Our love for God is diminished wherever we are willing to dismiss or disobey him. And when we dismiss or disobey God, we don’t merely go against him; we also go against ourselves…because our enjoyment of his love – of that love we can never lose because no one, not even ourselves, is able to snatch us out of his hands (John 10:28) – is intimately connected to our enjoyment of his law.
To see the law of Christ fulfilled,
to hear his pardoning voice
turns a slave into a child
and duty into choice.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:15-27)
Boundaries > Dysfunction
Jesus has not left us as orphans. He has come to us, he has come for us…and his love can never be taken from us once we have received it through faith in Jesus. As my long-time friend and gospel mentor Scotty Smith likes to say, “God cannot love us more, and he will not love us less.” But as in any romantic relationship, the enjoyment and full manifestation of God’s love will happen in a setting of mutual surrender. In Jesus, God has fully surrendered himself to our deepest need – the need to be forgiven, loved, restored, and made new. And when our heart’s cry becomes, “LORD, your wish is our command,” these truths about his love become more than truths – they also become experiential.
Imagine a loving wife who, after discovering that her husband is seeing another woman, begins to withhold intimacy from him. She simply cannot live with an arrangement in which she shares her husband’s affections with another.
The husband, not wanting to lose the benefits of having her as his wife—for he still enjoys her company, is attracted to her, and enjoys having access to her trust fund—begs her to reconsider. He reminds her of the flowers he has given to her, of the weekly date night that he has never missed, and of how often he affirms her with his words. Every now and again, he will even pull out a guitar and sing a love song to her.
The husband reasons with her, “The other woman only gets 10% of me and you get 90%. Doesn’t that count for something? Isn’t 90% enough for you? Why would you withhold the experience of your warmth, affection and smile from me when I’m 90% committed to you?”
Because she is a healthy wife and not dysfunctional, she calmly responds, “When you give 90% to me and 10% to her, do you know what that makes you? It makes you 100% unfaithful. If you’re not going to give me all of you—if you are bent on keeping a girl on the side, and have no intention to fight against that urge—then I have no choice but to withhold intimacy, to withhold the invitation, “This is my body, given for you…” from you. Integrity to our covenant demands that I not share my bed or warm affection with you under these conditions. When your lips are close to me but your heart is far from me, when you share a bed with a mistress with no intent to turn from her and toward me, I have to keep my distance. This is for your sake as well as mine.”
“It’s Not You…It’s Me”
In times when God seems distant, when I struggle to connect with him, when I find my heart wanting to avoid him – it is sometimes helpful to ask myself (and also the people around me), “Am I actually chasing a mistress? Is there something or someone – other than Jesus – that has me around the neck, that has become my true north and my controlling center, my deeper desire and passion, the functional love of my life? Is there a ‘must have,’ an obsession or an addiction – whether physiological or emotional – the applause of others…the urge to eat, or shop, or monitor social media, or make money, or control things excessively…the urge to gossip and complain and tear down instead of building up…might there be a cause / effect relationship between one or more of these things and my spiritual malaise? Might it be because I remain unmoved by, passive about, and are unwilling to fight against, a known fault that is in myself?”
Sometimes these are questions worth considering. Because as it says in Proverbs 7, all forms of adultery – physical, emotional and spiritual – rob God of the affection owed solely to him, and rob me of surrender’s joy.
“Be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:24-27)
Conversely, falling into the arms of God is the path of life and fullness:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Because God put Jesus away on the cross, he will never put us away.
Isn’t this enough reason to set our hearts on “forsaking all others” – to the end that his wish becomes our command, and his face becomes more compelling to us than his hand?
This fight against the fault in ourselves…it’s a worthwhile fight.
This article about the fault in our stars originally appeared here.