Along with the rest of the staff at Mars Hill, I’ve started reading When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper. One of the drums Piper consistently beats throughout all his writing and preaching is the biblical idea that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
In the first few chapters Piper asks questions along the lines of “How do we get satisfied with God? How do we get to a place where nothing else is more enticing and exciting and beautiful than He is?” It is only by the grace of God. That has been convicting for me because I know my heart’s tendency to try to search for the very satisfaction I desire in Jesus completely outside of and separate from Him. I don’t take His grace! The tricky thing is, those pursuits are sometimes very “Christian” things, like knowing about God (as opposed to knowing God Himself).
This is not a new idea, but it has become increasingly novel to me–that satisfaction in Jesus is about intimate relationship with Him, not about knowledge of Him. A desire to study God will flow out of relationship with Him, not the other way around. Other acts of obedience are the same.
How is that I’ve heard this truth a million times yet I seem to learn it new in every season of my life? In a previous season I studied God’s Word for hours. I couldn’t get enough of it. When I look back I see that this passion came from a time of rich relationship with Him where His presence was felt as so real and near. But it slowly became an intellectual endeavor. People would tell me I was wise beyond my years, so well-read. I was proud.
It turns out that pride isn’t the greatest motivator for continuing on in relationship with and obedience to God. For me, when the desire to study God’s Word started to wane, I felt like I was having an identity crisis. I dug my heels in and lived by the law, trying to get myself to really want to pursue God’s Word, to obey. It didn’t work. I ended up feeling like I had no self-discipline and that I was stupid. Praise Jesus.
Banging my head up against that wall has been the beginning of breaking free from numerous legalisms. Jason has been a wonderful advocate for me. He points out all the “shoulds” and “buts” that spew out of my mouth and asks me “what do you really want?”. That has been terrifying, because what if I find that what I really want isn’t Jesus? If that is the unfortunate case, it needs to get brought out into the light for God to fix in me. It’s easier to live by rules than to walk in faith that God’s grace is there for me. Rules don’t expose my holy desires or my sinful ones. Rules are enticing, but they are so very enslaving.
I read this quote today and found it relevant:
“The human heart lives by its sympathies and affections. In the day that will try every man’s works how much we know will not come in for much consideration. What and whom we have loved will be about all that matters then. For this reason we can never give too great care for the condition of our inner selves.” –A.W. Tozer, The Root of Righteous
This is encouraging because it reminds me that I am not defined by performance. But it is also scary for the very same reason. It seems I can’t dig myself out of my condition. I must trust that God has and that He is and that He will.
Some of the following have influenced my thinking about this lately:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
Religion and Revival (Nehemiah 8:13-18) by Pastor Mark Driscoll
Heart Matters, Part 1 by Pastor Matt Chandler