What matters most

15 08 2008

The success of every temptation that the devil brings against men depends upon their putting the object of the temptation above God in their affections. When Satan can convince you that some coveted object is better for you than the love and favor and presence of God, he has caught you in his trap. This is at the heart of every temptation: which is your greatest delight, God or the object of your lust?

 

Renowned Puritan preacher, Thomas Brooks, counseled every Christian to answer all temptations with this short saying: “The Lord is my portion.” This is very wise advice. Think of a few examples from Scripture.

 

  • If Satan should come to you with an apple, as he once did to Eve, say to him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If Satan should come to you with a grape, tempting you to drunkenness as he once did to Noah, say to him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If he should come to you with fashionable clothing, as he once did to Gehazi, tell him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If the devil should come to you with a ready seductress, as he once did to Joseph, tell him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If he offers you a wedge of gold, as he once did to Achan, or a bag of money, as he once did to Judas, say to him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If he comes to you with a crown and a kingdom, as he once did to Moses, tell him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

In every case, the heart that delights in God above every empty trinket that this world has to offer will rise above the devil’s attempt to put temporary worldly satisfaction ahead of the present and eternal joy of knowing God and finding contentment in His presence.

 

But in order for this tactic against temptation to work effectively, your insistence that “the Lord is your portion” must be a genuine confession of your heart. Do you love God more than worldly pleasure? Do you delight in Him more than in the riches and ease of accumulated wealth? Do you desire His presence more than the fickle affections of the seductress? Do you prefer the benefits of serving God to the trappings of earthly power or worldly reputation? Can you honestly say to Satan, when he throws these temptations in your path, “Begone with these empty and worthless trifles! I have something far better than these! The Lord is my portion!”?

 

If you would have this power over temptation, you must set yourself to seeking God as the highest and best reward. Look to Jesus, and commune with Him through the study of His word, and through earnest prayer, and through the fellowship of His people. Meditate upon the infinite perfections of the God of grace, and mercy, and love, and justice. Think often about the wondrous Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the precious blood that has paid the price for your sins and brought you from death to life. Pray for His Spirit to be poured out in your heart and commit yourself to serving Him by serving others. The more that you practice these spiritual disciplines, the more you will find your heart filled with delight in the Lord and His presence. Then, when the devil comes creeping with his promises of temporary satisfaction, you will be able to say to him with complete confidence and temptation-conquering conviction: “The Lord is my portion!”

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What possesses you?

15 08 2008

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

Here is a sad case. A young man came to Jesus, expressing great respect and openly looking to Him for answers. Both his physical posture (he ran to Jesus and then knelt down before Him) and his words (calling Him “Good Teacher”) indicate tremendous affection and reverence. Yet, when it was all said and done, this young man walked away from Jesus, sad but unchanged. Jesus demanded of him more than he was willing to give. His love for the “great possessions” of the world had more of a hold on his heart than his professed love for Jesus Christ.

Have you ever considered how inadequate a verbal acknowledgement of divine truth and an outward expression of love for Christ are, apart from complete surrender to Him?

Here are some observations about the young man in mark 10 from the writings of Stephen Charnock…

This man addressed Christ with a profound respect, acknowledging Him more than an ordinary person, with a more reverential carriage than we read any of His disciples paid to Him in the days of His flesh; he fell down at His feet, kissed His knees, as the custom was when they would testify the great respect they had to any eminent person… He seems to acknowledge Him the Messiah by giving Him the title of ‘Good,’ a title they did not give to their doctors of the chair; he breathes out his opinion, that Jesus was able to instruct him beyond the ability of the law; he came with a more than ordinary affection to Him, and expectation of advantage from Him, evident by his departing sad when his expectations were frustrated by his own perversity.

Think about this carefully. What were the outward signs of affection and reverence that this young man showed toward Jesus?

  1. He held Christ in high esteem and great respect
  2. He bowed down to Christ and kissed His feet
  3. He owned Jesus as the Messiah, sent from God
  4. He sought to be instructed and taught by Jesus
  5. He expected to receive assurance of salvation from Him

Yet none of these things were indications of saving faith in the young man’s heart. It’s not enough to revere Jesus, or to worship Him outwardly, or to profess belief that He is the Messiah, or to seek instruction from Him and expect to receive spiritual comfort from Him. All of these things are done by many who, in spite of their outward display of admiration for Christ, do not love Him more than they love the world. When Jesus exposed his divided heart, and required him to give all of his possessions to the poor and become His disciple, the young man went away sad, “because he had many possessions.”

Charnock continues…

What was the cause of his refusing the instructions he pretended such an affection to receive? He had possessions in the world. How soon do a few drops of worldly advantages quench the first sparks of an ill-grounded love to Christ! How vain is a complimental and cringing devotion, without a supreme preference of God, and valuation of Christ above every outward allurement.

The young man in Mark’s account was, in fact, possessed by his possessions. He refused to have his heart possessed by Jesus Christ. How does it stand with your heart and soul today? Are you willing to surrender all that you have in order to follow Christ and become His disciple? Do you profess love and respect for Him, when really your heart belongs to another? What is that one thing which, if Jesus required you to surrender it, would make you sad? Whatever it is, determine right now to lay it down at the feet of Jesus, and make Him the one true desire of your heart and satisfaction of your soul. Only then will you know the unspeakable happiness and joy that comes from God’s free gift of salvation.