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.

Open

Jesus seeks entry into the lives of all who will welcome him in

Read: Song of Songs 5

[She] I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.” (Songs 5:2)

I have taken off my robe –
must I put it on again? (Songs 5:3)

I opened the door for my beloved,
But my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure,
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called for him but he did not answer. (Songs 5:6)

Reflect:

At first glimpse, this chapter seems out of place in a book of courtship and marriage. The bride is visited by her groom at night but she is unready to receive him when he knocks. After dithering around putting on clothes and washing her hands in perfume, she finds he has left by the time she opens the door. Looking for him in the streets, she is set upon and her wedding robe is stolen by policemen. Yet she still searches for her beloved and entreats others to join her in the search.

In order to understand this passage, I contemplate several allusions to this story and amplifications of it in the New Testament. Jesus himself takes up the idea of a groom/master knocking at the door and an unready bride/servants several times, in Matthew 22 and Matthew 25 and also in Luke 12. In his letter to the church at Laodicea, transcribed by John (Revelation 3:20) Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Jesus is ready to enter in to the lives of those who are willing and ready to receive him. The question is, are we ready to receive this royal guest?

Many will be taken by surprise when Jesus returns in glory and they find themselves unprepared – without the robe or wedding clothes necessary for the Bride of Christ. Over-reliance on religious rites will be of no benefit either, just as washing her hands until they dripped with myrrh did not help the bride in Songs to be ready.

If we try to force our way into his presence, we will find ourselves excluded completely.¬†Unready people shall be like the Jews to whom Jesus said (John 7:34, in a paraphrase of a line from Songs 5:6), “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

How many hearts will sink on that day! How many faces will be downcast at the coming of the King! By the grace of God I shall be ready, willing and waiting for Jesus when he returns and knocks once more.

Crux:

Jesus seeks entry into the lives of all who will welcome him in.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I recognise Jesus Christ as the King who stood at the door of my life knocking for many years. Thank you for your grace in opening my ears to hear Jesus’ request to enter in to my life. Thank you for prompting me to open that door. May it remain wide open all the days of my life!

LORD, I pray for those who are not yet ready to open their door to Jesus. Please open their ears to hear his words. Open their eyes to see his majesty. Open their hearts to receive him.

I pray also for the workers who go in Jesus’ name as his ambassadors to ‘knock on doors’ for the sake of your glory in the gospel. I pray especially for Suichi & Elaine, Nathan & Shawna, Ben & Bec, Glen & Liz, Ross & Jill & Hazeen. Give them words to speak. Open doors to them. Allow them to share the blessings of Christ’s wedding banquet with many.

Amen.