A Sense of Urgency

1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

During a Bible study last week, we studied into the above verses of 1 John (well I’m just sharing a part of it).  It left me thinking a lot about what John was talking about and how relevant and real his words were to the people then, and to us in the present time.  A concern then was the false teaching that would lead to an early version of Gnosticism… that is the incorrect thinking that separated the physical reality from the spiritual reality in people’s understanding and how these two parts were not connected, and so that disconnection often led to thoughts such as the denial of the incarnation of God as the Son… (I’m over simplifying it, but it has many variations).

This may also be why John writes with much contrast throughout 1 John… but it is probably also why he wrote in such a way in these verses to challenge the readers of his letter to not separate their spiritual faith from their lifestyles and how both are connected in their lives.  Anyways, I’ll stop being a nerd and share about how this all comes together in my mind… that more than anything I can feel the urgency in John’s words.

In verse 15, John warns the reader not to love the world or the things in the world.  He then points out how those that love the world do not have the love of the Father in them. There is an element of how these two are mutually exclusive; you can only have one or the other.  In verse 16, John moves on to define all that is in the world… that it consists of the lust of the flesh… the lust of the eyes… and the boastful pride of life.  None of these things are from the Father, but from the world.  In looking at these things, it involves the physical desires that often may overwhelm our minds whether checking out women, or men… pornography, or even pursuing physical pleasures in relationships outside of marriage.  It also involves the pride of pursuing careers, successes and achievement of our lives, which can lead to boasting.  Ultimately, John is warning the reader to the danger of the enticement of the world and how these unhealthy craving and attitudes can create footholds for the enemy to work in our lives.  Then John in verse 17 reminds the reader that the world is passing away, and also its lusts…but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  This to me is where the urgency becomes really apparent.  None of the things that are in this world last because they are created and temporary.  Due to this finiteness, what is most profoundly essential is our obedience and pursuit of following in the way of Jesus.

These pursuits of worldly choices and passions do not satisfy, and they do not last… and this idolatry even blinds us to the urgency in which we need to share about God to our loved ones.  Following these verses, John states that “it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).  Like a thief in the night, Scripture points to Jesus’ imminent return.  This means that when it happens… it will be too late for many.  People delay their acknowledgment of what they know in their heart that something is not right, and they often continue in sin simply because their sin has obscured them to the fact that their lives are at risk… distracting their attention from their eternal hope and salvation.  How many of us will continue to dishonor our God with our lives and allow our poor choices and sin to disconnect us from the seriousness of the truth of the Gospel?  How many of us will continue to fail to glorify God in our lives and even to share the incredible love and grace of the Good News, which leads to life and hope?

The reality is God is King, He is sovereign, and everything in creation cries out to a Divine Author; his fingerprints are seen in everything.  In our lives we have made idols of our pursuits/desires, our careers, our hobbies, our relationships, and especially people, and these are the very issues that God addressed in his commandments given to Moses.  Our idolatry of the world in one way or another… or our self idolatry … leaves us never satisfied and super broken.  So many of us keep chasing after these empty things, and then when they do not satisfy, we complain and mope because our lives are empty and unfulfilled.  Why do so many believers knowingly desire to continue in sin and compromise even when we profess to know the Gospel?  How do we worship and sing praises to Him with our mouths during a time of worship, and then use our mouths to dishonor Him in the company of our friends as we joke, critique, slander, and talk smack about others?

The question to ask ourselves as we ponder this passage then is how are we living our lives in light of these words and in light of the Gospel?  Do we feel the urgency in our lives and the reality of hell being the final destinations for some of us and those we love the most?  Do we realize that some of our choices in our lives and our lack of feeling this urgency dulls our desire to love, serve and share the Gospel to those we love?

Take a long look at John’s words in the 3 verses.  Some commentators have pointed out that John’s words here seem to be somewhat of a digression or an exhortation to his readers about their mindset and lives that they are to live as professing believers of Jesus.  John’s words stab my heart because I know that our lives are often filled with this fight between the love of this world and the love of God.  We think we can have both.  We think that God can be compartmentalized in our lives to Sunday and the occasional bible studies or times of fellowship we have.

Do you realize that hell is not a joke?  It is not a place that you want to go… and it is not a place that you can just visit temporarily, but it is FOREVER.  It is a place that lacks hope, lacks love, lacks joy and is devoid of anything that is of God and positive.  It is a nightmare that you can never wake up from.  Look at those around you, think of your unsaved family and your friends… would you want this for any of them?  This eternal hopelessness?

This reality breaks my heart because like a sinking ship… like the Titanic… I feel as though so many people are unaware as to the plight they are in.  If you knew something was wrong and the ship (Titanic) was sinking, could you simply sit there and pretend as though everything is alright?  Could you look at your loved ones around you… the families with their young children… as they are blissfully unaware of their final destination because of the sin that has so corrupted them?  Could you live with yourself and sit in a half empty boat with people drowning and freezing to death in the waters around you because of your fear or doubts… as you pursued your own selfish preservation?

I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but I know is that we have a measure of freedom given to us by the grace of God to live lives unburdened and unfettered to the power of sin.  In Christ, we are able to overcome all that so easily entangles and dulls our senses, and we have been given an incredible privilege to live our lives as light and as salt to glorify our God and to bring the saving work of God into the lives of those around us.  This is the reality… and this is how we should live.  We are not to live compromised, dulled and without flavor.  There is no use for tasteless salt!

You and I are meant for more.  We have been paid for by a price of the cross and that price comes with an inconceivable power to live our lives radically for Him.  We need to have urgency as we reflect upon our personal lives… and on the lives of those around us.  We need to first stop compromising and desiring to please ourselves and those around us.  We need to focus first instead on finding our peace with Him.  As we learn to see Him and His will, what you will start to see is His incredible love and desire for those around us.

May this inspire in you a sense of the urgency and an even deeper connection with our Father in Heaven.

“…Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well…”

Inspired by a few things (a book & Thailand), I wanted to write about a subject that has been on my mind over the past years, but which has not felt like being placed on paper till now.  It began one day a few years ago… while driving through an area with many trees and bushes (I think on Cathedral Oaks Rd. in Goleta) that I came to realize that there was so many varieties of green in the leaves all around me.  Then the realization hit me that God, the Creator, has a unique name for each of these colors.  I was so awestruck by this thought and realization that I could not help but start to praise Him for His pure awesomeness.  His amazing creativity, knowledge, and wisdom just overwhelmed me… and the following Scripture verse made so much more sense: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…” (Romans 7:20).  It is funny, but this insight still comes to my mind randomly over the years, and it always brings me into awe and adoration of Him.

At this moment, I want to ask you, the reader… about your thoughts and your experiences.  Have you ever been captivated by His creation?  His artistry? His creativity?  Whether it is the colors, the sounds, the smells, the touch, or the feel… have you ever noticed how the world has such a great elegance and precise design?

I thought of this question and wrote down some things that amaze me in His creation.  You should try it too!

– The swirl of colors during a sunrise as the sun seems to rise out of the horizon like a performer coming onto the stage, and the light bouncing off different things like a captivated audience seeing a performance for the first time.

– The slow diminishing of colors from bright to dark as the sun sets like a performer exiting the stage, and the collective sigh and darkness arises all around as the curtain falls.

– The vibrance, vividness, texture, crispness of a flower and its petals?  I was at an orchid farm in Thailand and saw so many different beautiful types of orchids and I just wanted to capture everything with my camera, but I could not.

– The fantastic uniqueness, creativity, order, function and form of different animals and plants as they operate and organically live all around me interacting with the rest of His creation.

God’s excellency, wisdom, purity and love appear in all things… and all of this sometimes reveal a glimpse of the truly Perfect.  Whether it is excellence, perfection, beauty, exquisiteness, magnificence, glory, richness, depth, magnitude, harmony, melody, joy, and/or happiness… all these things point to an amazing Creator.  As the Jonathan Edwards devotional points out, “one cannot logically identify a scene of beauty and leave it disconnected from the character of its designer.”

We have all heard the cliché that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  How true it seems, and yet how false it really is!  Each person finds one thing to be more beautiful than another, and this difference shows our relative uniqueness.  Yet there are different things that we all find beautiful, and a part of our heart tugs and even yearns when we see them (I suppose the Grand Canyon is one of those things).  Yet what is scary is that as much as our uniqueness is shown in our opinions of beauty… our sinfulness/depravity/fallen ness is also manifested!  It is in these moments that our unique history, our preconceived notions, our biasness, our social programming, our hatreds, our dislikes, our doubts, our brokenness and many other things show just how much we are affected and blinded to the pure awesome beauty that is Him.  Beauty is not defined by our perspective, but by His perfect artistry/creativity/omniscient perspective.  Ultimately, beauty is not separate from God, but the very essence of God.  “You don’t need to squint to see truth; one has only to open one’s eyes.”  It is when we do this that we realize that all that is wonderful show something amazing about Him!

So this brings me to the title of this post…“…Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well…” It is actually a part of Psalm 139, verse 14, and it captured my attention because it echoes that feeling I felt when I saw those greens that one day.  It echoes all the times I have stopped and simply noticed Him… and it is in those moments that He has captivated me… sometimes even to the point of a loss of breath.

You see, nature is a love song from the Creator to mankind. Yet do we notice? Have we truly seen?  Have we paused to admire, to look, to listen, to taste, to touch, or to experience?  Do we even notice this beauty around us?  So take a moment today amidst the busyness of our lives… the weight/burdens we impose upon ourselves, and be captivated… get lost… fall in love once again with Him.  Check out Psalm 104 as David did the same.