An incredible joy stirs in my heart. God is exceedingly good and His glory is great. I stand amazed at the richness in mysteries God has found pleasure in making known to my once-dumb mind.
Joy to me is no longer simple pleasure and happiness in earthly things in and of themselves. It is now the full surrender to and pursuit of God’s pleasure and His will. It is that which brings to me far greater pleasure and happiness than I could have ever hoped to obtain by my own efforts. It is shalom peace which far surpasses any “rational” man’s understanding.
Love to me is no longer simply a word which means warm fuzzy feelings and good emotions. It is pleasure in the pursuit of true joy (found in God) for another, even at — and some might say especially at — great cost to my time and treasure. Love motivates service without an expectation of praise or material goods in return. But that doesn’t seem to encompass all that love is. To me, love does seek a result for its actions, but that which it seeks is itself! That is to say that love seeks to create love where there is no love and increase love where there is already love. When I love, I do it because I love to love. Love finds pleasure in translating itself into action.
What motivated Paul to write to the Thessalonian brothers, “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thes 3:11-13, emphasis mine)?
My friends, I posit to you that Paul was motivated by his love for them to pray this. He loved the Thessalonian brothers so much that he desired for their love “increase and abound” for one another and indeed for all people.
God has increased my love for my brothers and sisters as well as those who are not yet in Christ. My desire to love is exceedingly great, and this is all because of God’s work to bring my human heart and mind to reconciliation with His divine, perfect and holy nature. I desire that they may find pleasure in loving inasmuch as God has seen it good to reveal this great pleasure to me and demonstrate His own love by lavishing it upon me. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.
God has adopted me as a son, even as a fellow heir of Christ! How can I possibly honor Him for who He has time and again demonstrated Himself to be? Or as a song I heard today put it, what can a poor man bring to lay at the feet of a King? I can bring nothing to God but my sin and my brokenness.
God is owed everything because everything is His. He deserves all that I am and all that I have because He is worthy. I was bought with a price; my life is not my own. And this is why my life ought now to be a living sacrifice, given to Him that I might decrease and that He might increase.
Holiness is a product of an intimate relationship with a holy God. God’s intimacy causes me to pursue holiness because I cannot help but respond to Him in this manner. He meets me here and now; I choose to submit and allow Him to take me from where and who I am now and cause me to be where and who He wants me to be.
I’m finding this concept of holiness encompasses all that I touch, see, feel, think, say, do: every aspect of life. Some people (even brothers and sisters in Christ) might say I’m “overspiritualizing” or making a big deal out of nothing when I take a chance to examine how I approach music for worship; or when I examine the extent to which I ought to forgive people and pursue reconciliation; or examine what it really means to love someone; or examine why I feel something negative toward someone which causes me to avoid them and if I even should feel that way; or to examine how much time I spend pursuing leisure activities and how much I spend renewing my mind. Some people might say I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but I think these things are important to God because of the very fact that they are a part of our lives and our pursuits. God cares about how much I pray. God also cares about how much I eat and if I’m taking care of my body. I have neglected my body and am overweight and out of shape. If I desire holiness, it means that I need stop drinking so much soda or perhaps cut it entirely out of my diet. It means I need to eat less, and eat less fried foods. It means I need to exercise more. And all of these actions are not holy in and of themselves; a desire for holiness coupled with an action that is profitable to that end is what marks a given action as a pursuit of holiness.
So I must ask what my motivation is in my choices, no matter the significance. Some choices might be relatively trivial and fairly flexible like when, where, and how I get my hair cut. Other choices are pretty black and white, like whether or not I harbor hatred or bitterness in my heart toward someone.
So that’s what’s going on for the past 2 weeks for those who are curious. I might update, but I’m a bit rushed to finish this since there’s stuff going on tonight.