John 2:15 says “do not love the world, or the things of this world.” But, I love the world so much. This is a problem for me, and I’m guessing there are others out there in the church who feel the same way. I know what the word says about the world and its’ inherent dangers, but I keep longing for it. I’ve confessed it aloud and now I’m writing my confession. Help me.
Last Sunday a local pastor was preaching on TV and I caught part of his sermon. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the definition of marriage. In his response he said something profound, and convicting. He said with this reaction there is a good way to know of you love this world and your own comfort more than Christ and his kingdom. And, here is how you know: are you more concerned with what rights you may or may not lose, or are you asking God “how can I serve your kingdom and what is my role? You know what? I have been worried far, far more about the former than the latter. Why I worry about the former could be another “Confessions” post, so I’ll leave it there.
I am far, far to concerned with how the world works my fit within it. For example, I’ve been considering a good while now going back to school to earn another post-graduate degree. I’ve looked at the MBA, an MOL and even considering finishing that PhD I started writing a proposal for. Mind you, I have an MA degree that took 77 graduate hours to earn. And, in my field, I’m not sure I need much more. But, nevertheless, I consider more study. Why? I want the prestige another degree would offer. I want the professional doors to open with more education. I want to give me “easy ins” for lifetime employment. In other words, I want to “know” I’m safe. I’d rather not trust God. After all, the world works in a rather straight-forward fashion. You get these skills, earn this degree, and you get this job. But, faith is more difficult. Faith requires that I trust God that where he lead me in the past was actually where he lead me, and he’ll take me where he so desires when he so desires. With faith, I’ll have no guarantee of me knowing any information about tomorrow before tomorrow gets here. I’ll have to trust God to open doors and make paths where my “skills and education” don’t naturally lead. Oh, and I will have to give up on people thinking I’m so smart for having earned all this extra education. I’ll have to be content with being a man who simply trusts God.
This hurts to write because this post simply pours out of me. It’s so easy to write how much I’d prefer to do things the way the world does. I’m so concerned about what I’ll eat, drink and wear when Jesus says don’t (Matt. 6). I forget so often that my life is a vapor, potentially gone tomorrow (Jm. 4:14).
If I read the parable of the sower (Mt. 13) I find myself in a rather uncomfortable position. I’m not with the first seed (hard, unbelieving heart), nor the second (little faith scared by persecution). No, I’m in a more dangerous position. I’m with seed #3. I think I’m in the category of those who “received the truth with joy but as the plant grew it was choked out by the cares and concerns of this life.” What’s funny is how strongly I used to believe in eternal security, or the doctrine that once you are saved, you are saved. Period. Not anymore. Scripture has blown the idea to bits. Scripture has located me right within the group of those who allow the cares and concerns of this world to choke out faith. How does this happen?
Well, here’s how it’s happening in my life. All the concerns and cares of life are becoming so prominent I find little (if any) time to pray. Yet, it seems the lifeblood of the Christian faith is real, active relationship with Christ through prayer. Jesus told his disciples in Gethsemane to “watch and pray that you don’t fall into temptation.” Paul told his readers to “pray continually.” Prayer seems to be the means by which anything happens in the spiritual life. But, when you are concerned about everything else, you just don’t pray. I don’t.
How do you stop loving the world? I want to. I believe the answer lies in looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. It requires prayer to overcome. Falling in love with Jesus will come not through my own strength. I’ve admitted throughout I have no such strength. Falling in love with Jesus will require his Spirit to move and quicken my heart again to pray, to meet him in his word and church.
This is exactly what Paul prays for his people in Eph. 3:14-20. In this text he prays, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Catch that? Paul prays that we may have power to understand Christ’s unfathomable love for us, a love that surpasses knowledge. He prays that we have the power to do something we are incapable of doing naturally. I can’t understand God’s love for me. Rather, I struggle often to believe it. Therefore, I run to the world to try and find love and meaning there. What do I find there? A rat race. I find an endless struggle to find something the world cannot and does not give anyone: love and meaning. It’s found in God alone, revealed in Christ and empowered by the Spirit. This is the gospel: God loves us so much that he came for us canceling every debt we owed and redeeming us for himself. That’s way, way more than the world could ever give. What an amazing gospel. What great news.
Lord, I do believe your gospel. Lord, help me believe.