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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Isolation gets pretty lonely

15-17Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
(I John 2:15-17)

Today, we will consider two important commands:  1) Don't love the world's ways, and 2) Don't love the world's goods.  At first, when we read this passage, we might gloss over these commands, but there is much value in considering them when you read the consequences of being too caught up in the ways of this world system or in seeking after what it offers.  John reminds us that when we are in love with this world and what it offers us, we isolate ourselves from God.

The first command is to not love the world's ways - don't love this world's system of doing things, treating people, and focusing on self.  The plain truth is laid out for us - the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure.  It offers us what will build our pride and what will fill our coffers.  In the end, we are left empty - devoid of the connection with God that fills our spirit to overflowing.  The world system teaches us that "our way" is the most important - we need to look out for #1 (us).  God's way is contrary to this - look out for your brother, let me look out for you.  

The second command is to not love the world's goods - don't be so consumed with getting everything we see, amassing to ourselves great storehouses of physical wealth and "things" that will eventually deteriorate, break, and be of no value in the end.  Craving attention is natural to human nature - we like to be the center of our universe!  As a matter of fact, we learned this quite young.  When we were not considered the center of all that was going on around us, we'd throw a little tantrum until we got our own way - until attention was focused on us.

God's plans and "systems" are different.  His desire is that we would place our attention on him - first and foremost.  That means that we consider all we do in light of answering a few simple questions:
  • If I pursue this course of action, will it keep Christ central in my thoughts, attitude, and actions?
  • If I pursue this moment of pleasure, will I regret the consequences?
  • If I bring this "thing" into my life, will it add distraction to my life?
These are not really "rocket-science" kind of questions.  They are practical questions that help us to evaluate decisions "in the moment".  The world only offers us a continual craving for physical pleasure - if it feels good, do it.  It encourages us to want what it is that we see - even if we don't really need it.  It also encourages us to become puffed up in pride over our achievements and those physical possessions that we acquire.  If we ask ourselves these questions (run our decisions through these "filters" before making them), we might just avoid some heartache in our life.

The reminder to us is that when we fail to use some "filters" to guide our thoughts, intentions, and actions, we will drive a wedge in between God and ourselves - we isolate ourselves from God's fellowship.  Isolation is really disconnection.  When something is isolated, it is "set away from" that which it was designed to be connected to.  We isolate very contagious people in hospitals because if they were "connected to" others in the hospital without taking the proper precautions to avoid the spread of disease, we'd have an epidemic!  

Isolation from God occurs when our heart or mind places anything else in the position of authority in our lives that is designed specifically for him.  We are allowing ourselves to be "exposed" over and over to those thought patterns, cravings of our bodies, etc., that connect us more with the "disease" of our sin instead of the "remedy" for our sin.  The best thing we can do is to use the "filters" we are provided: the Word of God, our conscience, and the Holy Spirit resident within.  When we do, we find that they answer the questions posed above with pretty reliable truth - directing our behavior, our thoughts, and our intentions toward God and away from the world's systems/ways.

If you are in a place where you are realizing that your love for God has been "squeezed out" by the things you have been pursuing, it may be the perfect time to begin to evaluate your focus.  If all we can see is "us", there is not much room for God.  In other words, we have "isolated" ourselves unto ourselves - taking God out of the equation of our lives.  It may be time to step out of that isolated place and into the safety of God's arms.