My friend’s stick shift car once broke down in the middle of the road. So, a couple of us jumped to help push it out of traffic. We positioned ourselves at the back and began to push but no matter how hard we pushed it felt like the car was barely moving. It took about 45 seconds before we shouted, “Hey, take your foot off the break!”
My friend was nervous about the situation and was so focused on controlling the car that he forgot to take his foot off the break. It wasn’t until he let go of the break that we were able to guide him to safety. I think we treat God like this sometimes. We are so focused on control and safety that we forgot to just let God guide us in the right direction.
I grew up thinking the goal of the Christian life was to not sin. If I could just limit my sinfulness it would increase my righteousness, I thought. Clearly, God loved me unconditionally, but I still felt like he expected me to behave. Somewhere along the way, I took on this idea that God was a stern parent focused more on my behavior than my belonging. It took until my twenties to see a different focus of scripture; I belonged to God despite my behavior.
It was one of those famous statements by Jesus that caught my attention. “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” At first glance, it’s a statement that makes us feel responsible to work for God. “Okay God,” we say, “I’ll put that on my to-do list next to 1 – don’t lie, 2 – don’t covet, 3 – don’t murder, etc. But, Jesus was in the middle of a speech on stress. He wasn’t trying to add to our to-do list He was trying to set us free.
“Don’t worry!” Jesus says to the crowd. Don’t worry about what you are going to eat, what you’ll wear, where you’ll live. Don’t get so focused on down here that you lose sight of the way heaven looks. Heaven is about the glory of God transforming who we are on the inside. You can modify behavior all you want but it doesn’t guarantee the heart changes along with it. God’s goal for you is not behavior modification, it’s heart transformation.
The goal of the Christian life isn’t to be careful not to sin, it’s to be captivated by Jesus.
“I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11
I love how David, the author of Psalm 119, used the word for treasure/store up in describing God’s words. I have dreams about twice a month where I find buried treasure. No joke. I am captivated by the thrill and reward of finding treasure. What you treasure captivates your heart. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also – another great speech from Jesus.
What do you treasure?
Notice in Psalm 119 that David emphasizes treasuring God’s words first and then he talks about sin. In fact, he teaches that the words of God stored up in us will actually prevent sin from taking hold of us. It’s not our efforts that clean us up and keep us from sin, it’s the word of God and his presence in our lives. He sets you free. He overcomes sin on your behalf. It’s when you fix your eyes on the power and presence of God that sin loses its allure. You can’t look both to the left and to the right at the same time. When your eyes are fixed on Jesus the treasure of your heart becomes heaven-minded instead of earthly-distracted.
What/who is your focus fixed on in life right now?
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis
Author C.S. Lewis provides a vivid word picture of our struggle. As adopted and loved children of the King of Kings why would we go back to making mud pies in a slum? Why would we fix our gaze on sin? Our desires to make ourselves ‘better people’ are too weak and insufficient to actually transform our hearts. You might be able to fix a few of your problems in life but you can’t fix your heart. Only the work and person of Jesus can truly transform the inner sickness of your heart. His salvation is the surgery and the sustaining power to take what was once dark and rebellious and make it alive and righteous!
May you focus more on your Savior than your sin this week. May you be more captivated by the words of God than the words of others. May you seek Him first above even your own desires. Jesus made this promise, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.” Don’t worry, don’t stress, don’t be ashamed, let go of control and God will provide everything you need. He’ll come through. He won’t let you down. In fact, He’ll lift you up.