God being so infinitely dynamic in His power and love allows us small peeks above the tapestry so that His love may be magnified, not in the microscope sense (making something small appear big), but in the telescope sense (bringing detail and clarity to something so immense), so that we may appreciate it more intensely. Or in other words, a microscopes magnification brings us further from reality, and a telescopes magnification brings us closer to reality, by bringing something so immense into our field of perception with greater clarity.
Will-power obedience is not God-glorifying in two senses. First it glorifies the one that is white-knuckling their Christianity. It places man as the recipient of the praise for this obedience, giving honor to the one, who through sheer will power is keeping God’s commandments, regardless of this individual’s heart. Jesus has a strong rebuke for the person that has an outward obedience that is not flowing from a regenerate heart, in Matthew 23:27 Jesus called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs”, which look beautiful from the outside, but rotten within. Secondly will-power obedience is robotic in nature. God did not create robots to carry out emotionless obedience. This does not honor God’s infinite worth. Isn’t that the whole point of the new birth in Christ and the divine heart surgery of Ezekiel 36. Freeing us from bondage of sin, and granting us the ability to see God as worthy as He is, and therefore choosing to delight in the supreme Creator rather than the subpar created.
The new covenant is filled with the promise of joyful obedience stemming from a new heart wrought by God’s Spirit in the new birth, that can now respond to divine stimuli, and thus choose to drink and delight in the Fountain of Life, rather than broken cisterns with muddied water. In essence we are now able to see Gods true worth because the eyes of our heart were opened [Eph 1:18], and now in our obedience we are able to appraise God as He is, which is infinitely more worthy than: sex outside of marriage, lust-filled glances, a vengeful/spiteful word to a spouse or friend, fudging a tax return, holding a grudge, or filling our eyes, ears, and minds with entertainment that dishonors God.
A simple illustration of this would be delighting in the majestic view of the Swiss Alps from a chalet window, verse staring at a drawing of the Alps that a 4 year-old drew with crayon. You wouldn’t find a person with vision that would be struggling with their “obedience” of looking out the window, wishing they were staring at the crayon drawing. Why? The majestic view is vastly superior to the drawing and is holding their attention by being delightful to look at, it is not a begrudging action that is being white-knuckled, and it shows the worth of the view for that individual, through the genuine delight they are experiencing at the heart level.
This has completely changed my approach to God and living for Him. I still pursue holiness with the same fervor and vigor, but now I see that this pursuit of holiness is also the pursuit of enjoyment in GOD. God is our enjoyment, He is not the means to the end, He is the end. The new birth, substitutionary atonement, propitiation, justification, double imputation, and redeeming us from the wrath of God, are all amazing gifts and the means to get us to GOD. It is not a different pursuit, as I have believed for so many years, there is a false dichotomy out there that says, obedience comes at the cost of pleasure.
If you know your Bible, you should be quoting some Scripture in your head right now that will challenge this view, I have a few right now [Matt 16:24, 1 Peter 2:11, Phil 2:4]. We can’t throw the Scriptures out that speak about the denial of self. But we need to be clear and prayerfully define what that means. It is not my discourse to go into the denial of self, on this post, but for now let me just say that there is an old man with deceitful desires, that belongs to the former manner of life, and needs to be put off daily, as we put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [Eph 4:22-24].
Pursuing God as your pleasure, rather than pleasure, might sound threatening and grate against your personal beliefs but the more I study the Bible, the more I see the pursuit of God, holiness, and pleasure are all running parallel to each other, and indeed may very well be identical pursuits. I feel so sorry and grieved for men and women that aren’t awakening to this truth yet, as they drudge along in a semi-mindless, semi-emotionless, God dishonoring, cold obedience. Going to church with moderate motivation, singing praise songs with no deep joy in their heart, and lightly engaged in the reading of the Word with half their mind, as they plan the rest of their day with the other half. Then as soon as the comfortable 30-40 minutes of “fellowship” is over, then it is racing back home to put on “comfy” clothes, so you can engage your whole heart and mind in the sporting event du-jour, or whatever else is your fancy. I have observed this compartmentalized Christianity in my own life, so I am not pointing my finger by any means, but as God draws me closer to Him, and away from the distractions of this world, I observe how I am not alone [1 Cor 10:13]. Many church goers live out their Christianity as a cold compartmentalized religion, without a trace of genuine holy affections, or desires for GOD as their treasure, that infiltrate their entire lives, not just Sunday morning. That type of religion is as foreign to God as the worship of wood and metal with no eyes to see, ears to hear, or power to save (cf. Is 1:11-15, Jer 10:5, 8).
For His children we must walk humbly and carefully, taking great pains to pursue God with our whole heart, mind and soul [Deut 6:5, 10:12, 11:13, 13:3, 30:6, Jos 22:5, 1 Kings 8:23, 2 Chron 6:14, Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27]. The main thrust in the fight of faith is not so much in the putting off of the wicked (which we are clearly commanded to do), but rather the fight of faith as we grow in Christ is the fight to keep God at the center. To keep God as our greatest joy, desire and passion is a central, and in my humble opinion, crucial aspect of running this race, with enduring hope. We don’t glorify GOD by exchanging a list of “bad” things (that we really want to do), for a list of “good” things (that wet really don’t want to do), we glorify our Creator when He becomes our greatest treasure and our lives reflect that new birth desire, through genuine heart engaged, joy-filled, risk-taking obedience.
We glorify God when the way we live shows the value of Him. And how do we show the value of something in our life? We eat, sleep, and breathe what we value the most. It is not hard to pick out the guy that values football above everything else, he is the guy that knows stats of every player and every team, for the last 20 seasons. And that is just football, how much more should our whole heart, mind, and soul be engaged and enthralled with the most Supreme of eternity, the great I AM. I often hear snid-bits of comments, with regards to my life, to the effects of “isn’t that a bit extreme”, or “that is a pretty radical approach”, or “you may struggle with a mild form of legalism”.
I have no ill-will towards my brothers or sisters that say such slogans in response to the way I fight to keep God as the center of my heart and joy. But it baffles and grieves me, to see a lost world pursue such small and fleeting pleasures with a zeal that should make every Christian blush. If there is anything known to man that should arouse such a vigorous exercise of the will, in that our blood should course through our veins with more volume and pressure, and our hearts implode with joy that is inexpressible, it should be our Creator, which in His divine purpose, brought us (children of wrath) out of darkness into the marvelous light “of the knowledge of the glory of GOD in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Cor 4:6].
We glorify God when we view everything with God in mind, when we relish a savory spoonful of roasted banana gelato and our minds think of a GOD that cares so much to create taste buds that are excited at certain combinations of chemical elements. Or when we go for a run in 100 degree weather to burn off that roasted banana gelato and thank God that we are able to experience exhaustion, heat, and sweat, because in 30 minutes the refreshingness (not a word, I know) of a cool pool will be amplified 10 fold, and our minds will see that as a dim reflection of the unhindered rest we will experience in the new Jerusalem. We glorify Him when we count Him infinite worth over everything we have: our car, house, job, spouse, health, and even our life [Phil 1:21]. This most definitely is a process that progresses over the course of our life, but I notice how fundamentally the battle line of our fight of faith, comes down to knowing, cherishing, and remembering with growing clarity who God is.
He is not just a divine gift giver, but the Gift Himself. Jesus proclaims this truth clearly in John 6:35 “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger”, and again in verse 48 “I am the bread of life”. This has had an amazing impact on me, no longer is heaven just a place with no sin and all the riches for all of eternity, now it is a place where I will be in the presence of the Lord experiencing Him to the fullness which He has created us. This places Him as my greatest desire, and that has a beautiful cascading effect on my sanctification and how I live on earth while contending with “Delilah desires”, or deceitful desires, that are aroused in me from time to time through my flesh.
These Delilah desires will cloak themselves in the most insidious packaging, but they all have the same intent, to reign in my life, by me obeying those passions (Rom 6:12), thus luring me into exchanging the infinite glory of GOD whose very presence there is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore (Ps 16:11), with a lesser “broken” gratification for my immediate appetite, and in so doing, sinning horrifically against God by despising His promises, and thus dishonoring God’s very Name by questioning His character, namely His power and faithfulness. Jeremiah makes it clear, the ridiculous exchange that happens when we give in to Delilah desires…
“for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters ,and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” [Jer 2:13]
God is so amazing and He is so very patient with me, as He crafts me everyday into the likeness of Christ Jesus. My view of sin has been so superficial for way to long, and I can confidently say that it is directly correlated to my weak view of GOD. Up until recent, my view of sin was just a list of “bad” things; thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that Christians should not exhibit. Not the worse view of sin, but just very surface level, and this view will lend itself to the opportunity to look for the “line in the sand” of sin.
I know others have viewed it this way also, hence I am writing about it, but when we view sin as some imaginary “line” that we don’t cross, we are viewing sin with a secular mind instead of a GOD-centered mind. And this view also lends itself to looking at “fruit” sins, instead of dealing with “root” sins, by and large meaning outward behavior, instead of the inward attitude of the heart. When you hold this view of sin, it is easy to find yourself living as close as you can to this imaginary line without crossing it. In essence, it is trying to “have your cake and eat it too”, having the benefit of Christ (meaning salvation), all while appeasing (as much as we can) the “god of our bellies” with a mind that is set on earthly things [Phil 3:19].
If we are the product of God’s love and faithfulness (first to Himself and secondly to us), by the vindication of His holiness and righteousness [Ezekiel 36:23-27, Rom 3: 24-26], then we have been the recipients of a divine heart surgery involving the replacement of a dead stone heart that is unresponsive to divine stimuli, with a new living heart that is now able to respond to God with fear and trembling [Jer 33:9], as well as taste buds for righteousness and joyful obedience. And if it is God who rejoices in planting and grafting us in His faithfulness, with His whole heart and soul [Jer 32:41], than we must begin to see sin, sanctification, and God in greater depth, than when we were newborn babes in Christ.
It is my earnest prayer for all, that dormant new birth desires of the heart are awakened and you begin thirsting for GOD again, with a yearning that will compel the you to go into deeper waters to know God, however that may look in your life. Maybe it is resolving to find more pleasure in God, starting with prayer, and humbly asking that the glitz and glam of the world become dimmer, as Gods radiance becomes increasingly brighter. Maybe it is reading God’s word with a mindset that places Him as infinitely beautiful and of infinite worth, and desiring to see that glory in His word. Whatever it is, take full advantage of Jesus’ amazing words to his disciples that your worship may become “worth-ship”, by magnifying God’s worth in your daily life.
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”