One of My Greatest Spiritual Battles

You live for what you love most. You will make time to catch the latest episode on your favorite TV show. You will clear up your schedule to do lunch with that special person in your life. You will scrape and save for that ultimate vacation.

It’s true, we all live for what we love most. I still remember the first time I realized the power of desire while sitting in Greek class in seminary. Yes, that’s right, Greek class. And lest you tune me out, I’ll have you know I was about as excited as you may be at the prospect. I did not do particularly well in Greek during my college days, and I had heard stories about how hard this class would be. But on that first day of class, my professor made the insightful comment that the main difference between the succesful student and the failing student is desire. If someone wants something bad enough, they will most likely get it. You would think I would have figured that out by seminary, but for some reason the lesson really sunk in that day.

Perhaps you are familiar with this part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Notice the answer to our purpose and meaning in life has to do with our desire. We actually glorify God most by enjoying Him. You live for what you love most. That’s what Jesus said, too, when He was asked.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 
38 This is the great and first commandment.
Matthew 22:34-38

photo credit: Ben White at unsplash.com

I am by nature an ambitious person. I like to get things done and to accomplish goals. But in all my pursuits I am constantly reminded of the depth of my own sinfulness when I quietly examine my inward desires and ask, “Why am I doing this? Is it really out of a love for God, or is it just out of a love for Cameron Pollock? Am I truly seeking God’s glory, or am I seeking my own glory?” You live for what you love most. And when I look at what I am living for, I have to confess that a lot of times it is really more for me than for Christ. And that’s because I love myself too much, and Christ far too little. It is one of my greatest, most fundamental, most important daily spiritual battles.

Thank goodness for the saving blood of Jesus Christ. At His feet I find full cleansing and forgiveness. At His feet I find true satisfaction and delight. And at His feet I learn and embrace the pure motivation to love Him more and more, not in word only, but in deed and in truth.

You live for what you love most. What are you living for?

CP

The Unashamed Joy of Exclusive Love

Few joys rival that of a fiancée as she admires her diamond ring in the glitter of the sunlight. She basks in the glow of exclusive love. Her lover has made a commitment to love her and her alone, and he has affirmed that promise with a diamond ring. She unashamedly shares the news with everyone she knows. 

Marriage, the Bible tells us, is a picture of God’s love for his own people. If you are in a right relationship with God, He loves you with an exclusive love. You have a special audience with the King of creation. And that truth is cause for deep joy and unashamed sharing of the good news!

Consider a few passages from the Psalms. 

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8; also see 57:1b

“Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”
Psalm 25:22

Do you, like the psalmist, wish that your prayers would have special power and significance as they rise like “incense” and “the evening sacrifice” before God (141:2)? Do we pray for and expect God to give us spiritual victory like David’s people prayed for his military victories (20:1-5)?

God has promised to turn His face toward our plight (4:6; 86:16a), to pay attention to our prayers (5:1-2), to see the affliction of enemies, and to be gracious to us. We can ask God to lift up His hand and not forget the afflicted (10:12), to save us (69:1; 86:2b), to consider and answer us (13:3), to hear a just cause and attend to our cry by giving ear to our prayers, answering us, delivering us, and vindicating us.

Credit: Jon Tyson unsplash.com

Just last night I was watching the new animated movie, Pilgrim’s Progress. In it, a pilgrim named Christian is told that help is never far away. All he needs to do is ask. On his dangerous journey, Christian repeats this promise to himself over and over, and often claims it, always with success.

And all any child of God needs to do is ask God for help. Help may not always come when and how we expect it, but it will always be for our good and God’s glory. When we turn to God in exclusive dependence, we experience His exclusive care. Rest in that truth today.

CP

The Myth of Unaccountability

As a kid, I looked forward to growing up and becoming an adult simply so I could not longer receive discipline. I hated the accountability, the owning up of my own sin and confessing my own brokenness. But we never outgrow God’s accountability. You and I are living in a fantasy world if we think we answer to no one. And I don’t hate that fact anymore; I appreciate it. Let me explain why the Lord’s discipline is a good thing.

Protected by Discipline

In the Psalms, God promises to discipline his people. Speaking of the descendants of David, God tells us this:

30 If his children forsake my law
    and do not walk according to my rules,
31 if they violate my statutes
    and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
    and their iniquity with stripes,
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
    or be false to my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant
    or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
    I will not lie to David.
36 His offspring shall endure forever,
    his throne as long as the sun before me.
37 Like the moon it shall be established forever,
    a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah
Psalm 89:30-37

God’s discipline actually functions as a means of protection. When his people wander into sin and out from his protective care, like a shepherd with a rod, God directs his sheep back on course. And his discipline is always appropriate to our need and aimed at restoration.

Loved in Discipline

How do we know that God has good plans for us, even in discipline? Notice vv. 33-34. God’s discipline and his love never conflict; they actually go hand-in-hand. In times of discipline it may seem like God has forgotten his covenant (Ps. 89:38-51), but he will always keep his word in the end. Unlike earthly parents or guardians, who discipline with limited knowledge and often in selfishness, God disciplines us with perfect knowledge and for our good. His discipline always brings him glory, though the path may seem winding and difficult.

So God’s discipline in your life and my life is good news. Here are a few other reasons why.

  • It reassures me of God’s consistent character. If he follows through in his promise to discipline my sin, then God will surely keep his promise to deliver me.
  • It protects me from the disastrous consequences of sin. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I should pray that God disciplines me more, not less, because the consequences of sin in my life and the lives of those around me are far more devastating than experiencing the preemptive discipline of the Lord. Would you rather have God wake you up now, before the chaos of sin has run its irreversible course, or later, when you can’t go back?
  • It teaches me how to discipline my own children. There is no act in parenting I dislike more than disciplining my children. But when I have experienced the incredibly wise and gracious discipline of the Lord, I begin to understand the spirit in which I should discipline my own children. Both discipline and nurture are evidences of love. Neglect either aspect of parenting, and you are actually failing to love your children.
  • It teaches me to value covenant faithfulness in my marriage. Children must know that even in discipline, they are not condemned. If I am committed to them in love, nothing they do will cause me to forsake my steadfast love to them. Far too many children have been guilted into thinking it was their sin that broke up mom and dad, and thus they feel condemned. But it is quite the opposite. Dad and mom have forsaken steadfast love in breaking their covenant vows. Do I want to communicate in my marriage that condemnation is more powerful than steadfast love?

It is vitally important that you embrace the Lord’s discipline in your life. He loves you, wants what is best for you, and disciplines you for your good. I encourage you to thank him today for his discipline, as it reveals his fatherly love and delight over you.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12

C.P.

God Never Breaks a Promise

“It won’t happen again, I promise.” How many times have you heard that line? How many times have you said it yourself? We may have the best of intentions, but conflicts come up, we overbook ourselves, or we get distracted and forget. When people break their promises to you, it hurts. And it might sound harsh, but sometimes it kind of feels like, well, they don’t love you. But God loves you, and because he does, he never breaks a promise.

God’s Love Motivates God’s Promises

The Psalms tell us God’s steadfast love gives us confidence in God’s promises. When God gives his word, he keeps his word. Listen to this promise God made, and kept, with David:

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’”
~Psalm 89:3-4

Why would God make such an amazing promise? Simply put, God loved David.

“My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.”
~Psalm 89:28 (cf. Ps. 89:19-37; 111:9)

And God loves you, too. But it’s not enough for someone to love you. I may have the best intentions in the world in promising my daughter a pony and a princess castle, but I have no power to carry out my intentions. God, on the other hand, does have the power to act on his love toward you. And he will.

God’s Power Enables God’s Promises

The Psalms teach that God’s word was powerful enough to create everything around us. God’s word is powerful enough to thwart the plans of “the counsel of nations” (Ps. 33:4-5, 9-11). So when God speaks his word concerning us, we can have confidence that he will fulfill every last word.

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Will it always be easy to trust God’s promises? No. Sometimes it will be agonizing. But those times when we wrestle through trials hurt so much because God is stretching us. He is growing our seedling faith to new levels of maturity. We experience, with awe, God keeping his promises to us no matter how dark the night, how deep the valley, how daunting the mountain.

So do not fear. You can rest in God’s steadfast love. You are held by his mighty hand. You can have confidence in every promise your heavenly Father makes to you. He will carry you through.

C.P.