At Gateway Church in Austin this past Sunday, we started a new series called Desire.
John Burke spoke at the McNeil Campus, and I spoke at the South Campus.
Here’s some of what we shared:
Desire is a powerful engine that drives us forward. Unfortunately, sometimes our desires can get aimed in the wrong direction. What promised to fulfill our deep desires ends up killing the life we desired.
Some say we should give in to all of our desires and even let our desires be what guides us. Unfortunately, at times our feelings and emotions can lie to us.
Others feel that we should deny all of our desires. They see all desire as evil and destructive.
The Scriptures have a different take. According to the Scriptures, our desires are not all bad, but they’re not all good either. So what are they? Two verses give us a clue:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
– Psalm 37:4
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
– 1 John 2:17
Thirst is a desire for water above all else. If I feel thirst, I can point it toward other liquids, like gasoline to try to satisfy my thirst, or toward water. Our earthly desires will pass away, but they have an eternal purpose. The deepest desires are put there by God, and God wants to fulfill our heart’s deepest desires.
But here’s the catch: our desires are meant to point us toward a life that’s only found through God. If we take delight in God and seek God’s will, we find our desires leading us into a life of eternal quality. When this life ends, all our desires will be met when face to face with Him. If we point our desires at getting others or other things to quench the thirst only God’s living water can satisfy, we will find our desires poisoning the life we wanted.
Let’s hone in on a passage that helps us aim our intense desire for love in the direction that can actually begin to satisfied our deepest thirst. It’s found in 1 John 4.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
– 1 John 4:7-9
God IS love! This means all love we ever experience is derivative. We’re never the source. Love comes from God.
Two Questions to consider if you are pursuing love in the right place:
1. Is your desire for love aimed at another person?
This is NOT the right place to aim that desire. God IS love—and ALL love comes from God (not from that other person, but through that other person, and through you if you’re delight is in God and your Desire is aimed at its intended target).
If that other person has to change in order for us to experience being loved, and if all love comes from God, then we’ve made that person into a god!
Ask yourself: Can you experience God’s love even if that other person never changes, or never materializes? It’s a really important question. So many marriages could be saved, repaired, or started right if we can just get this right.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
– 1 John 4:15-16
Through Jesus, we find forgiveness and reconnection to the source of all Love. We now have the ability to let God love through us by knowing and RELYING the love God has for us. Do you know and experience God’s unfailing love for you? Nothing has made a bigger difference in my life.
2. When you think of God, or being with God, do you long to be with him or do you kind of fear being with him?
In other words, do you feel that if you get too close to God, He’s going to take something from you or keep you from what you desire?
If you don’t know or experience God as the source of all Love then you haven’t realized God IS all you’re longing for ultimately. So then, what do you do?
But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
– 1 John 2:5-6
The way we know God and love God is by seeking to know what He’s revealed about himself through the scriptures—through the prophets, ultimately through Jesus. As we surrender trying to get love and control love, and we surrender TO love by being willing to show our love for God by obeying what He says. As we live this way more and more, following the example of Jesus, we experience His love in us and flowing through us to others. To experience this, you have to decide to surrender to God’s love, and be willing to aim your desire for love at obeying God as an expression of love for him. That’s the way our great Desire for Love is actually met more and more in us and through us.
How will you know if His love is growing in you and through you, or if your desire for Love is pointing at the wrong things?
I John 4 gives a few ways to know:
1. God’s love is a love that can sacrifice rather than demand.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11
The love we deeply desire that truly satisfies is not a wimpy, feel-good, me-centered, sexualized, or romanticized thing we often mistakenly call love.
God’s love is a love that fills us up so we don’t need anything from anyone.
2. God’s love is a love that invites others in.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us… God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
– 1 John 4:12, 16, 20
There is a love that is expansive—it has so much to give, it doesn’t feel the desire to clique off or exclude others—it actually wants to invite others in.
3. God’s love is a love that has no fear but exudes great confidence.
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
– 1 John 4:17-19
Here’s a little test you can do to see how full of God’s perfect love you are.
- How often do you need to defend yourself to yourself or others?
- How often do you fear judgment—or worry about what people think of you—or fear that people might misunderstand or think badly of you?
- How often do you worry that you won’t succeed or won’t be good enough, or pretty enough, or man enough, or live up to your potential?
All those fears and worries are signs that you need to aim your Desire at God’s love.
The more you understand and experience God’s great love for you, the less you’ll fear or worry about any of those things—you simply won’t need to.
God IS love. He created you with this Greatest Desire for Love because He is what you were created for! Here’s what I hope you will see and start to experience: God gives us every drop of pure love as a tiny taste of the Ocean of His love to come. Any love you experienced from a parent, a grandparent, from a close friend, from a spouse or for a spouse, that overwhelming love for a child is just a drop in the Ocean that’s to come. All the love that seems lost to the sufferings of this life, all gets restored when we are united in Love himself.