September 24, 2009
by Patrick Lafferty
And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.
There seems to be a new trend in weight loss advertisements on the internet. They’re all emphasizing the same phrase in an attempt to lure your mouse to click inquisitively. It goes something like this: “I lost 450 pounds of belly fat by following this one simple rule.” Apparently the industry has recognized that most people find the task of slimming, like most things in life, to be far too complicated. Anything that promises results by way of a less convoluted regimen is certain to attract interest.
If curiosity should finally press you to discover that one simple rule, you soon find it is neither simple nor effective. This so-called “one” rule insists you buy the right combination of supplements—a mandate about as helpful and uncomplicated as saying, “invest in the right combination of mutual funds.” And considering how weight loss mantras seem to change with the seasons, anyone who thinks the one rule represents a true breakthrough will believe just about anything. So our cynicism deepens about anything being simple or effective for our need. We conclude there are no simple truths that will free us from what weighs us down—literally and figuratively.
On Sunday, Mark set Rahab the prostitute in startling perspective: She represents us all. Whether it be to the god of approval, power, fame, or fortune, we are constitutionally oriented toward investing too much of ourselves in things that can never yield a commensurate return.
We bear another similarity to Rahab also. The only thing that will overturn what’s offensive and destructive in us is the recognition that the Lord “is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Only a heart melted by that truth can release the death grip on what is not worthy of the allegiance.
So then, if we are all spiritually licentious, how shall our hearts be melted so that we become convinced that the Lord—not power, approval, sex, fame, or fortune—is the God of heaven and earth? Are there any simple truths that might help us shed the sin that so easily entangles?
Some might say the simple truth we must follow is just to stop sinning. To muster our wills into a resolve that restrains us from doing what we ought not do. But you only have to go as far as Paul’s own autobiographical comment in Romans 7 to find holes in that approach: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (v. 19).
Where that approach fails, others might ratchet up the admonition by way of the Hester Prynne approach from The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps if you can be shamed into submission there will be an end to you sinning. There’s room for godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10ff) as both a corrective to sin and future deterrent. But is shame to be the sum total of what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might (Deut. 6:4)? Surely not.
If neither exercising the will nor showering you with shame works, perhaps there’s the Stuart Smalley approach to sanctification: Yes, you may have sinned, but, hey, “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it [God loves] you.” It’s true His love endures forever, and that love covers a multitude of sins, but that truth isn’t a pretext for dismissing sin.
Each of these approaches bears a measure of truth, but none of them gets to the truth that melts the soul into believing the Lord is God. At the risk of sounding too much like the purveyor of questionable claims, there is one simple rule that you and I must continually preach and apply to ourselves in the battle against our various harlotries of spirit:
What you have in Jesus can never be found sufficiently elsewhere.
The security you might seek from riches is nothing compared to that the security Jesus gives you in Himself. The stability you might desire from employment or the success of your enterprises can never match what is to be found in Jesus. The acceptance you have in Jesus outweighs whatever acceptance you might seek or obtain from the approval of others.
Wealth, work, respect—all of these are good gifts. But anytime we are fretful it’s usually because we’re trying to find in those other things what we already have abundantly in Jesus. And so we must repeatedly circle back to that one, simple truth—in our thinking and in our praying.
In what domain of pursuit have you been recently frustrated or fearful? How might this one, simple truth apply?