The last two blogs have got me thinking a lot about “desire.” This is a topic that I’ve learned a lot over the past several months (thanks to Ruth Haley Barton and some other amazing authors), and I still have a ways to go. What I notice is that desire is something that people don’t talk a much about in Christian circles. However, I think we should broach the subject because people constantly make poor choices based on their understanding of “desire”; and some of those people include the person we see in the mirror each morning (at least that’s true for me).
The problem with “desire” is that the Christian community is very divided over it. Some believe that desires are good and God-given. They cite Psalm 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart”) as one of the proof-texts for their theology. Others believe that desires are evil; that they pull people into sin and away from God. They would quote Scriptures like James 1:15 (“Desire … gives birth to sin, and sin … gives birth to death”) to prove their point.
I think both of these camps have valid arguments, but are wrong in their approach. Like many other things in our walk with Christ, “Desire” can be good or bad; it depends on how you approach it. It’s like “money.” It’s not absolutely bad or absolutely good. It’s what you do with it, how you respond to it.
Three things have helped me in my thinking about desire:
1. Our truest “Desire” is good because it is from God. Our truest desire comes from God, the author of both desire and truth. God’s desire created the world. God’s desire made a way of salvation for humanity through Christ. And this same God who breathed His Spirit into us to both create and redeem us, gave us a true desire in our heart of hearts.
2. We really don’t know what our Truest Desire is. One of the difficulties is that we can’t really “name” our truest Desire – not in a way that connects and resonates with our whole being. Theologically. we can take “stabs” at guessing that our truest Desire; like it has to do with God or Love or something altruistic. But in our heart, the only thing we might know about our Truest Desire is that it exists. We might feel a dull ache in our soul or a sense of longing. We might hear a song and, out of the blue, we start weeping. We read a passage of Scripture and, for a split second, we see a part of it. There are so many intangible things that point to a True Desire, but not enough pieces for us to know what it is.
3. Our attempts to pursue our Truest Desire without God lead to sin. Our problem with “desire” is how we pursue it – without God. Dr. Neil Anderson (Talbot Seminary) gave a profound definition of sin: “Sin is meeting a legitimate need in an illegitimate way.” Having needs is not a sin; it’s a reality. However, if we try to meet our needs in a wrong or ungodly way, it’s a sin. Likewise, “Sin is pursuing a true desire in an illegitimate way.” To satisfy the ache or the longing, we fill our lives with the pursuit of lesser desires (wealth, beauty, fame, security, adventure, artificial states of happiness, knowledge, goals, dreams, experiences, bucket lists – anything else? – feel free to chime in!) And this is where we see the sinister cycle of James 1:15 take over: illegitimate desires, sin, and death.
So what we have here is a “sticky wicket.” We have a true desire in our heart of hearts that was planted by God when He created us. But our sinful condition shrouds what this desire is and our attempts to pursue it – without God – lead us down a dark path. Yet to not pursue our deepest truest desire is like taking the life out of life; we resign ourselves to a murky state of a joyless existence, just going through the motions until we die or Jesus comes again.
That’s not living. And that is certainly not Whole Life Worship.
In fact, tomorrow we will look at how our pursuit of God in Whole Life Worship unlocks our Truest Desire in amazing ways. Until then, reflect on the following questions:
– What do you believe about desires and God and life?
– Do you believe in a True Desire planted in your heart by God?
– If so, how have you experienced the existence of your True Desire?
– What are some of the counterfeit desires that attempt to fill the void of the True Desire in our hearts?