My mum used to tell us almost every morning, “God has big eyes, they can see everything. Even if you try to hide it from him, he knows and sees it.” We learnt that there was no secret hidden from him. Not our courage, nor our cowardice. Not our pleasures, nor our grievances. When she taught us these things, we learnt them from a perspective of God as the ultimate judge. He would punish the sinners and bless the righteous.
It’s true, but there’s more important news. There’s a reason preaching about God is called “The Good News”, it is because now we have the opportunity to see God as he truly is, not fixed inside a box to the exclusive scrutiny of theologians, professors or scholars, but SEEN by the least person on earth (if there is) and proclaimed on the mouth of the simple and lay. This lesson taught me not only that God sees the good and the bad we do, but rather he pays attention to us, every little thing that matters to us. He knows our hearts.
I have asked, maybe you have too. Sometimes I too find myself struggling to love God. That we can’t see him is the least of the matter, to obey him is not so much as easy as we first think. And the question is, “Why is my heart so cold towards God? Why can’t I just love him and do what he wants like everybody else?” and it’s a real problem. I find myself doing the things that I do not want to do, I get comfortable in it, but I don’t want to be that way! Sounds like Paul (Romans 7).
“For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate… For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that exists in my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is infected by death? Thank God through Jesus the Messiah, our Lord, because with my mind I myself can serve the Law of God, even while with my human nature I serve the law of sin.”
By sin, I do not believe Paul was speaking with exceptions (i.e of a particular ‘sin’). Sin is whatever falls below God’s standard of righteousness. James 4:17 even clarifies it more by saying “…to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Cold heartedness towards God can manifest in different ways; maybe for you, it could be you don’t want to obey an instruction from the Holy Spirit to carry out an assignment, or you simply do not enjoy praying or studying scriptures, or you don’t enjoy sacrificing your time to make others (and God) happy. In the end, it becomes clear that it is impossible to not disobey God. But if you read the lamentations of Paul (Romans 7) you’d see that it ends in rejoicing, there’s a way to live above this. That’s what Christ came to provide; a change of heart. By experience we can conclude it’s impossible by ourselves to always obey God, our tendencies are strongly towards sin and disobedience, it’s human nature corrupted by death. But through Christ, we can be free from the lusts and selfishness deep in our hearts. You see, God has always known what our hearts are like. Long ago he made a promise to Israel saying just the same thing.
Deuteronomy 29:4, “Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”
Deuteronomy 30:6, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.”
God is not the kind of judge that waits with a whip in his hand watching carefully to whip anyone who would default. Instead, he intervenes against his judgement to save those who turn helplessly to him to be saved from their sins. He knows the burden of sin, he carried it and died with it. “…For he has made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God.” So while like Paul or David you’ve been crying against your cold heart, simply wishing that God would just end sin at once, it’s good you hear now that he already did! He has given you a new heart that can love him and obey him. You now have eyes that can see him, ears that can hear him. Interestingly, the word circumcise is translated as ‘cut-off’, God has cut-off sin from your heart, so now you can live to please God just the way he wants. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
There’s just one hurdle. It doesn’t feel that way, does it? You still get tempted and you are almost certain that you will fall again into the same sin that has made you miserable aren’t you? But remember this is God we are talking about, did you think he did not prepare a way out of this? He did. Let me show you.
To be in Christ means to trust him to be responsible for your salvation. And if you have such trust in him it means that because he died on your behalf (as a sinner sentenced to death) then you died with him, and since he has risen to a new life and glory, you have risen with him too; you share in his nature, you are one with him. On this note, Peter wants you to know that,
“Since therefore Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, (you should) arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh (or on earth) to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2
How can I stop sinning? And the answer is simple, by Faith! I know it seems ridiculous but think about it. Faith without works is dead, it doesn’t mean you should work – it means you should act in faith and the proof (works or fruits) would simply show itself.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20, NLT.
So yes, by faith. What does that mean? It means that you should go ahead living for God and not for yourself, nor your friends, nor families, not for anyone’s expectations but for God who has loved you even before his own life. It means you should move from worrying about not loving God the way you want to live for God. When we live according to his Spirit, we get to finally feel and see the changes we so desperately want to see. It is our life to live for him and believe that he will work out the transformation in us – that is his life in us.
When we act in disobedience to God, it is not out of compulsion – that’s the truth. Not for you who has decided to believe in Christ. If you still disobey God and find it difficult to love him it is because your love for self is stronger than your love for God. I wonder if you’ve ever seen a dead animal. The stench. The flies. The worms. It’s far from pleasing, but that’s exactly what we once were like; smelling, fly-infested, cold, and so dead. But God sends his WORD – the life-giving Spirit into dead creatures as we were, and our sufficiency and survival now rest on him. Take that away and we return to deadness like Frankenstein monsters. You need to know this because each time you drift away from God you will become more dead and prone to disobedience. Let us be wary of living for ourselves if life is to reign in us in place of death. God is not worried about sin – he conquered sin and death – he is worried about what it does to you, and you should be too. Become desperate enough to throw your life on God.
Concerning how to stay focused on living for God, it’s simple but I’m afraid it is not anything new, nor will it ever change in years to come. Pray always, study and meditate on the word always, fast (when you feel drained), keep the right kind of friends around you – those that can stir your spirit to worship God, and encourage you through Gods word. See, same old things your Pastor has probably taught you, it works. Even David knew it – “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11 (and the rest of the entire chapter too). Another key thing to remember, no one loves God and the world. If you love the world then you do not love God.
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
1 John 2:15-17 NLT.
The more conscious your actions are about pleasing God, the less focused on yourself you will be. Focusing on yourself is always the beginning of being cold-hearted, that is why Christ said if anyone must follow him they must first deny themselves (Matthew 16:24). This is because we have life only in him, independence from him means death. We must live for him if the fruits of righteousness will be evident in us.
Sin is addictive, irrespective of what kind of disobedience. The more you allow yourself to drift away from Gods presence, the colder your heart becomes towards God. But no addiction can stand the fire of his presence. To get rid of this cold heart that has driven you away from God, you must return to his presence at once! He’s pretty good at setting cold water-dripping altars on fire. Stir up the passion of God inside of you, stay focused on satisfying his heart desire – that is the proof of love, and you’ll realise that loving God is far more addictive than sin. David knew it, now it’s your turn to “taste and see that the Lord is good…” Moreover, confidence in how much God loves you will cause you to love him too. There’s no better way to hear how much he loves you than hearing it from him during your fellowship with him.
I pray for you that your heart burns not just warm, but with the fierce flame of God’s love, I pray that as you seek Him you will find that He truly is satisfying and sufficient for all your needs. May your hunger grow to drive you into a deeper fellowship with God until the day you are completely free from the shackles of your flesh to be forever with Him, Amen.