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. ┬áJames 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.

Comparison

Nothing the world offers compares to the glory of the LORD

Read: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Reflect:

John draws a contrast here between the world and God. This is a contrast that might seem absurd to many people today, who hold the common materialist worldview. They think that the world is all there is: scientifically observable and measurable matter.

But John takes for granted there is something beyond the world, above the world; something inherently other. This something is really a Someone: God himself.

Nothing the world offers to us or demands from us is worth anything in comparison to God.

The world passes away. Our toys and technologies; our engineering marvels and scientific wonders; our hopes, dreams and goals; our endeavours and efforts – all pass away, like mist in the pure heat of the sun’s dawning rays. Everything I (in my worldly, fleshy nature) love and cherish, want and desire – all these will fade from sight when seen in the light of the surpassing glory of the LORD.

Crux:

Nothing the world offers holds a candle to the blazing, brilliant glory of the LORD.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are wondrous and marvellous, magnificent and awesome. The light of your glory is blazing, brilliant, blinding… yet so many times I cannot see your glory because my attention is distracted, caught by the world. My love for you is squeezed out; there is no room for it because I am led astray by love for the world.

I confess that today I enjoyed the softness of clean sheets on our bed, while failing to remember your provision of true sabbath rest for me through Jesus Christ.

I confess that today I appreciated the simple satisfaction of hanging washing on our outdoor clothesline, but didn’t focus the eyes of my heart on your cleansing me from my sin through Jesus Christ.

I confess today I delighted in watching my hen-pecked chicken recover in her new separate coop, yet I did not remember that your word says you care for your people as a hen shelters her chicks under her wings, and you have shown your care by giving up your Son for my sake.

I confess today I found pleasure in watching a movie with my younger children and was encouraged by its Christian moral message on the importance of earthly fathers without reflecting on the joy I find in my relationship with you, my heavenly Father.

I confess today I have been too caught up in this world to rejoice in your deeper, truer, more fulfilling glory. My eyes have been on my world, my life, and not on you and your Son.

Please forgive me and help me to pay attention to you tomorrow.

Amen.