Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lost but Loved

Day 2: God’s Sorrow

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ~ 1 John 2:15-17, ESV

“And sin always alienates us from God. This needs emphasis in a day like our own when people take sin so lightly. It does not worry us and for the life of us we cannot see why it should worry God. But the Bible is clear. Sin forms an impenetrable barrier, shutting off blessing. Sin keeps us away from God.” ~ Leon Morris, The Atonement, p. 146

As you begin your personal encounter time today, take time to invite God to be part of this experience. Ask Him to speak to your heart through the Holy Spirit, to reveal truth to your mind, and to give you the wisdom and understanding you need to live a life that is worthy of His Son Jesus. Please take a few moments to pray. I promise that this time will be more beneficial if you do.

Yesterday we noted that God longs to have a relationship with us. If that is true, then why don’t we have a relationship with God? Larry Crabb in his book Shattered Dreams writes, “Our souls therefore long for whatever we think will provide the greatest possible pleasure. We just aren’t yet aware that an intimate relationship with God is that greatest pleasure” (p. 2). For an intimate relationship to exist, it takes both people engaging in the relationship. Therefore, the reason an intimate relationship with God eludes so many of us is because we have chosen to engage our lives in other things.

Jesus taught; “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24; ESV). This teaching of Jesus has wider application than just money. This principle is true with anything we pursue with intensity. Jesus also taught; “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37; ESV). What Jesus taught is that even family relationships, when pursued more than God, will make us miss out on an intimate relationship with the Creator.

Take out your journal. On the first blank page write Things I pursue more intensely than God. When you have that written, pray to God and ask Him to show you what you love more than Him. Don’t edit the list, write down whatever comes to your mind.

Examine the list. Doesn’t it make you want to cry? I know mine does. It amazes me what we settle for in place of God. C. S. Lewis wrote:
“We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (Mere Christianity).

I hope that your heart breaks over the reality that you have put lesser things before of God, because until our hearts are broken we will never pursue God like we should.

Romans 8:31-39, which you read yesterday, taught us that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Hold on to the reality that God loves you regardless of who you are or what you have done. Yet there is something that can prevent us from experiencing God’s love. Leon Morris, in the quote at the top of the page, tells us that sin is an impenetrable barrier which shuts us off from God’s blessing. What is the supreme blessing we can experience? God’s love is the supreme blessing of life, and sin prevents us from experiencing the full force of God’s blessing of love.

Take a moment and consider the big picture. God loves us and longs to have a relationship with us, but we, in our sin, have pursued things other than God. We have rejected the love that God offers to us. Imagine what that does to the heart of God.

In the Bible, God has provided us with a graphic example of what our sin, our rejection of His love, does to His heart. This example is found in the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet. The primary function of a prophet was not to tell the future, but to call people to repentance. Prophets were people God used to call God’s chosen people back to God.

The task God gave to Hosea was not a pleasant one. God asked Hosea to find a wife, but God made this promise to Hosea: she will be an unfaithful wife. Hosea’s call would lead him to experience the pain of unfaithfulness, and this experience of pain would be an illustration of the pain God has as a result of His people rejecting Him.

Read Hosea chapters 1 and 3 (Found in the Old Testament)
Imagine that you are married. What would it be like to know that your husband/wife had other lovers?

Have you ever had your heart broken?

The experience of a broken heart gives us a picture of what God goes through when we reject His love and pursue other lovers. Does it seem strange that the Creator of the universe should suffer a broken heart because of your rejection of His love? Yet the Bible allows us to see that is exactly what happens. That is how great God’s love is for us.

Read James 4:4-5 (Found in the New Testament)
What does it mean to be an adulterer? Do you think you have committed adultery when it comes to your relationship with God?

Have you experienced guilt when you pursued other things rather than God? Could that guilt be the Holy Spirit reminding you how great God’s love is for you?

The New Testament continues to use the metaphor of marriage and adultery in connection to our commitment and relationship with God. The early Christians, who would have read this letter, would recognize the similarities to the Old Testament books of Hosea, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah which equate sin with adultery. When we continue in sin, making other things more important than God, we are commit spiritual adultery and in the process we break the heart of God. Consider this question: How do you feel when you sin? I believe that the guilt we feel when we neglect God or when we disobey God is the Holy Spirit reminding us how intensely God loves us.

Here is the point I want you to carry around this evening: Your sin breaks God’s heart. The pain you experience when you have been rejected is the same pain that God feels when you sin and reject His offer of love. Until we feel the weight of our sin and see it as the barrier which prevents us from experiencing God’s love we will not hate our sin like we should. We will hold on to sin and play around with it as we grow farther and farther away from God. God loves us, but we have to choose to accept that love. What do you love more: God or sin?

Point to Ponder: Your sin breaks God’s heart.
Passage to Remember: James 4:4-5
Prayer to Pray: Father in Heaven, You are wonderful and awesome. May the world know You and the love You have for people. Help me to praise You the way You deserve.

Today I ask that You will allow me to feel the weight of my sin. Help me to understand how my sin affects You. Lord, I often think that my sin is only about me and I haven’t stopped to consider what my sin means to You. Show me how I have missed out on Your blessings because I have pursued other lovers instead of pursuing You. Lord, I want to experience all that You have for my life. I want to know Your love...(Finish in your own words)

“There is the choice we make: whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. We must not, in other words, deceive ourselves into thinking that we can live in an intimate fellowship with him when the set of our hearts is towards the world.” ~ J. A. Motyer, The Message of James, p. 146

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