"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Divine Discontent

Lay’s potato chips most famous slogan was “Betcha can’t eat just one!”  It’s true.  The salt and crispy crunch compels me back for more every time.  Resistance is futile.

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at three conditions of the heart—discouragement, delight, and complacence.  Though I find my moments of discouragement and delight to be few and far between…I’m all too familiar with complacence.   Looking through scripture, I see many people who were anything but complacent towards God.  In fact, I would say they were divinely discontent.  Like with potato chips, they weren’t satisfied with a little taste of God— they wanted more and more and more of him!  Look at David’s words throughout Psalm 63 “…O God, you are my God…earnestly I seek you…my soul thirsts for you…my flesh faints for you…your steadfast love is better than life… I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night…my soul clings to you.

Whoa!  Who talks to God like that?  This isn’t so much the reverent “God is my Lord” kind of language, nor is it “God is my friend” kind of language.  This prayer...sounds a bit like a love letter!  I got some really great friends, but my soul doesn’t cling to them.  This is the bride crying out for the bridegroom kind of language!  There is intimacy here.  The scriptures are full of this kind of passion towards the Father. 
In the book of Daniel chapter 6, on the urging of his government officials king Darius had signed a decree making it illegal by penalty of death to pray to anyone—human or heavenly—other than to the king himself. 
“ 10…But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”

Doesn’t it almost seem like he’s flaunting it!  Like the Jr. High couple who’s nauseating PDA is displayed for all to see, so Daniel blatantly displays his love for his God—pushing all caution aside!  Even knowing the consequences could mean death, he will not turn his affections away!
As the apostle Paul sat in prison, he wrote these words of passion.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Both of these men held an eternal perspective thinking beyond the confines of current, earthly life towards the eternal glory awaiting them.  If they lived, they lived for God, if they died, they died for God.  Either way, it was all for God.

There are people outside of biblical history that have this overwhelming passion for more of God too.
Augustine said“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure.” 

Puritan John Owen said “O to behold the glory of Christ. ...Herein would I live; herein would I die; herein would I dwell in my thoughts and affections. . .until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.”

1 6th century monk Brother Lawrence once wrote, “I have had at times such delicious thoughts on the Lord that I am ashamed to mention them.”

Did that one make you blush a little?  I don’t know what that quote means, but there is a passion in it that is infectious!  These men loved God desperately!

Romans 8:21-23 says,

21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 

 Even creation longs for God’s redemption!  It groans for Him!

 I’ve borrowed much of these quotes and passages from a sermon series by Matt Chandler that I’ve listened to near a dozen times because of one haunting question Chandler asks.  Men and women in the bible passionately longed for God, historical figures outside of the bible desperately craved God, and even creation groans for Christ’s return.  So the Question:

  Why don’t I? 

Where is my divine discontent?  Why don’t I long for more and more of God?

If I was sitting next to these guys in the grand stands cheering God on, they’d be those guys with the face paint, crazy wigs, jerseys, big foam hands, signs, and noise makers.  They’d be standing up, spilling their pop and dropping their hot dog screaming at the top of their lungs for God!  I’m the guy wishing it wasn’t so cold outside, distracted by the peanut vendor.  Even the trees of the field are clapping their hands!  I’ve been outdone by a tree.  That’s embarrassing.  Who wants to be that guy?  I see something that these men have that I don’t, and I want it!

I believe there are three reasons why there seems to be a disconnect between the constant, passionate pursuit of God we’ve seen in these people, and the lethargy I so often find in my own life.

First, I’ve allowed idols to blind my passion for God.  Have you?  ATV’s, PC’s, RV’s, TV’s, MP3’s…stuff distracts us from God.  I don’t know that anyone intentionally sets out to put something on a pedestal before God…things just sneak there.  And most idol stuff starts out pretty innocent.  The danger is when our things, passions, pursuits, relationships, and ideals become non-negotiable—when they supersede Christ in our life.  When we say, you can take this, this, and that, but God…this stays.  This is more important to me than you. 

In Matthew 19, a young man came to Jesus wanting to know what good deed he must do to have eternal life.  Jesus shared with him some commandments he would have to keep.

20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus pointed out that maybe this young man didn’t have the commandments down as well as he had thought.  He had broken the first…his possessions becoming idols in his life.  God incarnate invited him into a journey, and the young man turned away.

  The second reason we lack passion for God is pride.
The latter half of James 4:6 says,

…“God opposes the proud
    but favors the humble.”

 He opposes the proud because they don’t need him—they have got everything under control.  In fact, they are the ones who have the answers for everyone else…and how dare anyone offer them any counsel! 

Romans 1 speak about pride.

21  "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks (NOTE: this is blatant pride right here).   And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like (NOTE: there’s this distorted view of God…lets come back to that). As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols…

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired.”

                This is how God responds to our pride…he allows us to give our hearts over to our idols, so that instead of finding the joy of God, we are blind to his glory and complacent in our commitment to him.
The final reason we lack passion for God is the reason I believe we turn to idols and pride in the first place.  …We don’t really know who God is.

I have spent much of my life worshiping a God who has called me to manage my sin and get my act together so he could accept me rather than worshiping the God who has already made me new, embraces me, and invites me to delight in him.

I’ve believed that though I’m a Christian by title, I’m still the same scoundrel I’ve always been.  God’s usually disappointed in me, and expects me to fix myself.  In reality, I’m a new creature, bonded with Jesus.  He loves and enjoys me, and is maturing me and making me new.

Chasing after idols becomes easier and safer than leaning into the arms of a God who looks at us with disgust.  Let me point you to a different God.

There was a man with two sons.  The man loved his sons immensely, lavishing his wealth upon them.  One day the youngest son with prideful arrogance demanded from his father his inheritance.  “Dad, I don’t want to wait til' you’re dead to have my fun.  Give me my money now.”

The wise father allowed his foolish son to make his own mistakes.  He gave the boy his money.  Soon the son was living the high life—everything money could buy—food, fun, a girl for each arm…but after a while the well of money went dry…along with all the land.  Famine hit.  The once wealthy Jewish boy was feeding pigs to survive…and sneaking a slurp from the slop bucket himself.  How did it come to this?  In pride, he forgot the love of his father.  The love of idols blinded his mind to the great memories of times at home.  Now, all those thoughts were flooding back.

He knew his father would be disappointed.  He could no longer be considered a son…but maybe a servant?  Anything would be better than this! 

As he trudged home, covered in dried pig slop, His Father was already watching for him.  How many days had he stared at the horizon?  When his father saw him, he ran to his son, embraced, and kissed him—no mention of shortcomings, no sting of judgment in his eyes.  Instead, he wrapped his son in robes; put the family ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet.  He prepared a feast, and celebrated the life of his son!

This son was certain his father would disown him…that he’d only be accepted with begrudging pity and even then, as nothing more than a hired hand…someone who had to earn love back.  This is how many of us look at God.  We are his “hired hands.”  We had better manage our sin so as not to disappoint God.  But the truth is that the prodigal son never stopped being the Father’s son!  In his return, the Father embraced him without judgment, and with perfect love.  What the son thought he’d have to earn, the father freely gave.

Christianity is not sin management, it is grace acceptance. Sin management leaves me focused on myself and my short comings. Grace acceptance leaves me focused on the insurmountable glory of Jesus Christ with the burning desire to give my all to Him.

This God of Grace, this is my God.  This is the kind of God I can be passionate about.  This is the God my soul longs to cling to.  A God of beautiful grace, a God of forgiveness, a God that runs to me when I have fallen short.

A God that leaves me with such delicious thoughts… I’m ashamed to mention them.

If you would like to explore these topics further, I invite you to check out these resources I used.  Matt Chandlers sermon series "Heart Matters"  and the book The cure by Truefaced.com

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