Chapter 19 Meanings
Walk with the Wind
The saying, “Walk with the wind and you won’t want the fruit,” illustrates Galatians 5:16.
“I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
What an amazing promise! You will not gratify the desires of the flesh. And what is the requirement for receiving this promise? Walk by the Spirit. The more we keep in step with the Holy Spirit, the less we cave to the desires of the flesh.
Adam Tasted … Nothing
Tasting the food illustrates having fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ by “feasting” on (receiving and enjoying) his grace. I depicted this in terms of enjoying food because God so often compares himself to food and drink in Scripture (water of life, bread of life, honey, milk, wine, the richest of fare, etc.). God’s grace strengthens, satisfies, nourishes, and gives life to the human soul much like food and drink to the human body.
Adam’s inability to taste the food on his first visit illustrates those who read the Bible, listen to sermons, and expose themselves to gospel ministry but do not have a satisfying experience of fellowship with God through it.
In Adam’s case, it was because of his divided heart. His appetite was partly for the Ruler’s spread and partly for Abigail. We will find God when we seek him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
Chapter 20 Meanings
Abigail’s Pursuit of Adam
Chapter twenty begins with a conflict between Abigail and Watson over whether she should go after Adam. Watson’s warnings illustrate the danger of close friendships or romantic relationships between a believer and unbeliever. While the believer’s motives may be pure, simply desiring to win the unbeliever to the Lord, there is considerable spiritual danger.
In any close friendship, influence flows in both directions. Scripture warns us of this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
What ultimately happened with Abigail (the cooling of her passion for the Ruler and subsequent captivity in the lowlands) mirrors the sad consequence that so often results from those who seek to win unbelievers to the Lord through a romantic relationship.
Such an approach is dangerous for both parties. It influences the believer in a worldly direction and places the unbeliever in a position of not knowing for sure how genuine his interest in spiritual things really is. He may be excited about going to church and reading his Bible, but is it because of love for the Lord, or is it driven by a desire to please his girlfriend? Or a mix of both?
It’s next to impossible for him to know as long as he is in that relationship. Romantic emotions have a way of confusing motives. So even if some of his motives are genuine, the Christian woman is doing the man a disservice by continuing the relationship.
Taking Hodia to the Lowlands
When Anzu hears that Morax is taking Hodia to the lowlands, he objects.
“The lowlands? What is that going to accomplish? She won’t take fruit. Hodia hasn’t eaten so much as a grape in twenty years.”
“Yes,” Morax acknowledged with a subtle grin, “and she’s proud of it.”
Going to a bar or some other place of evil can be dangerous in two ways. For some, the danger is the temptation to join in the evil. For others, like Hodia, the danger is to be proud of the fact that they aren’t tempted to indulge.
Hodia assumes it is because she’s better than Abigail. She fails to understand that apart from God’s grace, she would be just as susceptible to the evils of that place as anyone else.
If a demon can get us to indulge that pride, it does as much damage as getting us to indulge in immorality.
Don’t Spook Her
When Abigail catches up to Adam after he leaves the banquet, Adramelech is careful to keep quiet so the warriors remain undetected. This illustrates Satan going out of his way to see to it that you are not tempted. He does this to lure you further into his trap.
A man might find himself alone with his girlfriend. And, because neither of them feel any temptation, they move further and further into the trap (extending their time alone together, watching a movie on the couch alone, late at night, when they are tired, etc.). Then, when they are all the way in to the trap, Satan springs the temptation and they fall.
Satan even appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)—whatever it takes to keep us off our guard.
Fruit for the Stomach
Adam says, “What is fruit for if not the stomach? And the stomach for fruit. It’s the most natural thing in the world.”
This argument is modeled after the Corinthians’ saying in 1 Corinthians 6:13 (“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”). The Corinthians evidently used that argument to justify sexual immorality. Why do bodily urges exist if not to be satisfied?
Paul’s answer is, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:13). This is reflected in Abigail’s words, “Your stomach was not made for fruit. The Ruler designed your body with appetites that can only be satisfied by his delicacies.”
Abigail acknowledges it is natural for a merely natural person. This reflects the idea in 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Jude 1:19 which speak of the “natural man” (Greek psuxikos) who does not have the Holy Spirit. James 3:15 uses the same word to speak of the wisdom that is earthly, psuxikos, and demonic. This is what Abigail means by naturalness not being a reliable guide for what is morally good.
Another reason she gives is that eating fruit “strengthens you to resist the wind.” That is, disobedience makes future disobedience easier. The more one engages in sin, the more damage he does to his conscience, searing it as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2).
Additionally, she points out that while he stopped eating fruit, he didn’t stop loving it. This illustrates the fact that what matters most is not what we do, but what we love. Note how many times the word “love” appears in Paul’s description of the most depraved evil:
“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2-4).
She goes on to point out that one reaps what he sows in his thoughts. This illustrates the principle of Galatians 6:7-8.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Today Is the Day
When Adam says he isn’t ready, Abigail insists, “Today is the day,” and gives him a cottage piece that says, “Seek him while he may be found.”
These are references to the following:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8).
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
I Am not My Own
Abigail’s words, “It isn’t just a matter of my heart and soul, but also my body. I am not my own. I was bought with a price and I must honor the Ruler with both my affections and my actions” reflect Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Don’t Follow Your Heart
When Adam wanted to follow his heart, Abigail objects. “Your heart is the worst thing you could follow. Nothing will deceive you more thoroughly.”
It seems nothing is more universally believed among Hollywood screenwriters than the maxim, “Follow your heart,” as if the heart could never be wrong. But Abigail is right.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Adam counters that he is at peace with his decision. This foolish method of discerning right and wrong pervades not only Hollywood, but the Church. Christians often point to a sense of peace as evidence of God’s guidance.
It should be noted that Jonah had amazing peace while running from God (fast asleep in a deadly storm—Jonah 1:5). And Jesus had no inner peace at all when he was at the very center of God’s will. Anticipating the crucifixion, he sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44) and said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34).
Even Abigail doesn’t understand her own mixed motives until the wind blows on her. This illustrates the fact that apart from God revealing them to us, we are often unable to discern even our own motives (Proverbs 16:2, 1 Corinthians 4:4-5).
You Can Change Where You Belong
“Abigail, can’t you see that I don’t belong here?”
“Maybe not. But you can change where you belong.”
This is to reflect the fact that at conversion, a person goes from being an outsider to an insider—a foreigner to God’s family to being a member of it.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19).
Chapter 19 Study Questions
|“Dishes?” Hodia asked, already on her feet.
…Adam watched the … way people stepped aside for them, pausing their conversations, the looks of admiration-“Are they rich? Or … famous? Or …”
Abigail cocked her head. “Adam, they’re servants.”
Scripture calls us to honor those worthy of honor in the church (Philippians 2:29, 1 Corinthians 16:18, Philippians 3:17). What sort of people receive the most honor in your church? What sort of people receive the most honor in your heart? And how does that square with Mark 10:41-42?
In some ways, the Church has done poorly in this area. People with impressive gifts, such as in music or other high-profile roles are regarded as more important than those with more ordinary gifts. Very often, people who are wealthy, attractive, or educated are honored above the poor, unattractive, or uneducated. This was a problem even in New Testament times (James 2:2-7).
On the other hand, however, there is still a significant difference between the world and the church. In the church, people are honored when they have love for God, humility, love for enemies, and other virtues produced by the Holy Spirit. And it’s not uncommon for people who are lowly in the eyes of the world to be elders in the church. We honor missionaries who give their lives to reach the lost, while the world despises them.
|“Are you feeling sorry for them?” Abigail chuckled again. “They’re in the kitchen now …” she raised her eyebrows, “with the chef. Everyone at this table envies them.”|
What are some ways you could follow Christ’s example when he washed the disciples’ feet?
|“So you just keep eating until the food runs out?” Levi asked.
“It never runs out,” Watson said. “That is part of what makes the banquets so enjoyable-the sheer abundance.” He waved his arm in a sweeping motion. “If every person ate all day and all night they would not consume a tenth of the spread.”
God has promised abundant provision, yet many times we lack what we desire. What has God promised to provide to us in abundance? See Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 9:10; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Ro.5 – Grace and righteousness
2 Cor.9 – Our store of seed and harvest of righteousness
2 Pe.1 – Everything we need for life and godliness
2 Cor.12 – Grace to handle torment
|Abigail and Kailyn’s conversation sounded to Adam like a foreign language. Filet mignon, rib eye, rack of lamb, garlic potatoes-what were these strange terms? Adam and Levi exchanged puzzled looks. Could they be talking about food that wasn’t fruit?|
There is a kind of sweetness to sin, which is why it’s so tempting. Contrast the satisfaction that comes from sin with the satisfaction that comes from what God offers. See John 4:13–14, 6:27.
The satisfaction from sin is incredibly short-lived. It usually degenerates into regret moments after it’s over. But no one ever regrets communion with God. If a person attempts communion with God and fails, that can be boring, but actual fellowship with the Lord is always satisfying.
Secondly, the happiness sin brings is fragile. There have been Christians who have sung songs of joy while burning at the stake. That’s how powerful the joy of God’s presence is. It can carry us through the most excruciating loses and suffering. The pleasures of sin can’t even begin to do that.
Skim the section headings in your Bible in 2 Samuel 11–24 and consider how a few moments of “sweetness” effected the rest of David’s life. What are the parallels between David’s experience and Proverbs 5:3–14?
Indulging his eyes and then his body for one night was, no doubt, pleasurable. But the rest of David’s life was indeed bitter as gall and his sin cut him like sharp as a double-edged sword. Death dominated his house for the rest of his life. His years were consumed by the cruel and his enemy (one of his sons) took everything from him. The groans that came from David in those years were cries of sheer agony and regret and he came to the brink of utter ruin in view of everyone.
| As the servers brought tray after tray to the table, Levi leaned toward Adam. “We’ll all be sick tonight!”
… “No we won’t …” Watson explained. “The chef’s delicacies are unlike fruit in every respect. You may indulge as you please. Indeed, the more you consume, the better you feel.”
“It doesn’t hurt your gut?” Levi asked.
Watson shook his head. “No nausea, no discomfort, no obesity, no adverse effects of any kind. Every bite brings only improved health and growth.”
There is no danger of over-indulgence in God’s grace because God satisfies our desires with good things (Psalm 103:5). What are some examples of how the same desire might be satisfied with good things or bad things?
We have a natural desire for honor. It is evil to seek to satisfy that desire with human applause (Mk.9:33-35), but it is good to seek honor from God (Ro.2:7).
The desire for happiness can be fulfilled by running after the pleasures of sin or by enjoying fellowship with God (Ps.16:11).
When God satisfies our desires with good things, the result is renewed youth (Psalm 103:5). What are some examples of that? And what are some examples of the opposite effect when desires are satisfied with bad things?
When I have had desires to experience the presence of God, to understand his Word more deeply, to show love to people for his sake, to edify the saints, or to do God’s will in some way, and those desires have been satisfied, I am energized in life. Regardless of how I feel physically, I have increased energy and motivation for life.
In times when I have indulged the flesh in sinful pursuits, afterwards I felt drained and life itself had less appeal.
Regret is one of life’s most painful emotions, and we all have regrets. What are some of the things you do in your life that you never regret?
In my sinfulness, there have been times when I have done the right thing and had feelings of regret because my heart still loved the sin. But I have never regretted anything I have ever done that resulted in experiencing God’s presence.
And in the long term, I do not regret any time I have resisted temptation
|“If you never feel over-full,” said Adam, “and the more you eat, the better you feel, and it never runs out, what makes you stop eating?”
“Only lack of appetite,” Watson said.
“And Judas desires,” Abigail added.
What is the one restriction on who may feast on God’s delicacies? (To whom is the banquet offered?) See Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 5:6; Revelation 22:17.
It is offered only to the hungry.
How would you describe your current level of hunger and thirst for God?
Woefully inadequate. I pray on a daily basis for God to ignite greater desire for him in my heart.
|Charles smiled behind a gray beard. “It’s not like it’s rocket science, Layth. The chef does all the work. All I have to do is get it from the kitchen to the table without dropping it.”|
The Greek word for deacon means “server” and was used of waiting tables. In what ways does the task of church leaders resemble that of a waiter? See Matthew 20:25–28; 1 Peter 5:2; 2 Corinthians 4:5.
The primary task is one of serving. The waiter does not produce the food. His job is to simply get it from the chef to the customer without messing it up. The pastor’s job is to get the nourishing truth of God’s Word from the Scriptures to his hearers without distorting it, adding to it, or subtracting from it.
Also, church leaders are to feed God’s Word to the people like a shepherd feeding sheep (Jn 21:15-17).
What are some examples of how a pastor could fail in his task of getting the meal from the Chef to the congregation without messing it up? See 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:5.
1 Cor.1 – by mixing it with human wisdom (such as psychology or philosophy)
1 Thes.2 – by contaminating it with sins of greed (using preaching for financial gain) or flattery (using the ministry to gain favor in the eyes of men).
|The joy you see in him grew up out of the soil of bitter suffering.|
What are some ways joy can grow out of the soil of suffering? See 2 Corinthians 12:10; James 1:2–4;12; 2 Corinthians 4:16–17; 1 Peter 1:6–7; Matthew 5:10–12.
2 Cor 12 – When we believe that the power of Christ rests upon those who are weak, we will delight in our weakness.
James 1 – When we believe trials can produce perseverance resulting in spiritual maturity, we will consider those trials pure joy if we value perseverance and spiritual maturity.
2 Cor 4 – When we believe that our troubles are accomplishing for us an eternal weight of glory, we will rejoice if we value eternal glory.
1 Pe.1 – When we believe that trials refine and prove our faith, we will rejoice in them if we value genuine, refined faith.
Mt.5 – When we believe God will reward us greatly for enduring persecution, we will rejoice and be glad when we are persecuted if we value great reward.
|Walk with the wind … and you won’t want the fruit.|
Read Galatians 5:16. What an amazing promise! You won’t gratify the desires of the flesh. What is the requirement for receiving this promise? And what does it mean in practical terms?
We won’t gratify the desires of the flesh if we walk by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit means living life in step with what the Spirit desires. All through the day we are faced with countless decisions. And most of the time we know what the Spirit would have us do. We know when he would be more pleased if we got up rather than stay in bed, made a phone call instead of turning on the TV, put the fork down and push the plate away, spend some time in prayer, clean up a mess—in each case, if we do what we know he wants us to do, we remain close by his side. But if we go with the impulses of the flesh, with each little decision we move a little farther from him. And after hours of doing that, when a big temptation hits, we find we have no spiritual power. But when we have remained by his side, then his power will be available to us in the moment we face a major conflict with the flesh.
What significance do you see in the fact that living by the Spirit is described in terms of walking?
Describing life as a walk reminds us that each moment that goes by you take a step in some direction. Every action, every word, and every thought you have is a step moving you one increment closer to some destination.
What are some specific changes you could make in your life to walk by the Spirit more?
The change I’m currently working on is to be more aware that my goal is to be a servant of Christ. I want a higher and higher percentage of my decisions to involve conscious awareness of this goal. I find it much easier to live the right way when I think this way, but I’m currently finding it difficult to remember except when I’m having my devotions.
He tasted nothing. … It was like eating air.
What is it that Satan prevents unbelievers from seeing/experiencing? See 2 Corinthians 4:4. Why would that be such a priority for Satan?
Which was worse-feeling confused and condemned in the banquet hall, or empty and dry in the orchard? Both were unbearable.
Why might an upstanding person feel confused and condemned at church while a former murderer has a delightful experience? (see 1 Corinthians 2:14; 11:31)
Someone who is “upstanding” in the eyes of the world, but who is not accepting the Word of God into his heart, will not understand it. Those who don’t repent of their sin will come under God’s judgment. But those who judge themselves (discern their own sin and repent of it) are forgiven by God and enjoy fellowship with him.
|“I know I can get through to him. He listens to me.”
“Yes, he does. But how much of his listening is desire for the truth, and how much is desire for you?”
What guidance does Scripture give us on the practice of a believer dating an unbeliever in hopes of winning the unbeliever to the Lord. See 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, Proverbs 13:20; Psalm 101.
It’s a foolish strategy. It may come from good motives, but Scripture warns us against it. The passages above teach that any relationship that is so close that the person has influence on your heart should be reserved only for people who love the Lord. And no relationship affects the heart more than a romantic relationship. We always assume we will influence them for good, which may be true, but we underestimate how much they also influence us.
Furthermore, dating an unbeliever in hopes of winning them puts the unbeliever in a bad position. Is their interest in spiritual things a real interest in God? Or is it driven by a desire to please you? Human motives are so complex, no matter how honest the person tries to be with himself, he won’t be able to know for sure how genuine his interest in God really is. (And if he is not likely to continue to seek God without this relationship, that’s strong evidence that he is not being drawn by the Holy Spirit.)
|“Do not go near the door of temptation’s house. Her hands are chains. Venture too close, and you will be ensnared. Her slain are a mighty throng.”|
What are some examples of how one might fall into sin because of a failure to heed the warnings in Proverbs 5:8, 7:7–8,22–23 (Note: the woman in those passages personifies temptation in general, not just sexual temptation.)
Whether the temptation be for food, money, sex, fame, laziness, or anything else, our tendency is to get too close to it when we feel no temptation. If I don’t feel any draw toward that sin, I’m not very careful about keeping my distance. I drift closer and closer until the trap springs. I’m convinced Satan purposely withholds temptation, seeing to it that we aren’t tempted while he is luring us close enough so that when he does turn on the enticement, we’re blindsided and fall immediately.
A dating couple might feel no temptation, so they spend extended time alone, late at night, when they are tired, watching a movie on the couch. Then when temptation springs, they fall into sin before they know what hit them. Someone on a diet driving close to a bakery, an alcoholic getting into a position where alcohol is easily accessible, a porn addict surfing the web alone—we all have a tendency to overestimate our strength in moments when we don’t feel temptation. And Satan uses that overconfidence to lure us into his trap.
|The warriors had suffered defeat in the last encounter with Kailyn, Abigail, and Watson, even though the humans had been caught off guard. Now that they were alert, they would be near impossible to defeat as a group.|
Given how frequently the Bible calls us to alertness, it seems to be one of the most important keys to spiritual victory. What would your life look like if you were to heed 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Corinthians 16:13 more than you do now?
I would spend more time looking at the world through biblical lenses. The unseen realm would feel more real to me and spiritual things would affect my emotions more than the things I see with my eyes. As a result, I would love the things God loves more and hate the things he hates more. And I would fall to temptation a lot less.
|“Where are you taking her?”
“To the lowlands.” …
“The lowlands? What is that going to accomplish? She won’t take fruit. Hodia hasn’t eaten so much as a grape in twenty years.”
“Yes,” Morax acknowledged with a subtle grin, “and she’s proud of it.”
What are some sins that Christians often take pride in having not committed? Are there any sins you take pride in having avoided? How might Satan use that pride against you? See Luke 18:10-14.
Most often, Christians take pride in never having committed the more scandalous kinds of sins, like adultery or criminal activity. They believe those sins are in a different category than the sins they commit. Their attitude is, “A regular person commits the kinds of sins I commit. But those people who end up in prison—they are much worse than me.” Nothing in the Bible supports that attitude. In fact, just the opposite. The Luke 18 passage shows that such a prideful attitude, if unrepentant, is worse than the most scandalous repentant sinner.
In my case, I think the sins I tend to become prideful about not committing are the ones that I struggle with the most. When I have periods of victory, it’s in those times that I’m most prone to become proud—assuming I have conquered the problem forever. And the people who haven’t conquered it yet should be more like me.
|Adam went on, “I’ve never been more miserable than I am now. It’s like something is pressing me down.”|
When a person tries to have “the best of both worlds” by enjoying the pleasures of sin while also trying to enjoy the benefits of knowing God, the result is often misery—the worst of both worlds. Why is this? See 1 John 3:6; Psalm 32:1–6. Describe David’s experience between the time he sinned and the time when he finally repented.
It’s not possible to remain in Christ while continuing in unrepentant sin. Sin alienates us from Christ, putting relational distance between us and him. Since joy and fullness of life come from nearness to him, continuing in sin is misery for us.
Before David finally repented, he described it this way: “My bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Compare Mark 10:19–23 with Matthew 13:44. Both men chose what they desired most, so why is one happy and the other sad?
Austin Frindt’s answer is stated a lot better than mine, so I’ll put his answer here instead of mine:
The rich young ruler didn’t believe that what he would gain was greater than what he would lose. His heart was still knit to this world, so following Jesus felt like a loss. So he was sad because, though he wanted to inherit eternal life, the price was too high. I’m often sad when there’s something I think I really want, but it turns out it’s too expensive; I’m disappointed to learn it’s not worth the cost.
Whereas the man in the field *KNEW* that, even with selling literally everything he owned, he was still coming out *WAY* ahead! Walking away with the steal of a lifetime is exhilarating! I can’t believe I actually got it! And it only cost me everything! What a deal!
So bottom line, one went away sad and the other full of joy because their hearts were in much different places. One saw Jesus for the true treasure he is, while other didn’t, so was confused and dismayed at the cost.
|What’s so wrong about eating fruit anyway? It doesn’t hurt anyone.|
People often define evil only in terms of whether an action hurts people or not. What’s wrong with that definition of evil? See Jeremiah 2:13, Matthew 22:37–38, James 4:3–4.
First, there are plenty of things that hurt people that are not evil. A surgeon cutting someone open to save his life, a parent giving loving discipline to a child, a coach or drill sergeant requiring endless calisthenics—none of that is evil.
Even destructive acts toward other people can be good. A police officer overpowering a violent criminal, an adult restraining a bully, or a soldier killing an invading enemy can all be good actions.
Evil is defined by God, not humanity. Sin is whatever violates the law of God (1 John 3:4).
Just as a married woman owes all her romantic affections to her husband, so we owe all our love exclusively to God. When we love the world, we are committing adultery against him. It is cosmic treason. And treason against God is a far more serious crime than anything done to human beings because God is more important than humans. In fact, the only reason hurting humans is evil is because God forbids it.
|What is fruit for if not the stomach? And the stomach for fruit. It’s the most natural thing in the world.”
“It’s natural for a merely natural person, but right or wrong has nothing to do with naturalness.”
How you would respond to someone who justified sexual sin by saying, “I’m just doing what’s natural”? See 1 Corinthians 6:13.
There are plenty of acts that are both natural and evil. Stealing comes naturally. So do gossip, laziness, revenge, selfishness, adultery, and pretty much every crime on the books.
God did design the human body for sex, but not for sexual immorality. The human body was created to glorify God.
|“Is that why I couldn’t taste the food—because I still want fruit?”
“I think so. Can you run in opposite directions at the same time? Your will can’t do that anymore than your body can.”
Why is it impossible to enjoy God’s grace while also dabbling in sin? See Matthew 6:24.
Dabbling in sin after we have resolved to forsake sin is evidence of enslavement to sin. We receive grace from God when we bow the knee to his Lordship over us. It is impossible to serve opposing masters. Or, as the quotation from the book excerpt says, your heart can’t run in opposite directions any more than your body can. Dabbling in sin provokes God with withdraw his blessing.
|Adam huffed. “I’ve gone all this time without eating fruit, and where has it gotten me?”
“You stopped eating fruit, but you did not stop loving it. Your appetites follow what your soul clings to.”
What does the Bible say about those who congratulate themselves for abstaining from a sinful action while continuing to cherish that sin in their hearts? See James 4:4, Psalm 66:18, Job 20:12-14.
Those people are like a man who tells his wife, “Why are you upset that I’m in love with the neighbor’s wife and that I love her more than I love you? I haven’t slept with her, so what’s the problem?” Your spouse has a claim not just on your body, but also on your heart. And God designed marriage that way to illustrate our relationship with him. He also has a claim on our hearts.
People like that fail to understand that all sin takes place in the heart. Our sin is not defined by our actions, rather, our actions are merely the results of our sin. But even if we restrain ourselves from acting on the sin within, still, that sin exists and we are culpable for it.
|You reap what you sow in your thoughts. A few minutes of letting your affections attach to fruit is like sowing weed seeds in your heart, and the harvest is a whole lot of Judas desires.|
Scripture warns us that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). What are some examples of sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit?
Anytime I make decisions based on the impulses of the flesh rather than on God’s will, I’m sowing to the flesh. This can include relatively innocent actions. When I know I should make a phone call but I don’t because I don’t feel like it, I just sowed to the flesh. Eventually, I reap a bad harvest. But whenever I do what the Lord wants me to do, I’m sowing to the Spirit, adding to the spiritual harvest.
|Every thought you entertain is a step in some direction. If you keep taking steps in your mind toward evil, you will eventually arrive at the destination you’ve been walking toward.”|
Job determined not to look lustfully because God sees his steps (Job 31:1-4). In what sense is a lustful look a “step”? And how does the knowledge that sinful thoughts are steps toward a certain destination help us in our battle against sinful thoughts?
We go where we go in life as a result of our decisions, reactions, and affections—all of which arise out of our thoughts. More than anything else, our thoughts set the direction of our lives.
Knowing this helps us fight the battle against sinful thoughts by alerting us to the consequence of those thoughts. We are tempted to imagine our sinful thoughts aren’t real sins until we act on them. But all sin takes place in the heart and all sin distances us from God.
|“You are restless, Adam, and you will remain restless until your soul finds rest in the Ruler.”|
In his Confessions, Augustine famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” See Psalm 62:1. Is there any restlessness in your life that could be explained this way?
This is clearest to me in times when I become irritable. When even the littlest things cause sparks of anger, I know it’s a sign that my soul is thirsty. If I have the presence of mind to realize it is thirst for God’s presence, and I seek after him, it changes everything.
|The door won’t stay open forever. The wind will only blow on your life for so long. If you keep resisting, it will stop. And then you can never come.|
What are the implications of the phrase “while he may be found” in Psalm 32:6?
It implies he won’t always be findable. There is a limit to God’s patience, and his invitation is a limited time offer. Procrastinating is playing Russian Roulette with your eternal destiny.
|Adam shook his head. “I’m just not ready. Maybe someday I’ll-”
“No. Today is the day to come. Don’t you understand? You don’t have forever.”
How should we respond to someone who is considering coming to Christ, but says he just not ready at this time? See 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 4:7; Luke 9:59–62. Is there anything in your spiritual life you’ve been putting off that needs to be dealt with today?
Perhaps we should read them Jesus’ words from Luke 9:59-62 and warn them that if they don’t do it today, they may be passing up their last opportunity. It is God’s Spirit that prepares a heart and draws a person into faith. If that is resisted, there comes a time when the Spirit will withdraw and let the person go. Once that happens, there will be no possibility of coming to Christ.
|I’m sorry. I can’t go with you. Charles always tells us, ‘Walk with the wind, and you won’t want the fruit.’ The wind is not blowing away from the cottage. It never does.|
What would you say to someone who felt the Spirit was leading them to leave the church? See 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 10:25.
I would remind them that the church is God’s household, the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Why would the Spirit lead someone away from that? Because you encounter difficulties there? Since when does the Spirit lead us away from the presence of God in order to avoid hardship?
I would ask the person how they discern the Spirit’s leading—by Scripture first, or by feelings? When we feel one way but Scripture points the other way, the Spirit’s guidance is always consistent with the Word he inspired.
The church is the gathering of the saints (by definition). And Hebrews 10:25 clearly forbids us from neglecting that gathering.
It isn’t just a matter of my heart and soul, but also my body. I am not my own. I was bought with a price and I must honor the Ruler with both my affections and my actions.
Our bodies were not only created by God, but also purchased by him at a price (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). What was that price? And how does remembering that price assist us in resisting temptation?
The price was his own beloved Son. When I remember that, avoiding sin becomes much more than following a rule. Sin is participation in the very problem Jesus gave his life to destroy. The enormity of the price reminds me of both the unimaginable extremes of his hatred for sin, and the unimaginable love he has for me. It is unthinkable that I should despise that love and create more of what he so hates.
“Your heart is the worst thing you could follow. Nothing will deceive you more thoroughly.”
According to Hollywood, “Follow your heart” is the epitome of wisdom. What does Scripture say about that advice? See Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21–23; James 1:14.
Following one’s heart is a path to destruction. The human heart is deceptive and evil. It is the source of every kind of evil and it is the part of us that is susceptible to deadly temptation.
|I’m stronger now than I’ve been in a long time. I think that means I’m supposed to go. I feel no resistance to walking east, and I am at peace with this decision.|
Christians often insist they have found God’s will in a decision because they are “at peace” with it. How would you evaluate this method of discerning God’s guidance in light of the following passages: Jonah 1:5; Matthew 26:37-38.
While doing the exact opposite of what God told Jonah to do, Jonah was so at peace that he was able to sleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea. And Jesus, while in the very center of God’s will, had no peace at all. He was greatly troubled. Feelings of peace are not confirmation of God’s will or guidance.
|The breeze brushed her again and she probed deeper into her own motives.|
We often stop self-examination when we detect a good motive. But even the best motives can be mixed with bad ones. Are there any areas of your life where mixed motives might be a factor? Consider 1 Corinthians 4:4 and Psalm 36:2.
For me, I think the greatest danger is in ministry related things. On the one hand, I want the message to be disseminated as broadly as possible because I love God’s Word and I love people. And I believe the preaching of the Word is the best thing I can ever give them.
But on the other hand, I’m always susceptible to another motive. The more widespread my sermons and books are, the more I’m tempted to take pride in how many people are interested in my ministry. It can become a measurement of my success or my worth. The two motives can become so intwined, they are difficult to separate.
Ch. 20, Q. 20 – I seem to always assume the best about my motives and the worst about others.
Ironically, this very very assumption is incredibly unloving and therefore a violation of the greatest commandment!
I guess this is an area where I can practice counting others more significant than myself, and choosing to believe the best about them and repenting when I don’t.
In addition to the verses you mention, I would point them to 1 Cor 12:27-28, where believers are specifically called the body of Christ and the church.
I would then point them to John 15:26, where Jesus explicitly says the Spirit will testify about him (Jesus).
So if the church is Jesus’ body and the Spirit testifies about Jesus, by definition the Spirit would never lead someone away from the church
Ch. 20, Q. 12 – Looking back, probably the largest single leap I made in sanctification and progressing towards spiritual maturity, was learning this principle.
It was amazing the transformative effect it had on the “real” sins I committed once I realized that sinful thoughts *are* real sins and have the same life consequences and must be repented of in the same way.
Ch. 20, Q. 7 – This is such a good question! I’ve thought about this a lot over the years (heavily influenced by things I’ve heard you say). So probably not the direction you’re headed with your question, but I think a common confusion in this world is thinking that evil or sin illustrate pain, instead of vice versa.
While not the only reason, I believe a major reason God gave us pain is to illustrate the concept of sin. Pain alerts us to the fact that something is wrong, and without this signal, our bodies would suffer great damage and we would eventually die. We’re meant to think of sin in the same way – it points to something wrong, that without correction, will lead to our demise.
So pain is the symbol, sin is the reality. The world reverses this, thinking that sin is the symbol and pain is the reality, so as long as something doesn’t cause pain, the need for the symbol – sin – is irrelevant.
But once we recognize that pain is the symbol, we can instantly know that anything the Bible calls sin we should treat the exact same way we do as with something painful – to stop that thing!
So whether or not something “hurts” someone is completely irrelevant to whether that thing is sinful or not. The fact that it’s called sin means, by definition, that it *is* harmful! Spiritual harm is just a real, and certainly even more consequential, than just physical or emotional harm.
Great points! The only thing worse than being injured is to be injured and unable to feel it, so you don’t know to take action to stop what’s injuring you. Pain is a gift.
Ch. 20, Q.6 – The rich young ruler didn’t believe that what he would gain was greater than what he would lose. His heart was still knit to this world, so following Jesus felt like a loss. So he was sad because, though he wanted to inherit eternal life, the price was too high. I’m often sad when there’s something I think I really want, but it turns out it’s too expensive; I’m disappointed to learn it’s not worth the cost.
Whereas the man in the field *KNEW* that, even with selling literally everything he owned, he was still coming out *WAY* ahead! Walking away with the steal of a lifetime is exhilarating! I can’t believe I actually got it! And it only cost me everything! What a deal!
So bottom line, one went away sad and the other full of joy because their hearts were in much different places. One saw Jesus for the true treasure he is, while other didn’t, so was confused and dismayed at the cost
Amen! God is so good! Pain results from the fall and the resulting curse (Gen 3:16-17, Rev 21:4), but even in judgment, God can’t help but be true to his character and inject mercy also.
Pain, a curse, God uses as a gift?! Awesome!
Ch. 20, Q. 2 – A personal experience of mine is hanging out with friends who grumble and complain. I thought I was strong, but just by hanging out with them, I was swept away by it too.
Ch. 20. Q. 1 – Scripture says don’t do it!
Either the believer will compromise his beliefs and become worldly in order to please his spouse, or the great chasm between the two will become ever greater and the marriage will eventually fail.
After, how can they walk together if they’re literally going in opposite directions?
Imagine two people walking around the globe, one from east to west, the other from west to east. There may be a point when they pass each other, and, the world being so big, may even be able walk together for a short while. But unless one of them decides to turn around, for them to continue to their destination, there comes a point where they’ll have to depart from each other.
An unequally yoked couple thinking they can make it work is only because they’re in that short period of overlap where it *seems* like they can walk together. But if they look at their map, and stay true to their destination, they’d see it’s impossible to work.
Q. 17 – Satan prevents us from seeing the glory of God. I think I’ve heard you describe glory as “that which is wonderful about something.”
So Satan works to prevent us from seeing that which is wonderful about God.
I think he does in the same manner he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness – by keeping before our eyes all that glitters in this world, thus distracting us from the real beauty.
Real beauty takes concentration to see, so if he can keep us busy and distracted, we’ll never notice the better thing we’re missing out on.
Q. 14 – The requirement is that we have to walk by the Spirit. As for what this means practically, the way I often think about it is what Paul says a couple verses later, referring to the fruits of the Spirit. in Gal 5:23 he says, “against such things there is no law.”
I’ve struggled on how to interpret that phrase, but this is what I think it means: when I think of laws in general, whether they be spiritual laws that God implemented, or civil laws that we live under every day, they exist to prevent something harmful.
Obviously we have criminal laws against murder and speeding and trespassing and theft, and we have spiritual laws against lust and envy and malice and grumbling and lying etc.
We have to regulate our behavior in these areas because when we do them, harm results.
So when Paul says there is no law against love and joy and peace and kindness and gentleness and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit, he means that we can indulge in those things *as much as we want* and no harm will *ever* come! No regulation required! In fact, the more we indulge in them, the better the world will be and more satisfied our souls will be.
So that’s how I gauge how well I’m walking by the Spirit (which by definition also means not gratifying the desires of the flesh): am I thinking or engaging in something that brings harm or is somehow regulated? If so, then I know it’s not a fruit of the spirit.
Q. 13 – The passages you mention in 1 Peter and James will always be connected for me. When I think of them, they always bring me great joy in times of peace and great comfort in times of suffering. I had mentioned this before, but it was this very passage in 1 Peter where God, for the first time, REALLY spoke to me through his word. I remember that I got so excited I emailed my wife. I just looked for that email and I was actually able to find it! here is what I wrote so many years ago:
[Referring to 1 Peter 1:3-37] Wow what a great verse! I’ve read those verses dozens of times yet today for some reason God really hit me with them. There is a megaton of theology in these verses (to borrow John Piper’s phrase). Read again how downright encouraging these verses are!
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, *he has caused* us to be born again to a *living* hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance that is *imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,* kept in heaven *for you,*
5 who by *God’s power* are being *guarded through faith* for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In *this* you rejoice [the fact that your salvation, by God’s power, is being guarded through faith], though now for a *little while,* if *necessary,* you have been grieved by various trials,
7 so that the *tested genuineness of your faith*—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor *at the revelation* of Jesus Christ.
Amen and amen! Do you see that? We have been chosen to salvation by God, and it is through his power that our faith is sustained. By this method our soul is being guarded for salvation. Because we understand this, we can have great joy (!) even though we may be going through short trails. These trials that only last a “little while” are necessary because without them, Jesus Christ wouldn’t be fully revealed to us!
So now we know what James 1:2 means when it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. We can count it joy because we know that because God loves us so much, He is doing what is necessary to reveal Jesus to us – so that we may truly see his glory and honor!
Amen! Halleluiah! Praise the Lord! What an amazing truth! Amen!
Q. 9 – Only those that are hungry may feast! Like the old saying saying, “Hunger is the best seasoning!” Food just *tastes* better when we’re hungry.
So if we’re finding God’s word bland, it’s because we’re not hungry.
So why do Christians become not hungry? Well, I think the answer is in Isaiah 55:1-2.
Verse 1 is specifically addressed to those “who have no money,” and verse 2 implies that those who *do* have money spend it on unsatisfying food.
So I think as long as we have “money,” that is, other resources we avail ourselves of instead of God, we’ll either always find those things bland, or we’ll even find *true food*, God’s food, bland because we’re not *hungry* for it because we’ve been eating other things.
But when I realize that *NOTHING* is true food except God, I’ll realize I’m bankrupt, that my money is worthless because it can’t buy me the thing I need, so I won’t even bother spending it anyway. Only then will I become *hungry* and thus able to truly taste and enjoy the great food.
Q. 6 – I think the desire for “escape” can certainly be sinful or righteous, depending on how we respond.
And maybe this isn’t the right way to think about it, but if we think of escape as withdrawing from the rigors of life, then I would say, if indeed escape is withdrawing, Jesus sought escape often (Luke 5:16).
So if I need a break from life, or need to recharge, I can either satisfy that desire by doing what the world does and withdraw into drugs or alcohol or sex or entertainment or laziness or food or any number of other things can be sinful.
Or I can satisfy it by doing like Jesus did and withdraw *into* the Father through prayer and worship and fellowship and rest.
Q. 4 – the satisfaction that comes from sin is fleeting and followed by instant regret and greater dissatisfaction.
The satisfaction that comes from God is truly nourishing to the soul. It’s never bad for us and we can never overindulge.
Jesus says this satisfaction “endures” to eternal life – if we seek it and indulge in it, it will literally protect us and carry us through this life to eternity.