Misplaced priorities: For the past several months I have been on the phone numerous times a week with a pastor who allowed his church work to take precedent over his primary calling of pursuing intimacy with Christ. The consequence? A life dictated by the passions of the flesh that consummated in adultery, the near break-up of his marriage, and the disintegration of a dynamic church. Only God knows the ruined lives that will flow from his mis-placed priorities. This pastors tragic example should be instructive to the lay person who also struggles with priorities as it relates to cultivating intimacy with God.
We can learn about the importance of priorities from Jesus refusal to allow the demands and opportunities of ministry to thwart his time with the Father: The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Lk. 5:15, 16). (See Mt. 14:23; Mk. 1:35; 6:46; Lk. 6:12)
Satan: Jesus, Peter, and Paul pointed out that our Enemy is hell-bent on preventing us from developing an intimate relationship with God: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroyThe devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The enemy seeks through deception and cunning – as he did with Eve – to lead our hearts astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (Jn. 10:10b; I Pet. 5:8; 2 Cor. 11:3) (See Gen. 3:1 – 13; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph 6:11)
Martin Luther penned these immortal words about Satans power in his famous Reformation hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal
Ourselves: Remember Pogo, the cartoon character who stated, We have met the enemy, and it is us!? St. Paul, like us, was his own worse enemy: I decide one way, but than I act another, doing things I absolutely despiseThe moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up (Rom. 7:15b, 21b Msg.). Our greatest enemy of intimacy with God is not lack of time, or discipline, but of appetite and desperation for God. The reality is that we make time for what is truly important to us.
Jesus identified two other reasons for our spiritual indifference as it relates to knowing God: (1) Spiritual dullness: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (2) The love of evil: Light (Jesus) has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (Rev. 3:15, 16; Jn. 3:19-21) (See Jn. 8:12)
A temporal focus: Because Jesus knew that most of us are focused primarily on the temporal over the eternal, he put the challenge before us in stark terms: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Frankly, most of us are not [seeking] first his kingdom and his righteousness, so we find it difficult to believe his promise that if we do, all these things will be given to [us] as well, (Matt. 6:33) (See. Josh. 1:8) Thus we end up living frantically and fearfully, idolatrously seeking the material over the spiritual. When we do, God simply backs away and leaves us to our self-destruction. (See Pro. 1:20-32; Rom. 121-32).
Prayer: Lord, amidst the daily pressures and seductions of life, help me to make the hard but rewarding choices that will lead me to develop an increasingly closer relationship with you. Amen.