Sanctification

Lusting for Comfort… Treasuring Something Greater

 

“The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.”  Khalil Gibran

I heard this quote on my way in to the office this morning, and was stunned.  And I believe it was no accident that I heard it.  So much of my life has been spent securing comfort in this world… an “eternity on earth” of sorts.  I mentioned in my last post my fear of being exposed as an imposter.  That fear is driven by a deeper fear that I’ll lose my little “kingdom” I’m building, and I’ll have my little comforts taken away from me.  Those comforts I long… no, that I lust for.  And as Mr. Gibran states, my soul’s passions having been murdered by my lusts, they now lie in state while the lust simply grins as I mourn over what I’ve lost.

This can’t be how life is supposed to be lived.  What is the antidote to this vicious disease of lusting for comfort?  John Piper, sheds some like in his wonderful message on Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, comparing our lives to the solar system [emphasis mine]:

So it is with the supremacy of Christ in your life. All the planets of your life—your sexuality and desires, your commitments and beliefs, your aspirations and dreams, your attitudes and convictions, your habits and disciplines, your solitude and relationships, your labor and leisure, your thinking and feeling—all the planets of your life are held in orbit by the greatness and gravity and blazing brightness of the supremacy of Jesus Christ at the center of your life. And if he ceases to be the bright, blazing, satisfying beauty at the center of your life, the planets will fly into confusion, and a hundred things will be out of control, and sooner or later they will crash into destruction.

Jesus Christ encountered a very confident and wealthy man, who desired something he thought Jesus could give him.

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV)

I’m that man.  I’m the guy who is looking at my treasures sadly because of what I think I’ll lose.  I’m the guy that lives my life as though my planets are held up by me, all the while missing the strong gravitational pull of the Son Jesus Christ, whose blazing glory and brightness of His supremacy is constantly pulling at me to become the most beautiful part of my life.  I’ve been that guy for so long.  But no longer.  Like the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44-46), the antidote to the viral spread of discontentment and fear in my life is to treasure Christ for all he is worth.  It is to find supreme satisfaction in the glory and treasure of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my Savior.

What do you treasure today?  What do the planets of your life revolve around?  To paraphrase Joshua in the Old Testament, as for me and my house, we will put Christ at the center of our solar system, and live with joy that His pull is so strong!

Terror and Rest… Facing the day

I woke up this morning terrified.  Not from a bad dream or extreme trial or tribulation I was facing today.  I looked at my calendar this morning and looked at the 4 things I am responsible for accomplishing today at work, wondered how I will get it done, and felt a little sense of dread about it all.  But this was something more.  This was deeper than impossible “to-do lists”.  And I feel like I live with this terror, sometimes more subtly, but definitely there, almost every day.  I am absolutely terrified that I will be EXPOSED.

I’m not talking about the kind of exposure you get from frostbite, where everything hurts because of the damage done by the cold.  Not fear of pain or even embarrassment.  Deeper.  I’m talking about that fear that I’ll be sitting in class or a meeting one day and realize I’m sitting in my underwear.  That “how did I get here and how do I get out without anyone finding out?” fear.  I’m afraid that people will discover me for the IMPOSTER that I think I am.

Now, I have 4 children, ages 5-14; I teach a 5th grade Sunday School class; I lead men’s groups.  And in all of these settings, I can teach with FIRM conviction that in Christ, I am not an imposter.  I have everything I need to live life and godliness.  God is taking care of me.  I know this.  So, why do I sit here this morning dreading something I intellectually know is not true?

Well, I think there are many reasons, but it seems the one that God laid on me this morning has to do with my sin.  Specifically, my relational sin.  Meaning, the sins I commit which destroy my sense of feeling connected to God.  Let me explain with a parable (Ha!).  But seriously, let me use my relationship with my wife as an example:

Let’s say my wife was upset about something I didn’t do earlier that she had asked me to do.  Instead of stopping to reflect about it, I blow up!  I react and say harsh things to her.  Now…  how am I feeling after I’ve cooled down?  Based on what I’m likely seeing in her face, I probably feel pretty rotten.  Initially, I probably feel more rotten about myself, why did I do that, what is wrong with me?  Have you been there before?  So often, I do this with God.  I feel bad about what I did, and I turn that bad feeling to myself.  Deep down, I feel rotten about myself and despise my many bad choices.  And I fear I will be exposed and have to face the “reality” of how someone will see me.

But what if in that moment, instead of feeling rotten about me, I felt more of a sense of deep regret over the harm I caused her?  What if I turned to my wife in deep sorrow and expressed how I wish I had not done that, and I know I harmed her?  What if, for a moment, I didn’t care what I felt about myself, and simply loved her to the point of restoration and healing?  Ironically, I end up feeling much better… not because I proved I’m right.  Quite the contrary.  But because my relationship is restored and I now probably have a stronger sense of steps I need to take to correct that sin in me.  And likely, I don’t even consider being afraid of being exposed about this sin.  In essence, I’ve bared all before my wife already.

Such is the way with God and me.  Like David’s deep repentance to God over his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51), when I see my sin first as an affront to God, I come to Him with deep sorrow and full assurance of what He can do about it.  The result?  Confidence that today, I don’t have to worry about being exposed.  I’ve already bared all to the one who matters most to me, and the one who can actually do something about it.  I can rest in the fact that Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, paid the penalty for that sin and is restoring me to wholeness.  In fact, Jesus is our rest (Hebrews 4:11-16).  And I’m going to rest in Him today.  I hope you do too.

Embracing my humanity (aka, the DOT)

Mall-You Are HereHave you ever been wandering around a mall and trying to figure out where a store is?  You finally find the map and you see the 100 stores that are at the mall and you’re trying to figure out where you are relative to those stores. What do you look for?  The DOT that tells you “you are here.”
I have been meeting with a mentor at church for the past 2 months and he is attempting to get a message across to me that I am starting to accept… no, embrace.  This is the idea of the DOT.  The DOT tells me where I am in the mall.  And in life, the DOT represents where I am, warts and all.  There is good in the DOT.  There are challenges in the DOT.  But regardless of what I feel about the DOT representing where I currently am, the DOT does not lie.  I am at… the DOT.
Now, in a mall, once I figure out where I am, I then have a decision to make.  Do I stay at the dot and complain about how far away from the anchor store I am going to?  Do I bemoan the fact that I parked so far away from the store I’m interested in, thinking all the while that I’ll have to walk all the way back here to get to my car?  I could.  And truth be told, I probably have at times.  But most of the time, I embrace the fact that I am where the dot tells me I am, and I map out where I need to walk to get to my desired destination.  Then, an interesting thing happens…  As I walk to my destination, I enjoy the journey.  I look at the stores (mostly electronics… again, I’m kind of a geek), I notice people, and I enjoy the walk there.
Then I ask myself… why can’t I do that in life?  My DOT in life is simply an indicator of where I am.  It does not define where I go from here.  It does not define who I am.  Now, I might feel good about my DOT some days because I’ve made great choices over a period of time.  Or I might feel bad about myself because I’ve struggled.  But moving from that place, forgetting the past, straining forward to what lies ahead… isn’t this what we’re supposed to be about?  Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
In my previous 2 blogs on my humanity, I wrote about Accepting my humanity and Rejecting my Humanity.  But I think to fully “move forward”, I must embrace my humanity, surrender what I think my life should have been like and what I wish I was, and press on trusting Jesus and living in the joy He gives me.  I must love people and not be afraid to interact with the world. I must not only not be afraid of being human…  I must embrace being human.
 YouAreHereRoad
So, one of my great desires in life is that I would live so free from the burdens of this world, live so content with life and God’s love for me, that people would ask me “what is different about you?”  And that my answer would simply be “Christ.”  Nothing I’ve done.  Just Christ.  So, I press on to make that truth my own as Paul says I should and enjoy the journey.

Rejecting my humanity

I was listening to a message this morning from my pastor titled “The Pursuit of Holiness“.  It came from back in 2009 and is centered around Hebrews 12:1-14 and the idea of pressing on and not giving up in the Christian life.  Not giving up in the pursuit of holiness (or sanctification).  The core of the message came down to us seeing our need for holiness, the beauty of holiness, and how God is presenting us to the world in all our holiness as a shining testimony of His work on earth.  To fade gradually… to “drift away” from active participation in this process is to turn away from all of these beautiful truths.
Last week I wrote a blog titled Accepting my humanity.  As I consider my humanness and come to accept that, there is also an aspect of being human that I must reject.  That part of my life that can be so destructive and counterproductive.  In rejecting this aspect of my humanity, I’m basically rejecting sin and my “fleshly desires.”  And in a sense, I’m suffering for Jesus.  Here’s how it works for me:
– I’m tempted.  Could be a simple “over-the-counter” sin that everyone accepts as “OK”.  This Thanksgiving, I completely overate.  I knew I was full, but kept eating more desserts.  I’ve been on a real sugar binge lately.  So, after that, I felt TERRIBLE.  No stretch pants for me.  But no one is going to fire me from work or kick me out of church for doing this.  Or my temptation to sin sometimes is something deeper.  Something more destructive that will hurt me or others if I followed through with it.  Either way, I’m tempted.
– In that temptation, I have a choice.  Embrace it, love it, and enjoy it for the moment.  Or deny the flesh that tells me how much I’ll enjoy it and decide not to do it.
In denying the fleshly desire, I have suffered for Jesus.  In participating in the sin, I am essentially ending the suffering, and rejecting Jesus.  Sadly, I do this quite often.  And I hate it.  Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  (Matthew 16:24). So often, I set my cross down and live for myself.
Today, I will choose to deny the earthly pleasures that seem to bring great satisfaction, but in the end are a bitter pill.  I choose to trust in the promises of God’s faithfulness.  And I choose to believe that what He has said about me is true.  I am His precious child.  I am adopted into His great family.  And He will not forsake me.  He will continue the good work He began in me and bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:6)
Is this easy?  Are you kidding me?  It is one of the hardest things I have to do in life.  Deny my flesh.  Deny what feels good.  But I’ll do it today.  I’ll reject my humanity.  And in so doing, I know that I will receive a peace that passes all understanding.