Note to Self, Part 4: Longing for More than Everything.

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It is a good thing to jot down these notes to myself in order that I might remember that which I easily forget; BUT that doesn’t negate the fact that ultimately, not what I say to myself, but what God says about Himself, and me in relation to Himself, is the ultimate safeguard and guide. Not the ultimate, but the only: everything else is a helpful supplement only as far as they point back to the source. Psalm 119:11

As a follow-up to talking about anything that comes between yourself and drawing near to a Holy God, the one who has washed and sanctified you, I will remind you of the forms which this lust may take in your life. I am not trying to prevent you with fix-all solutions to your problems as much as a way for you to “Act the miracle” i.e., work out that which God is working in you. Striving apart from Him you cannot succeed; striving towards the goals of holiness towards which He brings you, you cannot fail.

What are the lusts?

For you as a Christian, lusts could very simply be described thus: Longing for more than everything.

Those of the flesh: the wicked, abominable, and unashamed obsession with passing physical beauty, that which most often allows itself to delight in the lowest filth above higher beauties. When you commit adultery or rape in your heart, it is extremely likely that no one will hear about it. But does that matter? Is the importance of a crime as much its outward effect, or the person against whom the crime is committed? Self will tell you, relying on what is immediate and seen, that the second glance will satisfy you. But the heart will not be satisfied with that–if you allow self the one foothold of double-taking at a girl, your heart will want to push it to the mile mark of lust. It seems so innocent! And yet the very ascendant of our Savior chose to look again. From that grew adultery, an illegitimate pregnancy that could not be covered up, which in turn could only be dealt with by murdering the husband. You know this story, but do you really? Read Psalm 51, you will understand that you cannot keep a close walk with your Father and a pleasant realization of His salvation between your eyes, if you entertain this lust. A man after God’s own heart faltered through it: think not that you will survive. Put it far, far from you. Meditate on the better reality of the once-broken, now-glorified body of your risen Savior.

Remember: every wandering thought is an affront to the Savior’s sufficiency.  More on this here.

   Lust of these eyes: making much of this world and its goods. Its latest diversions, and an inordinate desire for possessions-driven standing among men (having the right technology, right clothes, right body) rather than being absorbed in the Christ-purchased standing we have before God. Seeking acceptance in a world that should hate me. You sub- consciously allow movies, gadgets, clothing, the places you eat, or anything else become a status symbol that defines how you desire others to view you.
   And it is spiritualized. You are given absolutely everything that is necessary for life and godliness, and yet you see outward things, such as external spirituality, proficiency of gifts and talents, or popularity to draw your eyes away from this reality. They become to you as means, so that rather than run to the fountain of Grace, you try to cultivate whatever external thing you think will improve you. But no means, if it is incorrect, can be pursued without the ends themselves being altered. This is why the crucial thing is to remember that your ultimate end is Christ, not being better in whatever your favorite aspect of life may be.
    Remember, every uncaptivated thought is an affront to the Savior’s sufficiency.
   Lust of the mind: entertaining fantasies, on any number of issues or events, all which tend toward my self-advancement or pleasure, rather than thinking on He who needs no aid of the imagination to be glorious. Your imagination is a gift, as is the enormous leisure which you possess as a human in being able to think on just about anything at anytime. But oh how wasted time can be in ridiculous imaginations after something that either isn’t true, isn’t honorable, or both. Phil. 4:8. Or perhaps you travel into your memory, and set your thoughts solely on things which have been once, and you are so easily discontented with being faithful with what God has set before you to do.
   Remember: every wandering thought is an affront to the Savior’s sufficiency. Your God supplies all your needs; His grace is sufficient for you; and in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and yet you take all of this, and discard it to think on things contrary to Him? Not to say we never think about other things; we live on earth and we are intended to be engaged in our lives. But why make God out to be so much less than He really is when we dwell on the things that keep us from Him, especially during our prayers and the worship service. (I will delve more into most crucial aspect in my next and hopefully final note on the subject).
Lusts of the heart: going from object to object seeking something which will satisfy my emotions. This is where the deepest problems lie, and often is the root of the others. This is where you are most vulnerable. Your heart belongs to a King: you simply mustn’t give it away without His consent. And why would you? Is He not enough? or do you feel the need to fill in the seeming gaps in your thought life and your emotions with something that is not yours yo cherish? “The human heart is an idol factory.” and you know as well as anyone.
    A man to whom you listen often, Paul Washer, draws out a plain but curiously elusive truth from Scripture: the Bible tells us to wrestle with Spiritual darkness, to wrestle with the devil himself (Eph. 6:12, James 4:7). This entails heartfelt, deep, harsh spiritual warfare in which most of us have never troubled ourselves to engage. But the curious thing is that when he addresses the sin of “youthful lusts” he gives a simple instruction: “Flee.” Retreat. Turn tail and run (2 Tim. 2:22. Nice number sequence. He follows with some practical instruction on what to pursue which surely have a place). Even though we are to wrestle with Satan himself, the deepest expression of Christian maturity, in regard to these lusts, is a deliberate distance from them.
This seems, perhaps at first, to have application only to the first lust. But it is bears just as much on the last as well. I must cut myself short here…and with the help of another, far more insightful author, will soon take this back up.

Accepting a World that is Better than Fairytales

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If asked, it wouldn’t take me long to calculate the time from now until I get a chance to see The Hobbit. One of my favorite pieces of literature is already on my list of favorite films. And I’m still seven months away from seeing it. I have no fears of my confidence being shattered. I am a massive fan of everything Tolkien has written on Middle Earth, and The Lord of the Rings film trilogy remains in the top three positions of my favorite movies of all time. I even recall the last time I was visiting Wheaton, IL -having been given another opportunity to serve a man who has been following his Master for 60 years. But this time around, the height of my ecstasy came when I sat at the very desk on which J.R.R. Tolkien had done most of his writing. Nothing could have animated an ardent lover of the Shire more.

And in the midst of all the enthusiasm that I feel when I engross myself in the world of Middle Earth, the inescapable, overarching reality of that genre of writing tends to slip my mind. The reality is expressed in the word next to the barcode on the book: Fantasy. Nothing about the world I am reading about is real enough to permeate my every day life. While the ideas and beliefs that the writer is imparting through the stories should bear much weight in my “reality”, the stories themselves should have none.

At a formative point in my life, the young men at my church would gather every monday night for discipleship and prayer. It would last two and a half hours on average. In this time, through the umbrella theme of the supremacy of Christ, all areas of life were discussed. My Pastor told us about a time during his college years when he was discovering the beauties of Tolkien. Like myself, he couldn’t get enough of every joy and nuance of elven history and poetry. But he said that at a point, he felt the question posed to him,did he love more the world that Tolkien had invented – with the elves and the hobbits, the rings and the silmarils – or the world that God had made, in which a person could have fellowship with the Trinity through the blood of the Everlasting covenant. That was his story, but we all must ask ourselves the same type of question at some point. Where do we live and in what do we delight: the real, or the Fantasy?

I don’t want to import the idea that I think these types of literature, or films, are bad. Quite the contrary. But there ever remains a danger in we, as humans, allowing our favorite fantasies to become a greater reality than what is real, what is true. It doesn’t have to be Lord of the Rings either. Whatever takes up space in your affections and thought-life beyond what it ought is concerned. It could be the world of functional, fantastic saviors who delight us because they are other than we are, which we find in X-Men or Avengers. It could be Star Wars, your favorite romance novels, or even (if you’re a nerd) Legend of Zelda. 

But more dangerous than these are the little fantasies that our minds are prone to constantly devising: The comfortable friendships with people who see no vice in me: The emotional fulfillment I find in the girl who I think smiled at me: The job  I want, the easy bills to pay, the fully functioning cars; The situation that is better in our minds than the one in which a kind Father has placed us. We all foolishly allow our minds to run to a world where Bilbo is always lucky. Our knowledge of how good stories must end gives us confidence that our fantasies must always end well. But our lack of faith causes us to disbelieve the happily ever after that God will eventually bring us to through all the little pains and crosses of everyday life.

Wanting more -It started with our parents, and has been the downfall of every human heart since. They had absolutely everything that they needed, and more. They were tenders of a garden in which the Creator of all things chose to walk. They couldn’t just say that they had “tasted and seen that the Lord is good.” That was their continual diet. But in the midst of all this, they chose to believe a fantasy that said that things could be better. A fantasy which held forth promises that proved thinner than the figs leaves with which the attempted to shield their shame. The lies they believed ran contrary to everything that they owed to their Creator:

Faith: They owed it to the God that had placed them there to believe what He told them was best at face-value. So we must believe that the world God has put us in, the friends He has given us, the loves He takes away, and the Crosses He bestows, spring out of a heart that brims with eternal love and wisdom.

Obedience. No supposition in the universe is so logical as that creature ought to be subject to it’s Creator. God bound them with double cords in that He was kind and loving. They owed it to Him to obey Him without question. So we owe it to our Creator, Redeemer, and Crowned King to follow His every footstep with confidence that all He orders is for the best.

Love: the hinge on which the human heart turns. They believed a lie, and on that lie they allowed their hearts to stray from the Creator who had told them contrary. But in so doing they turned from the One who was infinitely worthy of all affection.

We cannot afford to waste our hearts on the fake world when we have within our grasp the ultimate standard of what is reality. Every fantasy that we find ourselves enjoying should only make more real in our hearts and lives the Truth that is revealed to us in the word of God. Opening that book, we have the mind of Christ. That ought to make my heart race ten-times more than touching the desk of any Inkling.

The Gospel is the Antonym: Emotional Entanglement

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As I said last time, this probably won’t be fun for anyone, especially the author. That is even more true of this round. Because emotions are the sort of things that seem most to entangle every age, genders, and they are that over which we seem to have the least control.

God wants (and will have) complete control over our every part: but He is our Creator, and He knows that our hearts are the wellsprings of the rest of our lives, so He asks for them specifically. Since the fall, and the enslavement of the human race to sin (remember, enslavement is not only a effect of sin, but a consequence of it) we have sought some object on which to rest our hearts, to drive us to take on the rest of the day, or just to make it by. And even after our hearts are taken captive to the Jesus, we still have this sneaky, inbred tendency to forget the Gospel, and to allow the desires of our hearts to be satiated by some lesser object. And just as a deeper digging into the Gospel causes us to bring our lives into conformity to it more and more, a deeper fostering and feeding of emotional entanglements, (that is, setting the deepest desires of our hearts on some temporary object), bind us further to these emotions.

The most obvious form that this takes is the way in which we relate to other human beings. God made us to be anything but independent creatures: He gave perfect man a companion, and He means for us, always, to seek our ultimate satisfaction in relationships. And the reason for this is because we are all to find our eventual and ultimate fulfilment in a relationship with HIM.Once He gives us this, there are a hundred different lesser relationships that He means us to prize as gifts from Him and helps toward deepening this central one. But these are the ones we most often twist, being such as

…our peer groups, and indeed all of our dear friends upon whom we lean, are given us to point us to the Father, and indeed to be a source of delight and rest. But once we begin to find our fulfillment in these, and we are lost in either nostalgia of our past times with them, or in anticipation of our next times with them, they have overstepped their purpose.

…children, or people who look up to us.

…and without a doubt, those of the opposite sex. God deliberately placed within us a huge desire for intimacy with “opposites” because He created such human relationships to reflect His mystical relationship with His church. But our hearts are prone to such joy in being emotionally intimate with another, and addiction to sense the security, and the fellowship that comes with it, that we absolutely refuse to put a leash on our hearts. We become distracted, and drawn away,  by whatever object on which we are feel like placing our attentions. God may lead such desires to higher things, but most often, it is at best unprofitable, at worst destructive, when we thus stray.

But though the problem is relatively easy to analyze, most of the remedies that are given us on the radio at 9am, or blogs at 9pm, are futile because they do not fuel us with a God-ward alternative. But surely, surely the Gospel is as antonymous to this as it is to sexual desire.

Pure and simple, rather than emptying ourselves of all emotional desire, the Gospel shows us a Christ that emptied Himself of His desires and feeling for the desires and feelings of Another, and by extension, others. His exact words were, “Not My will, but Thine be done.”

I’m not trying to be heretical and say the Jesus dragged His feet to the Cross; we understand that He and His Father were One. But the text above is not to be overlooked. In the garden, and on the cross, His real, human soul was consumed with absolute agony. Agony that was infinitely greater than that which you feel when Sally doesn’t pour on you the attentions you desire, brothers. Agony greater that was infinitely greater than the tears you cry onto your pillow when Joe was gazing at some other girl, sisters. An agony that was only endured, not because He didn’t really feel it, but because He was preoccupied by God’s will.

So, what about when we can’t seem to get a grip on ourselves? Does the Gospel just leave us with kicking ourselves in the ribs till we are too numb to find joy in anything? Or does it give us the chance to pit our wills against our feeling, to want the Will of the Father above the dictates of our God-given but sin-misguided desires?

And just as Christ’s eternal reward was declared to be so much above His sufferings, so our being able to cast ourselves on whatever our tender Father dictates will prove exceedingly better than just following wherever our feelings point.

After all, Christ has our hearts: that does NOT mean that they will never be able to share with some male/female object. But if He has our hearts, doesn’t it make perfect sense that He knows best the human object to whom we are to give them?

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I would love to write deeper on this. Please forgive the confusing conciseness of what is written above.