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Faithlife

A New Want

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The mind is a garden that could be cultivated to produce the harvest that we desire.

The mind is a workshop where the important decisions of life and eternity are made.

The mind is an armory where we forge the weapons for our victory or our destruction.

The mind is a battlefield where all the decisive battles of life are won or lost.

1.  Are you living as you wish to live?

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8, NIV) [1]

The opening words of Romans 8 bring a wonderful assurance to the person whose trust is in Christ.

" Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:1, NIV) [2]

Isn’t that what we all want to avoid.  The fear of being lost eternally drives many people to Christ.  I was surely driven that way.

But what is it that sustains that relationship?  It can’t be sustained through fear. 

Coercion and compliance was never God’s intention.  He does not want to force Himself on people.  As I watch the lives of many Christians I am convinced that they don’t live as they do simply because they want to.  Joyless Christians are too often people who just don’t want to go to hell. 

More and more, I see “hell” as a place that God refuses to be – a place totally devoid of His presence.  A place prepared for those who in life declare that they want nothing to do with Him.  And regardless of what it is or isn’t, it won’t be a place that a person is happy to find themselves in.  It will be filled with the eternal torment of having forsaken the opportunity to come to Him and to enjoy Him and the knowledge that there’s no going back to try to make things differently.  It’s a fitting end for people who have no regard for God – they get what it is they think they want and then they realize that this is not really what they want after all.

Those who merely want to escape hell have no other driving spiritual passion.  They are incapable of inspiring anyone else to seek out a personal faith.  They don’t want hell and they don’t particularly want heaven – they are stuck somewhere in between.  What a shame to be in that state of mind.

Did you ever have the experience of being in love with someone who didn’t love you?  Remember the pain?  So many times, God knows that no matter what we say, we just are not in love with Him.  We sing love songs but we don’t love Him.  We go to a worship service and watch and evaluate how it fits our preferences . . . and we fail to worship.  It’s not rocket science, . . . He wants more than anything else that we would love Him more than anything else.

Paul writes in Romans 8 to address life patterns.  He wants us to understand that the way that we choose to live identifies the basic nature of our wants.  If the pattern of our lives is without restraint, to serve our flesh – to be controlled by our drives and compulsions, then it is because we have made a choice to deliberately do so.  We have “set our mind”, Paul says, to cooperate with our sinful nature.  It’s not because the temptation is so great but because we pursue self-satisfaction above and beyond all else.  We do what we want to do.

On the other hand if the pattern of my living is otherworldly, if my values bear a stark contrast to those around me.  If I refuse to play silly games, to worship what everyone else worships.  If I refuse to trade my life or compromise my convictions for earthly gain, then it is because I hear and see things that others are blind to, voices from another world, another kingdom.  It is because I have chosen to live according to the will of God.  I have chosen to do so because I want to – not because I have to.  I would have to say that I am living my  life today exactly the way that I want to live it.  I don’t feel that I am missing anything that the sinful nature can provide.  For me, this world holds nothing better than what God provides as I choose to follow Him.

Paul says that we have a mind set to serve self or to serve the Spirit.  We are doing what we want to do.

To live naturally self-serving is the programming that we are born with.  In our younger years, for a very short time we even call it cute.  It gets old real fast though.  That attitude or mind set is illustrated in the following “Toddler’s Rules of Ownership”

1. If I like it, it's mine.

2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.

3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.

4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.

5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.

6. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.

7. If it looks just like mine, it's mine.

8. If I think it's mine, it's mine.

9. If it's yours and I steal it, it's mine.

 

If a child doesn’t move beyond this relatively quickly we call them spoiled brats and question the parent’s methods and practices.  I remember one of HC Wilson’s admonitions to pastors relative to their children.  He basically reminded a group of pastors that other people won’t see our children as cute if their behavior is inappropriate.  If we love our children we will teach them to behave properly.

We tolerate inappropriate behavior from seasoned Christians within the church.  There are those who feel that they have the right to be rude or unkind for some greater reason.  I remember one dear lady who used to tell me that I looked like a real preacher when I wore white shirts.  I know that she meant well – but you know what . . . she was just rude and meddlesome.

FOUR LEVELS OF MATURITY

John Maxwell has identified four levels of maturity for Christians. They are given in progressive order with the least mature viewpoint listed first:

(1) I'm going to do what I want, regardless of any thought for God;

(2) If God gives me what I want, then I will give him what he wants;

(3) I will give God what he wants, with faith that he will give me what I want; and

(4) I will give God what he wants, regardless of any thought for myself. Many Christians spend the balance of their life at level two or three but the greatest joy is found at level four.

 

Personally I would add a fifth level.

 

(5) I want what God wants.

("How to Get Commitment for Ministry," John Maxwell, The Pastor's Update, April 1991)

So how do we “grow up”? 

2.  How do we reset our minds according to God’s Will and our wants.

I am going to suggest to us today that we need to “repent” and I’m not going to assume that you know what it really means to repent.

Some people look to try to determine a level of remorse as evidence of repentance.  When we can’t see “remorse” we assume that a person has not sincerely repented.  Is there a difference between remorse and repentance?

Oswald Chambers says: “Never mistake remorse for repentance; remorse simply puts a man in hell while he is on earth.”

Paul differentiates between the two in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter." [3]

Paul separates the sorrow from repentance.  He suggests that sorrow over what we have done merely brings us to the place where we can repent.

You see, an appeal to a man’s heart or their emotions is short-lived.  Emotions come and go from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.  An appeal to the mind of a man or woman potentially is what can change their lives and the lives of succeeding generations. 

Hang on there Karl.  Are you suggesting that repentance is an appeal to a person’s mind?

Yep.

But.

Remember the greatest commandment.  "Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’" (Matthew 22:37, NIV) [4]

See those words there.  Loving God is not just an emotional thing, it includes the mind as well.

Do you know what repentance means in the Greek?  It is the word “metanoia”.  It literally means to change your mind.  That’s a strong call for many people whose minds are “set in stone”.  There are those who form opinions of others all too quickly and it takes years for them to be open to some different idea.

Let me give you a few highlights of an article by Chuck Colson called:

“METANOIA” Is a Necessity For the Church

A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world - and might even be more difficult to save. --C. S. Lewis

The monastic orders of the Dark Ages could not have modeled communities of character if they had looked like the troubled world about them. Today, in a new age darkened by the collapse of character and the dissolution of faith, the church cannot model the Kingdom of God if it is conformed to the kingdoms of man.

Too often in recent years the church has suffered from the same collapse of character that is so widespread in our culture. Too often the church has been apathetic, marked by individualism, and constrained by the love of self rather than the love of Christ.

If the church today is to be the church, it must diligently protect its spiritual integrity. This begins with what the Greeks called metanoia, which means a change of mind - and is translated in the New Testament as repentance.

The repentance that God desires is not just contrition, or acknowledgment and confession of our sin. It is also a daily attitude and perspective.

Ø      Repentance is the process by which we see ourselves, day by day, as we really are: sinful, needy, dependent people. It is the process by which we see God as He is: awesome, majestic, and holy.

Ø      Repentance is the essential manifestation of regeneration that sets us straight in our relationship to God and so radically alters our perspective that we begin to see the world through God's eyes, not our own.

Ø      Repentance is the ultimate surrender of self. It is a radical change of mind that goes beyond spiritual stirring and inklings of interest. Unless there is metanoia, God has not been allowed to take control. An unrepentant Christian is a contradiction in terms.

Ø      Repentance is the first of Martin Luther's 95 Theses: When our Lord and master Jesus Christ said 'repent', He willed that the entire life of believers be one of repentance.

Ø      Repentance is the first word of the Gospel. It is the centerpiece of John the Baptist's message. Repent and believe were Jesus' first words in the account of Mark, and His last words to the disciples commanding them to preach repentance and forgiveness and forgiveness of sins.

Ø      Repentance for Christians, is both individual and as a body.  Each person needs to reflect a life of repentance just as the corporate church needs to model that same attitude of faith and life.

Repentance is a rare message in today's church because it requires confrontation with an uncomfortable subject - sin.  And sin does not sell well in our feel-good culture. When sin gets personal, people get skittish. Only the conviction of personal sin, however, brings us to Christ.

Charles W. Colson

Some people come to God and experience some heart-work but never change their minds.  Faith becomes nothing more than the effort to deny what a person really desires.  To try to live denying myself what I want.

If the heart is deceptive then the mind is devious.

I believe that it is possible to come to the place where we begin to want what God wants as much as we want the more “fleshly” things of life.  Remember level 5?  I want what God wants.  We change our mindset.

I have to say as well that if you have stopped somewhere between conversion and this experience then it is time to pick up your knapsack and get going again.  You have rested long enough.

(Ill. - Backpacking with kids – I used to try to keep them from stopping because with the onset of fatigue it become doubly difficult to resume the trek.)

3.  We need a new want.

I have a confession.  For many years in my life I have wanted lesser things and I have wanted them more than greater things.  Some of those have been wrong things – still lesser things.  This was true before I accepted Christ so that I wouldn’t go to hell.  Do I believe in hell?  Yes I do simply because the Bible talks about it.  Do I know what it is?  Not for sure.  No more than I know what heaven is for sure.  I know what I want heaven to be but I suspect it will be all that and more and much different than what I want.

I need a new want. 

It’s my wants that get me into problems – I am wanting things that really don’t matter to anyone else but myself.  They make me vulnerable.  I am in the state of indebtedness that I currently face because of my wants.  If I had wanted to live more simply and to give more to God, to others.  If I had learned to want what I have, I’d never be where I am.

Sometimes people come between me and my wants.  When I believe that I am entitled to my wants then these people are bad, unreasonable.  So many times my wants put me at odds with others.

I need a new want. 

I have learned that my life pattern is to want lesser things.  When I have gained what I wanted, my experience is that I still want or I regret the price that I paid or I discover that I didn’t really enjoy what I wanted as much as I thought that I would.  Getting what I want has only increased my wants – I don’t think it has ever brought satisfaction.

I need a new want. 

I am driven by my wants.  I usually get what I want.  Sometimes I get what God wants and I discover that this is what I really wanted all along.  You see God’s supply is far greater than my wants – he knows the depths of my heart – I just know what I want.  He knows what fills me – what brings the greatest satisfaction and he is constantly working to give me that.  I’d never pursue that on my own because I’d never see it for what it is.  He sees it though – He loves me enough to allow me to get the lesser things occasionally and to discover that I really don’t want them after all.  Still this leaves me restless.  Are you restless today?  Have you found what you want?  Like the chicken farmer who lost his gum in the chicken coop and picked it up seven times before he found it.  There are a good many of you here today – not really too much different than I am.  Wanting lesser things, . . . and finding them . . . and changing your wants.  But you see, unless we listen to a different voice, things will never be any different.  Unless we change our minds – repent – metanoia.

You need a new want also – don’t you.  God can give you a new want.

The cuckoo is a common bird in England. The first sign of spring is that bird's call. The cuckoo never builds its own nest. When it feels an egg coming on, it finds another nest with eggs and no parent bird. The cuckoo lands, hurriedly lays its egg, and takes off again. That's all the cuckoo does in terms of parenting. (We have a lot of cuckoos in our society today!)

 

The thrush, whose nest has now been invaded, comes back, circles, and comes into the wind to land. Not being very good at arithmetic, it can't imagine why it immediately begins to list to starboard. It gets to work hatching the eggs. Four little thrushes and one large cuckoo eventually hatch. The cuckoo is two or three times the size of the thrushes.

 

Mrs. Thrush, having hatched the five little birds, goes off early in the morning to get the worm. She comes back, circles the nest to see four petite thrush mouths and one cavernous cuckoo mouth. Who gets the worm? The cuckoo.

 

Guess what happens. The cuckoo gets bigger and bigger; the little thrushes get smaller and smaller.

 

To find a baby cuckoo in a nest, simply walk along a hedge row until you find little dead thrushes. The cuckoo throws them out one at a time. Here's an adult thrush feeding a baby cuckoo that is three times as big as the thrush.

 

And the moral of the story is this: you have two natures in one nest and the nature you go on feeding will grow, and the nature you go on starving will diminish. If there's going to be anything resembling that which God has in mind for us, it is going to come not through an annual attempt at the spirit of Christmas but a perpetual recognition of the Spirit of Christ.

 

n       Stuart Briscoe, "Christmas 365 Days a Year," Preaching Today, Tape 135.


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[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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