Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Different Thought

I just came home from a conference that taught about the reality of spiritual warfare and that we really are in a battle. 
We don't often see it with our eyes, and truth be told, we don't often recognize it for what it is in our hearts either. What I mean is that we often experience frustrations and anxiety but we write them off as 'normal' or we say things like 'that's life'. But the reality is that we are experiencing the outcome of spiritual battles raging within us. 
As Christians we easily forget that we have a Saviour who recognizes these things in us exactly as they are and his desire is to help us overcome these battles in order to have peace that abides deep in our souls. But it comes at a cost- did you know that?
Peace comes at a cost. 

I want you to hear words from scripture that speak directly to this issue:
Galatians 5:16-17 NIV

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Can you see what the cost is here?  It has to do with not doing what we 'want'. You see our flesh (which means things that arise from the influence of sin) is embedded in desires that don't line up with God's heart, and those are the things that give us grief. God doesn't want us to hurt anymore so he asks us not to do things we want. The cost of peace is denying ourselves the things we want. 

The scripture above tells us that the Spirit of God and our desires don't mesh, they are in opposition to each other, so when we pursue our desires we find ourselves really struggling, hurting or angry. 

We need to recognize this for what it is and begin to have a spiritually mature view of what's really going on. 

We are in a war. 

But I want you to be encouraged by something today:  you see God tells us that the Holy Spirit is battling against our desires 'so that' we will no longer do the things we want. On the surface that sounds like God is fighting against us!  But really he is fighting against the things in us that we like that cause us hurt!  He is a Good God fighting on our behalf to help us get to a place we can't get to on our own- a place of peace that only comes from living in the freedom that comes from Jesus. 

This is a different way of thinking. When we experience sorrow or frustrations in our hearts and minds, don't see it as God punishing us and him angrily pointing out how weak and broken we are.  No. Instead see this as he tells us in his word: that the presence of the battle within us is actually Him fighting on our behalf in order to prevent us from hurting ourselves any longer. 

That's what a loving father does for his kids. 

So, Spirit of God, thank you that you don't allow us to pursue the things we want, and thank you for fighting to help us overcome in order to find peace. 

We invite You to help us overcome so we can be at peace. 

My prayer for you is that today you would live in peace. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Indulge or Deny?

Good marketing always tries to convince potential customers that purchasing a product or an experience like a vacation, is something that is a net benefit to them.  Although the product costs the customer something, the 'payoff' is the pleasure that comes to the individual for making the purchase.

Underlying this scenario is a philosophy that is pervasive in our culture today, and that is the strong message for individuals to make choices that will enhance "indulging" themselves.  To indulge oneself is be motivated by a desire to yield freely to the inclination of satisfying yourself.

The reason this marketing works so well is because it plays to our innate desire toward a 'me first' mentality.

And we eat it up.

We have just come through one of the most indulgent seasons in Christmas, where literally tons of goods are bought to satisfy an indulgent longing.

Now, I want to be clear here:  I am not suggesting that we shouldn't have some degree of self-care.  But I am questioning our participation in an ever increasingly self-indulgent society.

How does the teaching of indulgence mesh with Godly principles found in the Bible?

In Mark 8:34-35 we hear some words from Jesus that address this very issue:

"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:  'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."

This is really poor marketing!  If you want people to buy into something, to give up their valuable resources in exchange for something they don't yet have, then don't talk about denying yourself, this is the opposite of what works to motivate people.

Jesus is basically saying to people that if they want what he has to give, they need to 'pay' their most valuable resource (their life) in a way that goes against what is their natural desire--self-indulgence! 

The only way this makes sense is if we allow ourselves to break free from the chains of worldly thinking.  If we do this, then we begin to see that even though Jesus is asking us to deny ourselves, what he is promising to us is a life that goes far beyond what the world can offer.

Can the products we buy, that the world tries to market to our indulgent inclinations, ever bring lasting peace to our hearts?  Never.

Jesus is inviting us, and our friends, co-workers and neighbours to explore the possibility of life that really satisfies to the core of our being--all we have to do is deny ourselves and run to him.

All!  That's all we have to do.  This is so hard for humans that God himself had to take on human flesh and die on our behalf in order to break this ridiculously powerful spell that has taken over all people. 

But that's the wisdom of Jesus--He decided it was worth it to deny himself, in order to give us all a chance to deny ourselves and find real life--a life that is radiant and truly free!

Marketers tell you to indulge yourself.  Jesus tells you to deny yourself.

Who are you listening to?