07 April 2008

You Fear What You Think You Need

Emotions are tricky things. Just when you think you've figured them out, they set you spinning in another direction entirely. I've said it before. We need to be suspect of our emotions. Jonah slept peacefully in a boat going the opposite direction from where God had just directed him to go. David was overcome with his desire or perceived need of Bathsheba and as a result the sword never left his house. Elijah challenged 850 priests of Baal but then ran in terror from Jezebel. Paul felt justified in his zeal for Judaism and executing Christians until Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus.

In his book, When People Are Big and God Is Small, Ed Welch makes some great observations. Here's one of my favorites.

"The rise psychological needs was inevitable: If you exalt the individual and make emotions the path to truth, then whatever you feel most strongly will be considered both good and necessary for growth. Whatever you feel most strongly are seen as your God-given needs. That is why the unpardonable sin in today's culture is to either 'deny' or suppress your emotions. Emotions point to needs, and to deny your needs is to deny something God-given and God-like."

Welch is addressing how our felt or perceived needs drive us more often than not to fearing man more than we fear God. We are controlled by the things we think we need. Because we assume that we have the right to have our felt needs met, we will do whatever we have to do to meet them. In other words, we don't own our needs, they own us.

We have all seen someone who is desperate to fill a need make a fool out of him or herself in an effort to get what they want. If we are honest, we have all been that someone. A woman afraid of being perceived as weak by her subordinates becomes hyper-critical and terse at work. A man afraid he will be passed over for promotion takes a credit for work he didn't do in an effort to impress the boss. A woman fears being alone and throws herself at any man who will tell her she's amazing, even if it is just for a night. A man fears having nothing more to offer than empty words and finds a different woman to be with whenever he feels his weakness will be discovered. I could go on. We do it in our relationships, our businesses or leisure activity. We do it in big ways, we do it in small subtle ways. We even do it in our ministries. In our sin we fill our perceived needs with people, objects or status.

Fear will control our thoughts, words and actions. It will set our mood and our course. The only remedy for the wrong fear is the right fear; the fear of the Lord. Rather than people, status or objects, we need grace and mercy. We need full dependence on Christ. We need biblical insight as to what our real needs are and to know the One who meets them. We need an accurate picture of who we are- sinners saved by grace- not much to esteem about us other than the One who saves us.

How do we cultivate a proper fear of the Lord? It comes from understanding His holiness and our wretchedness. We need to expose our selfish, self-centered desires as the sinful things they are and replace them with a desire to honor and glorify God. The Proverbs are a great place to start.

Post Script. I just read Steve Camp's blog and he has a fabulous post on God's Holiness. I have added the link.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:29-33
29 Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD.
30 "They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof.
31 "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be satiated with their own devices.
32 "For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, and the complacency of fools shall destroy them.
33 "But he who listens to me shall live securely, and shall be at ease from the dread of evil."

Provebs 2:3-6
3 For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding;
4 If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth {come} knowledge and understanding.

Prov 3:7-8
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones.

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