"Growing In Godly Affection: Hindrances to Delight In Christ"

More than any other time before, we're living among distractions, enticements and entertainments that are pulling and tugging our affection and devotion away from Christ. Today I'm not simply talking to new Christian converts or people who're just peering into Christianity to see what it's all about, I'm talking to embattled saints who live everyday with the aim of crucifying their flesh, taking up their cross and following Christ. The kingdom of God is not composed of glamorous Gospel superstars, who walk the Gospel Red Carpet and live perfect lives, but is made up of weak people who can only ever accomplish anything by the grace of God at work within them. So it's important that we don't look at ourselves, feign introspection and say "well, that can't be me. I don't have that problem". Maybe we don't use such direct words, but our thoughts, actions and attitudes reflect when we don't want to confront the sin within ourselves. Week in and week out people sit in churches and hear the word of God. For some it goes in one ear and out the next. For others it reaches the mind but never reaches the heart, flowing out into joyful obedience, and the truth is that it is an issue with the motive of the affections. Whatever we delight in is what we find the most joy in, and if God and his word are "not sufficient", then our affections are in disrepair, because we were created to find utmost satisfaction and joy in Christ. Christians are feeding their materialistic desires and calling them blessings from God; God does bless us with material things according to his will, but the bible is also specific about what an extensive pursuit of and delight in those things can cause. Christians today are enthralled with the 21st century life. Partying, new technological advances, fashion, T.V shows, get rich quick scams, catching up with everyone's life on social media, work and other things violently threaten our delight in Christ and the application of his word in our lives. This is why I said we must be embattled saints; If we fail to wage war on our flesh and the devil's temptations we will succumb to the glitter of this world. If we're bent on getting everything our carnal hearts desire, we're in danger of being given over to our "reprobate minds" (Romans 1:28-29).

In this very "tangible minded" society Christians often delight in the good gifts that God gives but not in him; We delight in the miracles that he can perform but not in him; We delight in the pardon that God extends to us through grace and then compromise that pardon with sin or unchristian like behavior. All of it has to do with the pride of immediate pleasure; What makes me feel good now? what solves the short term problem of my pain and suffering? How can I relieve my anger right now? what's a quick fix so that I can feel happiness for the day?

I think we can all identify with something as simple as morning or evening devotion. How easy is it to wake up and instantly pick up the phone; open up yahoo email to check work business, the status of an order from amazon or check to see who's liked your Facebook or Instagram post, yet we don't see these things as circumventing time and delight in God. Why? We innocently excuse ourselves and say, "well, I'll get to prayer later", or out of religious obligation instead of dutiful love we read a verse or two of scripture. Just enough to check off the to-do list, and keep it moving! What about when it's time to pray at night and everything on social media all of a sudden becomes enticing - or there's a marathon of your favorite TV show, or you just can't bring yourself to stop scrolling through Facebook? We don't look at the pride inside of our hearts, and see the way it grieves God when our minds are seeking and craving attention and satisfaction elsewhere. We don't see our prayerlessness as a statement to God that we can face the day without knowing joy and peace in him. There is a difference in service that flows from dutiful joy and service that flows from religious obligation or ritual. God is not pleased with religious obligation.... he wants the cup of our affections turned up to him, ready to marvel in his joy, peace and love. Go to Jesus, simply to get Jesus. He is all satisfying. 

So "What separates us from Godly affection?" - We come to understand that no matter how long we've been serving God we're people who have weaknesses and because we have a sinful nature our flesh aims at gratifying itself separate from the exclusive enjoyment of  Jesus Christ. I want to share with you a few things that can separate us from finding exclusive delight in Christ.

#1 - Has the bitter taste of circumstances separated you from delighting In God?

Life doesn't promise to be easy. I often think of our Christian brothers and sisters in third world countries who have no place clean to sleep, and most of the time don't know where their next meal is coming from. I think of those in Africa who don't have the medical care that we enjoy here in the United States. I think of our missionary brothers and sisters who plunge themselves joyfully into the thick of death in uncharted territories for the Gospel sake. I think of our brothers and sisters in some parts of Asia who have to worship secretly or else they'll be dragged from their locations and publicly killed. How is it that every single day they walk in joyful obedience and righteousness despite intense circumstances. How is it possible to not know where a meal is coming from or to have to hide and be quiet to praise the Lord and still love Jesus, and not grow bitter at life's lot? The only way is to taste and see that the Lord is good - and to know that God's beauty does not rest in the gifts that he gives! God's beauty is in his righteousness, his just nature, his lordship and his sovereignty. The "bigness" of Jesus results in the humility of man. If we can just gaze upon those truths knowing that everything around us is fleeting - it'll be over soon - then we'll get a glimpse into everlasting joy in Jesus. That kind of joy sustains and keeps in the hour of trial.

Someone may think, "but you don't understand. My body is in pain, I don't have as much money as I want to have, and God hasn't given me what I've asked him for, and I've been asking forever" 

The truth is

God may heal, or he may not............ We should still delight in him
God may give you more money, or he may not...........We should still delight in him
God may grant your request or he may not............... all of these things are not meant to change our delight in God, they're meant to strengthen it. What God wills is perfect and though hard, is for our eternal Good. 

When Paul says that "All things work together for the good of those that love him" he didn't mean that our circumstances would always be good as we define good - he meant to communicate that through every hard day, every easy day and every intensely difficult day God is fulfilling his purpose in our lives and using everything we go through to sanctify us, mold us into his image, and draw us unto himself. 

If God doesn't do everything we've asked him to it doesn't mean he has neglected us. His providential care and fatherly love goes with us from the moment we're born up until we die. so much so, that we don't even understand the breadth and depth of God's unmerited favor. When God's will seems to squash the decisions that we prefer or the plans we have those are moments for us to rest in and take delight in him even more, because then we can say "Ok God, I don't understand this, but you're all knowing and all wise and I will fight to live a victorious life in Christ Jesus". 

Victory means circumstances don't have power to take away the precious joy that God gives.
Victory means that I rejoice in the fact that God sustains and keeps his own.
Victory means every day transformation in the truth of God's word.
Victory means that nothing can stop the sovereign God from accomplishing the work that he needs to in my life. Not sickness, not the devil, not trials or tribulations. NOTHING.

So, my body has a sickness? That doesn't prevent God from working in me. And if he doesn't heal me, he'll give sustaining strength! So, I don't have millions in the bank to spear? Neither did Paul. Paul was mostly poor. He lived off of his tent making job and an offering here or there from the churches, yet he traveled vigorously and preached for years for the Gospel cause by Gods strength. During the heat of his trials he says something profound to Timothy: 

Timothy 4:16-18 New International Version (NIV)

16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We can be confident today, that through every trial and circumstance the Lord will enable us to fulfill his will, by HIS strength!

God is so much grander and so much more incredible than we count him to be. Instead of worrying about temporary stuff , We, by God's spirit should  rise above bitterness and anger at circumstances and know that God himself is all sufficient. We need him more than we need the food and water we drink. We need him more than good health or wealth. He's better than the fleeting things we run after to try to make our lives work. He's better than the entertainment we seek to try to distract us from the issues of life.

#2 - Has Sin separated you from delighting in God?

Sin is rebellion against God and for the child of God it can make the heart wax cold toward God. Sin can make indifference grow because it looks and seems delightful, but is only temporary satisfaction. After we find that the fields of sin won't satisfy our spiritual hunger, if we don't seek God, then darkness will grow and we'll stop seeing life in Christ. We stop seeing meaning in Christ - stop seeing joy in Christ - stop seeing Satisfaction in Christ, because that's what the sin does - it blinds us from the light of Christ

James 1:13-15 (NLT)
13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,[c] and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

The book of James tells us that out of our own desires (the things that our carnal nature craves) sin grows and when we act on those carnal desires they spill into darkness and godless living. 

Sin answers the call of appeasement. It makes me feel good now, it sounds good, and it looks good so it must be good. Right? Maybe some may be thinking "I'm not so gullible! I'm a mature Christian." Or maybe some christian's only think about the "big sins" but my answer to those responses are, take much time for introspection.

Have we reflected on our attitudes lately? Our patience and forbearance with those in the household of faith and the unbelievers around us? Our instinct is to give "that person" what they've got coming - and if we're honest with ourselves we allow our attitudes to go sour or make little disrespectful gestures or that tone of voice comes out ; its all  a direct reflection of the lack of grace in our hearts. These things matter, because they reveal the frailties of our character. Why do we excuse ourselves? because we think it's justified! But God calls us to the path of grace. It's not always easy to show grace to others, especially in the heat of a moment - but God is not asking us to do things that are easy, He's asking us to be holy, and that takes fighting against the flesh every single day. Crucifying our flesh is not putting it to sleep. If we put it to sleep by obligatory avoidance we can wake it up when we feel like it. In fighting, the preciousness of Christ has to replace the love for sins glitter and glamour. Food for thought. 

Have you checked your pride lately? This one is hard because it's so subtle and every human being struggles with it. Prides infidelity is that it causes us to declare our independence from God in any situation. Pride manifest itself in a variety of way's and can even masquerade as humility. In what ways do you seek to be independent of God? Do our attitudes show a "know it all" or a gentle listener. Do we seek control over everything?  Do we feign humility in front of others and then gossip about or talk down the same people? Do we over exaggerate the integrity of our character instead of being honest about our sins and weaknesses? Food for thought. 

Have you checked your idols lately? What we find joy in, and what we delight in is what will become our God. Do we spend too much time surfing social media to dig into the word? Too much time on the phone in general? These problems are pressing for the 21st Century population! Unfortunately not only do we make idols of objects, but we make idols of people too. We look to them in times of hardship instead of God. Your pastors and ministers love you but cannot replace the needed fellowship of God in your life. Your wonderful godly friends love you but are not God and cannot fill the void and longing in your life. Yet still, some people idolize their dreams and wants above God's plans. They tell God what path they're supposed to walk and then try to fit him into their plans, but we'll never find true satisfaction and delight in Christ unless we do his will, no matter how difficult it may be. We were created to serve him! Food for thought. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but all of these things are sin's that threaten to destroy Christians. They threaten to destroy our resolve for Christ and our joy in him.

The admonition is to watch every single day.... Paul says in 2nd Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves to see if ye be in the faith". Our sanctification, our growing in the image of Christ is active, not passive - and so again we must be embattled saints; living every day recognizing that our own desires and the temptations of the enemy threaten to take us out of this christian walk. We have to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Fight for joy in Christ - everything else is fleeting, and will pass away - delight in Christ will last forever. 

Jesus wants us to find the living water. The same water that he offered to the woman at the well. He told her that if she drank of that water, she'd never thirst again - this water is the marvelous well of salvation, where the springs of joy are constantly flowing from Christ. Jesus died for us to find this special joy and delight in him; this was the purpose of our reconciliation back to God, through Jesus Christ. Sin and bitterness at life must lose its power in the believers life! Taste and see that the Lord is good. We thank God for his good gifts, we thank him when he heals us, we thank him for grace extended to us, all those things are incredible, but take some time to look and linger and marvel at the incredible beauty of God, the glory of his just character, his purity and righteousness. Rest in every bit of his joy, love and all satisfying nature - this will cause joyful, dutiful obedience and eternal delight no  matter what is happening. 


Popular posts from this blog

Christians & Money: What Does The Bible Say?

"For The Lonely Christian"