God Wants Us to Want

I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference.

Two examples:

Peter writes to elders in churches that are experiencing some suffering. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” he writes, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). There’s a world of difference between elders who serve because they have to, and elders who serve because they want to. God, Peter says, desires the latter. God wants elders who want to serve him, even under the pressure of suffering.

Paul writes to the Corinthians to ask for money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He doesn’t tell them to dig deep until it hurts. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). There it is again, something to avoid: compulsion. God wants our willingness, our eagerness, and our cheerfulness.

C.S. Lewis was insightful when he wrote:

A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc) can do the journey on their own.

The perfect man or woman acts not out of duty, but of delight. We're all in process, but this is God’s desire for us.

God wants to change us not at the level of our obedience, but at the level of our affections. God wants us to want.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Be Yourself in Prayer

Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.

Why Your Church Is Closer to Planting Than You Probably Think

I want to help us understand that church planting involves a series of small steps that are not beyond the grasp of churches.

Becoming an Influential Leader

These principles are important, even if you are not in a formal leadership role in your organization, because leading where you are involves more than just doing your work.

5 Good Words of Pastoral Advice That Stuck

I’ve heard a lot of good words on ministry and ministry life, and while a lot has been good, a few choice bits of wisdom have stuck with me since I heard them. Here are just five.

The Importance of Being a Pastor/Theologian

I believe that there are several reasons why God uses pastor/theologians in special ways. Here are my five theoretical observations.

Why Did God Allow Satan to Harm Job and His Family?

So what should we say in response to the question, “Why did God allow Satan to harm Job”?

Sexuality and Silence

I’ve heard rumors of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches I mean a trend towards silence. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place, what would I say?

Thoughts on Sexual Temptation

“Many people have asked me if I have ever looked at pornography,” writes William Struthers in his book Wired for Intimacy. “When I tell them that I find many things on television or on newsstands pornographic, they frown…Yes, I have viewed pornography because it is everywhere. You cannot get away from it; if you don’t view it intentionally, you will unintentionally.”

Here are ten thoughts on living in a world of sexual temptation as guys:

One: Porn is everywhere. Struthers is right. The reason why his statement is so shocking is that we’ve become desensitized to the amount of explicit material present we see everyday.

Two: Society is conflicted about this. One recent article on the leaked Jennifer Lawrence nude photos illustrates this. To the extent that we buy into culture’s views on sex, we will be conflicted and confused as well.

Three: Sexual temptation for men is a given. It’s safe to say that if you are a male, you will face sexual temptation. This isn’t to say that you are actively succumbing to that temptation, but it’s safe to say that it's a battle. We shouldn't be surprised.

Four: Sexual temptation is powerful, but it often goes deeper than we realize. It’s not just about the sex. It’s usually a sign that something else is off. The acronym HALT is helpful: temptation can be acute when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. “In the middle of trouble, when you are in the heat of the battle, you will run somewhere for refuge. You will run somewhere for rest, comfort, peace, encouragement, wisdom, healing, and strength…” (Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling). Many men run to sex for refuge.

Five: Pastors aren’t exempt. As Tripp wrote in Dangerous Calling, pastors are nothing more than people in the midst of their own sanctification.

Six: Most men struggle alone. Men feel a deep sense of shame about their struggle with this temptation, and therefore keep it private. The problem: we cannot find a private solution to this private problem.

Seven: Secrecy and shame are one of Satan’s greatest tools to keep us in bondage to sexual sin. Sin is like mushrooms: it grows in the dark.

Eight: When men reach out for help, they often reach out too late — after the temptation, and not in the middle of it.

Nine: Shame is lifted when we encounter God’s grace. “The gospel declares that there is nothing that could ever be uncovered about you and me that hasn’t already been covered” (Tripp).

Ten: The key to this struggle is not willpower, but a radical encounter with God’s grace in community. There are many practical steps to take, but they begin with ceasing to struggle in secrecy and in your own power. “The tide will begin to turn in your struggle against pornography when you begin to grasp forgiving grace and transforming grace, as you learn to repent,” writes Heath Lambert in Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. He writes:

A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else. When you turn your eyes to Jesus, there isn't room for anything else in your heart because he fills it up. When you open the blinds of a pitch-black room, the sunlight drives away the darkness.

There are many good books on this subject. Finally Free and Samson and the Pirate Monks are ones I highly recommend. I also hear good things about Wired for Intimacy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic.

The Preacher's Job

I had the privilege last week of hearing Bryan Chapell speak on preaching. The whole day was good, but what he said at the end will stay with me for a long time. It’s not new, but he stated it in a clear and compelling way.

There are many motivations for behavior, he said, but there is no greater motivation than love. Only love would motivate a mother to enter a burning building to save her child.

The greatest motivation in the Christian life, therefore, is the love of God. Our problem is that, in the moment, we tend to love other things more than we love God. The best way to deal with these competing loves is with (as Thomas Chalmers would say) the expulsive power of a greater love.

My notes from Chapell's talk

The preacher’s job, therefore, is to excavate the beauty and grace of God so that our hearts are filled up with the power of grace. The pastor’s job is to fill people with love for the Savior. We’re never stronger than when our hearts are full with this love.

Does this make people self-centered? Not really. When you love someone, you love what they love. Their agenda becomes yours. Love for God makes us God-centered, not us-centered.

It’s a simple but profound reminder. I wish I had known this in my early days as a preacher. I’ve sometimes tired of my own preaching when it’s filled with calls for obedience divorced from the motivation and power to live, but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of talking about the grace and beauty of God, and how we get to live in response.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Six Reasons to Live More Simply—and Give More Generously

How can we live more simply? There are thousands of ways. But these are things few of us will do unless we have clear and compelling reasons. Here are six...

Where Satan Will Attack You Today

Like it or not you are in a war. And do you know where the front of the battle is? It’s in your head.

Kingdom Opportunities Mean Kingdom Adversaries

We are not to shy away from what the Lord is calling us to simply because there might be opposition. No, in this way that we follow our savior, the brave king who came despite all opposition to rescue us, his bride.

Eugene Peterson’s Advice to Seminary Students

I’d tell them that pastoring is not a very glamorous job...

Pastors Shouldn’t Have Trade Secrets

I remain firmly convinced, based upon Scripture and my experience, that pastors should not be in competition with one another. They should support, root for, rejoice in, and serve to ensure the other’s growth.

Top 10 Sermon Introduction Mistakes

While there is lots of room for error in the body of your sermon, there is little room for error in your introduction.

Does Our Church Planting Strategy Include Dying?

This week came a question that thus far had not assaulted my grey matter. It came not from a church member. Nor from a church planting book. But from Ghana.

“Have you come here to die?”