Why we don’t enter His presence- Part 3-” Mud Pie”

crossroads

Man was built to be in continual pursuit.  We are in the pursuit of something at all times.  It seems to me that the chief thing we are all pursuing is our own happiness.  I believe if we truly ask ourselves why we do the things that we do, the answer that lies at the root of nearly every decision we make is the pursuit of our own happiness.  We buy lavish cars and luxury homes because they make us feel good about ourselves and bring us convenience. We pursue money and wealth because they offer peace and security.  We desire to go on vacations because they give us rest and relaxation.  And some even turn to alcohol, drugs, and pornography because they make them feel good.  We are all pursuing the same things….happiness, peace, joy, contentment, fulfillment, etc.  We all seek our own pleasure.   All men are alike in this.  And I believe the fact that we are all in pursuit of these things is a piece of evidence that points to the fact that we were created to need and desire these things.  And if we were created to need these things then we must agree that it is not wrong or sinful to desire and seek after them.  Really, the question we must all ultimately answer is this….Where do we believe we will find these things that our soul desires?  Where should we be seeking?

I would propose to you that both the things of this world AND God offer us happiness and joy and contentment.  We can find contentment and security in money.  We can find some joy in that luxury car and lavish home.  There is rest to be found as we lie on the beach on that vacation.  That new thing we just have to buy will give us some happiness. Drugs and alcohol do feel good!  There would be no addicts if they didn’t. I believe the ultimate issue is one of comparison.  I suppose we could say that we are comparison shopping in some sort of way.  There is the store of this world and the store of God.  Both have made claims to offer what we are seeking. The decision to buy would be easy if one store had none of what it claimed to sell but that’s not the case.  As we have already discussed, both stores will sell us a version of the goods we are after.  The decision would be easy if we could shop in both stores, but that’s not the case.  The word says that “the worries of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18).The question we must ask is this….Which store has the greater goods?  Which goods are of greater value and more satisfying?  This is where we have made our mistake.  I believe we have made one of two fatal errors.  One, we believe that what this world has to offer is better than what He offers.  We simply believe that the store of this world has the greater product.  Or two, we are satisfied too easily.  What I mean by this is that we may, with our rational mind, believe that God has the better product, but it really doesn’t matter because we are currently satisfied with the product we are buying in the store of this world.  At the current time, we are a loyal customer.  Why shop elsewhere? We are content.  Once again, I will quote the great theologian C.S Lewis from his book, The Weight of Glory…

“…it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half –hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased”

John Piper refers to Lewis’s statement in his book Desiring God and says this…

“It is not a bad thing to desire our own good.  In fact, the great problem of human beings is that they are far too easily pleased.  They don’t seek pleasure with nearly the resolve and passion that they should.  And so they settle for mud pies of appetite instead of infinite delight.”

Pascal says it well in his work Pensees…

“There was once in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present.  But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”

 

                So I will say it again.  Either we simply don’t believe that what God offers is better than what this world offers or we are currently satisfied with what we are receiving from the world and therefore we find no compelling reason to shop elsewhere.   At the current time, we are satisfied with our “mud-pie”.  So what does God do?  I will tell you what He does.  He lets us continue to eat our mud-pie.  Just as the father let the prodigal son leave and squander his inheritance.  He lets us continue to shop in this world until we finally realize just how unfulfilled we really are.  He lets us seek after the gods of this world until we find ourselves empty and depressed and alone.  He lets us shop until we find that the gods of this world have left us enslaved.  Enslaved to debt.  Enslaved to our addictions.  Enslaved to our lust for material things.  Enslaved to our worldly ambitions.  In the words of the addict, He lets us hit “rock bottom”.  He is not a God who forces us to shop in His store.  He lets us shop elsewhere until we become so sick, and tired, and weighted down, and overwhelmed, and empty that we decide to come to the One who created us.  He waits to be wanted.  He waits to be needed.  And that is why Jesus said…”Blessed are the poor in spirit.”(Mathew 5:1)  The poor are needy.  The poor have entered the store of the world and realized they came out empty handed.  They realized they were deceived.  The poor gave their money and time to the shopkeeper and came out with nothing in return.  The prodigal came home poor and ashamed.  How blessed are those who realize they are empty and poor and needy.  How blessed are those who have come to the point that the mud-pie no longer satisfies.  They are craving something greater!  Their soul is parched and dying of thirst and it cries out like David in the Psalms… As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God (Psalm 42:1)

                I have found in my own walk with God that there is a direct correlation between my experience with God and my neediness of Him.  I don’t shop in the right store every day.  My wife will certainly attest to that fact.   Many days I wander back into the old store and come out with depression and anger and anxiety.  And as I said, He lets me shop there until I become poor again.  But in those greatest moments of neediness, and by His grace alone, He has allowed me to experience His presence at various moments in my life.  It is in those moments I was able to get just enough of a glimpse of Him to realize that what was to be found in His presence was infinitely greater than what this world has to offer.  In those moments I was alive.  In His presence I am reminded of when I got glasses for the first time as a kid.  I had no idea my vision was blurry and I couldn’t see until I put those glasses on for the first time.  Then I realized what I was missing. That is what His presence is like. You don’t realize you were dead until you have felt what it is like to be alive!

 

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Why we don’t enter His presence. Part 2–“My pants are snug”

            shutterstock_105822167-open bible

    In this post I will cover the second major reason why most Christians fail to enter into the presence of God and experience the radical and life changing power that is found there. Once again, I am talking about that power that changes lives, marriages, and even businesses.  I am talking about entering into that place where joy and peace and contentment are.    If someone were to read this series several weeks from now, after I have completed all 4-5 parts in it, and they were to ask me:  Mike, out of the 4-5 reasons you give, which one do you feel is the biggest one?  Is there one of the reasons in your series that carries more weight than the others?  My answer would be yes!   In my personal opinion, this post will deal with the primary reason most Christians do not enter His presence and hear His voice on a continual basis.

                If I decide within myself that my goal is to become a millionaire, I will find that there are 3 primary things I will have to do consistently for a period of time to accomplish that goal. I will have to go to work on a regular basis, save a percentage of my income consistently, and restrict my spending. It is fair to say that these would be 3 essential components to becoming a millionaire.  If I decide to lose 20 lbs, I will find myself embarking upon a journey that will include regular workouts and a restricted calorie diet on a daily basis.  A professional football player in the N.F.L. doesn’t spend the majority of his time playing actual games.  He spends the majority of each and every week working out, stretching, analyzing film from previous games, studying his plays, running drills, etc…. In fact, ninety percent of his career isn’t actually spent competing.  It is spent practicing.  Here is my point.  In all endeavors in life, there are specific disciplines that are essential to the goal that one is pursuing.  If our bank account is low it is usually because we have neglected certain disciplines for a period of time.  And, when it comes to a life that is void of the power of God and the fruit of the Spirit, I would say that the vast majority of the time, it is a result of a tragic neglect of the disciplines of our faith!  Such disciplines as prayer, reading, studying His word, fasting, solitude, service, confession, counsel, worship, etc… These are the disciplines of Christianity.

If you have ever been in any type of sales business, you will almost always notice that a very small percentage of the sales force actually sells the majority of the products being sold.  I have noticed this in my real estate career.  I would guess that about 10% of the real estate agents are selling 90% of the homes.   Why is this?  It is because only a very small percentage will dedicate themselves to the disciplines of sales.  They simply won’t make their calls every day! They neglect there disciplines.  The vast majority of Christians are doing the same. But here is what doesn’t make sense.  The crazy part is that we actually wonder why we aren’t experiencing joy and peace and contentment.  We actually wonder why we are living lives filled with anxiety and depression.  We want the fruit of the Spirit without planting the seeds and watering the plant.  Surely the lazy sluggard shouldn’t wonder why he isn’t rich.  He doesn’t go to work.  I don’t wonder why my pants are fitting so snug lately and I don’t have a “six pack”.  I know why!  I’ve eaten too much and moved too little. I must re-dedicate myself to the disciplines of exercise and a healthy diet!  The most fundamental reason so few Christians are experiencing the life of Christ is because so few will commit to the disciplines of Christianity!!

Let’s re-dedicate ourselves to the disciplines of our faith today!  If you are not willing to commit to a life that is founded upon these disciplines, then, at the very least, stop wondering why you aren’t seeing the fruit!  For a more in depth look at the disciplines of the Christian faith, I would highly recommend reading the book, Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This book had a profound impact upon my life.

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AUTHOR: MIKE MAZYCK

Why we don’t enter His Presence : Part 1—“A SERIOUS MATTER”

SMALL CROSS WITH SMOKE

As I thought about my first post and the bold claims that I spoke of that Christianity offers, I felt like many who read that post must be asking themselves some questions about their experience with Christianity.  Questions like…Why haven’t I experienced this supernatural presence of God in my life? Why am I depressed? Why don’t I hear His voice on a regular basis?  Why isn’t He becoming more and more real in my life?  Why am I not filled with peace and contentment and joy and all of those other divine gifts that Christianity so boldly proclaims to offer to its followers?

The scriptures say that the Spirit of God actually dwells inside our body! That God Himself dwells in me.  Have we thought about the implications of that?  Shouldn’t there be something radically different going on in my life if I have God Himself living in me?    And if you aren’t a Christian and are reading this, you may have thought ….I see no difference in the Christians I know in comparison to the non-Christians.  The divorce rate is virtually the same.  They seem utterly depressed in the same way nearly everyone else does.  They are filled with anxiety and fear in the same way that all are.  Where is the outward evidence that what they say is true?  So I felt that as I looked at the list of possible topics to write about, I needed to deal with those questions first.  In light of that, I will spend the next several blog entries attempting to address some of the major reasons most Christians don’t ever enter into His presence, progress in Christianity, and experience the life He offers to us all.  I must admit that as I looked over my list of reasons why most of His children are not experiencing this divine life, and attempted to put them in a logical order, it was difficult for me to settle on this first reason.  It was difficult because the temptation in writing what will only be my 2nd blog post is to pick a topic that will not turn away followers rather than what is so obviously the first reason to be addressed…..SIN!

REASON #1—SIN

Here is the problem I see that tends to stunt the growth of many of His children.  The process usually goes something like this…

  1. We become convicted of the sin in our hearts and realize that we are a sinner by nature.
  2. We hear the good news of Christ!
  3. He grants us the faith to believe that Good news, and as a result, we believe and receive salvation.  Praise God!
  4. We repent ( turn away from ) those sins He convicted us of in the first place ( this turning away from those sins is one of the evidences of the genuineness of our saving faith in step 3 above)
  5. We go on from this point thankful that we have received salvation and live a life quite content in the thinking that we are a pretty good and decent person. We are not a murderer or rapist.   We don’t rob banks.  We aren’t pedophiles. We don’t beat our wife.   We hold a decent job, pay our bills, and provide for our children.  We look around at the rest of the world, and in the depths of our heart, this is the assessment we make…. “I’m a pretty good person in comparison to them”

The problem lies in step 5.  This step was never intended! There are two issues within step 5 that must be dealt with in all Christians if we will ever progress in our walk with Him.  We simply cannot mature in Christ without them.  Both of them are rooted in a problem of comparison!

When we make the proclamation within our hearts that “we are pretty good and decent people”, we are doing so because we are making a comparison of our life to theirs.  All such comparisons are deeply rooted in pride.  This prideful comparison that we make against others is the exact opposite of humility.  The great C. S. Lewis has written what I believe to be one of the best teachings on the subject of Pride in his book Mere Christianity. In that book he states…

“Well, now, we have come to the centre.  According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind”

 

                So we end up pridefully comparing ourselves to the rest of the world, and in doing so, we fail to deal with our own sin.  We don’t deal with it because we don’t see it.  We don’t see it because we are comparing ourselves to the wrong person.  This brings me to the next issue within Step 5 above, the issue of our standard.

If we aren’t comparing ourselves to the “rest of the world”, then who are we supposed to be comparing ourselves to?  Well, of course, you already know what I’m going to say.  Our standard is supposed to be Christ.  You don’t need to read this blog to figure that out.  But here is where I believe many Christians fail.  WE SIMPLY DON’T TAKE THE SCRIPTURES SERIOUSLY!!  Oh, if only we understood the implications of that mistake.  We should all read the following verses and give them serious thought.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Gods holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.   Ephesians 5:3-5

 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lords will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:17-18, NIV

 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior, because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”1 PETER 1:14-16, NASB

 

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13, NASB

 

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 1 Peter1:17 NIV

 

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Mathew 7:21-23, NASB

These words should be sobering to us all.  How does our life compare to them?  Was he serious about coarse joking and any kind of impurity and not even a hint of sexual immorality?  He says we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  He will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth.  And then there are those haunting words of Christ Himself indicating that many will think they were saved but find out otherwise.  What if we took Him at His word?  What if he actually meant what He said?

I am not writing these things with the intent of making one think that if we sin we are going to hell.  The intent of my heart in writing this is not to cause one to doubt there salvation, but instead to prove it to be genuine.  What do I mean when I say “prove it”?  I mean that if we are going to progress in Christianity; if we are going to push into His presence; if we call ourselves Christians; we must take a look at the above scriptures, and the many more like them in the Word, and acknowledge the possibility of two things….

1. THE STANDARD OF LIFE AND BEHAVIOR WE ARE CALLED TO IS MUCH HIGHER THAN WE THOUGHT.

2.  WE SIMPLY HAVE NOT TAKEN OUR PERSONAL BATTLE WITH SIN AND OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE NEARLY SERIOUS ENOUGH!

               

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with two thoughts.    One, the normal Christian life is one that as we become more and more Holy and Christ-like, we are at the same time, becoming more and more aware of just how sinful and dirty we really are.  As we see Him more clearly, we see ourselves more clearly also.  We appreciate His grace and mercy and salvation more and more each passing day because we realize more and more how undeserving we really are.  Two, dealing with our sin will require sacrifice.  That is why it is referred to as crucifying the flesh.  It will be grueling and hard, just as it was for our Savior as He carried that cross and was beaten and tortured. We will find ourselves continually departing from the ways and traditions of this world.  We may have to make difficult decisions to separate ourselves from certain people in our life.  It may require confession.  It may require us to reevaluate the things we watch and listen to.  It may require quitting your job or relocating altogether.  It may require giving up hobbies that have become a god in your life.  Speaking of gods, it may require us to make less money.  The world may call us prudes and mock and scorn us.  They may say that we are extreme and radical in our lifestyle and beliefs.  Let them! Our time here is short.  It will be over in a moment.  But we will be there forever!  May we arrive on that day with our head held high as we stand before the King.  May we stand and know that we carried our cross, that we battled with Him against the enemy, and hear those great and mighty words…

“WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SLAVE, YOU WERE FAITHFUL WITH A FEW THINGS, I WILL PUT YOU IN CHARGE OF MANY THINGS; ENTER INTO THE JOY OF YOUR MASTER” MATHEW 25:23

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AUTHOR: MIKE MAZYCK