Teach Us To WantSeptember 10, 2021 Christianity
What do you want? When difficult decisions come up, like whether or not to commit to marrying someone, once we’ve clarified the appropriate first question asking if the Bible allows something, oftentimes the even more difficult question to answer is, “Do I want this?” And if so, “Why do I want this?”
In her book Teach Us to Want, Jen Pollock Michel makes the case, much like Saint Augustine did in the third century, that our desires shape our actions. Jesus explained that you can know someone deeply just listening to how they talk, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:35).
The difficulty with our hearts and desires is they are confusing and hard to discern. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The desires of a man are deep wells, but the man of understanding draws them out.” The image here is of desires compared to water stored and hidden in a deep, dark hole in the ground. The only way to get at them is through patient conversation. Getting to know people takes time. Getting to know their desires takes even longer.
A couple of months ago, we practiced getting to know strangers quickly at the Anchored Youth Boardwalk Chapel trip. We asked stranger after stranger questions like, “How do you know what is right and wrong?” “What is the universal standard for morality?” We asked these questions to understand what informed the moral decision-making of the people we were just barely getting to know. Admittedly, these are deep questions to ask people you are just getting to know! We were surprised, however, to find many people genuinely wanted to have that discussion. Some others, when they read a sign we were holding saying, “Are you going to heaven? Free test” would yell out things as they walked past. Some yelled: “I’m a homosexual! Am I going to hell?” They were telling us much about their desires in a short amount of time. Their assumption: if I desire something, then I know instinctively it is the right thing to do.
But as Christians, we’ve seen the destructiveness of our own disordered desire. Paul writes with anguish in Romans 7:19, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” We see patterns of sin in ourselves: anger, envy, or lust. We know we must forsake them. But how is that possible? Where does the power to want the right thing come from?
Strangers we met at Boardwalk Chapel, and Christians who’ve lived their whole life in the church, need the same remedy for broken, sinful desires: they need a Savior. Paul tells us that the way Christ has won the victory over the power of our sin is through the resurrection. The history of Christ’s death and resurrection is connected to our day-to-day battle with sin. Paul says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:9–11 ESV). Because Jesus lives today, we who put our trust in Him are enabled to put to death our sinful desires. We are not victims of what we want. Through Jesus’ new resurrection life, we now have the power to forsake our sin and live for him. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
In His Service
Pastor Adrian Crum
What Pastor Adrian is reading . . .
Called to the Ministry
by Edmund Clowney
What should the ordinary work of Christian service look like? How can I put my hands to the everyday service that Christ calls me to? Clowney’s book is written particularly to people asking themselves if they should be pastors, but it’s a useful reminder to all Christians. First, that our most important identity is not found in our pastoring, but in the name we received when we were adopted by our Heavenly Father. Being a son, daughter or child of our Heavenly Father is more foundational than pastor, elder, deacon, or being an earthly father or mother. A pastor cannot give what he himself doesn’t possess: the confidence that he is known and loved, in Christ by His Heavenly Father, not because of what he can do or earn, but freely and graciously, because of what THE Son has accomplished. Second, we are Christians wherever we serve. Our identity goes with us seven days a week. We are not all called to pastoral work, but everyone Jesus calls, he also calls to a daily death. In Luke 9 Jesus mentions this daily death: “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross (prepare for death to self/prideful desires), and follow me.”
by Mark Dever
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus the king of all of heaven and earth entrusted discipling to his apostles. The majesty of the task may seem to be too daunting for an everyday Christian. How could anyone live up to the standard of what the apostles were called to do? Mark Dever breaks it down very simply and helpful explaining that discipling involves “taking initiative, teaching, modeling, love and humility.” Dever also points out we are all necessarily exerting influence all the time: “Go to this barber! Eat at this restaurant! It’s the best!” The question is not whether we are influencing others, but how we will use the spiritual influence we have in the particular neighborhoods and homes where we live.