Summary: God delights those who love his glory.
Psalm 105.3: “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” My hope is that you all be completely happy because you are fully satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus Christ. To get there you must abound in love, for love is the fulfilling of the law, and the great command is to love God and neighbor. Paul prays that very thing for his friends in Philippi.
But love alone is not enough. We are limited and fallen, and so our affections can be bent, and twisted, and severely misplaced. Last week I suggested that love like a locomotive, powerful and mighty to motivate us to do the very things we believe will make us happy. But every train engine needs rails to aim its power. The twin rails which God gives are knowledge and discernment. Together these lead the faithful to chose that which is excellent, bringing you great joy in Christ.
Jonathan Edwards (considered by many to be America’s greatest theologian) wrote extensively about choosing what is godly in order to maximize our pleasure. For example, in Charity and Its Fruits, he says, “It is not contrary to Christianity that a man should love himself, or, which is the same thing, should love his own happiness. If Christianity did indeed tend to destroy a man’s love to himself, and to his own happiness, it would therein tend to destroy the very spirit of humanity…. That to love ourselves is not unlawful, is evident also from the fact, that the law of God makes self-love a rule and measure by which our love to others should be regulated. Thus Christ commands (Matthew 19.19), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” which certainly supposes that we may, and must love ourselves…. And the same appears also from the fact, that the Scriptures, from one end of the Bible to the other, are full of motives that are set forth for the very purpose of working on the principle of self-love. Such are all the promises and threatening of the Word of God, its calls and invitations, its counsels to seek our own good, and its warnings to beware of misery” (159-160).
Last week we studied the first half of Philippians 1.9-11. The title was, “I need more love,” because love powerfully motivates behavior. What we love controls us; so we pray with the hymn writer: “More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee.” This week I am trying to answer the question, “Why do I need more love?” In other words, with this powerful engine of love pulling me down the tracks of knowledge and discernment, where will we end up? Where does it take us? What is the end goal of God in this process of sanctification? Let’s read Philippians 1.9-11 and see what God says about that.
[Read Philippians 1.9-11. Pray.]
Sheena Iyengar was interviewed on NPR this week. Ms. Iyengar is a researcher and Professor of Business at Columbia University. Her book, The Art of Choosing, explores decision making: why do we do what we do.
She told of a time in Japan when she ordered green tea at a shop. She asked for sugar, but the waiter stared at her mouth gaping, obviously shocked. She asked again only to have him tell her that, in Japan, we do not put sugar in tea. She said, Yes, she understood that, but tea always tasted slightly bitter to her and she really preferred it with some sugar. The waiter refused, but agreed to discuss her request with a manager.
For her part, as an American citizen (though her parents immigrated from Delhi, India), she felt her personal preferences should determine what was done. But Ms. Iyengar could only listen helplessly as the waiter and manager vigorously discussed her “bizarre” request. Eventually, the manager came to the table and explained that in Japan we do not use sugar in tea. She said she understood, but wanted him to bring her a sugar anyway. So he said, “I’m sorry, but we do not have any sugar.” Exasperated, she said that she would just have a cup of coffee instead. They brought her a cup of coffee, and there, sitting on the saucer was a pack of sugar.
She “knew” what choice would make her happy: sugar in her tea. The waiter and manager also knew what would make her happy: avoiding the major social faux pas.
That seems to me a kind of allegory for life. Sometimes I feel sure that I know what will make me happy and I can be very busy convincing God and myself of it. But the Lord knows something different than I do, and has something else in mind.
I think one of the sharpest examples of this in the Bible is in the life of Moses. Hebrews 11.24-26: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”