Tuesday, September 21, 2010

juicy tidbits from a suburban pastor

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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17

John begins his letter reminding Christians that they are in a struggle with sin. He continues this teaching by talking about the Christians struggle with maintaining a proper understanding of our relationship with the world. The greek word used here, kosmos, is used to describe a world system opposed to God. It is not meant to imply that we do not love the world of men, for John in his gospel informs us that God loved the world of men by sending His Son to die for us (John 3:16-18). Instead, Christians are to form their philosophy and strategy for life beyond those principles and patterns propagated by the worldly system around them.

John clues us in on the key elements that will let us know we are operating under the control of the "kosmos" rather than the will of the Father. The world is easily given in to by lust and desire. When a fleshly desire, a materialistic desire, or a prideful desire is our motivation, we are loving the world. That is an excellent gauge and barometer for Christian motivation.

So how can I discern these three areas of worldly control? The "desires of the flesh" are those sensual desires that motivate us outside of the will of God. The porn industry has captured the worst of these desires. But so, frankly, have Hollywood and Madison Avenue advertisers. And this desire explodes throughout our culture. We have become increasingly pornified. Sensuality drives more and more people these days and is harder to avoid now than it has ever been.

The "desires of the eyes" are on display in the high end department store, and the local convenience market! It is materialism gone amuck. It is the base desire to keep up with the neighbors at all costs. And even in a severe recession, it can be known. It is probably the one thing I see and visibly struggle through the most living in one of the most affluent counties in the world. I want a lot of stuff that I do not need.

The "pride of life" are the desires that appeal to my personal sense of satisfaction and ego. Men in particular may struggle with this because we take such personal definition in what we do and achieve. Again, the current recession has taken its toll in this regard, but it can be scene in reverse when someone complains about the lousy job they have settled for, rather than the high end personal advancement they lust for in the career of their dreams. And that can visit me in ministry when I get expressions of appreciation. Particularly in counseling, it is common to get "Thank You's" and extreme gratitude for the help and understanding. That can go to my head. I can then steal God's glory from Him if I am not careful, and it is all a pride of life kind of worldly satisfaction.

That last one can become a source of unfair judgment on my brothers and sisters in Christ. I generally offend rich people. The most successful people that I know in terms of wealth and lifestyle generally don't care much for my personality. I probably give off a wrong vibe, and God is helping me to work on that. I come from humble lower middle class roots. I'd rather wear a T-shirt and Levi's than an Armani suit. I have a hard time accepting that a good Christian couple could live in a half million dollar estate, soak in their hot tub each night, drive two new luxury cars, own a vacation home in an exotic locale, and spend tens of thousands on hobbies. Yet, there are good Christian people who can afford that lifestyle and who make valuable impact for the kingdom of God. It is a perverse form of "pride of life" for me to pass judgment on my brother... even though personally I do not resonate with them, and probably never will.

And in turn, it is wrong for the wealthy to judge my humble means. Yes, I live in a blue-collar tract housing subdivision that has probably seen better days. And I get ten years out of a used car. My clothes come off the sale rack at Target. That does not make me any less significant. But if I draw pride from that, I have become just what this passage warns against! It is insidious!

God may ask me to confront extravagance if it hinders the kingdom. But He does not ask me to harbor judgmental feelings against someone in the process. And I secretly do at times, perhaps out of envy that I will never make that kind of income, sometimes out of judgmentalism. Always that attitude is wrong

John's words here are always convicting, because at each level, I struggle with them. God uses times like this for self assessment and realignment with true living in Christ's kingdom, which is above the world and its passing desires.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

1 comment:

Joanna said...

Marty, you have no idea how close this hits to home. It's worse that I spent a good part of the early season of my life committed to getting that half-million dollar home, and I'm nowhere close to that. Pride is just a many-faced beast, and mine is no less offensive to God than any other. thanks for thought food.