Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Does it Cost to Truly Live? ~ A Purging of the Heart

I'm sitting here looking out the window at the beautiful trees, the trampolines that have given our kids endless hours of fun, and the chickens pecking at the ground.  The kids are either sleeping or reading quietly and the house is unusually quiet (for the moment).  I'm reminded of what a wonderful life I lead.  Sometimes, on the hard days, it doesn't seem so wonderful, but all I have to do is stop and think of what it would be like if it were all taken away.

That's also when I realize how much I cling to this life.

I had a major revelation this morning during my quiet time.  It was very convicting.  I was reading the passage in 1 Timothy 6:8-10, that says,

8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

I was doing a bible study dealing with covetousness and the question was, "From the content of these verses, define the 'love of money.'  Do you see how Paul defined it in these verses (hint: it is in verse 9).  Based on Paul's definition of the love of money, are you guilty?"

I saw that Paul was defining the love of money as the desire to be rich.  Am I guilty?  Well, that was I don't desire to be rich!  That's not something I've really struggled with. I like living a simple life.  In fact, I've always preferred having little so that I wouldn't begin to hold on to the things of this world.  So, I wrote that answer down in my notebook..."I don't desire to be rich."  Then I began to think about what I do desire...and I began writing..."I desire to be comfortable and happy and at ease, without a heavy burden or inconveniences.  I desire nice things that I enjoy." Hmmm....

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  These things that I desire ARE riches.  These are luxuries compared to the way most people in the world live….compared with my basic needs.  I guess I've always defined "rich" based on our western context, and I've never desired that type of wealth.  But all you have to do is take a trip out of the USA to...anywhere...and you'll see that we are the wealthiest people on the planet.  And even without comparing myself to anyone else, looking only to my basic needs, I can see how wealthy I many luxuries I enjoy.  Just look at verse 8 that says, "But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content."  Would I really be content with just food and clothing?

Now I don't believe the Bible is saying that being wealthy is a sin. God blessed Abraham and Job and Solomon with great wealth.  Rather, it speaks to what our heart desires.  I'm reminded of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30, who asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life.  Jesus cut right to the heart when he told him to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor.  This revealed to him what his heart loved more than Christ -> his riches.  "But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich." vs23

I have to ask myself the same question.  Rather, Jesus is asking me the same question.  What do I love most?  Am I holding on to what I have in this life or do I have a heart of surrender and a willingness to sell it all and give to the poor, if he were to ask me to.  If I'm unwilling, then I love my riches more than God and I am an idolater.

I'm not only speaking of my possessions, but also my comforts, my ease of life, my safe surroundings, my happy, predictable life that I lead with my children and husband.  If God were to say, "I want you and your family to sell all you own and serve me in a difficult land, where I am not known," how would I respond?  With all my heart I want to respond as Isaiah did and say, "Here I am, send me." (Isaiah 6:1-8)

I want to love God more than this life.  I want him to be enough for me. 

But I feel like the man in Mark 9 who said to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief!"  I could say, "I am willing; help me be willing!"

This is ugly, but maybe deep in my heart I feel like I'm entitled to a certain standard of living because I'm an American.  You know, the basic comforts of our American lifestyle.  But when I became a follower of Jesus, I exchanged my American citizenship for Kingdom citizenship.  That means that I am called to deny myself completely, take up my cross (be willing and ready to die) and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).  This is not radical Christianity, this is normal Christianity.  At least it should be.  And it is in many places of this world where millions of Christians live daily under severe persecution.  I'm afraid my comfortable life has made me a weak follower of Christ.  Now I understand why we should not desire riches, and why Jesus said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Luke 18:24)

"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."  Luke 14:33

A true disciple or follower of Jesus, follows in his Master's footsteps....the one who renounced the glory of his position as the Son of God and became a suffering servant, mocked and beaten and slain.  He says, pick up your cross and follow me.  Love me more than all this stuff that won't last...and I will give you joy that will never end.

"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Luke 12:34

This world is not my home.  My life is but a vapor, here one day and gone the next.  If I store up treasures here on this earth, I will not only lose it all, I will lose my soul.  It's when I give up my life that I truly find it.

Jesus said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:35-36

Jesus didn't just tell the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor (in essence, if you want to be my disciple, renounce all you have and follow me), he went on to say that if he did this he would have treasure in heaven.  You see, Jesus knows where the real treasure is....and he beckons us to come and find it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."  Matt. 13:44

If I really know the treasure I have in Jesus, I will see plainly how much more valuable he is than the things that I own, my family, or my own life.  If I really know Jesus, I will joyfully give it all for Him.  HE is the treasure.  In his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Friends, I'm writing all of this because this is what Jesus is speaking to my heart right now.  He's been dealing with me in this area for a while.  It seems to keep resurfacing.  I know it will be a daily surrender for the rest of my life.  I guess that's why Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

But he doesn't leave us on our own to figure this out.  After the rich young ruler went away sad, everyone around recognized that the kind of sacrifice Jesus was asking was very difficult.  "Those who heard it said, 'Then who can be saved?'  But he [Jesus] said, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.'" Luke 18:26-27

So, it's to my knees I go.

I will seek Jesus with all my heart.  I will bask in his glorious presence.  I will ask him to purge this world from my heart.  And I will trust that if my Savior is able to remove my sins as far as the east is from the west, he can and will continue the work he started in me and make me wholly His.

And meanwhile, I should start reading God's instructions for the rich!  Ha! Yep, that's me...and if you live in America, that's you too.

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Truly life...I love that. I want to keep my eyes on eternity and invest in things that give generously, to do good works, and share with those in need.  God has given us what we have for a purpose...and it's not merely for our enjoyment, but to bless and help others, to build his kingdom and invest in eternity.

And the more we give, the less we cling.

No matter what we have, we ought to be content, holding every one of God's gifts up to him with open hands as an offering of thanks.

That's my prayer for us all.  

So what about you?  Are you clinging to this life?  What is God impressing upon your heart as you think about these things?