My life feels crazy out of control right now. Pulled between parties, birthdays, keeping a list, checking it twice, Christmas shopping, wrapping, and preparing to leave for our family’s annual vacation ten days before Christmas, it is taking an extra concentrated effort to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Several mornings my time with Jesus has simply been talking to Him while I try to get ahead of some of the piles in my office and messes around the house. I miss Him, though. When I lose sight of Him as my sustenance, when I forget that stillness in His presence brings the strength and peace I need to deal with all the chaos around me, I suffer. When doing, even if it’s doing “for Him,” takes the place of simply being with Him, it’s easier to swerve off course. Miss the mark.
How do we get to the place where Jesus is worth it? Worth trusting, worth being still, worth sacrifice, worth doing hard things, worth denying ourselves. Fearing God is the beginning, but there’s more. Here’s the second part of the excerpt from my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His:
In addition to fearing God, another force must be at work in us to live in complete obedience to Him: loving Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:14-15 tells us, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” If Jesus is just “fire insurance,” and we pray a simple prayer of salvation for the sole purpose of avoiding hell, then we’re going to love Him about as much as an insurance agent who sells us a life insurance policy off the side of the road. In order to fall in love with Jesus, we must KNOW Him by spending time with Him in prayer, by studying His life, His love for us, His words, and His nature through reading the Bible. We fall in love with Him by worshiping Him and experiencing His faithfulness when we cry out, and He answers. When we do this, we will be overwhelmed with His love and won’t be able to help but love Him back. As a result, our affection for Him will compel us to live for Him, which means doing what He tells us to do.
What will that love look like? Above all, our love for Him must be pure and undivided. Jesus can’t just hold a spot on our list of the top ten people we love. He must be our first love. John, Jesus’ beloved apostle, wrote: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). We clearly must choose one love.
In Mark 4:18-19, Jesus describes what happens when a heart is divided. He is teaching through a parable about a sower whose seed falls on different kinds of ground. The seed represents the truth, or the word of the Lord, and the ground represents us. In explaining what happens to the seed that falls among the thorns, Jesus says, “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word and it becomes unfruitful.”
We can’t fool ourselves. We either love God, or we love the world. We can’t love both. James 4:4 makes it very clear: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Yes, we are to be in the world, but we are not of it (John 15:19). Our love – our adoration, our desire, the things we long for, the things we think on, the things we give our time, energy, and effort toward – must be for the Lord and desiring the things He desires. If our love is misdirected to the things of this world, the truth of God – His word – will be choked out, and our lives will yield no crop for the Lord.
The last few days during the quiet morning hours, I’ve sat with the Lord, doing nothing else but talking to Him. Reeling my thoughts back every time they scurry to an item on my to do list or a something I’ve forgotten, I have found an extra measure of peace. Nothing in my circumstances has changed, but He has drawn my eyes back to Him. In His presence I find perspective. In following His leading in every moment, He points me to His purpose. I find that my love for Him swells, and setting aside all the petty things of this world becomes easier.
Especially during this Christmas season – perhaps even in spite of it – may the love of Christ compel us to love and good works, that Christ may be glorified as we become more wholly His.