I am in San Francisco this week on Sabbatical, a time to rest, pray, and study. It has been good to get away from the stresses of everyday life and ministry.One stress still remains, the idols of my heart.You would think that me, a pastor in a dedicated time of prayer and reflection, would be free from such burdens. Not so. The enemy is still on the prowl. The world is still evil. My flesh is still fallen. You too have idols in your heart. I don’t know what they are. Maybe it is anger or lust or worry. Maybe it is power or pleasure. Maybe it is candy bars and Facebook. Only you and God know. Every day is a battle. Some days you win. Some you lose. Keep fighting. To truly enjoy God you must attack the idols of the heart. Someone once said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
Following Jesus is about direction, not perfection. None of us are perfect. That is the goal of course, but only Jesus reaches that standard. Every day we let God down and grieve His Spirit. The question is not if we fail, but rather what do we do after our failure. The issue is not if we will give in to temptation, but how we respond to giving in. We are tempted, after a failure, to be weighed down with guilt and shame. We often distance ourselves from God. Who are we to serve God? Who are we to pray and read His Word? Who are we to tell others about Jesus?
When you fall, get back up. Don’t let guilt hold you back. Don’t let your past imprison you. Following Jesus is about direction, not perfection. In other words, keep following Jesus. Stay on the straight and narrow. When you stray, and you will, get back on the path to faithfulness. We get the idea that God does not love us if we are not perfect. His love is not based on who we are or what we do. It is based on who Jesus is and what He has done on the cross. If you have fallen away, get back on track. Don’t wait until you have everything figured out. Don’t wait until you are perfect. Perfection will not take place on this side of Heaven. Aim for it yes, but even more so, make sure you are going in the right direction. Make sure your life compass is pointed towards God and His Word.
I love basketball. I grew up a Lakers fan watching Magic, Kareem, and James Worthy. Then, it was Michael Jordan. Now it is LeBron James. When LeBron and the Cavaliers recently won the NBA Championships, I felt like a little kid. I had never been so excited in quite some time. Perhaps it was because the Cavaliers became the first team to come from behind a 3-1 deficit. Maybe it is because I am a LeBron fan. Perhaps I tapped into the joy and excitement I once felt playing and watching the game. I wonder, where is this excitement towards Jesus? Where is the giddiness towards God? King James is great, but he is no king. Jesus is. LeBron can deliver a title. Jesus can deliver me from my sins. LeBron can get a rebound, only Jesus can redeem me. LeBron gives temporary hope to Cleveland, Jesus gives eternal hope to the world. You may not care about basketball. Perhaps it is money, power, or shopping on Amazon. Nothing compares to Jesus. He alone is worthy of our praise.