Cultivating God-centered Loves
Our Lidcombe morning sermon last Sunday on 1 John 2:12-17 (The Collision of Loves) reminded us that Christian discipleship is not just about knowing God; significantly, it is also about loving God. Like any sort of love, our love for God needs to be carefully cultivated. Following our sermon, it would be worth committing some intentionality into recalibrating the unconscious, reorienting our hearts, and relearning our habits.
As we mentioned last week, part of recalibrating the unconscious is to become good exegetes or analysts of our culture, and part of reorienting our hearts is to confess our sins daily and ask that the Lord will continue to renew our hearts to hunger and thirst for godliness. However, there are some really practical things that we can do to relearn our habits that can help to reflect and reinforce our loves and desires.
Humans are creatures of habits. We set routines in our lives even if we don’t recognise it, and these routines go a long way in shaping the desires of our hearts. In fact, our habits quickly become our second nature. The three areas that I suggested that we could consider ‘relearning’ last week is in i) what we see, ii) how we spend our time, and iii) who we’re with.
We may not realise this, but our eyes are habituated towards looking at and lingering on things that are precious to us. What we see then cultivates within us a hunger and thirst, and this desire translates into action. In other words, what we see fuels our loves. And this love can either be a disoriented love or it can be a properly oriented love. Brothers and sisters, let us re-habituate our eyes to linger on things that will fuel a proper love for God. Our eyes are the windows through which we see this world. It literally frames what we take into our minds, our hearts, and our souls. So, what are we looking at? It is interesting, isn’t it? When we go to movies with little children and when an extremely scary scene comes on, what’s the first thing they usually cover. Their eyes. Strictly speaking, they could cover their ears because soundtracks can easily be as scary. And yet, almost instinctively, they cover their eyes because they know that if they do not let these images go through their eyes, it can never overtake their imaginations and it can never haunt them in their sleep. If little children go to such lengths to guard against a simple scary scene, what are we doing to guard against the lust of our eyes? Be careful of what you allow your eyes to frame, because what you take in through your eyes feed the appetites of your heart. Guard your eyes and set them on the right things.
Secondly, we need to consider how we set and spend our time. All of us to varied extents have timetables for our lives and these schedules reflect our priorities and these also fuel our loves. So within the busy timetables of our lives, how much time are we investing in cultivating our love for Jesus Christ? Now to be sure, we at GracePoint affirm the biblical principle that all of life is worship, and whatever we eat, drink, and do is done for the glory of God. Additionally, we recognise that as created beings living in a busy world, we are in desperate need for rest. Yet despite all of that, this doesn’t mean that every moment of our lives is consciously dedicated towards fostering our love for God. What could this look like? Part of this really is daily devotion - the daily discipline of taking in God’s Word, reflecting on it, meditating upon it, and praying over it. Maybe we can ask ourselves: if God has given us 24 precious hours a day, how much time are we dedicating towards cultivating our love for God? However, this also shapes the way we spend our ‘dead time’. This might be time on the train, bus, in the traffic jam, or running a treadmill – time that seem unproductive. The average Australian spends this period listening to music or the radio or just stare into blank space. Now perhaps your mind needs that kind of recovery every now and then. But could we consider using that ‘dead time’ productively to listen to a sermon, read a Christian book, and listening to quality Christian music that will elevate your praise to God? We live in an incredible age of technological advancement, and Christian resources are more abundant than ever. If the printing press was revolutionary for the Protestant Reformation, then podcasts are the equivalent today. Search up Apps and Podcasts like ‘The Reformed Theological Seminary’, ‘Desiring God’, ‘The Gospel Coalition’, ‘Together for the Gospel’ – these contain thousands of hours of material that you can access for free! What if all of us consciously took advantage of these gaps in our lives and filled it with godly content that will help us grow?
Lastly, it is the question of who we’re with. Who we spend time with radically shapes our loves. And that makes sense right? We are naturally drawn towards people who share our loves, and this in turn reinforces our loves. This is why Christian community, that is, the church is so important. Thus, Sundays are precious because we get together with shared beliefs and we are motivated together by the same truths. So this includes coming to church a little earlier on a Sunday so that we can share life with people. We often think that church starts at 9:45am, but it actually starts way before that when people are standing outside catching up on life. Stay around for morning tea rather than rushing off because in the same way, these are opportunities to speak the Gospel to each other. Now again, life entails various responsibilities like children who find it difficult to wake up earlier or distance that makes it difficult to leave the house earlier. But are these habits that we can consider cultivating over a period of time? But our community doesn’t just have to centre around the church building. Could we consider going out of our ways to start inviting each other to your respective houses for meals. Or to catch up over a cup of coffee during lunch time if you’re working in the same area. The opportunities and possibilities are endless when we consider the value of this.
Pastor Elliot Ku