Summary: The deepest desires of our hearts are meant to be met as we experience God's glory, but fulfillment of our desires has often been hijacked by cheap imitations provided by our culture.
In preparation for today’s message, continuing our exploration of the glory of God, I read a sermon by CS Lewis entitled “The Weight of Glory”. And it launched me down a path that I am going to attempt to describe, and hope that you might accompany me on, this morning. Now, the sermon itself is an excellent read, and I recommend it to you highly – in fact, we will email a copy to all of you with the hope that you might take some time to read it prayerfully. Be advised, this is not “spiritual pabulum”, which you might read quickly and casually like a “chicken soup for the soul” story; you may need to work at it. But if you will carve out an hour, grab a nice warm cup of tea, and sit down with a pen or a highlighter and a note pad, I am quite confident you will be glad you did.
We have been exploring the glory of God this fall, concentrating on the stories of the Exodus. We’ve focused on the God of Glory – who displays His glory in the pillar of cloud and fire, in the fire on the mountain, in the glowing face of Moses, in the making of a covenant with His people. Last week I read the story of the covenant meal which this incredible, glorious God shares with Moses and 70 Elders of Israel on Mt Sinai. This morning our path leads to another covenant meal…
And so that is where our journey has begun – with reflection on the power, on the might, on the images of God that are a little bit scary, on the God who revealed His glory in Exodus in ways that perhaps make us shrink back away from God. Last week I talked about how the reality of sin in our lives makes us fearful of the Glory of God, and I also talked about how God has made it possible for us to get beyond that through the actions of repentance (which, if you recall, I defined as more than “confession”, but rather “confession + change” as empowered by the Holy Spirit). If you recall, my emphasis last week was on how good the Glory of God is, and my plea throughout has been and continues to be that we might really see the Glory of God and then together accept it, embrace it, experience it, be transformed by it, and delight in it.
What I would like you to think about for a moment now is this: what are your deepest desires? What do you long for? Go ahead, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and I want you to think about this and actually write it down – don’t worry, it is just for you and I won’t ask you to share that with anyone: what are your deepest desires?
CS Lewis writes this: “The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire… Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, 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.”
So with that in mind, would you look back at what you have written about your deepest desires. Are they “too weak”? Are they mud pies? Are they evidence that you are “far too easily pleased”?
Now, the point is absolutely not to denigrate the desires you have written, to condemn them or make them look silly. Not at all. So take another step down this path with me:
Those desires that you identified and wrote down in fact point us to God – to experiencing God’s glory, to anticipation of our ultimate experience of God’s glory when in fact we experience it “face to face”, to borrow Paul’s phrase.
The problem is that they have been hijacked. This present world has come up with an unbelievably powerful assault on our basic desires which point us to God, and hijacked those, substituted something else, and led us down a false path. Allow me to illustrate:
In one of the courses I took in my M. Ed. degree a couple years ago, we had an assignment to go to a shopping mall. Now, as Christmas season begins, this may be a common experience for many of you, and perhaps the commercialization of the celebration of the birth of Jesus is enough of an illustration of how our culture has hijacked our basic desires to prove my point, but I’ll leave that for you to consider on your own. Back to the “mall”. The assignment was to try to “read” the mall – to step back and reflect on what is happening and why, what messages it is sending, what is really behind the messages it is sending. Quick caveat – this is not “anti-mall” or “anti-retail” or “anti-shopping” – it is a reality of our world and we all need clothes and haircuts and things to sit on and eat off of and art to enrich our lives. But let’s think critically and spiritually about this, in relation to our desires. Because it is my contention that “the mall” has perfected the skill of hijacking our real desires and substituted something else.