A Joy Beyond Measure

water fall

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
Isaiah 1:10-11 ESV

In much the same way in which a lot of young married couples go into marriage with perhaps different expectations or differing ideas of what marriage is supposed to be like, a lot of people approach their marriage relationship with Jesus Christ with false and unrealistic expectations.

For, they have their own ideas of what salvation from sin and eternal life with God should look like, based upon what they had been taught. They have their own notions of what it means to believe in Jesus, too. And, they definitely have their own thoughts on what it means to love God, too.

And, so they end up going through the motions of religious performance. They attend weekly church services, give money to the church, serve in areas of ministry, get involved in community service projects, and volunteer their time and their talents wherever needed within the organized church.

They pray before meals, read their Bibles, maybe even have family devotions, and attend small groups or Bible studies. They are friendly and nice to their neighbors and volunteer to help out with community events.

But, their hearts are not surrendered to God. They are not committed to following Jesus with their whole hearts in obedience to his commands. They give God what they feel they should give him, on their terms, but he is not really Lord of their lives. They are still the ones in control. They are the ones determining what they will or won’t do for God.

But, their flesh is still on the throne of their hearts. And, they are still living to please the flesh and for self-pleasure. While they give an outward appearance that they are “good Christians,” they are secretly engaged in sinful practices that they don’t want to give up. And, so they adopt a belief in Jesus that gives them the freedom to keep on in their sinful practices while promising them heaven when they die, which is based on feelings.

And, even though God has been telling them and showing them what he requires of them for them to be His, they are largely ignoring what He is telling them, and they are just doing “nice things” thinking that God should be pleased, even if he is not really their Lord, although they claim him to be.

They are a lot like an unfaithful spouse who thinks he or she can cheat on his or her spouse, and then cover it up with lies and with “nice things,” thinking that his or her spouse should accept superficial sacrifices in place of fidelity, honesty, purity and faithfulness to the marriage. But, it doesn’t work that way in a marriage or in our relationships with Jesus Christ, either.

“When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
Isaiah 1:12-17 ESV

God, like any loving husband or wife, wants fidelity, faithfulness, purity of devotion, honesty and sincerity, not sacrifice on human terms as an appeasement or as a token emblem of some sort of relationship existing. He doesn’t want “stuff.” He wants our hearts committed to him. He doesn’t want “cards, candy and flowers.” He wants us to be truly His and committed to the relationship to love God with our whole hearts, minds and souls.

Just like an unfaithful spouse tramples on the heart of his or her spouse when he or she is unfaithful and adulterous toward that spouse, and when he or she then covers it up with lies or with fake kindness, so are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ but feel they don’t have to obey the Lord or give their hearts to him or leave their sinful lifestyles behind them. They trample on the courts of God for they profess one thing while they live another.

And, just like the faithful spouse would appeal to the adulterous spouse to be faithful, to be pure, to be honest, and to truly love the other spouse, God is appealing to his adulterous church and to those who profess his name but who feel they don’t have to be faithful or honest or pure. And, he is telling them that they need to repent of their sins and turn to God to follow him in obedience and faithfulness.

He is letting them know that a true marriage relationship with him is not based on externals, but on heart change and heart surrender. It is not based on what people are willing to do for God all the while they remain in the flesh, living to please the flesh in direct disobedience to God. A true marriage relationship with Jesus Christ is based on our trust in Him, our surrender of our lives to him, our forsaking our former lives of living for sin and self, and our walking in obedience to his commands, in HIS power.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 1:18-20 ESV

And, God is trying to reason right now with his rebellious and adulterous church, and with those who profess his name but who live the opposite of what Jesus stands for. And, he is letting them know that a true marriage relationship is not based on feelings or on what we are willing to give to the marriage, but it is based on faithfulness, fidelity, honesty, purity and commitment to the marriage and to truly loving one another.

And, love is not an emotion or a feeling, but it is what we do, but not what we do superficially, or as a cover-up for sin and infidelity, or as a cheap and artificial substitute for truth, holiness, and righteousness. It is what we do in obedience to our Lord, in faithfulness to His Word, and in keeping with his requirements for us based on his boundaries he has set for us which are for our good, and for the good of our marriages, and for the good of our families and church families.

We, as the church, have to stop cheating on God with other lovers, and we need to be faithful in submission to him and to his Lordship over our lives. We have to stop faking loyalty and devotion to him while we are secretly (not secret to Him) engaged in all manner of evil and sinful practices. And, we have to stop living by our feelings, doing what we want our way, and we have to surrender to him and follow him in obedience and be faithful.

For, the Bible says that to love God is to obey him, and if we don’t walk in obedience to him, that we don’t love him, and we don’t know him, and we don’t have eternal life with him, either. For, if we choose adultery over the “real deal,” then we are just cheating ourselves, for the Bible says that if we walk according to our flesh, we are going to die in our sins and that it is only those who walk according to the Spirit (in fidelity and honesty) who have eternal life with God (Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24).

So, don’t let your feelings rule your heart and life or mess with your marriages or with your relationships with God. Be faithful and honest. Love with pure love that comes from the heart of God. Don’t just mouth the words “I love you!” but show your love to God and to spouse by what you do, but not by way of your thinking, but according to God’s Word. Let God and His Word rule your hearts and lives and not your feelings, and you will be blessed with eternal life with God and a joy that is beyond measure.

Anniversary Song

By Ann Aschauer

Well, some folks think that “love” means emotion,
So it comes and goes their whole life through.
Some folks never know that when the magic goes,
If you keep on lovin’, it’ll come back to you.
I was so afraid we’d lose the special feeling,
And someday we’d find our love wasn’t true,
But then God opened up my eyes and made me realize,
Love is not what you feel, it’s what you do.

c 1987 Ann Aschauer

 

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