He listens to those who are humble and broken, but He opposes the proud. He is waiting at the door of our hearts for us to let Him in. He longs to lead us to life.
Imagine yourself in the middle of a vast ocean. You’ve never navigated your way through the sea, and you’re lost. Steering the boat is just about the only thing you know how to do and even that is questionable at times. You don’t know what to do if a storm comes, if your food runs out, or even when to sleep. As you’re standing on this boat, the fact that you need help is obvious. You need someone to guide you along the waters, to tell you where to go, and how to get there. In this state of being, the last thing you would think about would be taking a selfie and tell the world how awesome you are at sailing! I write this as an analogy of our reality; we tend to hide our true need for God and people by wearing a mask and busying ourselves. We isolate ourselves by filling up our schedules so we don’t have to acknowledge the fact that we have no idea what life is about or how to get to where we long to be. The world tempts us with pleasures and comforts that numb and distract us from the seriousness of life and our sin. We don’t like to acknowledge our need for a Savior because we don’t want to let go of our perceived control over our lives and desires. Amidst the bleakness of our pride, God’s grace is stronger and seeks to pull us away from the blindness of self-indulgence.
God’s presence is our strength. Looking in the Old Testament, there were numerous times when God’s people were vastly outnumbered against a strong army and the angel of the Lord fought for them.
“That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere.” Isaiah 37:36. This isn’t to say God is going to go and kill all of our enemies, rather this passage demonstrates the power we have in our God and the significance of His presence.
How often have you heard the phrase, “An unintentional life is a wasted life”? I know for myself, I only needed to hear it a few times to be struck by it. Growing up in a Christian home where eternity was often discussed, I’ve developed a serious mindset regarding the use of my time. Reading parts of John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life reinforced a strong determination to use every moment with purpose. This desire, calling, and standard by which to live, however, isn’t always lived out and thus produces considerable anxiety. Just as with any command to which God has called us, it is utterly impossible to measure up without God’s power. How foolish we are to embark on the commission of God’s will without the means that God provides within Himself to fulfill it! God’s will and the power that accompanies His presence always go hand in hand, and our priorities for the day will always flow out of that.
You might be wondering how God’s presence influences our lives and what importance it has in our daily decision making. Psalm 16:11 says: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Through this Psalm, we see how good it is to walk with Him! He longs to lead us to the most joy-filled life we could possibly imagine. However, it must come with submission and a humble heart willing to be led. In order to experience the sweetness of His presence and the direction of His Spirit we need humble hearts to let Him in. How can we know Him if we are pushing His voice away by justifying our sinful self-indulgence? Matthew 5:29-30 says, “ If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
This passage brings a sobering word to how accustomed we have become with living in our sin. How often do we justify our actions and thoughts by the simple excuse that everyone is doing it? The patterns that we run to in order to satisfy us, affirm our identity in the world, or even the unhealthy habits of how we spend our time are not meant to be taken lightly. Jesus urges us to cut out the things in our lives that lead us away from Him, because it doesn’t take long for one area of our lives that isn’t submitted to influence every other facet of our being.
Our Own Saviors
A few weeks ago in the midst of my typical life, I felt scattered and anxious. At the root of my being, I felt as though something in my life wasn’t complete. I made dozens of checklists in order to organize my life and get ahead of my responsibilities. In reality, I knew there was a deeper heart issue I wasn’t addressing, but I didn’t want to acknowledge my need for God. I wanted to be in control and in a sense, be my own savior. Yet I could sense a still and quiet voice that was prompting my heart with one single phrase, “Don’t cut me out.” Even in my rebellion and stubbornness, God was pursuing me still and calling me back into His presence because He fights for His glory, and in that glory is my joy. In his book Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper retells his journey of discovering what God was calling him to do with his life. He says:
“It was becoming clearer and clearer that if I wanted to come to the end of my life and not say, “I’ve wasted it!” then I would need to press all the way in, and all the way up, to the ultimate purpose of God and join him in it. If my life was to have a single, all-satisfying, unifying passion, it would have to be God’s passion. And, if Daniel Fuller was right, God’s passion was the display of his own glory and the delight of my heart”.
This backstory gives perspective to my hardness of heart because even after that prompting, I kept on straying. I justified my actions of self-promotion with the explanation that everyone is doing it. Self-promotion can look different for every person, but it all boils down to the same thing; choosing self-glory over God glory. Building glory for yourself over time creates an altar of pride that enslaves you to crave and chase more. The gods we worship are the gods that shape our lives. In a culture of pride and narcissism, we are far too often told that there is no harm in promoting ourselves. There is no harm in showing off and telling the world how accomplished, attractive, and successful we are. After all, if we don’t tell people then how will they know how good we are? And if they don’t know how good we are, then what will shape our identity? This is all a set of lies that the enemy has deceived us into believing which inevitably draws us away from the presence of God.
Jesus is Better
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 How can we say we are for God and His glory when we are eager to prove ourselves to the world? The fact that we feel the need to boast in ourselves shows our lack of faith in the goodness of God’s love for us, and the stubbornness of our pride. We are often deceived into believing that there is no danger in self-promotion and that it does not exceed the present moment. The danger of pride is that it builds off of itself, and rapidly. The good news that turns us away from self-obsession is that Jesus is better. Seeking Jesus’ glory is a pursuit that allows our hearts to finally rest from striving for satisfaction because He meets us on this road. The Spirit longs to magnify Jesus in our lives, first to our hearts and then through our lives for others to see. Is our preoccupation with ourselves clogging our ears from hearing and blinding our eyes from seeing His beauty? Are we silencing His voice in our lives?
Ultimately, do we believe that the reward for our obedience in dying to self is greater than the cost of instant gratification? In a selfie generation that believes the earth revolves around our comfort, the temptation can be strong to boast and build a name for ourselves. But how is this mindset manifesting itself in our love relationship with God and our relationships with people? God tells us numerous times in His Word that He draws near to those who draw near to Him. He listens to those who are humble and broken, but He opposes the proud. He is waiting at the door of our hearts for us to let Him in. He longs to lead us to life! Let us, with His power, identify the pride that is bold and the pride that is subtle in our lives in order to bring it to God. Do we long to be effective in our ministry? Do we long to experience the sweetness of His presence at all times during the day? As mentioned before, God’s presence is our strength and when we turn away from our pride we are met with greater joy. This reward comes with a cost, but when we get to the other side we will see that death to ourselves in order to receive Jesus was never truly a sacrifice. Practicing His presence gives us strength to know who we are and gives us direction of where we are to go.
Is our preoccupation with ourselves clogging our ears from hearing and blinding our eyes from seeing His beauty? Are we silencing His voice in our lives?
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