"What do you want?" Jesus asked
"The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on."
— Proverbs 16:26
"Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do
you want?" (John 1:38) "In the end we choose the thing we want
most. Desire is a volcanic power. We may say and think that we live by our beliefs,
but at the end of the day, our longings shape our life decisions more consistently
and thoroughly than the things we believe to be true." (Joel Warne —
The Intimate Journey) In Larry Crabb’s book The Pressure’s
Off he asks this question: "Do you desire the better life of God’s
"blessings" (temporal things) over the better hope of God’s
presence (intimacy with Him)?" If so, the pressure is on to try to get
something God never promised and even resists. "Carefully follow the
terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do."
(Deuteronomy 29:9) Do A – "keep the terms of the covenant" and get
B – "prosper in everything you do." This is the Law of Linearity.
Israel never kept the law nor can we. We can’t earn Gods blessing by keeping
the law because no one can keep it. The Law of Linearity is the evangelical
church’s version of the prosperity gospel. Many Christians subconsciously
buy into it without realizing it until trials, losses and setbacks come and
we find ourselves upset with God for not keeping His end of the bargain.
Yet it is a bargain He never made with us. He made a new bargain with us, the
New Covenant, and He promises the gift of His presence not presents and gifts.
"The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless
(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by
which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:18-19) In the New
Covenant our appetite has been changed for our heart has been changed. We now
desire God for Himself, not for His stuff. The blood of goats and bulls in the
Old Covenant only covered sins for a year but it didn’t change the heart,
the desires, our appetites. But the blood of Jesus is powerful and it has changed
our hearts, our inner desires and now we hunger and thirst after righteousness,
after the Lord Himself, not after external, temporal things. Of course we have
to develop our taste for the Lord which I will discuss at the end of this letter.
Yet, if we are not careful we will get back under the law even as the Galatians
did. "So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the
basic principles of the world." "But now that you know God–or rather
are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable
principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (Galatians
4: 3, 9) If so, the pressure’s on. Trying to keep the law to get blessings
from God will wear us out. And there are a lot of problems with the Law of Linearity.
The Law of Linearity is a "priority" problem and God calls it idolatry.
"You shall have no other gods before me." "Jesus replied:
"’Love the Lord your God (not His gifts) with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment."
(Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:37-38)
The Law of Linearity is a "promise" problem for the New Testament
never promises that obeying God will bring temporal blessings. In fact, many
Scriptures say that obeying God will bring trials, suffering and persecution.
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will
be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:12; Also see John 15:18; Acts 14:22)
The Law of Linearity is a "definition" problem. God defines spiritual
"blessings" as anything that draws us closer to Him (which often means
trials and suffering versus when things are going our way) and anything that
makes us more like the Lord Jesus who lived every moment of His life to please
His Father and bring glory to Him. (Romans 8:28-29)
God will never help us live the old way (the Law of Linearity). If we choose
to seek the blessings of this life more than God Himself we are in a battle
with God: "You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with
the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world
becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4)
Yet, there is a spiritual Law of Linearity -the new way of
the Spirit: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what
he sows. The one who sows to please his flesh, from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life
(the God-like life)." (Galatians 6:7-8) And God will empower us to live
the new way of the Spirit that will please Him and be for our eternal good.
"… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
How do we follow the new way of the Spirit? How do we develop a greater hunger
for God than for visible, material things, even people? I recently taught a
five-week series on Intimacy with Jesus at a friend’s church to help us
learn how to develop our taste for the Lord and for intimacy with Him. I shared
with them some practical and spiritual ways to meet with the Lord. The most
important of these was to regularly set aside enough time to meet with the Lord
so that we don’t feel hurried. We need it and He wants it and hopefully
over time we will want it more and more, i.e., to be with our Father, the one
who knows us best and loves us most. To be with our Lord Jesus, our Friend,
even our Bridegroom. And by the Holy Spirit working in us we can worship Him,
commune with Him, and enjoy and love Him, in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
Having set aside the ample time we can now "pray through" to where
our heart is set free from burdens and sins and be refilled with the truth of
His Word which energizes us to reach out to others both in prayer and intercession
and in our day to day activities. So I use the exhale/ inhale metaphor:
Exhale — share your heart (emotions) with the
Lord — both your cares (1 Peter 5:7), your sins (1 John 1: 6-9; Psalm
139:23-24), your praises and thanksgiving (the psalms).
Inhale — Devotionally read God’s Word,
i.e., slowly, asking God to speak to you through it and responding to Him as
He does, (conviction, thanksgiving, commitment, encouragement, etc.) Read both
the Scriptures and devotional books that speak to you such as: My Utmost for
His Highest by Oswald Chambers, Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, Renewed
Day by Day by A.W. Tozer, Daily Light by Bagster/Lotz, Experiencing God Day
by Day by Henry Blackaby and others. Journal your key thoughts and responses
to your time with the Lord.
Exhale — 1) the ministry of intercession for
those God has placed in your life. "As for me, far be it from me that I
should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you." (1 Samuel 12:23)
The Lord’s prayer is a great pattern for both intercession and petitions.
2) "Go and make disciples" by your life (the example of your life)
and your lips (speaking God’s love and truth to those He sends to you).
Inhale/exhale — be a part of a small group
of fellow seekers after the Lord and meet regularly to share what the Lord is
teaching you, your joys and sorrows and walk with each other. "And let
us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us
not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us
encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
(Hebrews 10:24-25) Meet one on one with a mentor, a spiritual friend and guide.
"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the
outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Hebrews 13:7) Keep
your eyes and heart on heaven. (Colossians 3:1-17)
In The Intimate Journey Warne asks us: "Are you willing to pray
this prayer and pray it often? Lord, would you please begin to replace my desire
for other things (Mark 4:19) with a greater desire for You? This is a prayer
God will answer (yet maybe through a painful weaning process from the things
of this world)."
Until He comes, Len and Kristen
(See Joel Warne — The Intimate Journey for a personal devotional
course in intimacy with God and conformity to Jesus. Website: wellspringliferesources.com