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Want and Will

Wanting is an interesting concept.  First, it’s emotionally driven; what I want today may be completely different from what I want tomorrow—or even in ten minutes.  Out of control “wanting” is incredibly destructive.  I remember back in the seventies, a company called Household Finance used to have a commercial that had a tag-line in it saying, “When you want something long enough, it can become a need.”

 

Uncontrolled “wants” can weaken our will.  Yet a mature person has the ability to live a life which constantly strengthens their will. This means we must deny our wants: no piece of cake, no new car, not purchasing something which cannot be paid for this month, and on.  It is the denial of our wants which strengthens our will.

 

Christ in Gethsemane

For those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the most striking example of the “want vs. will” battle is found in theGospel of Luke 22:39-46.  In this passage, we see Jesus Christ, the Son of God—who is God—struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane with His approaching death as He prayed to the Father.

 

Almost everyone who has ever attended church, Sunday School or even Vacation Bible School as a child are familiar with the events of this story.  Jesus, who was fully man and yet also fully God, experienced the human condition to its fullest extent.  “Sure, He experienced everything every human experiences!”  No, that’s inaccurate.

 

Far too often, we are tempted with something (think a “want” here) and we fail and give in to the “want.” Jesus Christ, coming as the second Adam and being Virgin Born so He would be able to demonstrate what perfection really is (Adam and Eve were created perfect, yet because they sinned, we do not know what perfection is through the human condition), experiences every temptation just as every human does, yet He—Jesus—experiences temptation to the full and He defeats and overcomes it!

 

Who do you want to tell you what it’s like to run a marathon?  The guy who starts and then quits half-way through the race (“You cannot believe how brutal a marathon is!”), or the guy who starts, finishes and wins the race (“Yeah, it was brutal, but the winning is incredible!”)?

 

So, Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, struggled with what He wanted and the will of God. No one who is sane would want to die the death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.  There in the garden His prayers were so intense that Luke records, “And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

 

Now here, I must point out a not-so-minor peeve of mine.  Jesus did not sweat drops of blood!  I cannot count the number of teachers and pastors who claim He did.  I have even heard long medical lectures about how if anyone ever does sweat drops of blood, then their death is immanent.  First, Luke clearly stated “His sweat became likegreat drops of blood.”  This is a simile, an extremely useful literary tool which enables the reader to have greater sensory appreciation for the event they are reading.

 

Second, and perhaps even more important, if He had sweat bloodthen His sacrificial death would have been unacceptable.  The sacrifice had to be perfect in order to offer it to the Lord.  Under the Levitical code, all sacrifices must be of the “firstfruits”—the best of the best and without any blemish.

 

If you’ve ever been Savannah, Georgia in the summer—or any other location where the heat and humidity are above ninety degrees and ninety percentile, our sweat is like we are sweating bloodbecause of the increased salinity of our perspiration which in turn, increases the viscosity of our sweat. But I digress….

 

What we are witnessing in Christ’s struggle in the Garden is His struggle between His want and His will—and who alive has not struggled like this?  There are times when even in our fallen selves we have, by God’s grace, overcome our desires and our wants and have exercised our will to not give in to the temptation we are facing.

 

Yet allow me to point something out for our further consideration: as God, Jesus could have exercised His will—yet he chose not to! Jesus Christ while asking for this “cup” of torment to be removed by the Heavenly Father, this suffering Jesus as God submitted Himself as a manto the Father’s will even though as God, He could have exercised His will as well and avoided the Cross.

 

The love God demonstrated on the Cross—the Father’s giving of His Son to die and the Son’s giving of His own life—was not a choice made at the last moment; this was a willful choice made in eternity past for Jesus to die in my place and in yours.  Jesus did not want to die.  Jesus, because of the love of the Father, Son and Spirit, made the choice in eternity past to demonstrate how much God loves us so we have the opportunity to live with Him forever.

 

If we desire the ability to exercise more “will” and less want, we too must make our choices now. Not in the moment of “want.”

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Getting to Give

A friend of mine who was an amateur astronomer used to mention something to which he referred to as “seasonal creep.”  He told me that the local astronomy club had studied about a twenty-year cycle and found that the seasons were “shifting” to later and later in the calendar year.

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Winter in Springfield, Illinois

Even I could remember that as a child we would often get snow before Halloween.  As I grew older the snows often did not come until the middle of December, with the strongest storms in January; over the past five-to-ten years I have also noticed that cool weather would also continue until early June.

Of course, anyone who ever enters our malls and shopping centers can attest to this seasonal creep as well!  Halloween decorations appear near the first of September.  Christmas arrives (at least in the stores) even before the end of October.  I believe the main reason for this is a hope by retailers that people will begin to “get into the holiday mood” when they see the seasonal decorations.

The amazing thing is the amount of stuff that can be gotten during this time of year!  When I was a child, our family did not have much “disposable” income: we always had plenty of food, clothes and basic necessities, but the things that my brothers and sisters just “wanted” were reserved for Christmas—and even then, we did not get everything we wanted!

In Acts 20:35, the Apostle Paul in his farewell address to the Ephesians, reminded them of his desire to serve the Ephesian believers and demonstrate his obedience to the words of Christ: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  While Paul desired to live out who Jesus was in his life, Paul never taught that getting was wrong or evil; yet Jesus merely pointed out to him that giving provided a greater blessing.Christmas presents piled underneath a christmas tree.

Thankfully, those of us who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, serve a God who freely gives us all the things of which we have need!  From the beginning of the Bible in Genesis, we witness a God who created this world and then chose to give it to Adam and Eve to enjoy.

God later in Exodus gave his people the Ten Commandments so they would be able to have a relationship with a holy God.  Later, God gave David’s son Solomon the intelligence and imagination to build the Temple—thus giving His people a most holy place to maintain their relationship with Him.  More importantly, John records the words of Christ in John 3:16 where we read that God loved the people of this world so much He gave His Son to be our sacrifice—and He also gave us His Spirit to prove we belong to Him!

“So should we deprive ourselves of material goods to be ‘better’ people?”  No, that thought misses the point.  Yet during this holiday season allow me to propose this: Jesus in Matthew 5-7, which is the Sermon on the Mount, stated those who truly “are” His would be both salt and light to those in this dark world.  Those who are truly changed by God’s Spirit will also in turn demonstrate that change to those in this world.

We should remember the mantra that says, “A difference that makes no difference is not then different.”  If we have been changed by God, that change must be evident in our lives.

So, what about giving being better than receiving?  We serve a God who gives!  While God gives, not everyone receives; the gift is there, it is offered but few take it.  Yet as God gives, and we in turn receive.  Paul concludes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we are a new creation; our old lives, our old desires have been removed.  True, we struggle with this, but we also must realize before accepting God’s gifts, we sinned because it was the natural thing to do.  When we sin as a believer, it is an unnatural thing and we do it willfully and in rebellion to our Creator—unnaturally!

It all boils down to this: God gives, we get—but in this “getting” we in turn can give!  This giving can be concrete (by imparting gifts to another), or it can be more abstract (by demonstrating how Christ has changed us through our actions).  We are commanded to give through demonstrating our love for Christ through our obedience to Him and through our missional actions of going, doing and telling others about Jesus Christ.

If you think getting that hoped-for-gift would bring joy to your life, have you ever considered what it would feel like to give something of eternal value and everlasting consequences?

joyeux Noël!

Feliz Navidad!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

счастливого Рождества

Wesołych Świąt

Merry Christmas!