When God awakens us to our sin, we shouldn’t despair

Yes, our sin hinders our relationship with God, but we shouldn’t despair – we shouldn’t feel hopeless. In the beginning of Jonah 2:4, we learn that Jonah feels as if he has been…

“‘…driven away from [God’s] sight;’”

(Jon 2:4a)

The word Jonah uses for “driven” carries the idea of being forced out, to be forced away from. It’s what I do to our dog when he comes in the kitchen while I’m preparing food. I drive him out of the kitchen back to his bed.

As Jonah is sinking down to his watery grave, Jonah felt as if he was forced out of God’s sight. But even though Jonah felt that way, he didn’t despair. In the remainder of verse 4, he says,

“yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’”

(Jon 2:4b)

The reason Jonah didn’t despair, the reason Jonah wasn’t hopeless, even though he felt like he had been driven from the Lord, was because he knew the Lord was a God of loyal love. Because God is a God of loyal love, we can turn back to the Lord through repentance.

The same is true for us. While our sin hinders our relationship with God, we can always turn to Him because He is a God of loyal love. You haven’t messed up so big that you are driven from God’s sight forever. You can repair your relationship by repenting. That’s exactly what we should do when we discover we have sinned against God.

When God awakens us to our sin, we should repent, turning back to the Lord.

We should repent, turning back to the Lord even though we might feel as if we have been driven from God’s presence because God loves us and wants what’s best for us.

You can’t love Jesus while hating your brother.

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,” (Eph 1:15)

You can’t love Jesus while hating your brother. Notice Paul combines these two ideas — your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints. These ideas are not combined by accident. Rather they are combined on purpose.

But why? Why should faith in Jesus produce love towards others?

Our faith in Christ changes our identity.

  • We are now adopted sons and daughters through Christ (Eph 1:5).
  • God’s wisdom and insight are lavished upon us through which He makes known to us the mystery of His will, which is to unite all things (Eph 1:8-10).
  • Furthermore, we have obtained an inheritance, which indicates we are a part of a new family (Eph 1:11-12). Our inheritance is even guaranteed by the third member of the Trinity — the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14).
  • Moreover, we are released from our former manner of life, so that we now live a new life in Christ that is the antithesis of the passions of our flesh (Eph 2:1-3).
  • God has even seated us with Christ in the heavenly places, insinuating that we are not just adopted sons and daughters, who have been changed to follow a new course of life, but we are kings and queens who reign and rule next to the eternal all-powerful King of the universe (Eph 2:4-6).

Our new life in Christ should produce unity. Paul’s argument in this section drives towards that conclusion. Verse 16 of chapter 2 says it explicitly —

“and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:16).

The hostility he mentions primarily deals with the divide between Jew and Gentile. Through Christ, we are made one in Christ. We are both — Jew and Gentile — citizens of a new kingdom in which we are united (Eph 2:19).

While Paul’s argument deals firstly with the divide, and subsequent unity in Christ, between Jew and Gentile, the outworking of our unity as citizens of a new kingdom is love for one another. As citizens of a new kingdom we are to have camaraderie with one another. More than camaraderie we are to work together. More than just working together, we are to love one another. We are capable of loving one another because we have been freed from our past life, which was dominated by the prince of the power of the air and our own flesh (Eph 2:1-3).

As citizens of a new kingdom, freed from sin and Satan’s control, having our desires changed, and given a new identity in Christ, we can and we should love one another.

You can’t love Jesus while hating your brother.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)

In Christ we have been set free from the demands of the law. Not that we set the law aside in that we shouldn’t follow God’s Word. No, we must and we should follow God’s Word. A disciple is someone who follows a master. Jesus is our master. We are His disciples. We should follow Him. But we are free from the law’s bondage over us. It is no longer our tutor, teaching, training, restraining and pointing. It has accomplished it’s goal in that it has pointed us to Christ.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. He embodied it perfectly, never breaking a single command. As a result, He is able to be our perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the law on our behalf so as to make those who believe in Him through faith righteous.

Having experienced the freedom Christ provides, we should not use your freedom to satisfy the desires of our flesh. In fact, the opposite is true. Having been set free from the bondage of sin, we should use our freedom to follow Jesus in living according to God’s Word.

Not that it is a bad idea, but we don’t need to memorize all the commands in God’s Word in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The whole law, as we are told in verse 14, can be summed in their phrases, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Paul is playing off Jesus’ answer in the gospels to a question regarding what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered it is to love God and the second greatest was to love your neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). I believe both ideas are implied here, but the specific focus of the passage in on community, which is why the second greatest commandment is quoted.

It is wrong to say that you love God, while at the same time hating your brother. If you love God, you will love your brother. You will not use your freedom to bite and devour them. Instead, you will use your freedom to show love and care for them. If we seek to devour another instead of living in unity with them, we will be devoured ourselves. So as others attempt to take a bite out of us, we should press into love.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity. It is what the law, although imperfectly, was seeking and what we are capable of now that we are freed from the bondage of sin in Christ. We are capable of loving and living in unity with our fellow brothers and sisters. We must press into unity in our community by loving others as we would love ourselves.

Are you giving God your all?

God’s statement through Malachi to the returned exiles is strong. He has no pleasure in them nor their offerings.

The returned exiles don’t recognize who God is — the Lord of hosts, the all sovereign God of the entire universe (Mal 1:11). Nor do they recognize the privilege position in which they sit under the love of God as His chosen covenant people — God chose Jacob over Esau because He loved Jacob and hated Esau (Mal 1:2-3). Not recognizing the magnitude and magnificence of God, they take Him for granted. They believe they can worship God any way they like and God should accept their half-hearted worship and even provide them blessings.

But should God be content with us worshipping Him in the ways in which we prescribe? Or should we seek to worship God according to His divine commands?

Consider how David would answer this question from the daily Psalm that accompanies the reading in Malachi.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

– Psalm 63:1

Does your soul thirst for God? Does your flesh faint for him? Do you desire God in such a way that you are driven to worship Him with your entire life? Seeking Him with all you have, recognizing He is the sustainer of your life?

The Israelites didn’t seek the Lord with all their soul. They simple went through the motions. Bringing sacrifices because they were required. Taking God for granted, they didn’t bring the best and the first. They offered the blind, the lame, the sick (Mal 1:8). They brought sacrifices to God that they would not bring to their secular rulers, expecting God to accept their offerings and bless them accordingly (Mal. 1:8b-9).

God doesn’t want our left overs! He doesn’t want our half-hearted worship. He wants all of us. He wants us to thirst for and hunger for Him as David did.

Do you thirst for the Lord? Are you giving your all to the Lord? Or are you giving Him what’s leftover of your time, energy, and resources? Are you seeking Him for Him, or are you seeking Him for what you believe He can provide you?

“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 63:2-8

The praiseworthy steadfast love of the Lord

Running from Absalom, David finds himself in the wilderness thirsty and in fear for his life. Even though David knows God has the ability to immediately change the situation, he turns to the Lord, seeking Him in earnest. His soul thirsts for him as he thirsts for water.

Why does David thirst for the Lord is such difficult times, especially knowing God’s sovereign hand can change his situation in a moments notice?

Later in the Psalm, David reflects on the Lord’s steadfast love. He says,

“because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

Psalm 63:3

God’s steadfast love “refers to [his] special commitment to the people with whom he has gladly bound himself in an unbreakable covenant bond” (Ortland, Gently and Lowly, 149). It is God’s steadfast love that causes David to seek the Lord and trust that He will rescue him from his situation. He knows the Lord will not forsake or withdraw His love from him no matter the situation he faces or the sins he commits against the Lord.

Prior to this episode with Absalom (2 Samuel 16), David sins against Bathsheba and ultimately the Lord (see Psalm 51). But God doesn’t reject him. He doesn’t cast him out. He doesn’t annul his covenant with David due his sin and rebellion against Him. Instead, He sends Nathan the prophet to call David back to Himself (2 Samuel 12).

God’s steadfast love draws David in, it captivates him. Reflecting on God’s steadfast love causes David to thirsts for the Lord, his “soul clings to [Him]” (vs 8a). He is satisfied by the Lord alone (vs 5).

In the same way that David is drawn to the Lord, we should be drawn to the Lord. His steadfast love should captivate us and draw us in too.

Despite our consistent rebellion, God remains faithful. He doesn’t cast us off, instead He seeks us out. He sends people into our life to call us back to Himself when we sin. He provides encouraging voices so that we keep pressing on. He reminds us, through the work of the Spirit, of His steadfast love. A love that is greater than riches, status, comfort, power, and even life itself (vs 3).

God is there both when we are running from Him and towards Him. His steadfast love never ceases.

What an amazing God we serve! A God worthy of worship and praise for His steadfast love endures forever!

Why Shouldn’t We Love the World?

As a parent, one of the things you so badly want is for your kids to say their first word, then their first phrase, then their first sentence. Not only are those developmental milestones, but in one sense it makes life easier. If they are hungry, cold, sick, or tired, they can actually tell you instead of crying until you happen to figure out which one it is by trial error.

But in another sense, it can make life more difficult. I know I’m constantly getting onto my oldest son for picking on his brother. In fact, I had to stop writing this paragraph in order to talk with him about something he said to his younger brother.

Playing referee is not the only thing that makes life more difficult. As your kids’ progress in their understanding and speech, you get the inevitable “why” question. I’m not saying that asking why is always disrespectful or even a bad thing, it’s what helps us learn and grow in our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. While that’s true, it does make our lives more difficult because it means we have to give an answer for almost everything that happens. A lot of time, I just don’t have the answer, or at least I don’t have the answer to the fifth “why” in a row. It either doesn’t exist, or my knowledge of the subject has been exhausted.

Even though I don’t always have the answer, I try to provide what I can because knowing why is often the difference between doing or not doing something. At least that’s the case in my life. Take algebra for instance. I think not knowing why I needed algebra as an adult was one of the reasons I didn’t apply myself to the subject in high school.

Knowing why is a motivating factor in our lives. I know this, you know this, God knows this, and the writers of Scripture know this, which is why the Bible often tells us why we should or shouldn’t do something. That’s exactly what John is doing for us in today’s passage. He tells us why we shouldn’t love the world.

Why shouldn’t we love the world?

In verse 15 of 1 John chapter 2 we read,

“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.” (1 Jn 2:15)

The first part of the verse represents the command. We are to take this command seriously because God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Lord is telling us not to do something through His inspired and inerrant Word.

Not only are we given a command, but we are also given a reason why we shouldn’t love the world.

I know you have probably seen those license plates or stickers that say: House Divided. Underneath that tag line you typically see the mascots of two rival football teams. In the South, where I grew up, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators were big rivals. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see people driving around with one of those license plates on their car.

While that tag definitely represented a division, it wasn’t so strong of a division, at least in some families, that they couldn’t marry one another, live in the same house, or raise kids together. Sure, their hearts might be divided when it comes to football. And that division might even lead them to give each other a hard time when those two teams play each other. But that doesn’t mean they can’t love and care for one another.

That, however, is not the case when it comes to our love for God and the world. We can’t slap a tag on our car in fun that says Love Divided — God and World. Either God holds our heart in His hands or the world does. If we love the world, the love of the Father can’t be in us. So we shouldn’t love the world because it means we have divided hearts. As followers of Jesus, our hearts shouldn’t be divided. Instead, they should be fully given to Jesus and the things of God over the things of the world.

Question for Reflection

  1. Is your heart divided?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon Why shouldn’t we love the world?