1) God loves to use weak people
Time and time again, over the last few months, I've found that my natural instinct, to depend on myself doesn't really help anyone I believe God has been bringing me to a place where He's been showing me how my own skills and abilities have failed to attain the calling that He has placed on my life. It's only when He does this that we really see, in a crystal clear way, how much we need Him every day. In the times when I've felt useless, confessing this uselessness has glorified the power of God in ways I haven't seen before. Depending on God is the opposite of pride, relying on Him contradicts the desires of the flesh, acknowledging our weakness displays His strength.
2) The pursuit of my own happiness is essential to glorify God
Credit goes to Piper for expressing this truth in Desiring God. I was on holiday in Greece when I read this book from cover-to-cover, it blew me away. When I first read that God commands my happiness (Psalm 37:4), I thought 'Really? Does He actually want me to be satisfied? Isn't this self-centred? I mean, aren't I stealing the attention away from God's glory and towards my own satisfaction?' After wrestling with questions like these individually and with friends, I'm now sure that Christan Hedonism is a God-centered principle to live by.
Some disagree with Piper's articulation of Christian Hedonism. I was talking to a Pastor the other day who rejects Christian Hedonism because, in his eyes, it seems to make man's own desires god. Christian Hedonism does not make the chief end of man the fulfillment of man's desires. Christian Hedonism answers the question: how can God be most glorified in me? To say it another way: How should I live, in order to magnify the worth of God? Both questions are individual. Both questions are looking for a way of life for man to live. How can God be most glorified in me? Christian Hedonism says: 'God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him' and 'God's worth and splendour will be most manifested in your life when you are completely overwhelmed with His goodness. Christian Hedonism doesn't make human desires a god. Christian hedonism makes the fulfillment of our Spirit-filled desires (satisfaction/ happiness) the only way to glorify God individually.
I was reminded again about this truth as I spoke about the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44), to a group of international students. A man goes out into a field, sees the treasure, sells all he has and buys that field. Why does he buy the field? He buys the field for the sake of his happiness. 'For joy' he sells all he has. The man in the parable is not stupid like an investor who puts money into dodgy stocks. The man is in touch with reality. He looks at the worth of all he has and compares it with the worth of the treasure. The treasure out-weighs all he has. So from a heart that sincerely desires his own benefit, he buys that field. We must come to Christ for our own pleasure. The pursuit of my own joy in God massively glorifies Him!
3) Everything Christian is about Faith and Love
I preached in January on Deuteronomy 8:1 'Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers'. It was my first sermon, I loved preaching every minute of it (mp3 is available here). The sermon became an expression of most of my theology. Despite this I tried to centre the sermon around our obligations to obey God as Christians. Why should we obey God? What's in it for us? How does God motivate us to obey Him? are all questions I tried to answer in the sermon.
In preparing I was able to spend time thinking about Galatians 5:6 'In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.' Paul is making the point that anything we do (however Christian we may think it is) is absolutely worthless without faith working through love. That's powerful and shocking to the ego. What even reading a Christan book or fasting? Yup. Everything is nothing without faith and love. Faith being a continual trust in the reality that the gospel pronounces over every believers life. Love being a continual outpouring of desire fixed in the beauty of God.
Without faith and love I am sinning and my obedience is counted as nothing. 'Whatever is not of faith is sin' according to Romans 14:23. Sin is not necessarily an action that is wrong in God eyes, rather it is a God-debasing mindset that trusts in everything outside of Him.
'Without love I am nothing' is Paul's message to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1-3). Isn't God always pleased with martyrs? No, 'though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing' (v3). Actions that are void of faith and love are sinful and empty in God's eyes. The whole Christian life is about faith and love- it's so simple and profound! the greatest Christians are those who love the hardest and believe the most.
That's enough for tonight. More thoughts to follow.