Exclusive

Love for God is mutually exclusive with lust for the world

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Read: James 4

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think that Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the Spirit he has caused to dwell in us? (James 4:4-5)

Reflect:

According to James, love for the world equates to hatred towards God. Jesus said something similar (Matthew 6:24): “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

This idea of mutually exclusive loves is anathema to many people, but that doesn’t make it any less true. History shows us that it has been common for religious people to try to combine love for God with love for many other things, causing no end of misery and anguish – witness the Reformation. Missionaries have always struggled with finding the balance between culture and faith – working to prevent an ungodly pagan culture from infiltrating a new church, while also guarding against the missionary’s own ungodly personal culture corrupting their presentation of the gospel.

In today’s churches, Christians struggle with idolatry of money (some call it ‘the prosperity gospel’); idolatry of fertility and family (whether it is the ‘quiver-full movement’ or a snobbish exclusivity that shames single parents while also ignoring single virgins); idolatry of education (ascribing salvation-like effects to private schools or homeschooling curricula); idolatry of creation (where the temporal salvation of plants and animals is valued more highly than the eternal salvation of people); as well as idolatry of six-day creation (where one doctrine is elevated in importance far above other core Christian doctrines). The list could go on.

Of course, many things compete in my life for the love that must belong solely to God.  James says God is jealous for the Spirit that he imparted to me – jealous that my spirit might be at one with God’s Spirit, worshiping and giving glory to him, not to his creation. God wants my love for him to be pure and undefiled.

crux:

Love for God is mutually exclusive with lust for the world.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Make my love for you pure and undefiled.

May I not be distracted nor dissuaded from my faith and love for Jesus Christ. Keep me from idols and help me to resist the devil.

Enable me to seek and find my satisfaction and joy in you alone.

Amen.

Broken

I have broken covenant, but Christ died to mediate a new covenant

Read: Deuteronomy 9

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. (Deuteronomy 9:6)

When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the LORD your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. … So I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes. (Deuteronomy 9:16a, 17)

Reflect:

God’s love does not depend upon the righteousness of his people. It never has. This is just as well, because God’s people have never been completely righteous from their own efforts.

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Sculpture of Hathor as a cow, with all of her symbols, the sun disk, the cobra, as well as her necklace and crown. Original photo by Gérard Ducher, Wikipedia Commons

Moses had only just received the written copy of the law of the covenant from God when the people of Israel broke that covenant. They worshipped an idol, a golden statue of a calf that Aaron had made, reminiscent of the false Egyptian goddess Hathor (see right).

Israel had literally broken the covenant, so Moses broke the stone tablets upon which the words of the covenant were written. Talk about an object lesson!

Thankfully, Moses did what the Israelites most needed: he interceded on their behalf in prayer to God, asking God to avert his wrath from his people, and not destroy them for their sin.

The truth is, I’m a stiff-necked person as well. I’d be in the same position as those Israelite idol-worshippers if it wasn’t for Jesus. Jesus is my mediator before the throne of God.

Romans 5:6 reassures me, “Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:8 adds, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

crux:

I have broken covenant, but Christ died to mediate a new covenant.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You make covenant and you keep covenant,
and when your people break covenant
you reconcile us with your righteousness.

Thank you for your loyal love for your people.
Thank you that, though I was an ungodly sinner, Christ died for me.
Thank you that Christ has mediated a new covenant whereby I am justified by his righteousness, in spite of my stiff-necked nature.
Thank you.

Please keep me from idols.
Keep me from worshipping your creation when I should be worshipping my Creator.

Help me to recognise idols for what they are when I see them:
When I see “healing crystals” for sale in some craft market, may I remember you are my Healer.
When I’m tempted to look for “validation” in feedback from others (my boss, my PD trainer, my husband, my Bible study small group, the likes on this blog), may I remember that you are my Judge.
When I seek satisfaction in my To Do List and my “accomplishments”, may I remember that you are my Joy.

May I worship only you and your Son who died for me when I was nothing but an ungodly sinner.

Amen.

 

One Flesh

A “one flesh” marriage is a worthy goal, but it can’t become my god

Read: Matthew 19

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Reflect:

One flesh. As a married person, I love that expression, but I know it also has its dangers.

In recent years, Jeff and I have started celebrating what we call “one flesh moments” with a high-five. When both of us answer a question from the children with identical words, we high-five. When we both laugh at a joke no-one else understands, we high-five. When we look down at ourselves and realise we are wearing coordinating outfits, we high-five. Actually, that one’s just me. I high-five Jeff on that occasion whether he wants to celebrate or not. And when we sit down to talk about a big issue and realise in the first 60 seconds that we already think exactly alike, we high-five for another one flesh moment.

Of course, these moments of mutuality are partly a natural result of living in the same household for almost two decades. Our first memorable one flesh moment came when, after a decade of marriage, we sat down to a game of Articulate! Your Life and absolutely blitzed the opposition, a newly-married couple, because we could anticipate what our spouse would say; we had a shared language developed from shared experiences.

These one flesh moments are also the fruit of our very deliberate efforts to love each other biblically: to make decisions together that bless each other and our children; to set goals together and work towards them as partners; to support each other as we develop our interests and passions; to support each other in our weaknesses and struggles; to work as a team in our parenting and in ministry. We work very hard to be united in all we do.

I thank God for my husband, but it is important I don’t let my husband become a false god, an idol in my life. I need to remember that it is God who loves me best, even when he chooses to show his love through Jeff. It is God who leads me, even when he uses Jeff to provide the guidance. It is the LORD who is the true God.

crux:

A “one flesh” marriage is a worthy goal, but I can’t let it become my god.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the gift of my husband. I am very aware that he is fairly awesome, as husbands go, for you have made him so.

Thank you for the many blessings you bring into my life through Jeff, including:
the delicious dinner he’s cooked tonight,
our helpful Bible talk this afternoon,
his hugs when I came home from work,
the way he apologised for not getting up to be with me this morning before I left for work having already made my lunch the night before,
and his care for our kids on their last day of school holidays.
Please help me to always be aware that it is your Spirit within Jeff who warms his heart to love me.

Please help me to treasure our marriage and always seek too be closer in unity with Jeff. Please also keep me from idolatry, so I may never value my husband above my God, nor my marriage above my salvation.

LORD, I’m very conscious that not every single Christians wants to be single and not every married Christian enjoys the one flesh experience. Please comfort them, strengthen them, encourage them, bless them with your love, with your companionship, with union with your Son and your Spirit. Please grant them and us deep, abiding satisfaction in our relationship with you our God.

Amen.