Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Inspiration and Idols

Yesterday it was my birthday. I hung one more year on the line...
Paul Simon
So maybe on my birthday I ought to have been out celebrating, or doing something a little special, but instead I stayed home all day (I had asked for the day off from work). How did I celebrate my birthday? Well, I spent a good deal of time just cleaning around the house and getting things organized in my home office. Also I managed to have an daylong argument with my wife about keeping the house clean. Fun stuff.

Anyway, lately it seems I have lacked inspiration, or to be more accurate, my motivation (for living for Christ and for pursuing certain goals) waxes and wanes. For example, a blog series on reformed theology I was excited to jump back into-- well I just haven't found the energy and focus to keep at it. I haven't been writing new songs either, which is always a bad sign. I mean, usually when I'm in a creative state I have lots of song ideas that come to me spontaneously-- melodies, which I will record. Actually I still have been getting ideas but I haven't been diligent enough to record them. The ideas haven't felt "inspired", so I didn't bother.

And my job. I have a real tough time getting excited about going into the office each day. The work is simply not something I'm motivated by. I know it's not what I am meant to be doing, if you know what I mean.

I know others who are also experiencing spiritual/life doldrums. What is the problem really? Why do I have such a hard time staying excited and motivated about God and about my life path?

Well I think the answer is pretty simple really. It's just putting the simple solution into practice that's the challenge. What is the solution? Well, it's just this: walking closely with God each day, and having a "big picture" life-goal, one that is dynamic and visionary, yet is subdivided into measurable daily objectives.

The key to it all is being connected to the Lord Jesus Christ-- abiding in Him continually, drawing life and inspiration from His life flowing in and though me. Out of this everything else will flow-- vision, goals, energy, motivation.

OK, this sounds simple, yet it's so easy to get distracted by the daily activities of life, isn't it? You get up each day and jump right into whatever it is you have to do next, and before you know it, you're off and running and God is forgotten. But as Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)." A Christian can't flourish without being in close communion with God through His Word. After a while the soul begins to feel its hunger and its weakness.

I feel as if the Spirit has been reminding me again and again about making God the "one thing" I desire more than anything else, by getting rid of idols that compete with Him for the affection of my heart. Most of my sins-- at their root-- have to do with frustration that I'm not getting something my heart longs after. And that thing I long after functions as my "god" in that moment. But "it" (whatever "it" may be) is not God, but only a substitute for Him. So even if I had/get it, I wouldn't be happy or fulfilled. The things of this world can't satisfy the longings of our soul. They were never meant to.

I'm convinced that all believers struggle, in varying degrees, and in thousands of different forms, with this problem of "idols in the heart". Which is of course why the Bible commands us not to worship other gods (Exodus 20:3, 1 John 5:21). It is a deep sin, a sin that underlies and is at the root of so many others.

If am not loving God with everything I have and all that is within me (obeying the great commandment, Matt 22:37, Deut 6:5) I need to ask myself-- what is competing for the affection of my heart? This will eventually lead me to identify my specific idols. Living under the sway of false gods ruling in the heart makes one callous to the presence of the true God. These "gods" redirect our attention to the things of this world, rather than the love of the Father (1 John 2:15-17). They demand that we sacrifice unto them-- our time, our money, or energy, our affection, our joy, our life. And the more we give them, the less satisfaction they provide, which in turn causes us to give them even more, hoping to get more, like a person who mindlessly puts all their coins into a slot machine in the hope of winning a big cash payout. Whatever small returns these gods put out, they never satisfy. Their promises are lies.

So I need to learn to see the truth and the love of God everywhere, to keep Him and His truth before me always. I need to know, not just in theory, but to be conscious of, the fact that He is really there for me, that He truly is with me, that He is working all things together for my good because we are in a love relationship that will never be severed (Romans 8:31-38, Matthew 28:20).

How will I know these things, deep in the bowels of my soul? I don't think such knowledge is to be sought in mystical encounter with God, nor necessarily in the hearing of inspired sermons or message. Regarding the former, I'm not sure that Christianity is really about that at all, despite the fact that having experiences with God wherein one feels Him somehow is all the rage these days in many Christian circles. I don't see in Scripture that body of Christ is being instructed to seek after God in this way. As for sermons and good messages, they are helpful when they bring out clearly some particular truth of God's word. The Holy Spirit applies those truths to us specifically, if we're listening.

So I think that true spirituality is found primarily in connecting with God through His word; in the doing of the simple daily acts of obedience that demonstrate trust and faith. Sowing these little seeds will eventually bear good fruit-- I'll sense more the presence of God and His pleasure. He'll become more and more the treasure of my heart, as I learn to savor His good pleasure in me more than I savor anything this world has to offer. It also involves getting together with the the family of God, to encourage one another, pray together and band together, as we live for God in this world that is not our home. And of course, taking the Lord's supper regularly, so that we remember what Christ did and is doing for us-- He is saving our souls through the gospel-- is not to be neglected.

Lord, keep my heart focused on You. Stir within me a hunger for more of You. Give me a hunger for Your word and eyes and ears to understand it. Direct me in your paths, and reign me in when my heart and life begins to go astray-- lead me back into the way everlasting, the way of truth, of peace, and of eternal joys at your right hand.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)

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