Masculinity

Posted: August 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Years ago in our home we studied with a group of young, single 20 year olds about family life. We discussed marriage, husbands, wives, parents, working women, divorce/remarriage, picking a mate, and a variety of other topics. One night we talked about “masculinity” and “femininity” and I found the responses of these young people enlightening.

I didn’t record the exact wording of their thoughts, but the gist of what they said surprised me at the time and is worthy of remembrance. Femininity, to them, was the ability to understand a man’s needs and the desire to fulfill them. So it was with masculinity. A real man knows the basic demands of a woman’s being and soul—and seeks to satisfy them. The emphasis is on “basic”—what is fundamental to a woman’s essential being. This is so important in view of modern distortions and perversion that by slick “Madison Avenue” advertising have convinced many women that they want “careers,” “latest fashions,” and men with “muscle-rippling bodies.” How shallow is that, women!

Support. A real man, God says from the beginning, understands that a woman wants him to work by “the sweat of his face” to provide the necessities of life (Gen 3:19). Any man who refuses to work, according to God, has “denied the faith” and “is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). A man who refuses to educate himself, school himself in special training or a trade, or prepare in some way to feed and clothe his wife and family doesn’t know the first thing about masculinity—about being a real man.

Care. Masculinity prevails in men who know the tenderness and emotional care a woman needs. God calls on husbands to develop love, appreciation, admiration, praise, kindness, and affection for their wives. Feelings are fragile in anyone of us. When we and our feelings are not nourished to health and soundness by emotional support, we deteriorate and shrink into self-doubt, insecurity, anxiety, fear, frustration, and troubled unhappy beings. Real men, therefore, learn to say and mean, “I love you,” “You are important to me,” “You are doing a good job” as a wife or mother, and “I appreciate you.” As the warmth of a house is not determined by the beauty of its architectural design, so manliness does not necessarily come packaged in a tall, dark, handsome body. Masculinity comes from within and is not outward and physical.

One Flesh. We do not intend to say that masculinity has no relationship to the flesh. Man and woman are of the flesh, they have fleshly needs, and God said that after committing themselves to one another they may become “one flesh”—a reference to the union of their bodies as one. This is basic to their relationship, according to Paul (1 Cor 7:1-5). But this union is only fulfilling to a wife and mother after her husband has met the material and emotional needs of “support” and “care.” The wife has authority over a man’s body for the fulfillment of her sexual needs and real men will “defraud not” their wives and will “pay that debt” to her. And a real man will remember that his wife’s “head” is connected to her “body” and will seek to enter this fleshly relationship only when he has assured his wife of his love and honor for her.

Masculinity is a real challenge, brethren. And I assure you that it is not easy for me to write these words, knowing that my wife will read them. But I believe every word of it is true. I don’t care how pretty, witty, and fit a specimen of humanity you are, if you fail to meet the real needs of your wife, you are not a real man! If anyone of us sees his wife as a plaything, housekeeper, or a doormat, he is a punk and a jerk whose manhood is a mere mirage of promise with no substance.

-L. A.

 


Rendering Blessing For Evil

Posted: August 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

As much as we would like to believe otherwise, brethren are not always nice to one another. Even at the dawn of Christianity brethren were often carnal-minded, jealous of one another, and were found fighting among themselves (1 Cor 3:1-4). Paul had to write to brethren in Galatia to, in part, remind them to love one another lest they “bite and devour one another” (Gal 5:14-15).

In a similar vein Peter wrote to brethren to instruct them to be “compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, humble minded” and to not “render evil for evil, or reviling for reviling” (1 Pet 3:8-9). Peter’s instruction went a step beyond the command to withhold “evil for evil” and taught the brethren to render “blessing” for evil. Paul had taught the brethren at Rome that the paying of vengeance for evil is reserved for God and that brethren must “overcome evil with good.” He is then specific: “if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him a drink” (Rom 12:17-21). The two apostles were simply following the example and instruction of their Lord who said: “love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you” (Matt 5:44; see Luke 23:34).

Weakness of the flesh and lack of maturity in Christ provoke many of us to ask how such an attitude is possible. How can we feed or clothe a man who has just given us 40 lashes with the scourge, pray for a man who unjustly sued us and took all of our possessions, or forgive a neighbor who molested our son or daughter? Talk about tough!

First, we must intellectually accept the truth of this instruction. We must believe the Lord taught it, the scriptures confirm it, and it is the truth. Too, we must mentally agree that we must obey the precepts of the Lord.

Second, we must remind ourselves that truth and life’s principles are not based on how we feel about a matter. Feelings are often deceptive and are the occasion by which many are led astray. Ask the abortionist, the homosexual, the fornicator, or adulterer why they sinned and why they think it is right.

Third, we must understand that man has the power to decide upon actions that he does not inherently like. Some breadwinners are less skilled intellectually and have to work hard physically to provide for their families. To many it is a chore every day to get out of bed and go to the job, but is the right thing to do and they do it.

Finally, we must reflect on the salvation we personally enjoy in Christ Jesus. We all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory. There is none among us who is righteous and holy. Because of our sins each of us is doomed for a lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Despite our sins and in view of our eternal prospects Jesus lovingly asked His Father to lay our sins on His body and let Him bear our punishment. He stood in our place and, with the silence of a lamb before it shearers, allowed men to nail Him to a cross to hang, linger, and agonize so that God might pass over His eternal vengeance toward every one of us.

When Peter tells us to render a blessing for evil, he evokes the death of Jesus to remind us that He suffered as “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18). Jesus did this not because it was easy, but because it was the right and loving thing to do. Peter tells us to follow our Lord’s example (1 Pet 2:21-24).

We must therefore accept “intellectually” what is right, eliminate “emotionally” what would interfere with obedience to the truth, and “volitionally” decide “personally” to submit to God’s will to render blessing for evil.

-L. A.

 


Scorning Our Salvation

Posted: August 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Last week we talked about the less well-known story of David and the city of Ziklag. In this article I want to talk about another city you may not be familiar with—the city of Keilah. This city is involved in another less well-known event in the life of David, but holds a powerful story nonetheless (1 Sam 23:1-14).

David has just recently fled from King Saul and gathered a number of men to follow him in the wilderness. As they are hiding in the forest of Hereth, word comes to them that the Philistines are raiding the nearby village of Keilah. David, still zealous for God’s people, inquires of the Lord whether they should intervene. David’s men are uneasy about this idea. They have enough trouble trying to protect themselves. They don’t have time to worry about the safety of this random village. It’s under the jurisdiction of their oppressive King Saul, let him worry about it. Yet, the Lord assures them victory. So, David leads his men to conquer the Philistines and deliver all the inhabitants of Keilah (vv. 1-5).

Surely David and his men are not a bunch of rebels with evil intent. They have just proved their loyalty by fighting off the Philistines from this endangered city. King Saul doesn’t see things this way, however. He recognizes this as the perfect opportunity to trap David and his men within the walls of Keilah. He prepares his own army to come and besiege the city that had just narrowly escaped the siege of the Philistines (vv. 7-8).

Recognizing the danger, David again inquires of the Lord: “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” (v. 12). These men owe their lives to David. His men had taken a great risk in coming to deliver the city. Had they not come to the rescue, Keilah could be a pile of rubble at this point. Yet the Lord, who can see the heart, reveals that the men of Keilah would indeed surrender David and his men when threatened by Saul. Upon this revelation, David and his men flee the city to avoid being trapped inside.

What lessons can we learn from this treachery? How do we sometimes reflect the hearts of the people of Keilah? Jesus came to earth and delivered us at great cost. He left His home in heaven to tread on enemy territory.   He was rejected by men and suffered greatly at their hands. He gave us His flesh and His blood on the cross, so that we could be saved from our oppressor, the Devil.

Yet, having been delivered from the bondage of sin, we often fail to maintain the proper gratitude and devotion in our lives. When besieged by the passions of the flesh and threatened by the cares of this world, we cave in. We take the precious sacrifice of our Lord and surrender it over to the enemy. We trample underfoot the son of God, count the blood of the covenant by which we were sanctified a common thing, and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). Can we not see the monstrosity of what we are doing? Let us not scorn our salvation. Let us not be like the men of Keilah.

-Grady

 


Strengthening Ourselves in the Lord

Posted: August 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

There are many well-known events in the life of King David recorded for us in scripture. Everyone seems to know about David facing the Goliath. Most remember his sin in committing adultery with Bathsheba. His conflict with King Saul, the rebellion and death of his son Absalom, and even his error in transporting the ark are fairly familiar to most Bible students. But does the city of Ziklag ring a bell? 1 Samuel 30 contains one of my favorite stories in the life of David.

David and his men are living in the land of the Philistines at this time. They had escaped there to avoid the wrath of King Saul. David was well treated by Achish, the king of the Philistines. He had even given David and his men the city of Ziklag to make their home.

In the context of our chapter, the Philistines are preparing to go to war with Israel. While Achish trusts David and his men enough to let them join in the battle, the other lords of the Philistines are a little more uneasy with the former Israelites fighting alongside them. The king reluctantly sends David back home.

In ch. 30, David and his men arrive back in Ziklag to find their home burnt to the ground. While they were gone a band of Amalekites had raided their village, plundered their goods, taken their families captive, and destroyed all that remained (vv. 1-3). It didn’t seem that things could be much worse. Yet in their distress David’s men began to discuss stoning him for the great misfortune that had come upon them (v. 6).

You and I can read a few verses down the page and see the outcome of this tragedy, but for David there was only grief and confusion. Why would God allow something like this to happen? Have I not suffered enough from the hands of Saul, being run out of my nation and cast away from my people? Have I not been striving to serve the Lord faithfully even in this foreign land? How could this possibly be part of God’s plan?

Though David had wept until there was no strength in him (v. 4), we are told that “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (v. 6). He trusted in God’s power and wisdom to bring good out of this tragedy. David trusted, that even though he could not see any ray of hope, God was in control and God knew what was best.

“David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” (v. 8). Whatever was God’s will in this matter, David was ready to obey. Upon God’s command David and his men overtook the Amalekites recovering all that had been taken (vv. 17-19). Their families were unharmed, all their possessions were reclaimed, and on top of all that they took great spoils from these raiders (vv. 26-31).

Because David strengthened himself in the Lord in this time of grief and confusion, God brought about a greater end to the story than David’s men could have ever imagined. Let us not forget this in our times of tragedy. Though it may not all make sense to us, if we look to God for strength, He can accomplish great things through our trials.

-Grady

 


“I… Have Need of Nothing”

Posted: August 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Life was great for the Laodiceans. Business was wonderful, prosperity was abounding, and they were flourishing with riches. They had the best of chariots, the top of the line in clothing, the finest food from the markets, and palatial homes with plenty of acreage. What else could they possible want or need—lest it be an increase in the things they already possessed. They were rich, had gotten riches, and had, in their opinion, “need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17).

But this was their assessment of life. Jesus had a completely different view of these brethren. He looked beyond the façade of materialism and peered deeply into their souls. He looked beyond the outward appearance and observed an entirely different person beneath the fabric of worldly success. As with our heavenly Father on whose throne Jesus sits, “there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and laid open” before His kingly omniscient eyes (see Heb. 4:13).

What Jesus saw and knew about the Laodiceans was not very flattering. His eyes as flames of fire with a piercing look into their lives and souls saw brethren that were “wretched,” “miserable,” “poor,” “blind,” and “naked.” These were saints who had not completely forsaken the Lord. They were not “cold,” but neither were they “hot”; they were, Jesus said, “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16). And in this state Jesus found them repulsive—so much so that he wanted to “spew” or vomit them out of his mouth (Rev 3:16).

Our Lord’s message to them intended to open their eyes to what has real value. He counseled them to buy from Him real gold refined by fire—treasures in heaven that make them genuinely rich (Matt 6:19) ; to outfit themselves with divinely designed garments of white—the righteous acts of the saints that cover the shame of man’s nakedness (Rev 19:8); to anoint their eyes with spiritual salve—the word of God that pierces their souls and opens their eyes to what the mirror of God reveals about who they really are (see Heb. 4:12; James 1:25).

The Lord’s issue with the Laodiceans is an age-old problem of spiritual blindness—the inability of Christians to examine themselves honestly to see themselves as God sees them, as the word of God portrays them, and as they really are. Paul tells the Corinthians to “try yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5). Christians can do this only when they are able to look into God’s perfect law of liberty, the mirror of His word, and see a true reflection of themselves. But many of us are unable to do this. We’re good morally, faithful to our families, attend services regularly, and think of ourselves as having “need of nothing.” Life in Christ is so much more than this and includes so many individual obligations we are neglecting.

We’re comfortable in our jobs, enjoy our vacations, and never miss going to the amusement parks, bowling, golfing, fishing, or canoe floating. We are diligent to keep up with our investments and mutual funds. We find time to shop and keep up with the latest fashions, watch movies and our favorite TV shows, and spend hours upon hours on our iPads. So many of us, brethren, are comfortable with life, have what we need materially, and have that mindset that we “have need of nothing.” How many of us, if we’re honest and willing to confess it, could say that this thought has crossed our minds.

But what so many of us need desperately is some eye-salve that will heal our blindness and open our eyes to the many spiritual goals and responsibilities we are failing to fulfill. When we do, as Jesus said to the Laodiceans, we will “be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19-20).

-L. A.

 


Arise and Build

Posted: July 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The past two years have seen a lot of changes in our body here at Kirkwood. New jobs have taken away a lot of our young families and not given us quite the same amount in return. And while many congregations would be thankful to consistently have over 100 in attendance on Sunday mornings, we are in danger of growing discouraged.

These numbers aren’t quite what we’re used to. Our contribution is shrinking. There is a large void that has been left among our younger generation. The youth that keeps the fires of zeal alive is spreading thin. We need some stirring up—some fresh kindling. How can we get the fire going strong again?

It is times like this that we must gird up the loins of our mind, prepare for action, roll up our shirt sleeves, and get to work? We can’t go throw a pity party in some deserted cave in the middle of nowhere. We can’t complain as Elijah, “We have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but all the young families have forsaken us here, left large empty spots in our pews, and we alone are left, doomed to die out slowly” (1 Kings 19:14). Rather, we must recognize that God still has plenty of work for us to do and plenty of hands to do it (1 Kings 19:15-18).

The only thing that can doom us to die out is an attitude of resignation or stagnation. As we prepare to get to work in evangelism and in building up the body here, we must stir one another up. We must be careful not to quench the spirit of zeal.

“But we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work,” or, “that’s not how we’ve always done things.” These two attitudes combined can completely cripple us as a congregation. We have to be willing to cast out our nets again, and cast them out on the other side (John 21:6). We have to trust in God to give the increase. We have to pull out all the resources available to us and put them to work for the Lord. We have to press on to higher ground.

“The LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few” (1 Sam 14:6). Discouragement, apathy, and stagnation are the only things that can hold us back. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).   We are the only ones that can stand in our way.

Let us shed off the shackles of indifference or despair and run with endurance the race set before us. Let us keep the fires of zeal burning, daily considering how we can stir one another up to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25). “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants (must) arise and build…” (Neh 2:20).

-Grady


Evangelism Report (July 2014)

Posted: July 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

July has been a good building month for the fishing enterprise. Some nets have already been cast out on the waters and some are still getting mended up so they’ll be ready to go. While it may take many months or even years before we start seeing results, I’m really excited about what lies ahead for our evangelistic efforts.

The world is teeming with fish. The harvest is plentiful. There are souls all around us that need the gospel. The broader we can cast our nets and the more seeds we can sow, the better our chances are of reaching the good and honest hearts. And make no mistake about it, they are out there. We just have to get out and start working!

What can you do? Have you asked all your friends, family members, and neighbors for Bible studies? Have you invited them to worship with us? You never know what they’ll say until you ask.

Maybe they said no… 2 or 3 years ago. Have you asked them again lately? Don’t be afraid to cast in your nets again. You may just be surprised. Someone is eventually bound to say yes. And if you need help, feel free to use me as an evangelistic resource. There are plenty of other members here who would be happy to aid you in your efforts as well.

But while you are busy reaching out to your friends, family members, and neighbors, what are we doing to help? First of all, the elders have approved a business card for congregational use. I ordered 2000 this week and they should be coming in the mail soon.

These are folded business cards with full color design and a glossy finish. They have all our contact information, our service times, and offer free home bible studies and correspondence courses. They include a map to our building as well as a summary of God’s plan for salvation. On the back is a space for you to write your name and personal contact information.

If you’ve already talked to all your friends and neighbors about the Bible, start using these cards to make new contacts. If the apostles never talked to complete strangers about the gospel, it wouldn’t have gotten very far. Give these cards to people when you go out to eat, to the grocery store, to the bank or the gas station. If you are willing to get outside your comfort zone and give one of these cards to a complete stranger, they are going to see how passionate you are about the gospel.   Your zeal may intrigue them just enough for them to come see what it’s all about.

Evangelism videos and small group studies promoted on meetup.com are still in the discussion and development stage. I have been experimenting with some filming locations and angles. I have also written out a script for our first 5 minute video entitled, “What is the Purpose of Life?” We’ve done some additional research and discussing about meetup.com and hope to get a definite game plan worked out soon. Hopefully by next month we will have more to report on this effort.

Other ways we can make our website more evangelistic and visitor friendly are being discussed as well. We have decided against canvasing the community with correspondence courses, but may set up a place on our website for those interested in signing up for these courses.

While most of these fishing nets are still in the mending and preparing stage, some nets are already out in the water. I have started a study at Washington University on Saturday mornings with a couple of students. Our hope, as time goes on, is to reach out to more students on campus. This seems to be a potentially fertile field. Once school starts, I also plan to regularly evangelize and pass out material on STLCC campus across the street. Anyone who is interested in helping out with these efforts is welcome.

Keep all these efforts in your prayers. Above all else, we need the Lord’s help. Let us pray “that God will open up to us a door for the word” and guide us to the fertile soil (Col 2:3)

-Grady

 


God’s Final Invitation

Posted: July 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34).

In our recent study of the Parable of the Tares, we learned that Jesus will descend from heaven at the end of the world with his holy angels for the final judgment of all men. He will then separate the wicked from the righteous. All men should take note that only the righteous will receive the welcome quoted above in Matthew’s gospel. It will be an invitation, as Jesus stated in His letter to the Laodiceans, to sit down with Him upon His throne where He now sits with God in heaven (see Rev 3:21).

It is an invitation offered only to those “blessed of my Father”—a clear reference to those who have already in Christ received “every spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:3). This is the final and ultimate blessing that God provides those who are redeemed in Christ Jesus through his blood (Eph 1:7).

The seriousness of that day and that final invitation is that those who are not invited will hear the words: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). The apostle Paul reiterates this curse when he describes the coming of Jesus with His holy angels “in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The apostle says they “shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (2 Thess 1:8-9).

God’s final invitation to inherit the eternal kingdom comes only to those who answer Jesus’ first invitation which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the invitation to take upon oneself the yoke of Christ and, in His words, “learn of me” (Matt 11:28-30). This is the invitation the apostles were commanded to extend to “every creature” and to “all the nations.” The command to the apostles was to “make disciples” of the whole world—to the “Jew first and also the Greek” (Mark 16:15-16; Matt 28:18-20; Rom 1:16).

The invitation to all men called for them to come by “faith” and “repentance” and “baptism” into Christ and into His death (Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Matt 28:29; Gal 3:26-27; Rom 6:3-4). There sinners are buried with Christ into his death and are raised from burial in baptism to become “sons of God” and “to walk in newness of life.”

Only those who are freed from sin in Christ Jesus can have eternal fellowship with the God of light. Those, the apostle John writes, who “walk in the light, as He is in the light” have fellowship with God; only they can enter His eternal presence. It is not because they are “good” enough to enter God’s presence; nor do they by their own righteousness “deserve” to be with God. It results from the cleansing and purifying of their souls from sin by the redeeming power of Jesus’ blood through what Paul calls “the obedience of faith” (see Rom 1:5; 16:26).

Even good people, honest people, moral people, sincere people, charitable people outside Christ are yet in their sins. All have sinned regardless of how good they may seem or appear to be (Rom 3:9-10, 23). Jesus said too plainly for any man to misunderstand: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by Me (John 14:6).

Come to Jesus in time so you can come to the Father beyond time.

-L. A.


Losing Ourselves In Service

Posted: July 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“I just need some ‘me time’… I need to focus on me for a while and make sure my needs are being met… I need to spend some time finding myself.”

This type of language is very common in our society. The “self-help” section of bookstores always has a best seller or two. Even the music we listen to encourages us to focus on ourselves. Toby Keith tells us, “I wanna talk about me… what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see.” Sara Bareilles sings, “All my life I’ve tried to make everybody happy while I just hurt and hide, waitin’ for someone to tell me it’s my turn to decide.” And Bon Jovi proudly shouts for all to hear, “It’s my life.”

As Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to start thinking this way. Our concern should be finding God, not finding ourselves. If we want to follow Christ, we are called to “deny self” take up our cross and follow Him (Matt 16:24). That is where our focus should be.

Certainly, at times there is a need to get away from the hectic world around us and spend one-on-one time with the Lord. Relaxation and vacation can be valuable to reenergize ourselves for service. But we can never take a break from denying self in order to serve self for a little while instead.

Jesus took time with His disciples to rest from their work (Mark 6:30-32). Yet, Jesus did not use this time as an excuse to stop serving others (Mark 6:33-34). God designed the Sabbath day for man to recuperate from a long week of hard labor. Yet, this was a day especially focused on worship and devotion to God.

We can never truly take a break from serving God and serving others. Denying self and taking up our cross is something that we must practice on a daily basis (Luke 9:23). There is no point in this life at which we can say we have carried the cross far enough and deserve to lay it down for a while.

This type of life may not seem very appealing to many. We may feel like we deserve some “me time” every once and a while. But Jesus reminds us, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24). The more we try to grasp for the life this world has to offer, the more certain it is we will miss out on the eternal life that God has to offer.

We cannot be enticed by the fleeting fulfillment the world advertises. God is the only one that can truly fill us up. And we have to come to Him empty before there is any room for what He has to offer.

Just like Jesus, we must empty ourselves in service (Php 2:5-7). We must become so absorbed in seeking and saving the lost, lifting up the fallen, comforting the broken hearted, and exhorting the weak, that there is no room for self any more. Our thoughts can no longer center around what I think, what I feel, or what I need. Self must be a distant memory superseded by a 100% devotion to the will of the Lord.

If we continue to reserve a small section of our hearts for ourselves, we will only end up miserable. The weight of service will be too much for us to bear. We will be tempted to reserve more and more space in our lives for self. But this won’t fix the problem; it will never fill us up.

However, if we come to the Lord completely empty, He promises to fill us up with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:19). Being filled with Christ we can say along with the apostle Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). We can say along with king David, “in Your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps 16:11) and “my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5).

Do we truly trust that God has the power to fill us up? Then let us show that faith by losing ourselves in service and coming to Him completely empty.

“But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey” (John H. Sammis, 1887).

-Grady

 


Selfish Motives Are Not Strong Enough

Posted: July 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

One of the most powerful things we can do is improve the quality of our motives. Since we obey our conscience only when we’re sufficiently motivated to do so, our motivation needs to be as energetic as possible. But it is mainly as we move toward higher and nobler motives that the strength and effectiveness of our motivation increases.

Motive is the key to motivation. So the improvement of our motives is a matter of great practical importance. Whatever the reasons are that move us to do good right now, personal growth requires more than just believing those reasons more strongly. We must acquire some other, higher reasons.

To be specific, we must become people whose hearts are less and less self-centered. If we are moved by no more than the desire to get what we want and avoid what we don’t want, then our motivation is going to fail us eventually. In the hardest moments, selfish motives (however “noble”) are simply not strong enough to move us toward right conduct.

The purest and most powerful motive we can have is simply the real love of God. When Jesus said “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), His point was not just that those who love Him are expected to keep his commandments, though that’s certainly true. Jesus was also teaching that loving Him is the key to keeping His commandments.

Only when we act out of love will we find that His commandments are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). No other motive is strong enough to keep us moving consistently in the direction of obedience.

And so we must get outside of ourselves and be drawn into concerns that are more vast and “moving” than the mere rise and fall of our own happiness. To a great extent, this is what growth toward spiritual maturity is about. It is learning to live by the strong laws of love.

We must live not by the laws of self-interest disguised as love, but by the laws of real upward-looking love itself. When we’ve grown in health to the point where our spirits are genuinely turned upward, then we’ll know a strength that we couldn’t have known while sick with selfishness.

“A man’s spiritual health is exactly in proportion to his love for God” (C. S. Lewis).

-Gary Henry