Even this will not satisfy.

white house

On Friday, the supreme court justices voted 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  And the nation has been responding all weekend long.  I have barely checked the news and my facebook because it seems to be the only topic about which people are talking.  Happiness.  Celebration.  Anger.  Lamentation.  Lashing out.  Finger pointing.  Almost everyone is responding, and we all need to be able to articulate our positions well.  Most of my heroes have responded, and so much has already been written on the topic that I wondered if I should enter the fray, but there is one facet to this conversation that I fear is being overlooked:  Satisfaction.

Traditional catechisms verbalize well for us the purpose of man:

To know God and enjoy Him forever.

Jesus said it like this,

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

 – John 10.10

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes unto the Father except through me.”

 – John 14.6

Jesus boldly and unashamedly proclaimed to the world that He came some that we can have full, satisfying life, and that He is the only way to have that satisfying life.  People are searching for satisfaction and fulfillment, Jesus proclaims that we can only find it in Him, yet we search the world for pleasures:  entertainment, relationships, toys, meaning in life through helping others, sex, food, etc.  I live in a city which has a remarkably, and abnormally large single’s population, and many of those singles are frantically looking for a spouse.  Even within the church, there is a sense that life is incomplete without a spouse, and the married people within the church unfortunately have a tendency to encourage that worldview.  This is such a problem, in fact, that many people choose their church based on the number of singles who attend.  We would never consider joining a church that had few singles, because the dating pool would be so small!

So here were are in a [church] culture that has taught us we need to be married, being single is a curse, we do not know how to involve and relate to single people, and silently teaching people that they are incomplete without a spouse.  And at the same time we are seeing a multiplying number of openly homosexual people in our world and even in our churches.  So is it any surprise, then, that they would think a sexual and even marital relationship will complete and fulfill them?

The core of the problem is simple:  God did not create us for a spouse.  He created us for Himself.  If anyone enters into a marital relationship looking for satisfaction and fulfillment, they will be looking to receive from their spouse what only God can give.  They will be disappointed, they will think that they have failed, and they will spend the rest of their life wondering what happened, going to counseling and marriage conferences trying to make it better, or they will divorce and look for that “soul mate” who does not exist.  It is only when we find our satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment in Christ that we can have full marriages.

The homosexual community has pushed to have the right to legally marry and be viewed by employers, healthcare companies and the world as a married couple.  Having an unbiblical view of marriage, they cannot enter into a marital relationship having found peace and satisfaction in God first.  In short, they will be disappointed.  Some will stick it out to the end and some will move on to look for something else that will satisfy, and this is where the Church must be ready to respond.

First of all, we must remember that people need Jesus.  We have all sinned, and no matter the type or depth of our sin, if we do not come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, there is absolutely no benefit to fighting sinful tendencies.  In short, we should not waste our time trying to convince someone that the Bible teaches marriage between a man and a woman if someone does not believe in Jesus:  the conversation is moot.  Until we are able to agree that God is the authority and that Scripture is His truth, it does not matter what the Scripture says, quite frankly.  Because even if we do an exhaustive study on marriage and the will of God, if the second party is convinced that the Bible does in fact teach heterosexual marriage but does not know Jesus, we have done him no benefit.  He needs to know Jesus first.

Secondly, we must remember that we all have walked in sin, and when we came to Christ for salvation, we all had to lay down those sins of temptation.  Perhaps yours was not homosexuality, but Scripture says that those who covet (those who get jealous and want what other people have) will not be allowed into Heaven.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, noreffeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

 – 1 Cor 6.9-11

We all were looking for something to satisfy our lusts until we met Jesus.  Some might have the same inclination and you, and others will have different drives than you.  Jesus can redeem and forgive them all.  When people realize that their lifestyles are not fulfilling them, we must be ready to point them to Jesus:  the life.

Lastly, we must stand firm on the truth.  If we stand in silence, then we will in essence give affirmation.  After, and only after someone has come to Christ for salvation do we begin the work of accountability and dying to sin.  When people come to Jesus we have to make Him the Lord of our lives:  He is in charge.  He gets the final say.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”

 – Rom 10.9

You will only be saved by allowing Jesus to have the final say.  And we can know what God has to say from reading His Word, the Bible.  Therefore, once Jesus is made Lord, we being teaching people how to read the Bible, understand it and apply it.  God says that people who are jealous will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight jealousy.  God also says that people who practice homosexuality will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight homosexual urges.  God also says that drunkards, and people who have sex outside of marriage, and people who hate others will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore we must not get drunk, we must not have sex outside of marriage and we must love one another.  Not to earn salvation, but to prove ourselves to have made Jesus the Lord of our lives.  If He is not Lord, then we are not saved.  And for Him to be Lord, we have to do what He says.  But we will all fail along the way, so we walk in grace to help people (and ourselves) recognize their tendencies and fight them.

Even this will not satisfy.  Only  Jesus can satisfy.  If you are looking for fulfillment in anything else, you will be disappointed.  And marriage is one of the biggest eye openers to this reality.  People disappoint.  All people.  Only God will bring joy and peace.  So let us boldly and unashamedly offer this gift to a hurting world.  Let’s not get caught up on the secondary issues, but let’s point people to Jesus first.  Then, after they have come to Him for salvation, let us diligently seek the word and help one another grow in maturity in Christ – putting away the sin and flesh and putting on Christ.

Are you satisfied?

Dreamers get a bad rap with doers.  And doers get a bad rap with dreamers.

If you are a dreamer, your friends and family might ask you, “Aren’t you ever satisfied?”  Or, “Why are you always looking for something better?”  If you are a doer, you might assume that you will settle into the first job you find out of school for the rest of your life, and be quite happy to stay put where you are – and your dreamer friends ask how you can do the same thing every single day.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

– Col 4.2-6

Paul, in this passage, is speaking to the responsibility that we, as Christians, have to doing whatever job and living out every life circumstance in which we find ourselves to the glory and honor of God.  He just finished stating that slaves should serve happily and freely, masters should rule kindly, and every member of a household should conduct himself in a God-honoring way.  The way that we do this is to primarily devote ourselves to prayer and obedience to the statutes of God, and exemplify the fruit of the Spirit.

As Christians, it is our command to love God with all of our heart, strength and mind (Matt 22.37), care for our families (1 Tim 5.8) and to make disciples of all the nations (Mat 28.18-20).  Everything else is peripheral.  Everything else is the means by which we do these things.  And God wires us differently to achieve these ends.

“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

– 2 Peter 1.3

We have everything that we need for life.  We have the greatest gift of salvation.  We have knowledge and a relationship with Almighty God.  We have the bread of life, the living water – whereby we never hunger or thirst (John 6.35, John 4.10).

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

– Phil 4.19

God is on our side, He will supply all of our needs, and He has the plan of our lives established and written.  Therefore, by trusting Him, we should be content and satisfied.  There is an unfulfilled longing of eternity and being with Him, but He has given us everything that we need for life and godliness while we are still this side of eternity.  If you are lacking or hungry for more – it is all in the Scripture.

However, there is a necessity to not become complacent.  Dreamers and doers alike can fall into the trap of thinking, “This is life.  Things will never change.  I just have to get through it.”  And then we give up on life, on making an impact, on reaching the World for Christ.  While we are content, fulfilled and satisfied wherever God has us, we should never have an attitude of complacency or cynicism.  Because, like Paul said in Colossians, we are to always be alert in prayers of Thanksgiving – looking for open doors (for the Gospel), and conducting “yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Col 4.5).

Make the most of the opportunity.  If you are a doer, make the most of your daily occupation, giving glory to God every chance you get.  If you are a dreamer, glorify God in your dreams and let Him lead you to new and exciting places – or let Him keep you where you are.  Be satisfied.  Be purposeful.  Be active.  Make the most of wherever you are, sharing Truth at every opportunity.  Perhaps one of the most well known and over quoted scriptures comes from Esther when she was contemplating interceding before the king for the Jews:

“And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?

Esther 4.14

God has you where you are.  You can glorify Him where you are.  Therefore be alert!  In prayer!  And with a watchful eye as to an open door for the Gospel.  Make the most of every opportunity.  That will apply differently to different people and different personalities.  Let us love each other and encourage each other in the ways God has made us.  And push one another on to maturity, obedience, satisfaction and risk taking!  Be bold for Jesus.

Is self-deprivation Biblical?

Monasticism has long been a temptation for the devout amongst us…to prove our piety and devotion to religion (or God) by setting ourselves apart from the world and withholding worldly pleasures from ourselves.  There is an appeal to self-deprivation and temptation to believe Eastern/Buddhist tendencies that teach that freeing one’s self from desires, pleasure and pride is the path to enlightenment.  The core of Eastern religious belief is that life is suffering and the goal is to free one’s self from suffering and that end is attained by eradicating all desires and consequent feelings from one’s life.  Enlightenment would then be the freedom from such bondage to reality that there is no effect on one’s essence by suffering, pleasure or temporal situations.

Christians can unintentionally interpret our call to be separate from the world as this type of lifestyle (John 15.19).  That we must be un-engaged from what is happening around us and just look to God and trust in God and be satisfied in a Spiritual, ethereal experience of Him.

Paul, in writing to Timothy, calls this a doctrine of demons:

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

– 1 Tim 4.1-5

God formed creation and man for His pleasure and enjoyment.  And we were created to enjoy and glorify Him.  And we can do that through that which He has created!  Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10.10).  The key, as Paul outlines in this passage, is that all things are sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.  Everything in the world was created by, is continually sustained by and is made clean by God (Eph 3.9, Heb 1.3, Rom 14.12).  And if we enjoy anything in His creation, within the standards as outlined in Scripture and with thanksgiving in our heart to His glory, we are fulfilling our created purpose by glorifying God always and giving thanks in all things.

Christians are often considered sticks-in-the-mud, who do not know how to have a good time.  While I would argue that the fundamental problem here is our worldview: assuming that life’s greatest achievement is entertainment, comfort and/or success, Paul says, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, “do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5.18).  He parallels the experience of being filled with the Spirit as drunkenness.  Admittedly, I have never been drunk.  But I have heard accounts of the experience: losing inhibitions, losing control and just loosening up to be who you really are.  Have you ever been so filled and so satisfied in the Spirit of God that you no longer care what people think about you?  That you are freed to say and do what you think and feel?  That your true personality shines through to the glory of God?  This is what He promises to us!  We can be so fulfilled with our identity in Christ that another person’s opinion loses all sway over us.  We can speak freely of Truth and we can express ourselves openly because we know that Christ has redeemed us, made us clean and set us free to enjoy Him and His creation.

I do think it is of highest importance that we reflect on the unusual nature of the 21st century American Christian experience in this discussion.  Throughout the centuries, it has been the norm that Christians are persecuted, alienated and killed for their religious convictions.  From Jesus’ ascension up until Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313, the Early Church was heavily persecuted.  Then the Church was secularized and used for personal gain and true believers were quickly persecuted again.  Around the modern world people regularly have to choose between life, security and community or Jesus.  But there is joy unspeakable and full of glory in choosing eternal life (1 Peter 1.8).  And the Scriptural example is that we, by being filled with the Spirit, can count persecution, poverty and suffering as our blessing because we join with Christ in His experiences (James 1.2, Phil 4.12, Acts 5.41).

Corrie ten Boom gives an exceptional example of this.  A Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape during the Holocaust, she was caught, imprisoned, sent to a concentration camp and then a death camp.  Her father died in prison and her sister in the death camp.  While in the Vught Concentration Camp, the sisters were held in barracks that were completely flea infested.  A Bible was miraculously smuggled into their camp and the women began studying it together in their barrack.  They read together the exhortation to “give thanks in all things” and Corrie’s sister Betsie declared that the women should give thanks, even for the fleas.  Corrie said that was too much, that she could not give thanks for the fleas but because Betsy insisted she tried to be thankful.  Over the months they realized that the guards never entered into their barrack and the women were saved from assault and also free to study the Bible and have prayer meetings together.  Countless women came to faith in Jesus and they were sustained by His goodness.  At the end of the imprisonment they learned that they were only spared from the brutality of the guards because they did not want to come in amidst the fleas.

Betsie famously stated, “There is no pit so deep that [God] is not deeper still”.

God promises joy, peace, satisfaction and fulfillment in all of life.  Let us seek to know and serve Him always.  Regardless of our circumstances or situations.  Let us enjoy Him forever, in prosperity, in poverty, in sickness, in health, in religious freedom and in persecution.  Let us make His name known among the peoples, and let us strive such that when we see Him face to face we will hear those glorious words,

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

 – Matt 25.21

True Success

“A successful man is one who, given the opportunity to wear anyone’s shoes, chooses his own.”

– Jim David

Jim is a friend of mine and he said this to me one day last month.  I have chewed on it and reflected on it many times, as I vacillate between regret and thankfulness for my life story.   I don’t know why our culture engages the question, but we regularly do:  If you could do it over, would you?  Or,  If you could change anything, would you?

Clearly none of us have the ability to go back in time and relive events or change history.  And our culture strives for success.  The American dream of pulling one’s self up by his boots straps, each generation providing more for the next so that our children can have “more than we had” permeates our educational system, our entertainment and our worldview.  While people might value certain things differently as success, we all want to be successful.

Jim argues that contentment is the key.  There will always be someone smarter, more talented, prettier…but success, in Jim’s eyes, is being satisfied and desirous of one’s own life above all others.

“Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance…You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.”

Ex 12.14, 17

The Hebrew people found themselves in captivity in Egypt, over 600,000 men – plus women and children.  God miraculously freed them from bondage by a series of plagues on the Egyptians.  The final plague that secured their escape was the death of the firstborn of every man and beast in the country.  God warned the people through Moses that the angel of the Lord would come and kill the first born in every household, and to escape this plague the family must put the blood of a lamb on their door frame.  The Hebrews did this and they were spared from the slaughter:  the angel of the Lord literally “passed over” their homes.  After their escape, God established an annual celebration for the people which was called “The Passover” in which they remembered their salvation both from death and their freedom from slavery.

They had quite a hard time in the wilderness – even though God physically and miraculously gave them food to eat every day, they grumbled and longed for their life of slavery back in Egypt.  They disobeyed God and did not trust Him to preserve them, even after he parted the waters of the Red Sea for them to cross over as the Egyptians pursued them.  But every year they still celebrated the Passover to remember the things that God had done.

The promises of God, of the faith, are those which sustain us in good and bad times:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13.5)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Rom 8.28)

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1.6)

Thus it becomes and exercise of faith to be satisfied in the paths which the Lord has established for us and not wish to change things.  Whatever path you have walked, the Lord has guided your steps (Prov 16.9).  He has never left you, and He causes everything to work together for your ultimate, spiritual good.  And He will perfect and complete the work that He has begun in your life.

Are there things I would change about my life?  My flesh wants to scream out, “YES”.  But when I choose to trust God I become confident that the trials, the failures, the struggles are all a part of His perfect plan and will enable me to honor Him the most with my life.  And therefore, when we trust God we can become “truly successful” by enjoying the benefits of faith and our security in Him, and still choosing our own paths – no matter how difficult they may have been.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

– Ps 143.5