Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Heart After God

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires. Psalm 37:4 NLT
What does this verse mean? Taken out of context, it could easily be taken to mean that as long as you "delight" in the Lord, he will give you what you want. But what does it mean to "delight" in the Lord? And what, exactly, are the "desires of your heart"?

I think this verse has to be one of the most misused and misunderstood verses in the Bible. For the most part, we, as Christians, understand that God is not a magic genie that will just hand us every wish and desire on a silver platter. But to a certain extent, that is exactly what we expect him to do. We have "dreams" and aspirations in life, and we assume that because they are there, that they must have come from God and they are meant to be fulfilled. We go so far as to label them the "desires of our heart" convincing ourselves that God is just waiting to fulfill them for us when the time is right. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes God allows us to be given over to those desires if we push hard enough, and then we just assume that God opened those doors and "blessed" us. But there is a great difference between God's permissive will and God's perfect will.

So often, our wishes and desires in life are so engrained into who we are as human beings that recognizing them as fleshly desires can be difficult. So let me paint a picture using the issue of homosexuality, something God clearly expresses in his word to be sin (Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Corin. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10-11). Based on the claims that many members of of the homosexual community have made, I think it is safe to assume that at least some people have a "natural" tendency to be attracted to the same sex, meaning that this is something they are "born" with, if you will, as opposed to simply choosing it as a lifestyle as they get older. And the world's argument, or at least one of them, against the church's claim that homosexuality should not be practiced, is that it is unfair to expect a human being to be denied the same "right" that everyone else has to being in a relationship with someone they love, especially when they did not choose to have the feelings that they do. But right there is where we go astray.

For one thing, the Bible does not tell us that we have a "right" to anything but hell. By grace, we are saved, and we receive heaven as a gift. Anything else beyond that, which we are given here on earth, is superfluous and not to be simply "expected". None of us, gay or straight, have a "right" to romantic love, to companionship, to marriage. It is a gift that God chooses to give to some, but not all, and that is not a crime. Secondly, just because someone is born with certain desires, does not mean that those desires should be accepted as normal, any more than cancer within a newborn baby should be accepted. We are all filled with unnatural, evil desires that are a symptom of the flesh, as a result of the human condition that entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned. And God does not tell us that when we become a Christian, he is going to take those desires away. He might in some, but probably not always. We simply have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us resist those desires and choose actions that glorify God, not our flesh, even if that means denying something that feels as natural as who we are inclined to love. I believe it is entirely possible that some individuals who have accepted the Lord will still have those homosexual desires and will have to choose simply to remain single if that is the only way they can remain pure before the Lord.

Why should we treat any other desire of ours any different? We want to believe that God wouldn't let us have a desire that wasn't ok to have, that if we just pray hard enough, he'll take away every evil desire. But he doesn't promise to do that. We are still going to struggle with sin and desire, and we simply have to choose to either walk in it or away from it.

Let's look at that verse again:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires. Psalm 37:4 NLT
So, I'll ask again, what does it mean to delight in the Lord? To delight in anything means to thoroughly enjoy it, to bask in it, to want to be constantly surrounded by it, to treasure it.
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:21 NLT 
If Jesus is your treasure and you have a personal relationship with him, then every single desire of your heart that can be fulfilled on earth has already been met. Beyond that, we are promised the fulfillment of no other desire. When we become so in love with God that He is the only thing that can satisfy us, the only thing that defines us, then, and only then, will we be truly satisfied. God has promised to give us the desires of our heart, not the desires of our flesh. We will have both. But when we get to the point where we are able to deny the desires of our flesh and the only thing we need to be happy is fellowship with God, we will finally be fully content.

BUT, God never said it would be easy...

Just as the choice of someone who is gay to deny their desire to share their life with a member of the same sex must feel like a betrayal of the very core of who they are as a human being, so will our denial of our own fleshly desires seem like a betrayal of self at times. When we have spent our whole lives dreaming about a certain career or lifestyle, it can be extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that maybe those desires have been rooted in the world's values and expectations rather than God's.

But that denial of self is the very essence of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Matt. 16:25 NLT
Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.' Luke 9:23 NIV

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