Well, I think we’ve pretty much beat the problem into the ground so far this week. The love of the world is vastly different from the love of God. If it’s not clear by now, let me help bring clarity. We don’t have to try to become the world’s love. That’s already what we are. If not from birth, at least from a very young age we are programmed with that kind of love.
In Genesis 8:21 where Noah has just offered God a sacrifice after disembarking the Ark having survived the flood, we read this: “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” From childhood, every inclination of our heart is evil, thinking only of ourselves.
That’s the problem we have been wrestling with this week. But, what’s the plan? How do we go about living our lives in a way that is more inline with God’s love than the world’s love?
First, let me remind you of the challenge for this week. This week we are asking everyone to give up 12 minutes of screen time or time spent under the discipleship of the world and spend those 12 minutes with God. These first two weeks our focus has been simply reading your Bible. The primary way we are going to become like the God of love is to spend time in His presence. You can’t spend time in the presence of God and not be changed.
The ultimate path to becoming love is found in Jesus. He lays out exactly what it means to become love while He is teaching his disciples. And that’s what we’re going to deal with tomorrow.
Today, we are going to look at three specific antidotes to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. These are the three primary ways we get hooked by the love of the world. Ironically enough, we find the antidote to them in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with your God.”
What is the antidote to the lust of the flesh? Doing justice is the antidote to the lusts of the flesh. Think about it. Most of the lusts of the flesh are indulgences that we feel we are entitled to. When we have that extra cookie, extra drink or whatever it is, we often justify it by saying, “I deserve this. I’ve worked really hard this week.” When we give into lusts of the flesh, we’re usually doing so because we feel we have the right to do so.
But, if we’re going to become love, we actually have to deny ourselves any kind of entitlement. For instance, the world is experiencing what is known as a syndemic – “A synergy of pandemics.” More than 2 billion adults and children are overweight or obese, simultaneously, 2 billion struggle with micronutrient deficiencies and 815 million are chronically undernourished. (https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/27/health/obesity-climate-change-undernutrition/index.html)
Why do we have such an a big overeating problem in more affluent societies, even while we know there is such a big hunger problem around the world? Simple. Lusts of the flesh. I love me some pizza. And potato chips, cookies, cake, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cool whip and ice cream. I even say that I need those things. Which is a lie I have embraced.
This is how doing justice works to counter the lust of the flesh. Instead of indulging my need for pizza, I could deny myself that right and find a way to use that financial savings to help someone who is hungry. And it’s not just with food. Any time a lust of the flesh is triggered, I have the option to stop and redirect that desire into a justice issue that is contrary to the desire.
This even extends to the way people treat us. In our society, we don’t have much tolerance for being mistreated. We feel we deserve to be treated respectfully no matter what belief system we have embraced. And I agree. We definitely should treat every single human being with dignity and respect, no matter what. But when we have been mistreated, we feel the right to cry out for our rights. “I don’t deserve to be treated this way.” And while that’s true, it’s actually an opportunity to become love. Just like we read in Matthew 5:38-42, justice may seek restitution, becoming love turns the other cheek even when we have been slapped by an evil person.
What is the antidote to the lusts of the eyes? Loving mercy is the antidote to the lusts of the eyes. We’re going to go right to a story about Jesus to figure this one out. Luke 7:11-13 – “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Notice what happened here. Look closely at the last verse. “When the Lord saw her, his heart when out to her.” As we said on Sunday, that phrase “His heart went out to her” is more literally “moved with compassion.” Even more literally than that is, “moved to the bowels.” In other words, when Jesus saw the widow in the funeral processional for her only son, He was deeply moved.
This was a big problem for the widow. Culturally she would likely become destitute. Her only hope of having her needs covered was through the son who was lying dead on the stretcher. Jesus saw her. Saw…
The glasses most of us wear tend to filter out the opportunities for us to be moved with compassion. Most of the time, I look beyond the people in pain because I know it’s going to require something of me to get involved. It happened to me today. I saw someone who could almost certainly use my assistance, but instead of being moved with compassion I was moved with the feeling of, “I don’t have the time or energy for this today.” So I smiled and moved on. I wasn’t like Jesus.
On the flip-side, our eyes are well-trained to look for opportunities to make our own lives better. Our eyes have no problem observing the lifestyles of people around us and coveting their house, their car or the clothes. Our eyes easily see all the things that would make our lives easier and better. And our eyes are superhighways to our hearts, triggering a deep desire for those things.
Becoming love means we have to retrain both what we see and how what we see triggers our heart. Becoming love means, like Jesus, when we see someone in pain, we are moved with compassion instead of inconvenience. Becoming love means we no longer allow our hearts to be the fire for our selfish pursuits and instead become the fire for helping others who are also made in God’s image.
What is the antidote to the pride of life? Walking Humbly with God. The pride of life is that thing in us that was in Adam and Eve in the garden that the serpent played on to get them to eat the fruit and rebel against God so they could be their own gods. Even though they were already like God, that wasn’t good enough. They wanted more.
The antidote to this level of pride is completely emptying ourselves of ourselves. The beginning of becoming love is unbecoming ourselves. This is why Jesus began his sermon on the mount, the manifesto of his entire earthly preaching ministry with this phrase: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Don’t miss that. The kingdom of heaven is for those who are poor in spirit. The kingdom of heaven is for the humble. The verses on this idea are literally abundant. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph 4:2) “In humility, value others above yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3) “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Prov 11:2 – Don’t miss that one. Pride is what led us to rebel against God because we wanted to decide for ourselves what is good and evil. But humility is what gives us true wisdom, which is knowing God’s truth of what is good and evil.) “Do not be proud, but we willing to associate with people of low position.” (Rom 12:16) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) And many, many more.
We will literally be denied access to the kingdom of heaven on the basis of pride. Let that sink in. Entrance into God’s kingdom comes at the price of our pride. We can’t get there in our own strength. We can’t get there by intellectual ascent. We only get there by walking humbly with God. Entrance is reserved for the reserved.
That’s the plan. These are the practices of someone who is becoming love. This is the framework that will support the kind of desire, thinking and behavior of someone who is becoming love. Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the source of life for that love.