Tag Archives: Treasure

Shame Interrupted

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”” (John 4:15–20 ESV)

The Providence of God had divinely orchestrated this conversation before time began.  Jesus offers her living water BEFORE He discusses her sinful lifestyle.  God always initiates, woos and draws.  This woman was a total outcast, but Jesus saw through her brokenness to her need. She was a:

  • Racial outcast. Samaritans were ½ breeds that were despised by the Jews and Gentiles alike (Luke 10:33; 17:16; John 8:48).
  • Gender outcast. She was a woman. Women were not highly valued in the first century.
  • Moral outcast. She had been married five times and was currently living with a man.  She was trading sex for rent; she was looking to satisfy her thirst in a relationship with a man.
  • Community outcast. Probably due to her decisions in life, she was a societal or relational outcast. She went to draw water in the middle of the day – the rest of the women would draw water in the morning or in the evening. She was alone.  It was hot in the middle of the day, most people would have been resting.

She was an outsider that didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere. She was alone.  She was religious, but her religion lacked the power to deliver her from the darkness in which she lived.  She was looked down upon, a status that she likely all too easily embraced.  She felt useless, meaningless, hopeless and alone.  Why in the world would the Creator come to such a sinful, hopeless and insignificant person?  Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost; Jesus came to find His lost sheep; Jesus came to redeem people just like this woman.  The messiest people become the greatest trophies of His majesty and grace.  We are all messy people, some are just better at hiding it than others.  What a beautiful picture of grace.

It seems apparent that she does not understand what Jesus was talking about, but wants some of the water that He has to offer if it keeps her from having to continuously go to the well to draw water for herself.  Her daily trip to the well must have been a painful reminder of her aloneness – anything that would eliminate that reminder was welcome.  Shame tends to cause us to hide, withdraw and isolate.

Jesus tells her to go and call her husband, and she responds with a technically correct answer, but her answer does not tell the whole story.  Jesus steps into her moral failure and filth.  He reveals her sin and His deity by telling her that He knows that she has had FIVE HUSBANDS and was currently living with a man who was not her husband.  You have to wonder what caused her to be so broken. The Almighty knew all of this about her, and still engaged her and showed grace and mercy to her. She already knew her sin and shame, what she needed was to be freed from it. Her own thirst had driven her to chase destructive things in her life. Jesus came to satisfy her thirst forever, setting her truly free.

She wants to change the subject.  She does not want to discuss her life – its way too close to home. She wants to discuss God, worship and the differences between her (a Samaritan) and Him (a Jew). She wants to talk religion and Jesus graciously obliges her.  She knew that she was unclean, unworthy and dirty (the law reveals our sin) and being reminded of that was more than she could bare.

Jesus makes unclean people clean. More than that, He makes unclean people, holy people. Even the offer of freedom and forgiveness is more than she can imagine.  It had been a long time since she had experienced hope.  Hope that she could be free, different, clean and truly loved. She was beginning to sense that redemption was possible; she was beginning to believe that redemption was here. It was and she was talking to the Redeemer.

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Motivations Matter

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 ESV)
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
(Matthew 15:18–19 ESV)

Tim Keller says that “the key difference between a Christian and a Pharisee is motivation. One obeys to get God’s stuff, the other obeys just to get God.”  This is true and we see it cover to cover in the bible.  God is not after any kind of obedience, God is after our JOYFUL obedience.

We are leaky people – what is on the inside leaks out of us.  If we are angry people, it has a way of leaking out on others;  if we are anxious, then it leaks out; if we are discontent then it leaks out; whatever is on the inside leaks out of our heart in the form of our feelings, words and behaviors.  This is why simply trying to manage our sinful behaviors never works.  We might try to buckle down and be extra disciplined to guard our tongues against gossip, our eyes from pornography or our quick whit from injuring others, but we ultimately fail.  The reason we fail is because we are fighting a losing battle because we have not destroyed the supply lines that keep the battle raging.

Should we not be concerned with our sinful words and actions?  Of course!  We should work with all of our might to align them with the words of scripture.  But, ultimately, just managing behavior will never make you free and it’s for freedom that you have been set free (Galatians 5:1).  Our real problem is the heart.  It is the GPS for our entire life (see Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19).  The heart is much harder to manage than our actions.  It seems to have a mind of its own!  It is easily distracted by random thoughts, emotions and desires.  We don’t really know what to do with it, so we tend to ignore it.

Our heart’s problem is a treasure problem – “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ESV).  Trying to manage its thoughts, emotions and desires will never lead to freedom.  What we need is a better view of what is really worthy of captivating our hearts.  We far too easily believe that worldly wealth, good relationships, success, acclaim, Christian service or comfort will provide us with what we are longing for.  Until you come to a point to which you see that these things, as good as some of them are, will never sustain you, you will never be free.  The “perfect” marriage will not set you free, the “perfect” job will not set you free, “perfect” relationships of love and acceptance will never set you free. 

Until we see that chasing good things, believing that they will satisfy us, is like running a marathon on a treadmill, we will never be free.  Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV).  Don’t miss the fact that the man JOYFULLY WENT AND SOLD EVERYTHING THAT HE HAD TO ACQUIRE THE FIELD.  Is there a cost to following Christ?  Absolutely!  But when you view it at 20,000 feet, like the man in this parable, you will see that the cost is infinitely small as compared with the infinite joy that you receive.

How do we do this?  Paul tells us that “if then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3 ESV).  What are you seeking?  What are you telling yourself will make you happy, content or complete?  Start there and beg God to change your heart to see Him as the greatest treasure and to cause you to long for Him more than you long for the things that He can give you. 

Confronting Sin

“And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1–9 ESV)

The Lord sends Nathan to David in order to confront him on his sin. The strength it took for Nathan to confront the king is incredible.  His hope was not in David’s response or even in the hope that He was a man after God’s own heart.  He could have been killed for confronting David.  Nathan feared God more than He feared man.

Nathan started by telling David a story of a poor man who had a prized lamb and a rich man who took it, killed it and served it for dinner for a guest.  It’s a tearjerker.  We, like David, can have so much empathy for others and be so blind to the ones close to us that we have offended; sin always blinds us.  David’s empathy and zeal for justice is real, but he is blinded to the parallel in his own life.  Sin always blinds us.  David starts rolling out how to make restitution.  David took Bathsheba just like the rich man who took the poor man’s lamb.

Nathan is not afraid to call sin what it is – SIN!  He boldly confronts David, proclaiming that David is the man who did this thing!  We don’t like to call sin, sin.  We have more sophisticated words for it today – like dysfunction – words that are less offensive and harsh so that we won’t feel bad about ourselves.  By doing this, we dumb down the justice of God and make His grace less than amazing.  In order for grace to be amazing, we must feel the crushing weight of our sin under the perfect standard of God’s law.

In verses 7 & 8, God reviews His grace to David.  God anointed David king, delivered him from Saul, gave him Saul’s house, wives & kingdom.  And God adds a comment on the end:  “And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.”  God had been good to David.  Remembering God’s grace and goodness is important in walking uprightly.  We have nothing that we have not been given (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Nathan calls out David’s sin for what it was – murder and adultery.  How did Nathan know this?  Was there a group of people who gathered together to strategize how to confront David?  No, there is profound rest in believing that Yahweh sees all, knows all and rules over all so we don’t have to.  The specifics of David’s sin is no match for the Sovereign eye of the Almighty.

When we are called to approach a brother or sister in sin, we normally experience uncertainty, doubt or fear.  In these moments, we must learn to rest in God’s goodness and His sovereignty; we must fear Him more than we fear man – this is easier said than done!  As we approach another, we must do it boldly, but with grace – never self righteously because except for God’s grace towards us, we would walk the same path.  We don’t love others well if we are not willing to help them see their blind spots and we are not loved well if we don’t have people in our lives who are willing to point out our blind spots. 

Lord, help us to see you as the greatest treasure in the world so that other things pale in comparison to knowing and following you.

The Anatomy of Sin

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.”  (2 Samuel 11:1–4 ESV)

David had defeated the Syrians and was now concentrating on Rabbah.  Something is wrong, though.  Kings normally go out to battle, but David stayed back.  David was enjoying leisure (he arose from his couch) while his men were out fighting.  The sin started long before Bathsheba.  He should have been out with his men, leading them in battle.  Idle hands are dangerous.  We were not built for idleness, we were built for work (Genesis 2:15).  To be idle is to be disobedient.  This, of course, does not mean healthy rest, but far too many men are content to be bored and idle in life.

During David’s idleness, he saw a beautiful woman bathing on her roof after her menstrual period.  David knew that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, but summoned Bathsheba anyway.  It is doubtful that he made his intentions clear to her because he sent messengers (plural).   He probably disguised it in concern for her wellbeing and for her family.  That was not the case, of course, the lust of David’s heart – despite having multiple wives to fulfill his sexual desires – ruled the day and he took Bathsheba and they had intercourse.  She became pregnant.

So what happened here?  What drove this offense?  It  did not start with adultery, it started with coveting.  David wanted that which was not his.  It started by breaking the 10th commandment (Exodus 20:17), which led to breaking the 7th (Exodus 20:14), which ultimately led to breaking the 6th (Exodus 20:13).  Sin ALWAYS STARTS IN THE HEART.  Sin says, “God is not good and that He is depriving us of something good because He is oppressive. It elevates us above God – determining right from wrong in our own eyes.  It puts us in a place where we believe that we have a clear view and absolute perspective.  We don’t.  Sin always uses created things to tempt us.  That is what Satan used in the garden to tempt Adam & Eve – a created thing.  External strategies like bouncing eyes, porn filters and accountability are all good things, but they are powerless to free the heart from the grip of sin.

Jesus came to set you free; a life that is free from sexually acting out but is still ruled by lust is not free.  Whatever we stare at and ascribe ultimate worth to is the object of our real affection.  When you worship sex, you will be ruled by lust.  The answer is to see Jesus as the risen and reigning Lord and that knowing Him is far superior to any lesser desires.  Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

The Power to Change

“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)

Often times, in our Christian experience, we believe that morality is the goal of our faith.  It is relatively easy to define, there are many scriptures that reinforce that we should live moral lives and we are able to accomplish morality by being disciplined; in short, morality is measurable.  We can produce morality on our own which should scare us!  There are plenty of non Christians who are very moral (far more so than I am):  they don’t cheat, steal or lie, they are benevolent, faithful to their spouses, and kind to others.  These are good things, right?  YES, they are!  Morality can be easily defined, and sometimes produced, by a list of things “to do” and things not “to do.”  We like lists because they put us in control.

Morality is not, however, the goal of the Christian life – holiness is the goal of the Christian life.  Morality doesn’t require Jesus, but holiness is built entirely upon Jesus.  Far too many have settled in to a Christless Christianity.  If morality is the target then we look to ourselves and our own power to produce it, and when we do we become very self-righteous.  Those who have a hard time producing morality are looked down on because they aren’t strong enough, disciplined enough or don’t measure up.  So should we not be moral people?  No, we should be!  But morality is not the aim.  When our target is holiness then we are driven to Christ in despair because we know that we are not holy as He is – and as we are commanded to be.  When we aim for holiness, morality is produced as a byproduct.  One is built upon us and our own efforts and one is built upon Jesus and the work He did for us.

Morality focuses on behavior and the consequences associated with our behaviors; holiness focuses on the heart’s motivations and the power of God to transform our hearts of stone.  Should we not be concerned with our external behaviors, should we just live however we want?  NO!  But we all know that managing behavior, suppressing our feelings or just trying to take our thoughts captive never results in true and lasting transformation.  Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are indicators of what we really believe down deep in our hearts – in our gut!  It is so hard to change because the root of our sin runs very deep and we seldom do the work that is required to unearth what we are really believing so we become content with just replacing our sinful thoughts, feelings and behaviors with less offensive ones. This is why Jesus said that our work is to believe (john 6:29).  So let us learn to do the painful and difficult work of excavating the false beliefs that are driving our sinful thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Feelings -> Behaviors.
Our beliefs lead to our thoughts which lead to our feelings which lead to our behaviors.  Most people who attend church are pretty good at managing external behaviors because we know what is acceptable and what is not and we really want people to think highly of us.  So we become content with not swearing, sleeping around, drinking too much and trying our best to stay out of the ditch of the really “bad sins.”  We aren’t overly concerned that our hearts are filled with anger, impatience, angst, lust, jealousy or discontent.  All we are really doing is replacing “unacceptable” external behaviors with more “acceptable” ones like self-righteousness, self-reliance and self-control.  Managing behaviors is rooted in self.  If we are really honest, we’d far rather deal with the self-righteous elder brother’s life than we would deal with the egregiously sinful life of the younger brother (Luke 15:11-32).  This is because the consequences of the elder brother’s self righteous behavior is not as disruptive to our lives as the consequences to the younger brother’s sinful life.  Despite the fact that the younger brother is the one in the parable – and normally the one in real life – that understands his need for grace.  We prefer good behavior over contrite hearts.

Our feelings are underneath our behaviors and they are far more difficult for us to manage.  They come on like a wave and can be overwhelming.  Feelings of angst, impatience, lust, covetousness, jealousy, inadequacy, guilt, shame and discontent – just to name a few.  Who hasn’t resolved to be more patient only to find themselves stuck behind a intolerably slow driver or picking the slowest check out line at the grocery store?  Most won’t scream out the window at the driver ahead of them to “hurry up,” or yell at the clerk at the store to “put a move on it!”  This is because we have learned to manage our external behaviors, but the feeling of impatience (and probably growing angst) is overwhelming and nearly impossible to manage.  We don’t know what to do with these feelings so we try our best to ignore them or shove them down.  This is not the biblical way to handle our feelings.  Instead of suppressing them, we should follow them – all the way to the root belief that is producing them.  This takes time, energy and dependent surrender upon a good and gracious God to do this.

Instead, we resolve to change how we think; we resolve that we should take every thought captive to obedience to Christ (and we should 2 Corinthians 10:5) and we resolve to think on excellent things instead of those things which stir up our anger, lust, jealousy and impatience (Philippians 4:8).  So how’s that working for you?  We all know the answer to that question!  Resolving to think differently does not work because your thoughts are a byproduct of your beliefs – you are closer to your beliefs, but attempting to just change the way that you think is a frustrating and unfruitful endeavor.  We must follow our sinful thoughts to their roots of unbelief in the heart.

Just because you didn’t kill someone, didn’t steal something or didn’t honk at the driver in front of you doesn’t mean that you are free.  And make no mistake, Jesus came to set you free (John 6:36; Romans 6:7, 18, 20, Galatians 5:1).  Angry hearts aren’t free hearts, lust filled hearts aren’t free hearts, impatient hearts aren’t free hearts.  Therefore, we must learn to follow our thoughts, feelings and behaviors to their roots – we must use them to diagnose the roots of sinful false belief in our hearts.  The unbelief in our heart is the root of all sinful behavior (Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19).  We must learn to repent of the sin underneath the sin.  We must learn to ask and mine out why we are angry, greedy, lustful, selfish, rude, prideful?  We must ask ourselves, “what have I really set my hope upon, where is my treasure really?”  When you begin to ask these questions you will ALWAYS FIND that your real problem is a worship problem.  You will always find that you have attached ultimate value and worth to a created thing (relationships, marriage, success, pleasure, children, morality, service, acceptance) and this thing is not able to hold the weight of your worship.  And whatever we worship converts us in to its image.  You BELIEVE that this thing at the center of your heart will produce security, significance and happiness – it will not, it cannot.  This is why the gospel always invades the heart – not primarily the thoughts, feelings or behaviors.  As Christ begins to reign in those areas of our hearts as its greatest treasure then our thoughts, feelings and behaviors slowly begin to change.

It really is simple, it’s just not easy!  Running is not mechanically complex – anyone can run.  Running is simple, but driving your mile time to 7 minutes, 6 minutes or even less is not easy!  Just because following our behaviors, feelings & thoughts to their root of false belief & false worship in our hearts is simple does not mean that it is easy.  It requires grace driven effort.  But let us not shy away from pursuing godliness – for it is what we are called to.  If you will pursue Christ like this then you will find liberating joy, regardless of the circumstances that you face.  God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him.

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:1–2 ESV)

Jude writes to those who are called – “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  Don’t miss the string here – or elsewhere in scripture – there are no human fingerprints on it!  God called us to be His BELOVED (those are familial words) and He will KEEP US in Christ Jesus.  He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He keeps & He glorifies.  We are along for the ride as we ACTIVELY contend for the faith.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Ungodly people had crept in and perverted the truth.  These were designated for destruction – they did not catch God off guard and they did not cause God to have to figure out what He was going to do!  They were unnoticed because they acted like Christians, but were not.  They talked it, but did not walk it.  They perverted grace and made it cheap grace, which is no grace at all.  Cheap grace always produces license – sensuality.  They ultimately denied Christ by their actions and unwillingness to submit to His commands and obey Him.  We may be able to talk a good talk, quote bible verses, walk aisles & pray prayers, but ultimately if we are not willing to walk in joyful obedience to Christ and submit to Him then we prove ourselves to be on shifting sand.  This is perhaps the greatest risk in our modern evangelical churches.  We don’t know what we believe, we don’t teach it and people have a very weak view of God and His grace.  God is nice, but He is not compelling.  Unless one has been deeply moved by the sovereign majesty of God, he will not understand the grace that has been given to him – He will not be moved to worship or obey.
  This is why Jude starts with God calling, God loving & God keeping.  Most in our midsts today would not deny Jesus explicitly, but deny Him by the way that they live.  He is not important to them, He is not the hub that their lives revolve around, He is not adored or served, He is just One of many gods in our lives.  This should scare us all!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)

Jesus saved a people out Egypt.  Wow, Jude is saying that Jesus is God!  Powerful.  Those who did not believe were destroyed in the desert – that should really scare us.  These were people that experienced the miraculous deliverance God had provided them from Egypt, His commands at Sinai and His ongoing deliverance and guidance.  And yet they did not believe and were destroyed for their unbelief.  Our battle is for belief!  Those who did not endure in belief did not see the Promised Land (1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:16–19) – and neither will we unless we endure.  Judgement awaits those who persist in unbelief!

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” (Jude 1:8–10 ESV)

These false teachers had come to rely on the subjectivity of their dreams instead of the objectivity of the scriptures.  Revelatory dreams still happen, but they should always be subjected to the authority of scripture. These people pollute the flesh and defy authority. They blaspheme the glorious One.

We do not know what Jude is referring to in verse 10, it has been lost in history. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can see more fully what we only see in part now!?  Michael understood his place in God’s created order so he did not tread on God’s authority. Lord, help us to learn from your authority!  Michael left the devil to God’s authority.

These false teachers operated on their instincts (like an animal) instead of on the authority of scripture.  We must subdue our instincts, feelings and sinful thoughts – they must be engaged by the grace of God and wrestled into submission by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  All that these people knew was how to follow their instincts and feelings regardless of whether they adhered to God’s moral decrees or not. This is dangerous – this is how people end up in the weeds and destroy their lives and the lives of others.

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11–13 ESV)

These false teachers were motivated by coveting and greed because they were dissatisfied with the position that they currently occupied. He uses examples of Cain (Genesis 4:5-8), Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7, 2 Peter 2:15) and Korah (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35). How often do we get derailed by being dissatisfied with where we are in life? We need believe that our deepest satisfaction in life is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus alone.  It is not found in the next accomplishment, relationship or position in life.

These false teachers are like hidden reefs because they are suffering no immediate consequences for their sinful behavior. This is sad! Like a ship sailing on the open water thinking that things are OK until they strike the reef just below the surface. These people live openly depraved lives and experience no consequences for their sinful behavior. They do what they want and are largely unchecked. Why is this? One can only speculate, but I wonder if this is because we don’t like conflict or because we feel like we are being ungracious by judging or confronting someone else?  It is not ungracious or unloving to confront people in their sin – it is what is required to help people see the light of day, though it is incredibly difficult!

Ultimate Affections (1 John 2:15-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17 ESV)

The lure to gain our identity, salvation and satisfaction in this world is real.  John tells us not to love this world or the things in it.  Just like Jesus saying that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), neither can we chase both God and the world.  A regenerate heart breaks (though it is slow and progressive) our love affair with the world.  Chase both the world and Jesus are mutually exclusive.  John is referring to a love for the world system, not for people in the world.  We must ask where our affections really lie?  How is this desire and affection for the world destroyed?  By seeing Jesus as far more desirable.  Matthew Henry says that the heart is narrow and that it cannot contain both loves.  Lord, Help us!

John gets specific by defining what some of these things are.  We all have God given wants and desires, but they become twisted and perverted when they terminate upon us and what we want instead of upon God.  Sin is a disordering of our affections.  The heart motivation question is what we must answer; the reprobate mind will justify all sorts of things to get what it wants.  Matthew Henry calls these “The three predominate inclinations of the depraved nature”

  • The desires of the flesh.  John Wesley says that these are largely external & outward pursuits.  Paul unpacks this in more detail in Galatians 5 when he compares & contrasts walking in the Spirit with the desires of the flesh.  “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”  (Galatians 5:19–21 ESV).  In our self righteousness, we want to feel better about ourselves because we aren’t pursuing the “varsity sins” of sexual immorality, orgies, drunkenness, etc.  But, who has not struggled with jealousy, envy and idolatry.  They are in the same list.  Are you indulging fleshly appetites or godly appetites?  The appetite that you indulge in is the appetite that will grow.
  • The desires of the eyes.  This is “of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful” said John Wesley.  ““The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22–23 ESV).  What do you fantasize about?  What fuels your hopes & dreams; what is your internal imagination fixed upon?  Are they morally good things that have become “god” things?  We delight & distract ourselves with the toys, trinkets & treasures of this world as we crave these things.  This is covetousness.  For what we behold and set our gaze upon shapes & controls us.  What we say that we must have sets the course of our lives.
  • The pride of life.  Again John Wesley’s comments are helpful:  “All that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity.”  This is the desire to be “someone,” to be admired, to be esteemed, to hunger and thirst for the applause of man.  This is the person that must have friends, must have applause, must be significant in order to be OK.

The world, with all of these desires, is passing away.  To set our ultimate hope and affection on these transient things is as meaningless as chasing after the wind – it is vanity.  And yet the depraved parts of our minds still say that God alone is not enough.  Ah, but the man who walks in glad submission to God abides for ever.  Our joyful obedience to the commands of Christ are only possible when we are abiding in Christ.  We are in Christ now and will be in Christ forever.  God, help us to see you as the true Treasure that you really are!

Good things aren’t transformational things

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7–11 ESV)

Peter again instructs his readers to get their heads above the clouds to see ultimate reality.  This world is coming to an end.  It is not all that there is.  Our inheritance is far greater than anything that this world has to offer.  In light of that we should be self-controlled & sober minded in the way that we live.  As an interesting caveat, Peter says that their sober-mindedness & self control was for the sake of their prayers.  We are not just called to passively obey, we are called to actively participate in the kingdom of God.  They, as do we, have a role to play in the kingdom.  The fact that the sovereign Creator of the universe invites us to play a part in His grand redemptive plan is unbelievable.  Why would God invite us to play a part for He certainly does not need us to accomplish His purposes?  He gets the glory, we get the joy and others get the good that we do.

The pinnacle of all Christian virtues is love.  Why?  Because love covers a multitude of sins (4:8 & Proverbs 10:12).  How is this developed?  He that is forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:47) and we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  The source of our love is the regeneration of our hearts.  As we grow deeper in the love and forgiveness of God, we are able to extend this to others.  It becomes a more “natural” outflow of what God is doing in us.  A primary way that this was displayed in the dangerous and hostile first century culture that Peter’s readers were living in was through hospitality to others.  Their love compelled them to help others.  This hospitality should not be obligatory – it should be without grumbling.

The gifts that we have received from God should be used to serve others.  We are to be stewards of God’s grace.  If you have a speaking gift, then use it with sobriety – not propagating your own ideas and theology, but God’s.  If you have a serving gift, rely upon God’s strength instead of your own.  It is easy to rely on our own strength when serving.  Gifts, whether spiritual or our own natural strengths, are due to the grace of God and should be use for the betterment of others.  Our natural proclivity is to use them for our own glory & good.  They are meant for the glory of God & good of others.

Are you loving and serving others well?  We all fall short in these areas and our normal mode of operation is to resolve to try harder and do better.  We ask for accountability and lay out a plan of action.  These are not bad things, but these are not transformational things.  We should love and serve others – even when we don’t feel like it.  But external compliance to the commands of God neither glorify God nor produce joy in the disciple.  If you are lacking in these areas, go back to the foot of the cross.  Go back and behold the Creator of the world.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you – His majesty, holiness, goodness & sovereignty.  For as we behold the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into His likeness.  Start at the foot of the cross and seek not love, but rather seek God Himself.

Putting off involves fostering a new affection

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1–3 ESV)

Because our souls have been transformed and our hearts regenerated, we should experience a growing love for those in the community of faith.  This is now further manifested by a “putting away” of old attitudes & behaviors like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy (jealousy) & slander (unkind speech).  It is interesting that Peter lists these instead of sins like murder, stealing or adultery.  These are relationally intensive sins that destroy community.  When we deceive or conceal the truth we are protecting ourselves or desiring to paint someone else in a bad light.  We think we are better than others, have our own standards, believe that we are superior to others and yet we don’t live up to that which we profess to believe.  We envy someone else’s family, relationships, power, possessions or place in life.  These are destructive things for our own souls and for the community of faith that need to be put off.  This involves intentionality, accountability and reminding that we have been cleansed from such things as these.  As we further understand & experience our adopted nature, we experience a growing supernatural power to put off these things.

Peter encourages not just a putting off, but to crave (instead of other things which produces the attitudes & actions previously listed) pure spiritual milk.  This is how we put off – we foster a new desire, a new want, a new appetite, a new affection.  Peter’s reference to milk does not necessarily indicate that they are immature, but rather that they are to long for, yearn for & lust after God’s word which is the primary way that we come to know God more deeply.  This is so we can grow up into our salvation – we nurture a craving for God.  This craving & longing for God’s word will be present in those who are truly His (ie tasted that the Lord is good [Psalm 34:8]; it started at salvation & continues throughout our lives.

Craving only comes when we have tasted something and find it desirable.  The same is true with God.  If you have never personally tasted the goodness of God then this craving will be impossible to develop.  If you have been satisfied to sit on the periphery and participate in spiritual things on the surface only, then this will be a foreign concept.  You cannot put off envy, jealousy & other relational sins on your own – they must be replaced with something else.  We must crave pure & spiritual milk which changes our behavior.  We must aggressively root out those things (even morally neutral or good things) which produce competing affections for Jesus in our heart.  He is to be uttermost in our affections, when He is not then the fruit of our idolatry presents itself.  The way to kill this fruit is to right our worship which takes intentionality on our part.  Often times we say we are working hard at it, but what we really want is freedom from sin’s entanglements – we don’t really want Jesus alone.