So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Are you living a Performance Centered Life or a Gospel Centered Life? Scott Thomas & Tom Wood give us two different diagrams that help us diagnosis what really motivates us in their book, Gospel Coach.
““If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:6–11 ESV)
Loving God with our whole heart precedes the closest of human relationships (siblings, children, spouse or friend). In this passage, if someone close tries to draw their affections & obedience after a false god then they were not to follow them, listen to them, pity them, spare them or conceal them. This is radical in a culture where high value was placed upon family. Singular devotion to God comes before family.
Radical measures are again called for when they are called to stone the tempter, and they are called to be the first one to cast the stone! Imagine casting a stone against your sister, husband, child or best friend. The standard of God’s holiness is HIGH. Do we pursue holiness with this fervor today? Do we aggressively eradicate the idols in our midst today?
Singular devotion is of such importance that He instructs the people to completely destroy one of their own cities if it is given over to following other gods (v 12-15). Are we this violent with the competing affections in our hearts? Probably not! God longs to bless His people by showing them His mercy & grace (v 17-18). But, the people must obey God – obedience starts with loving the Lord with all of our hearts and not having any other gods.
They were never able to obey out of a heart of love and we persistently fail also. Thankfully Someone did obey perfectly out of a heart of love. He not only took our sin, but also gave us His perfect obedience so God continually showers us with mercy & grace. Thank God for a substitute. Be thankful that His grip on & delight in you is not contingent upon your grip on & delight in Him. Your spiritual performance does not direct His love, approval & affection for you; Jesus imputed that to you so you can stop striving!
““If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 13:1–5 ESV)
This section warns the Israelites not to listen to or follow prophets who do miracles and tells them to follow & serve other gods! This seems easy and straight forward to us, but at this point in history the scriptures had not been fully given to the people so prophets played a major role in God revealing His will to His people. The Israelites were called to follow God (who was familiar), to fear God, to obey God and to hold fast to God. In the western world, there is little cost to count for this, but for the Israelites it would be their lives and their very existence.
God calls them to take radical steps to purge the evil in their midst, in this case a false prophet. That false prophet shall be put to death! Scripture always paints the removal of evil & the killing of sin (mortification) in violent ways. It paints pictures and uses words like murder, annihilation, mutilation & amputation (Colossians 3:1-11, Matthew 5:29-30 & 26:41). This was physical for the Israelites – a picture of what we should pursue in our walk with the Lord.
We tend to minimize our sins & idols as “not being that big of a deal.” But, God’s standard is holiness and He is completely devoted to conforming His children into the image of His Son. Far too often we are content to bring our sins & idols into our hearts (Ezekiel 14:3) where we dream about them, place our trust in them & rely upon them for our well being in life. In short, we worship them. Killing sin always starts in our hearts and is aimed at ripping out the things that we have come to rely upon for our identity, safety, well being (emotional, physical or spiritual) – the things that we have placed our hope for deliverance in. When things get ripped out of our hearts, pain is involved because a part of us is dying. Dying is painful. But the person who is willing to endure the pain will find true life, abiding joy & deep satisfaction (Psalm 16:11, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).
What tugs at your hearts affections? Do you find your affection for the Lord cooling, while your affections for other things warming? We must flee those things that create competing affections in our hearts. This is done practically by removing ourselves from the situation & exposure, and by cultivating a deeper love for God. The answer is to see God more clearly (sovereign, holy, merciful, good, gracious) so that the things that vie for our affections become less attractive because they pale in comparison.
“Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (Deuteronomy 11:16 ESV).
The warning to guard their heart comes back up again (see 8:11-17). It seems that abundance has a way of drawing the heart away from the Almighty. In this situation, it is likely that the Israelites would attribute the bountifulness of the land to the Canaanite’s fertility god. Allowing their heart’s affections to be pulled off of their God and placed upon another will enrage God, Who has been so long suffering & gracious toward a persistently rebellious people. We aren’t much different today.
The risk of abundance & affluence has always been a danger to authentic faith; the heart looses its wonder with the provisions of God. It begins to attribute the abundant blessings to something else like hard work, intelligence, education, savvy, etc. When this happens the heart’s affections are pulled off of God and placed upon something else – something else becomes the object of our worship. How do we battle this? We go to the Scriptures to see God and We beg God to show us His sovereign majesty. We ask Him to imprint our souls with His goodness & faithfulness. We seek to understand, at a deep heart level, that we are totally undeserving of the unearned affection of the Creator of the universe because our hearts are prone to want His good gifts far more than we want Him. When we begin to understand and embrace these truths, our hearts will marvel at His goodness & grace towards us.
““You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 11:18–22 ESV)
The way to avoid our hearts from wandering is to lay up the words of God in our hearts and souls, teaching them to our children and placing practical reminders around us. This isn’t just the law (or a moral checklist) because the law, on its own, does not inspire the heart. God is after a heartfelt love for Him. This has to also include the constant, persistent recalling of God’s goodness, faithfulness & provision to an undeserving people (you & me). This is a major theme in Deuteronomy – Moses continually unpacks the majestic power & greatness of God and the Israelite’s rebellion & hard heartedness. He anticipates that they will be prone to rob God of His glory by attributing the abundance in their lives to something else – and they did. We do the same thing today.
Perhaps, we should follow the pattern of intentionally recalling God’s goodness, faithfulness & provision to us despite our persistent hard heartedness toward Him. We need constant reminding that we are not deserving, but objects of His mercy – not because of anything that we did or will do. He chose us because He is gracious and is working good, not because we did/do good.
This excerpt from a post last January from John Piper is a good way to start the new year of right! Enjoy!
I believe I am so spiritually corrupt and prideful and rebellious that I would never have come to faith in Jesus without God’s merciful, sovereign victory over the last vestiges of my rebellion. (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1–4; Romans 8:7).
I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners to provide a bona fide offer of salvation to all people, and that he had an invincible design in his death to obtain his chosen bride, namely, the assembly of all believers, whose names were eternally written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. (John 3:16; John 10:15; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 13:8)
When I was dead in my trespasses, and blind to the beauty of Christ, God made me alive, opened the eyes of my heart, granted me to believe, and united me to Jesus, with all the benefits of forgiveness and justification and eternal life. (Ephesians 2:4–5; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Philippians 2:29; Ephesians 2:8–9; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 3:9)
I am eternally secure not mainly because of anything I did in the past, but decisively because God is faithful to complete the work he began—to sustain my faith, and to keep me from apostasy, and to hold me back from sin that leads to death. (1 Corinthians 1:8–9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:25; John 10:28–29; 1 John 5:16)