Leading By Example

If God is not our first priority in life, we are just not in love

Have you ever noticed how upset we get when we feel our partner is not giving us the love or attention we desire, yet, despite this sensitivity in our earthly relationships, it is ironic how we can be completely oblivious to how God feels when we ignore, and blatantly hurt him as we live according to the pursuit of our own happiness, even when it means willingly disobeying him, and knowingly hurting his feelings

Not that we have ever done anything like that now have we?

*crickets*

No matter what we say, or what people around us think, our behavior in private, and sometimes public, often shows we are not in love with God as much as we say, or like to think we are, as our lives rarely reflect the kind of passionate, vibrant, love affair that shows we understand, and appreciate the intimacy God shed his blood to offer us

*toot*toot*

Oh hey, look who it is, the uncomfortable truth train!

First stop, your house, I hope you at least tidied up a bit

Introduction

Before we get started, I want to be clear the point of this article is not to shame or condemn anyone, but to call attention to the gap that exists between how we see our relationship with God versus reality, as we often talk about loving, and seeking God, but very rarely do we live in a way that reflects a sincere desire to do so

Also, this article is not directed just towards Christians who are complete hypocrites either, as it also focuses on those who have an almost love affair with God, where we partially honor him, but still resist his love, healing, and righteousness in areas we just do not want to surrender or let go of

These areas of disobedience come in many forms, as they could be crutches we are reluctant or scared to live without, worldly identities we cling to for the sake of peer validation, or, more commonly, it involves lifestyles we do not want to give up, ie: ones we live almost completely for ourselves

Sure, many will get upset reading this article as the enemy will do everything possible to create all sorts of unspiritual, defensive reactions, just keep their tricks in mind if those angry, offended, uncomfortable, feelings come up as our emotions are the easiest way the enemy separates us from hearing challenging truth in a way that can help us grow

How we respond to God’s truth is very revealing, as, no matter how challenging, God’s truth is part of who he is, whether it makes us comfortable or not

Oh, and to be clear, everything noted in the article are things I have said to myself about my own walk with God, do not think I am just wagging a finger self-righteously at all the bad kids as if I had not been a particularly stubborn one myself

And with that…!

How Can We Profess To Love Someone We Spend No Time With

(Did you miss me or what?)

Okay, seriously, if we stop and think about it, there is just no way we can rationally justify our lackluster, unenthusiastic pursuit of God in a way that lives up to all the praise music we sing, let alone measure up to the grand statements we make when talking about how much we love, follow, and trust God

Regardless of what we tell ourselves, it does not take a genius to see when one of our most reliable human characteristics is at work, as we generally do things we enjoy or receive benefit from, yet do our best to avoid everything else

I know I know, super genius at work over here, but this concept is not exactly complicated right, ie: we choose our activities, and who we spend time with based on what makes us happy

However, despite knowing this basic rule of human behavior, have you ever noticed how often we make excuses for not spending time with God as if our rejection of him was somehow out of our control?

I mean honestly, just think about how often we hear ourselves, and each other, say gems like:

“I want to spend more time with God, but there just is not enough time in the day”

“I try so hard to make time for God, but my life is so busy”

“Without ‘me’ time I would go crazy”

“If I do not regularly go to the gym or spend time with friends I would not be able to re-charge”

(Um, if we only re-charge by going to the gym or spending time with friends it only shows we are drawing strength from the wrong place, as God should be our greatest source of joy, strength, and peace, if not, we are just doing it wrong)

Sure, statements like the ones above may sound perfectly valid in our head, and honestly, they may even go unchallenged or inspire agreeable head nodding when spoken to unwise, and/or un-spiritual believers, but what nobody seems to realize, is statements like these are only declarations of the enemy’s victory over us

Whoa, what?

Only Immature Christians Make Excuses For Not Having Enough Time For God In Their Lives

(Queue the banjo chase scene music!)

Okay, before the pitchfork and torch brigade starts taking offense to this statement, we should ask ourselves how many times we have heard mature believers who are passionately in love with God make excuses for why they have no time for him–pretty much never!

With this in mind, consider what it really means when we say we have to re-charge by doing worldly things or by spending time apart from God in order to be happy, as we are really saying this:

“God, spending time with you is a chore, it is not refreshing, and it is not something I am going to prioritize above the worldly things I enjoy more than drawing near to you. But, *but*, I still want you to always be there for me when I am in trouble, forgive me when I sin, and bless me with what I want–thanks, love you!”

…yeah, that *totally* sounds like something a mature Christian who is head over heels in love with God would say

Riiight…

Whether we like it or not, this is exactly what is going on when we live in a way that leaves no time for intimacy with the one we profess to love with all of our hearts

Also, to make things worse, we often overlook how much God passionately wants a relationship with us despite our preference for worldly happiness

We have to acknowledge we are the ones getting in the way of an intimate, life-changing relationship with God, not him

Isaiah 65:2
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations

James 4:5
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?

Even though our behavior is obvious when we poke fun at ourselves, for some reason we still get offended when it gets pointed out

Okay, look, I know some people reading this may still insist they are spiritually mature despite having no evidence of it in the form of a life that revolves around God rather than the world, but before offense or indignation has a chance to set in, be aware these defensive, denial laden reactions are the enemy’s way of separating us from God’s truth as it is easier to get offended, and reject something challenging than to come to terms with the uncomfortable reality we just do not want to put God first in our lives

Also, this:

There is no spiritual maturity apart from an intimate relationship with God as he is the only pathway to spiritual growth, if we think anything else it is either a deception straight from the enemy or a product of our own self-deluded minds

(Yeehaw, ride the bucking bronco of truth!)

Yes, you are free to be offended, but think about it, who in the world is going to bring us to a place of spiritual maturity other than God, and how are we supposed to become spiritually mature if we do not spend any time with him?

(…ooohhh)

I mean honestly, where in the Bible does it say money, friendships, entertainment, careers, love interests, intellect or anything worldly, can bring us to a place of spiritual maturity apart from God or that chasing after these things even remotely pleases him?

Oh wait, hold on, maybe it says that in Second Hezekiah, somewhere in the back there, no, okay, I cannot find it

(There is no Second Hezekiah!)

As we continue growing, becoming more like God in every way, we will have no desire for worldly things to the point where we find them completely pointless, as our preference will be to dwell in God’s presence before seeking anything else

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will

Okay, but how does this relate to whether we are really in love with God or not?

Our Spiritual Maturity Is A Direct Reflection Of Our Love For God

Yes, I know, news and sports at eleven, but this is a really important point, as the goal of our relationship with God is to become more like him as we mature, not become more like the world

To make the idea of reflecting God’s character in our lives simple, look at how Jesus openly says God finds worldly things “detestable”

Luke 16:15
What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight

I am not a mathmagician, but if God finds worldly things detestable, and if spiritual maturity means becoming more like God, then it means we will have less desire for worldly things as we continue to mature

(Whew, that was so close to being algebra, yikes!)

Okay, so that makes sense, but what happens if we just live like the world tells us, and stay in a place of somewhat dormant spirituality, we are still okay, right?

Right?

Uh, no

Look at how Jesus taught the Word of God within us can become “choked” out by the pleasures, and worries, of the world, to the point where we produce no fruit, and never come to a place of maturity, regardless of what we tell ourselves

We cannot claim to love God and still chase after the world as this is the very definition of a Christian Jesus says he will reject

(Yes, reject!)

Luke 8:14
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature

(Notice how Jesus is not talking about believers who lead rampant lifestyles of sin, he is talking about those who put the world as a higher priority than God in their lives, which is a sin in of itself. Also, be aware living like this does not even seem bad to many as we do not seem to be committing big, obvious sins, we just happen to not prioritize God in our lives like we should–make no mistake, it is this very lifestyle that keeps us from maturity, and intimacy with God)

Revelation 3:15-18
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. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see

James 4:4
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God

This last passage is awesome, as James not only says chasing after the world is “enmity against God”, which in Greek means “hostility against God”, but he also calls believers who live this way “adulterous people”

Now, I am going to really go out on a limb here, and I am not a relationship expert so bear with me, but if someone is constantly cheating on their spouse, it would be pretty hard to take them seriously if they said they were happily married or passionately in love

Oh, but what about statements like this:

“I know I do things that hurt God, but he knows my heart”

In case we forgot, let us look at James’ example of sin being adultery again, as statements like the one above are really saying this:

“I know I keep having sex with other people, as well as flirting all the time, but my spouse knows I love them, they know my heart”

If we heard someone say this we would think they were abusive, unhealthy, un-empathetic, and in denial of how their actions are affecting their partner

This may sting, but regardless of whatever we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night, God knows about all the worldly things we love more than him, otherwise they would not come between us in the first place–we only do things we like, remember?

By contrast, consider how the Bible shows what God qualifies as truly loving him, and, surprise surprise, it does not involve adultery, ignoring him or leading a lifestlyle of disobedience–crazy, I know

If we *knowingly* value worldly things God finds detestable above our relationship with him, we are lying to ourselves if we say we are in love

John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them

John 14:23-24
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me

1 John 5:3-4
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith

(Note how John says “this is love for God: to keep his commands”, which is exactly what Jesus talked about in the verses above, but on top of this, he also says “everyone born of God overcomes the world”, which shows how those who are truly walking with God are not enslaved by the world around them–something to think about when reflecting on our spiritual maturity!)

For many, it is uncomfortable to think we may not be as spiritually mature as we thought we were, or as in love with God as we like to believe *gasp*, but if we really were at a place of spiritual maturity, why is that we complain about not having enough time for God, and why do our lives not revolve around him?

This is why when we make excuses for not spending time with God it is a declaration of the enemy’s victory over us, as, by living for the world, valuing things God despises above our relationship with him, we are willingly allowing the enemy to choke out God’s Word in our lives, preventing us from maturing, and separating us from the intimate, passionate, life-changing, love affair with God we have available to us

Now, after having read this you may feel a bit defeated or upset, but, take heart, there is an amazing opportunity to walk in maturity starting right now!

How Can We Fall In Love With God In A Way That Changes Our Lives Forever

Okay, this is where things get exciting, as I do not want people to think this is just an instruction booklet on how to feel bad for not having the kind of relationship with God we thought we did

Also, I want to be clear the first part of the discussion, however uncomfortable, was very important, as objectively assessing our relationship with God is the first step to improving it, regardless of where we thought our state of maturity was to begin with–there is always another level!

Here are some things I applied to my life with amazing success:

1) Tell God we want more from the relationship

Okay, seriously, get seriously serious about this, tell God you want more from your relationship!

This may sound basic, and it is, but be honest with God by telling him you want his increased presence in your life, but be genuine, making sure to ask for God’s presence, not his presents–God is our reward, not earthly blessings, remember that

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him

Genesis 15:1
I am your shield, your very great reward

2) Take Responsibility For Creating Intimacy

The truth is, unlike our earthly relationships, we are never going to outgrow God, nor are we ever going to come to a place where God is the one who is holding the relationship back for any reason

“Yeah, I know, but…”

But nothing!

We are the ones holding the relationship back with our pursuit of the world, not him, never forget that

James 4:8
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded

This means we need to not just ask for God’s increased presence, we also need to seek him out by sincerely drawing near to him

I do not want to shock you, but God is available at any time of the day, not just when we decide to bust out our fifteen minutes of spiritual growth each day

We need to train ourselves to live in God’s presence by saying we love him when we are working, thank him for what he has done in our lives while we are on our way to school or between classes, find time to sing to him during free time in our day, anything, just keep a dialog going!

Also, think about it like this, if we can somehow, magically find time during even our busiest days to text, email, IM, etc… people we are in relationships with, we should be able to seek God in the same way no matter what is happening around us

This is easier than it sounds once we get in the habit of it, as our goal should be to remain mindful of God at all times, not just visit him once in a while when we have nothing better to do or when we want a prayer request answered

3) Stop sinning

This should come as no surprise, but creating intimacy with God also revolves around letting go of sinful areas we are willingly holding on to, as these areas reflect we prefer them over God’s righteousness

Also, and this is very important, keep in mind God’s commands are not just rules to follow, they are reflections of his character, so by loving his commands, it shows we love who he is, not just what he told us to do–really think about this as most people see the Bible as a book of rules, not as a window into God’s personality

Also, this:

Do not listen to people when they say things like, “Nothing you do could ever affect your relationship with God”, this may sound nice, but it completely contradicts the Bible

Amos 5:14
Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is

Proverbs 15:29
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous

Psalm 34:15-16
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth

1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil

(Note how Peter quotes verses from the OT, so stop acting like the OT can be ignored because it says things we do not like!)

Isaiah 59:2
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear

1 John 5:3
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome

John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them

John 14:23-24
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching

Okay, super genius at work again over here, but these verses show God’s presence is abundant when he is respected, and loved, which is reflected in how we choose to live our lives

I hope all of this was helpful as these steps were part of seeking God in my own life, just do not get discouraged, and take heart in the fact that it took me decades to get where I am

However, the journey could have been a lot faster if I had been less stubborn, more humble, and been honest with myself about how I was not seeking God like I wanted to believe I was

Also, this is no excuse to dawdle, as we can never get back the years we waste chasing worldly things we will end up not caring about in the end anyway

1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me

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  • This was so spot on. God has really been tugging at me lately and I have been called to spend more time with Him. And I’m enjoying it, joyfully, when I do it.

  • I have been following your blog for some time and find it refreshingly honest and on-point. Had to comment today because I think this is THE message God’s people need in this hour. We must draw close and get to know God, or we have nothing. God bless you, Nathan and increase the borders of your ministry.

    • Hi Ellie,

      Thank you for saying hello, and for the encouragement

      God is awesome, and if our lives do not represent his love, power, wisdom, righteousness, and truth, we are not walking closely enough with him–we should be upset over our lack of intimacy with God, accepting it is our fault, not his

      Christianity should not represent a get out of jail free card when we willingly sin or offer promises of earthly blessings, it should be about having a relationship with a the God of all creation who commanded us to love one another, and live righteously according to the power of his spirit–unless we live this way, we will never see his glory in our lives, let alone in churches

      Thank you again for saying hello!

  • People read your Bible everyday, this is the way to know how our heavenly farther wants us to live.A lot of people do not read the bible, because they think God’s commandments are to great to keep. I think this is the way to get to know him and his character, once you know his character, you can then form a relationship with him, because as human beings first we study an individual and get to know that persons character then we can form a relationship and grow to love them. Because in my opinion we don’t just love somebody at face value we first study their behavior, their qualities, and then we can being to form and relationship that is the with getting to know and love God.
    Bless each and everyone and may God keep you

  • Your writing is so refreshing and encouraging. I have been seeking God for so long, but I can’t say that I totally and completely believe that He is there. It’s pathetic. Please pray for me to find faith.

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