish choices.
To believe one can stand before the Lord God Almighty and have “no regrets” is absurd to the most extreme degree. We will most certainly have plenty to be regretful for on the day we stand before the Lord. To believe those regrets will consist of selfish ambitions never pursued, elevates such delusions to pure lunacy. I would pray that every Christian could sincerely say that we don’t live the “YOLO” life, filled with fleshly, temporal desires and decisions. Understandably there are many unwise decisions we’ve made in the past, but may we never be fooled by the world as to the cost they have on us and others.
It’s not uncommon for people to hear they should be thankful for what they’ve gone through as it’s usually assumed those choices have made you who you are today. Now, in some aspects that can be correct. It’s most often through trials and tribulations that we can persevere to a more intimate relationship with God, but it’s this author’s desire to be objective; carefully and more thoroughly examining my own heart on the matter.
I am thankful for my life in Christ today, for the wife that I have been so graciously bestowed with, and the family I get to have a relationship with. What an amazingly merciful God we have, the God Who shows no partiality to the sinner, blessing all with beautiful gifts, first and foremost is the breath of life, and most importantly, His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Yet His abundance mercy and grace never means His acceptance of a life of sin, one that is outright committed against Him. There are things I definitely wish I’d have done differently, knowing it would have changed my life for the better in knowing my Savior more intimately.
Imagine if we would have just chosen not to do that one thing, or not hold onto that one sin. Think of the maturity we would have in Christ compared to where we are today. Decisions will always affect our every direction and the more we are aware of this, the more we should remember to willingly abide in Jesus, giving Him our absolute surrender in every area.
Now, although it’s important to examine ourselves and ask the Lord to reveal any wickedness within (Psalm 139:23, 2 Corinthians 13:5), it’s clearly not productive to abide in the past. This will inevitably lead to a rubber band effect, beating ourselves up to the point of never being satisfied with the present, new and active life in Jesus. As the Lord, through Paul, reminds us, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.
We could go so far to the extreme where all we do is look in the past, never accepting forgiveness as Christ has promised, washing us from all our sins. Titus puts it well, reminding us to recall where we once were, knowing that we are no better than anyone. Titus reminds us that our transformation is by the Spirit of God, which then develops into worship towards Christ to serve our neighbor and die to ourselves daily. Regretting decisions is good and Biblical, as long as it is not a continual torment, removing the security we have in being born again by the precious blood of Jesus.
We are new creations in Christ, knowing where and what God has saved us from, and with an acknowledgement of this gracious gift given through Jesus, we can live a life, not as the world that makes emotional nonsensical decisions, but a life with a Biblical fear that leads to heavenly wisdom.
Another consideration: Instead of declaring “YOLO” to justify temporal, worldly decisions, why not use it to remind yourself to faithfully
serve the Lord? For example: If a friend invites you to a party with alcohol, instead of saying, “Sure, after all, you only live once,” why not say, “No thanks. After all, I only live once so I want to honor the Lord each and every moment of every day.” Instead of inspiring us to continue making choices that take us away from our Savior, let us use our one life this side of Heaven as a precious time to understand and know Jesus, bearing much eternal fruit unto His glory, not our own!
One other thought: Interestingly, although YOLO is intended to fly in the face of biblical truth, encouraging people to ignore God’s word and judgment, it actually has the potential to do quite the opposite. In a world inundated with post modern philosophies replete with reincarnation, mysticism, tolerance, etc., YOLO serves as a very real signpost pointing straight to Scripture and the true and living God, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:27-28.
CT Studd said it well in his poem-
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only One Life, ’Twill Soon be Past, C.T. Studd
Looking forward is a desire we should all have as believers, Jesus being our prize, not earned by works, but by the completed work of God through His Gospel spelled out in 1 Corinthians 15. Looking back is an encouragement, as it motivates us to not think higher of ourselves than we ought. What a humble God we have that really spells out things in our ever-changing culture by the solid and consistent Word of God. His mercy truly does endure forever! So instead of holding to YOLO as a way to escape the reality of the Lord and the reality of the choices we make, let us remember the one and only true God and His glorious goodness and grace. Let us remember to always choose one true God and His eternal Word above anything this world has to offer!