the thing we want most

“Not to stand is to stand. Not to speak is to speak.” – D. Bonheoffer

The Bible is very clear on many things. Granted yes, there are some things in the Bible that are difficult to understand and some things that we just cannot fathom in our human brains. We may sometimes read a passage of scripture and sit back in our chair and after much pondering respond with a resounding, “huh?” And that’s quite alright. I don’t think we are meant to understand every bit of it. Not yet anyway. Sometimes, the only response we have is “I don’t know.” But I can assure you of one thing….God is not confused. And as much as there are scriptures that we might not be able to really grasp, there are just as many that are crystal clear. And although there are some scriptures that one could argue as open to interpretation as to whether it’s meant literally or spiritually, there are just as many that are quite basic. They say exactly what they mean…no interpretation needed.

In North Carolina, there is currently an amendment on the table that if passed would be added to the state constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. I was reading an editorial letter in the local paper the other day about this issue that made me so absolutely frustrated. The person was writing because they were against the amendment and had much to say about Christians and the Bible and how God loves people despite their sinfulness. How could Christians say they followed Jesus, who loves and is love, and yet at the same time deny homosexuals the right to marry other homosexuals? We can’t help who we love, the person said. Doesn’t the Bible say God is love? Didn’t God create homosexuals? I could feel my blood begin to boil.

Let me tell you something, friend. The Lord God Almighty is holy. He is good and there is no evil in Him. He is light and there is no dark in Him (1 John 1:5).

And He hates sin.

And I may not understand everything the Bible says, but I do know this one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt…God did not create us to be sinful. He created us to be beautiful. Our shortcomings, our sicknesses, our messes are all the result of sin.

God didn’t make me fat, He didn’t make her gay, He didn’t make him an addict and He didn’t make you “just the way you are.”

All of those things are the result of SIN. They are not nor have they ever been the desire nor the creation of a righteous and holy God.

(Frankly, I don’t know who came up with the idea that God loves us just like we are. Yes, the Lord loves us, but to say He loves us just the way we are implies that He’s content with our current condition, and quite frankly I believe that line of thought is a lie given us by the enemy to make us feel that it’s okay to be less than everything we are called to be.)

God doesn’t love gluttony. He doesn’t love homosexuality. He doesn’t love adultery. He doesn’t love murder. He doesn’t love sickness and disease. He doesn’t love laziness.

He doesn’t love sin. At all. In any way. Ever.

So. What’s a sinful being supposed to do with a righteous God who hates sin?

Worship Him. Worship Him with every single ounce of our being.

Worship this God who gave over His own Son to cover our sin with His blood so that we could be restored unto Him.

Live a life that is led by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Romans 12:18 says that as far as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with all men. Do you think that includes being at peace with ourselves? I do. And how can we be at peace with ourselves if we are being led by our iniquities and transgressions rather than by the Spirit of God?

Now before anybody tries to think that I’m implying that we somehow can earn our salvation, let me just stop you here. Our salvation was bought by the blood of Christ and that was enough. However, if we have received Christ and our desire is to live a Godly life in His image, the fruit of that desire will be evident in how we act and what we say…the presence of Christ in our life will be evident in how we live it.

Does that mean that once we receive Christ that we’ll never sin again? Well of course not. As long as we are wrapped in flesh, the tendency toward sin will always be there.

But we do have a choice as to whether or not we continue to entertain the enemy.

At the risk of sounding corny, let me put it like this. We can’t stop the accuser from knocking at our door. He does that all the time. Like minute by minute. A constant assault on our perimeter. And we decide as to whether or not we invite him in. We choose whether or not we sit down at the table and have tea with him while he fills our head with lies or whether we leave him on the porch.

We must…we MUST…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). It’s the only way to keep the enemy out. The Word of God is our defense against satan. We combat lies with the Truth of God. When the enemy dangles sin at the window, we must, must, must counter that with God’s Word.

I have a choice. When a sinful thought enters my mind, before that thought becomes action, I can either meditate on the Word of God until I get past that sinful thought or I can dwell on that thought, revel in that thought and eventually act on that thought. I always have a choice about that. (And Matthew 4 gives us a beautiful example.)

And going back to the house example, it’s like Jesus is living with us in that house. We dwell together with Him. And really you know, even more than countering the enemy’s lies with God’s truth, our prayer should be to get to a place where we love God and want to be with Him more than we love or desire sin. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, and as our desire for Him burns stronger and stronger, that we will notice the enemy at the door less and less. That we eventually won’t notice the sin the enemy is dangling at the window because our eyes will be so fixed on the One who gave everything for us. That’s how it should be. That we would be so engaged with God and so enthralled by Him that we don’t want to waste a single minute on some fleeting “feel good” moment. We won’t want to tear ourselves away from Him for even a moment to give ourselves over to something that would keep us from Him. But if by some chance we slip and let the enemy in, all we need do is cry out to Jesus and He’ll escort that demon right back out the door. That’s how it should be. That’s how it can be.

Oh God, that we would love You more than we love our sin.

That You would be more precious to us, more desirable to us than anything that would cause us to be separated from You or move outside of Your will.

Oh God, that you would break our hearts with the things that break Yours.

That we would love what You love and hate what You hate.

That You would be the thing we want most.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,

in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth.

They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.

But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him,

while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Psalm 63

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I know I gossip, but at least I don’t do drugs or have sex with the President…

In a sermon my pastor preached recently, he pointed out how that as Christians, we sometimes have the tendency to categorize sin.  Like there’s a category of really bad ones like murder, adultery, or homosexuality and then there’s the other sins that are really just minor ones like gossiping, telling little white lies or fudging just a bit on your taxes.  I guess we think that such small little indiscretions can’t really be all that harmful to us or someone else.  I mean, gosh all I did was tell my coworker about what I heard about another coworker, right?  I mean what harm is there is having a secret to share with someone else, right?  Until that secret turns ugly after it’s been passed from one ear to another and it’s been embellished to make it sound even juicier and then the next thing you know someone’s reputation gets tarnished.  But then, well you know it’s still really not my fault for passing gossip because I mean I did tell the person I told not to tell anyone else so really it’s their fault, right?  It’s amazing how we can pass that buck like it’s a hot potato.  And what’s also amazing is how we stand in judgement of  someone else’s sin but chose to not acknowledge our own because frankly we think that somehow our sins are not that bad.  It’s that whole plank in the eye thing (Matthew 7:5).

In Brother Yun’s book “Living Water,” he wrote a chapter called “Lessons from Esau”.   Remember Esau?  He was Jacob’s twin brother and their father, Isaac’s favorite.  Esau was the firstborn and therefore was the rightful heir to everything Isaac had and the birthright of the firstborn was a pretty big deal in ancient times.  Yet, in Genesis 25 we find where Esau gave up his inheritance for some lentil stew.  He’d been out hunting all day and so by the time he got back home, he was famished.  Jacob had cooked a lentil stew and apparently the delicious smell wafting by Esau’s nose was more than his hungry tummy could take and he begged Jacob for a bowl.  Jacob agreed but only if Esau would first swear to sell his birthright to his brother.  Evidentially his insatiable hunger won out over his good sense, and Esau ended up trading away his inheritance to Jacob for a bowl of stew.  Now from the outside looking in, it would seem that what Esau did was about the stupidest thing ever and in retrospect, he probably thought the same thing too.  It’s easy for us to look at Esau and think, “well now, I would never have traded my entire inheritance for a bowl of beans…I mean seriously, how idiotic and careless can one man be?”  Well here’s what Brother Yun had to say about it:

“Before you rush to judgement on how stupid and disrespectful Esau was to despise his birthright, consider all those times you have disobeyed the Lord.  Tragically, there are thousands of men and women of God today – some of whom once had powerful ministries that operated in the anointing and favor of God – who have traded in their inheritance for a bowl of stew.  To Esau, the bowl of stew represented something that could meet the immediate needs of his flesh.  The Bible says he was ‘famished.’  Many others have shipwrecked their faith and destroyed their witness for the Lord by giving in to their fleshly needs through sexual impurity, mishandling of finances and a host of other sins.  There may be a bowl of stew in your life as well.”

Well now, when you put it like that…gosh.

I starting looking back over my own life at the bowls of stew I put above my relationship with God.  Things with absolutely no eternal value and serving no purpose other than my gaining an immediate satisfaction for a fleshly desire.  I sit in judgement of the lifestyle of others all the while slurping down a heaping helping of gluttony or gossip.  And then later, that stew sits in my stomach like a rock as I realize the damage it causes to my witness or the separation it brings between me and my Heavenly Father.  I am disgusted with myself at how I can let such meaningless things take precedence over God.  But I’ve recently come to a conclusion about myself that may very well be true of you also.  If I am keeping myself filled up on the Bread of Life, I am a lot less likely to succumb to the savory smell of worldly stew.  As long as I feed on the Word of God continuously, I won’t find myself in a place of being famished and thereby making rash decisions and choices that satisfy my flesh but quench His Spirit.  And if I am tightly knit to my Father, then the chances are better that I will be able to show grace and love to someone else whose face is buried in their own bowl of stew.  Hopefully, I will be more likely to love them, pray for them and offer them encouragement and a helping hand than I will be to stand in judgement of them. 

Here’s one other interesting little tidbit…lentils are annual plants.  An annual plant usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season.  Did you catch that?  They aren’t permanent but in fact only last for a season.  In other words, when the world presents you with that bowl of lentils that you know will bring satisfaction to your flesh (albeit temporary) then just persevere, Beloved.  Keep filling up on God’s word and keep seeking Him for strength to overcome.  And if you wait it out long enough, you will find that tempting thing that threatens to put a gap between you and the All-Sufficient One is temporary…only a single season…and the power you have in Christ Jesus is stronger than any trial or temptation we will face.  Just hang on…stick it out…don’t give up…don’t give in.  The incredible inheritance your Father in heaven has for you is soooo going to be worth it!

Then the King will say to those on his right,

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father;

take your inheritance,

The kingdom prepared for you

since the creation of the world.” 

Mathew 25:34