Tag Archives: desire

Everyone should read John Piper

Every Christian should read and listen to the sermons of John Piper.

I have not always believed this.  In fact, I would have laughed at such a suggestion for most of my adult life.  But I’m convinced of this now more than ever.

Last year I wrote a post taking issue with John Piper’s advice on how to defeat lust.   I took exception to the fact that one of his six steps was Enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure.   In my thinking at the time, I felt like this was heaping unnecessary shame and guilt upon people who already know they should enjoy Jesus more, but don’t.    Not a terrible feeling to have, but not a terribly correct one, either.

I think sometimes it’s easier to concern ourselves over the shame and guilt others might feel than we are with sharing them truth in love.   In doing so, I think we rob people of opportunities to experience the power of God resurrecting their life (the resurrection assumes a death) in favor of ensuring they feel comfortable in this present life.

Piper will have none of that.  His sole purpose is to glorify God.   He wants everyone to discover that they are only truly happy when they find delight in God.   And this is why everyone should read him.

I’m reading now his wonderful companion to Desiring God entitled When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.   In this book he masterfully and pastorally handles the issue I took with him suggesting we enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure but, even more, he awakens in me a desire to know and love God more intimately than I ever have (a thirst that, to be sure, will never be fully quenched).

I have some theological disagreements with Piper to be sure, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is head over heels in love with Jesus and submits himself wholly to the holy words of God with child-like awe and wonder.

That is something I desire.   And the good news, according to both Jesus Christ and John Piper, that desire is a gift of God and one which will grow and grow and be filled and filled, also as a gift of God, assuming we continue to pursue Christ and his righteousness.   Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things…

If you are experiencing a lack of faith, a dry spell in your walk with God, or if you know it to be true of yourself that, quite frankly, you enjoy and find delight in many things more than God, then I commend to you the works of John Piper.    It is often said that the reason we worship together corporately is so that in those seasons where we may not have faith, we can lean on the faith of others.    If you are in such a season, I pray that Piper’s deep and abiding faith and utter joy he finds in the Person of God might serve as a crutch for you today, and inspire you to new heights and greater desire tomorrow.

Grace and peace,
Chad

“God Friended Me” Theology

I admit I got hooked on the CBS Sunday night series God Friended Me.   Even though I find myself rolling my eyes far too often at some of the cheesy coincidences or the many ways Miles and Cara awkwardly inject themselves into the middle of people’s lives, I still find myself moved by the story line and blaming my watery eyes on allergies.

The show is about Miles Finer (played by Brandon Michael Hall), an atheist who is also the son of an Episcopal priest (played by Joe Morton) who gets a friend request from someone named God.    Each show centers around a friend suggestion made by God which Miles and his band of friends (Cara and Rakesh) strive to help.   The side story happening alongside the drama of helping their new-found friends is their quest to discover who is behind the God account, because, well, the atheist Miles knows it most certainly can’t be God.

While the story line is intriguing, the theology behind it is not surprisingly dreadful.   Miles’ dad, the priest, offers very little in the way of correcting whatever misguided views his atheist son or lesbian daughter have.   More importantly, he presents his role as priest, and that of his church, as nothing more than a place where people discover their purpose in life.  The implication is that faith is simply discovering what your heart wants and going after it.

What’s implied by the father is explicit with his son.  In this week’s episode, Miles and Cara are discussing life and both affirm the necessity for everyone to follow your heart’s desire.   In fact, Miles states, your heart will never lead you astray.

In this way, God Friended Me does a marvelous job at positioning the Self at the center of the universe.   It affirms what all of us are all too easily persuaded to believe:  If I desire it, it must be good.   In this show, God friends me and affirms all that I am and the Church is there to support and nurture that belief.

Scripture, of course, has something very different to say about the nature of our hearts and the innate goodness of our desires.   The prophet Jeremiah warns us that our heart’s are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).   Who can know it? he asks.   It can be known, but to do such requires wisdom, and wisdom requires a fear of God (Prov. 9:10).   Without a holy fear of God, without surrendering our hearts, our wills, our lives over to God,  we cannot rightly trust any desire we have.

I know in myself that I have desires which are not of God.   And I am not speaking of just the obvious ones, or the addictive ones.   I am not speaking merely of those desires which if acted upon might cause harm to myself or others.  I am speaking also of those secret and not so secret desires which can parade themselves as virtue in our culture today.    Desires like ambition, greed, fame, pride.   A desire to be liked by others.   A desire to be known for my good deeds or pitied for my bad.   These desires, and many like them, are not from a pure heart but from one that is rooted in the things of this world.   To advise me to trust my heart and follow after it would be foolish indeed.

CBS is not the only platform telling us to trust our heart’s desires.   This message comes at us from all angles, including the Church.   I’ve written here in the past about the impasse the United Methodist Church is experiencing over homosexuality.    At the root of this struggle is a God Friended Me theology, one that suggests that if a person loves something and is not harming anyone, it must be good.   It’s an easy, and appealing theology to embrace.    It certainly tickles the ears.

One of my daily practices is to read a portion of Psalm 119.   There is one theme in this longest chapter of the Bible which is abundantly clear:   The writer desires nothing more than to be molded according to the word of God.    If the desire does not spring from God’s law, the psalmist wants nothing to do with it.     I have written in the past about how praying this to be true of me has changed my life.    It’s a prayer I continue to pray today, and have begun praying for our Church.

James couldn’t be more clear when he wrote that temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away (James 1:14).    Having a healthy skepticism of our heart and it’s desires is wise, and praying continually that our heart and it’s desires be conformed to the word of God is prudent.   Doing so gives us assurance that indeed, God has befriended us, and we are his friends if we obey his commands (John 15:14).

 

 

 

Satan Fans the Flame of Disordered Love

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:11).

I suppose one advantage of being in bondage to sin for so long is it made me well aware of the enemy’s tactics.   I hung around him long enough to have some understanding of his “designs.”    There are many tactics of Satan,  but I’d say one of his favorites is making us think our actions are normal and natural and even reasonable.  Have you ever said to yourself or someone else, “Well this is just who I am” or “I can’t help it, I’m made this way” or perhaps, “It just felt right, how could it be wrong” or even, “Love wins“?

love-wins-logo

This is because each of us “is tempted when lured and enticed by our own desire” (James 1:14).   Satan doesn’t really need to bring anything new to the battle for our hearts.  He just needs to fan the flame of what is already there.   

For every one of us that could be a different thing.  My desires won’t be the same as the next guy or gal.   For some it might be lust, for others it might be disordered sexual desires, for some it might be food, for others it might be control, for some it might be fame, or perhaps money or it could simply be a desire to devour any kind of impurity (Eph. 4:19).   In all of us is this desire which wants to disobey, to rebel, to reach for the forbidden fruit even though we know God said no and even though there are plenty of trees from which to pick from all around.   Our radar zeroes in on the one forbidden thing.

This is the curse of sin and it stains us all.  Satan doesn’t need to do anything more than to blow on the hot embers of our desire and when we act upon them, James says this desire then gives birth to sin (we act on that desire), and as we continue to act on this desire because we think it’s just natural, normal and reasonable, it brings forth death.   The death here is a spiritual death, one described by Paul in Romans 1:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (vs. 21-32).

The death is a spiritual death, by which we are slaves to our human desires.    The early church father, Augustine, called our plight one of “disordered loves.”    All of us, no matter who we are, love the wrong things.   None of us are without excuse.  All have these disordered loves and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).   If we do not “come to our senses” as the Prodigal Son did and say yes to the Spirit of God convicting us of our sin, we will continue to slide down this road where we are no longer able to hear or know truth, but instead we find ourselves doing what God says not to do and even give approval to those who do (Rom. 1:32).

Satan fans the embers of human desire which feel normal to us, and as we worship the creature (our desires) we fall prey to the delusion that we are fine, even justified, in our sin.

We need to be aware that Satan is a master at making our desires appear to be natural, even holy.   The prophet Jeremiah said we will dress the wounds of the people and say “peace, peace” when the reality is, there is no peace (Jer. 6:14).   Paul saw clearly what Jeremiah saw, that our hearts are deceitfully wicked and prone to love the wrong things (Jer. 17:9) and rather than justify love for loves sake he cried out, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Scripture repeatedly warns us to be vigilant and watchful over our hearts and the hearts of others.   The Puritans did this through daily introspection and examination, naming their desires and lining them up with God’s word to see if they were holy desires or fleshly ones.   We would do well, perhaps, to adopt some of their rigors.  But being rigorous without first repenting, without first coming to our senses and realizing Satan has used our desires against us, we will not know freedom.   The good news is this:   When we humble ourselves and cry out along with Paul our need to be delivered from this body of death which loves the wrong things, we are given a new heart.  The Holy Spirit recreates us as new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17) and instead of being a slave to our desires we become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:15-23).

A good practice is to ask yourself often whether or not the things or people you love are ordered after the wisdom of God or the wisdom of this world.   There is a way which seems right to humankind, but in the end it leads to death (Prov. 14:12).    Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s designs on your desires.   Take delight in the Lord, and discover that His word is true, you will be a new creation, with new desires (Psalm 37:4).

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25).