devo 1, week 3 of the GIVE UP series, GIVE UP VICES

change our hunger.

I woke up this morning hungry for a Southwestern Breakfast Burrito from HOUSE BLEND CAFE. Have you had one? Oh my goodness. One of the amazing creations of Josh Taylor, GM of the cafe. You should try it.

And I mentioned Four Rivers BBQ on Sunday morning. It’s located on Fairbanks north of downtown Orlando just across the street from the campus of Kilarney Baptist Church. If you like bread pudding, even one bit, you should try their BBQ and have some bread pudding for dessert. You may want to share it with someone though, in order not to be gluttonous. Cause it is made with Krispy Kreme donuts. Which should be illegal.

Okay. Enough with the food commercials. But it does lead us to the intro question for today’s devotional.

What are you hungry for?

I don’t mean Krispy Kreme type stuff. I mean throughout the daily, regarding the choices of your life. What is the hunger of your life? What compels you? What drives you? What controls you? Because if we are honest, our daily choices are defined by our hungers.

Jesus spoke of this several times. On one occasion (Matthew 15), He said that the hunger of our hearts define us, not the stuff we put into our mouths. His audience was Jewish, and they as a people had many rules about what to put in their mouths. Jesus was challenging them to think more of the hunger of their hearts than they do about what they eat (or any other rule to modify behavior for that matter).

On another occasion (Matthew 5), Jesus declared that real blessing comes alive in the lives of those who hunger and thirst for God’s purpose everyday. In fact, He went on in that very same teaching to challenge His followers to seek Him first, not food for their tables or clothes for their backs or anything else.

On another occasion (Matthew 4), Satan tempted Jesus in the dessert after 40 days of fasting and sleeping on rocks. The evil one perceived Jesus as vulnerable, fatigued, and hungry. The temptation was to take a short cut to fame. Rather than making the love of God known, Satan was once again trying to show God as a fraud who really just cared about feeding His own desires. That was not the case, though. When tempted to turn rocks into bread to immediately satisfy the profound hunger Jesus must have felt after 40 days of sustenance upon intimacy with the Father, Jesus answered:

4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

I once heard someone ask it this way:

Are you feeding the flesh dog or the spirit dog? Whichever one it is, that’s the one barking the loudest in your life.

Every metaphor breaks down, but it makes the point. We are either indulging our own desires or surrendering to the promptings of the Spirit’s leading.

You know, God gave us our hungers. He wired us to hunger for Him and His ways. It is evident from the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose their own ways over the ways of God and sinned, they malfunctioned. And they knew it immediately. Because they were wired to walk with God, not to walk away from Him. And when they chose their own way, shame and guilt and hiding things from one another entered the picture for the 1st time. So they tried to hide from God.

He actually knew this would happen. So, He planned for it. Planned from before the beginning of time to send His Son. Why? Let’s come back to that.

Before we go on, I want to suggest something in an effort to declare the point of this devotional with abundant clarity:

God hates sin. Not because He expects a better performance out of us. Rather, because of its destruction upon our relationships – it causes us to withhold intimacy, hidden behind our shame and guilt and facades of looking like we have it all together. He doesn’t want us hidden. He wants us out in the open in full-on relationship with Him and with one another.

Here’s the deal. So many people spend their everyday living from a framework that assumes God wants us to perform well. They reason that good performance is the purpose of religion and personal spiritual efforts. That couldn’t be more wrong. People live with the worldview that God hates sin because it indicates our poor performance. If we would just keep the rules, then it all would be okay, right? Wrong.

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:

21 I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Paul also wrote in Galatians that Christ died to set us free. Free. Not bound to perform better. Free from the condemnation of our selfish performance. Sin leads to death because it is a selfish choice to walk away from the source of life. And an addictive choice. And a destructive choice. One that caused God to remove us from the Garden of Eden not as punishment but with merciful purpose. Read Genesis 3.

I would suggest that God did not want them to eat of the tree that fed their hunger to know everything because they would start acting like they knew more about life than the One who made it. So, when Eve did, and Adam followed, God removed them from the Garden. The Scripture says in Genesis 3:

22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

“Then they will live forever” – as though they would be in a state of living God did not intend forever, which would have been one of chaos, hiding, shame, and guilt. At least that’s what they experienced right away. So, in His mercy, God banished them from the Garden.

But like we said earlier, and I said we would come back to it, God planned for that. He expected a betrayal, but made the ones who would betray anyway. What love! And His plan was to restore us from our state of living where we know too much, are too aware of our own potential for attempts at good and our own potential for extreme evil. So humanity has lived since focusing on either self-righteousness or self-indulgence. Both are enslaving, weary, ways to live.

There is only weariness found in any pursuits that begin with “self.”

We could never be “good enough” to fix what we broke. And we could never be bad enough for God to abandon His plan to restore us to Garden life as He intended. Never. God is not interested in better performance or modified performance. He wants love relationship. And so He is interested in us admitting our great need for Him to take the death caused by self-pursuits to the cross, and then in us living in the resurrection power He has to reshape our hungers to be for His purposes above our own.

He hates sin, because sin is a symptom of a choice to live for self rather than to love. A choice to be selfish ravages relationships and destroys the abundantly free life God created us for. Sin destroys the very thing that brings us life as well as the very thing we were intended for – relationship with God and relationship with others.

Are you hungry to live self-absorbed or to give up your life for the sake of others finding it? Like me, you may need to surrender some of your hungers to be changed by the One who called us to hunger for His ways alone. It makes sense to do that doesn’t it? To listen to the One who made you and made life? To listen to Him instead of our own whims and desires? Our own selfish hungers?

ACTION STEPS:

PRAY_Lord, please, please help me to hunger for You and Your ways. I want to daily surrender the temptations of my own flesh, to use this body and this mind and this life you gave me only for personal fulfillment. I give up my hunger for self-indulgence and self-righteousness. You are enough.

LIVE_today, when faced with temptation to choose self or to indulge your fleshly desires, think soberly. See the red flags before you get drunk on self. And ask God for help. Help to choose to give up your hunger so as to give life to all involved in that moment of decision. Otherwise, you will steal life from those involved, as well as have a piece of your own life stolen.

THURSDAY_be looking for the next devo about why sin and choosing self is so deadly, both for you and everyone involved.

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