Monday, February 29, 2016

Confessions of a World-Lover

Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: consider your ways. You have sown much and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes...You looked for much, and behold it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins,
while each of you busies himself with his own house.
~Haggai 1:5-6, 9

 Haggai's words pierce my heart as I think of the toiling and spinning I've done in this life. I have pursued the American dream and come up wanting. I've known the emptiness of too many possessions and too much debt, of being overwhelmed yet still not having enough. I have stored up my treasures on earth. I have tried to live my best life now.

I have loved the world and paid the price.

There are many pitfalls to loving the world. Puritan William Greenhill outlines them thoughtfully in a sermon later published as the book, Stop Loving the World. His argument that most convicted me is that loving the world is unreasonable. Loving the world "will direct you to things that are merely probable and make you leave things that are certain." Greenhill directs us to Haggai 1, where "the Lord asks his hearers to consider whether their prosperity, such as it is, brings about the intended satisfaction" (source). The Israelites were so busy pursuing their own gain that they ignored the Lord's house. It's easy enough to look at the prosperity gospel that's so rampant today and point fingers, but I am also guilty. How many times have I overlooked the church - both the building and the people - in favor of my own pleasures? The trappings of this world are uncertain. As Greenhill states, "The promises of the world and the devil are seldom made good." We don't have to look any further than Genesis 3 to know he is right. As believers, we have full assurance that God's promises are certain. Psalm 18:30 tells us, This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Greenhill also cautions that even if "we do get the world with our endeavors, we cannot keep it without fear of losing it."  Again, he points to Scripture, Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:5, KJV). Hebrews 12:28 tells us we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. It is secure. Greenhill points out, "if we get grace, that will continue with us. If we get peace and joy, none can take them from us. If we get an interest in Christ, none can pluck us out of His hand."

Finally, Greenhill explains that "Loving the world directs us toward the worst things. There is excellency in grace; there is excellency in the knowledge of Christ. To let these things go and choose the others is unreasonable." 

Although I have been guilty of treasuring the material, it is more often the non-material that my sinful heart craves. As Jay Collier writes in the Preface of Stop Loving the World,
We cherish the good opinion of others, desiring honor among men. And we love to be in control, influencing the way things happen in this world and having our will be done. Each of these things has its proper place, yet we so easily expect them to be our source of joy.
 D.A. Carson posits that our hearts and lives are the hardest place to love God (source). To fight against our natural tendencies "demands of every believer who can read...devoted, reverent, disciplined reading and rereading of the Word of God, a reading discharged with an attitude of eager attentiveness."

Could it be that the key to loving the world less and loving God more is to adjust the attention I give to each? Pouring over the Word with more intensity than I pour over social media. Being more eager to read my Bible than my library book. Giving more thought to the Scripture than what someone said to hurt my feelings. Looking at the life of Christ as intently as I judge the lives of those around me. And most importantly, point others to Christ instead of the rotting decay of this world. Greenhill states, "when we relish and savor the world in our conversations, this shows we are glued to the world and love it." My love for the world must be glaringly evident to those around me.

Greenhill is absolutely right. It is unreasonable to exchange the glories of God for the trappings of this world. Yet I have done so, over and over again. In typical Puritan bluntness, Greenhill offers directions to stop loving the world: mortify your lusts, look on Christ, submit to God's will, and a few others. Armed with these remedies and with the grace of God, I hope to break off my love affair with the world.

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