It’s amazing the way that God uses everyday situations to make you aware of what is going on in your heart. For me at the moment it revolves around my plans to move house.
At first, as I was looking for a new place to live, it was all the sensations of fear and worry (and eventually faith!) that came to the surface. But now that I’ve seen God provide and the arrangements are in place, it’s a whole new set of things that I’m thinking and feeling.
This summer my church is doing a sermon series in the book of 1 John. On Sunday, this was part of our passage:
15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2
Ugh! I thought, this passage makes me feel so guilty! It’s so black and white – I can love the world and all that it has to offer, OR I can love God, and trust his assessment that the things of the world won’t last, and can’t satisfy.
(N.B. There is a lot of teaching in these verses that I’m not going to mention and many ways that we ‘love the world’ and don’t love God. This is just an area that is resonant for me right now!)
As I read through the list in v.16 it seemed like a pretty good summary of my recent tendencies:“the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions”
Perhaps it’s the artist in me, but I LOVE the chance to decorate a house, and even though I’ve hardly begun to pack, I can’t help perusing the IKEA catalogue, and spending hours on Pinterest dreaming up the perfect home!
So here is what I wrote in my notebook during the sermon:
How can I know the difference between enjoying good things/ making a beautiful home to the glory of God, and a wrong love of the world? (I know, profound right?)
Here are some of the thoughts I had, written as questions I’ve decided to ask myself:
- Am I regularly buying things I don’t need?
- Am I being a poor steward of the money and resources that God has entrusted to me?
- Am I spending an unhelpful amount of time shopping or looking at things to buy?
- Am I looking to my possessions or things of beauty for my ultimate happiness and rest?
- Do I view my new home and possessions as mine, for my own use alone? (Would I be upset if my things got ruined in the course of daily ministry and hospitality?)
Do I think and act as though this world is my permanent home? Abraham is praised in Hebrews 11 for a right attitude here which he showed in his context by never building a permanent earthly home: He lived in tents as did Isaac and Jacob…10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died…admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own… they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Excerpts from Hebrews 11:9-14) Am I longing for a better home with my God, or totally wrapped up in this one?
As I’ve thought about all of this, I am reluctantly reminded just how radically different the Christian attitude should be to things of the world. We don’t despise them, there are many other passages that tell us to enjoy God’s good gifts and his beautiful creation. But we hold on to the world loosely, knowing that we are waiting for something better and more satisfying! And this belief should filter down into our day to day attitudes and decisions.
I will continue to enjoy good design and pretty decorations, but I can also peacefully settle for second best, cheap and sturdy, messed up by ministry, simple living, because this is not my true home, and my desire for beauty and rest and satisfaction will be fully satisfied in Jesus Christ, now and into eternity.
It feels wonderful to know that even if I move and things aren’t quite right, if my favourite mug gets broken, and my furniture is a bit dented, or I can’t afford the things I would like, my contentment doesn’t have to reside in these things.
But my thinking mustn’t end here!
It’s easy to forget the gospel in moments like these, to simply feel guilty when we read passages that challenge us, and respond by making up rules to ring fence our behaviour. But the good news about Jesus helps me to trust in his perfect character, and the working of his spirit in my heart and life instead of my own surface attempts to squash my love of the world with a veneer of spirituality.
I can rest, knowing that God’s love for me is not based on how much I love him (though I long to love him more!), or on how well I do at looking to him for fulfilment. Instead, it’s based on Jesus, as if his perfect actions are my own. It’s the gospel that gives me the confidence to grapple with my failings in these matters. I am so thankful for God’s grace towards sinners, despite our disordered love!
If anything I’ve written has resonated with you, I hope you’ll think it through within this life-giving context too.