1 Thessalonians 2:4 | Desires are Trouble

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Action is a physical act of manipulating something within time and space. Taking a step forward is a manipulation of muscle and bone to move the leg and this represents an action. Desire however is an idea in the mind and is the act of manipulating the spirit. Desire is not a manipulation of time and space however desire can and often does lead to action. Some actions are reflexive but many actions are deliberate and are the direct result of desire that has built up over time.

If I desire to steal but never act upon that desire is it a sin before God? If I desire to steal but never have opportunity because of some constraint (like fear of getting caught) is it a sin before God?

Moses arguably the greatest leader and judge of Israel was told by God that he would not be allowed to lead Israel into the promised land because of one time where he did not “uphold [God] as holy”

10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Numbers 20:10-12 ESV

Now Moses was told by God to bring water from a rock to allow the people to drink while in the dessert and Moses did that. God through Moses brought the water out of the rock, but Moses failed to represent God as holy in the situation. The standards God has set for our desires and our actions is beyond what any person can follow. Moses who has seen the physical holy representation of God whose very hand carved into stone the 10 commandments is being held to an even higher standard than the average person. Moses failed to keep God holy before the people and Moses knew better. His actions in time and space brought forth water out of a rock but his desires, his anger with the people for being such awful whiny complainers had made him angry. Maybe his anger with the people or something as priest like he failed to give thanks to God resulted in God calling out his desire as a sin.

Paul talks about desire to the early church and keeping Moses in mind read what Paul states about leadership and where desire should be focused.

3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 ESV

Many people I talk with about God will state something along the lines of “God will see I am a good person and will see that my good outweighs my bad. What more can I do?” This is the wrong perspective because it follows the worlds obsession with the physical actions. Notice the focus on actions of good and bad results. “I am not as bad as that person my actions are much better.”

Just like when I move a foot to take a step forward I must first desire in my heart and spirit to move that foot forward. How many times have I thought I should take a step forward and failed to do so? I will be accountable to God for those desires that were never even acted on.

Do not think God will only see our actions and our actions are those of a good person. Know that God will judge our heart and our desires. He knows the hate I have had for others even if I did not act out the violence in my heart. He knows that I have desired the money of my neighbor even though I never robbed him. He knows that I have lusted for the physical comforts of this world to satisfy my own selfish desires to the detriment of brothers and sisters. What a wretched heart that lives in me. Forgive me father for my sins of both action and desire. Thank you for Jesus who has taken those sins from me that I may humbly sit before you as a child restored to his father.

The Object of Desire

What do you desire? Do you want the attention of others? Do you want to be wealthy? Do you want to be powerful? How far are you willing to go to grab hold of these objects that you desire? For me personally I desire the comforts of this world in the form of pleasure and selfishness. Left in my natural state I would be manipulative of others to get them to serve my selfishness. I would not really care about others but would at the root only seek what they could do for me. In my natural state I am a self-absorbed, miserable, and evil. When I was 11 before this nature inside of me could have an opportunity to exert itself in full measure God spoke to me and asked me to embrace his son Jesus Christ. I was surprised at this encounter with God. I did not expect to meet him in such a way, but this encounter is as real as any interaction with any other person even if it was not in a physical way. I tested him and tried to negotiate with him however in the end submission to Jesus was the only way forward. Undone by a loving creator I died that day. The evil, selfish, fool that I was ready to become died that day. I am overwhelmingly grateful for God coming to me and seeking me out.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4 ESV

The person I am today is not who I would have been if left to myself. Please know that I am still a sinner who does selfish things and I see glimpses of the old person in me, but my desire is changed. I do not embrace that selfishness. I see people in a different way that is compassionate for the hardship and difficulties that each of us have in this temporary world. Service to God and listening to his voice have become a priority. My desire is to grow closer to the God who made me. My desire is to point everyone around me to his glory.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV

A great way to know what you desire is to take a look at how you identify yourself. In this world today self-identity categorizes and places each of us into tribes and social groups. If I said I am a Georgia football fan then one might rightly understand that I desire for the University of Georgia to win a national title in football. If I said I am a Christian Democrat then I have categorized myself in such a way that one might safely assume that I desire to see Christian values like serving the poor advanced through the arm of government. If I say I am a gay Christian then one can assume that same sex relationships is a priority of my desires. If I say I am an American one might safely assume I seek to see America be a world power and champion freedom everywhere. However I self-identify then leads me to act and champion those ideas.

The problem with all those tribes and group no matter how noble is that they put Christ and His kingdom in second place. Christ is transformational and a new life takes form solely in him. I need to take on no other modifiers to the name of Christian because I have died to all those other ambitions. I am neither gay, heterosexual, democrat, nor republican. Someone might call me American but I would never accept the title of American Christian. Any self-identification attached to the front of Christian betrays the object of desire from Christ and brings into question the status of the sinful desires. Is the old nature there because of bad teaching or is the old nature there because God was not encountered to begin with?

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6 ESV

If you are modifying your Christian name with something of this world then self-examine and see if the old nature is still alive after all. While I live in this world with the passions and desires my view is eternal. Christians must understand that this life is temporary. Jesus put it this way…

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 ESV

If politics, football, career, lust, or any other passion in this world is more important than being obedient to Christ then you are still a slave to sin. Repent! Cry out to God for his mercy and seek his kingdom no matter what it costs in this temporary world.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:16-18 ESV