As a pastor, I worry like a father. I worry that those whom God has entrusted to me will pierce themselves through with sin and sorrow by loving this world too much and by loving Christ Jesus too little. I worry that the good things of the world, the things which God has given us for our joy, will become a snare to us and folly.
There is great joy in the blessedness of the freedom of a Christian! No longer is the law our slave-master, by faith we have been set free. All is ours in Jesus Christ, be it life or death or things past or things to come, all is ours. Yet the stink of sin is still with us, polluting our minds and our wills and our hearts to pervert good intentions and to put God blessed things to evil use. What good gift has God ever withheld from those who love Him? What good gift has man not used to heap up iniquity and sin like a trash heap?
We say to our young men, "Marriage is good! He who obtains a wife has found favor in the Lord!" We know that the union of a man and woman in spirit and body is good and sweet, that the love found there extends beyond all earthly union, and that this God-wrought union shines like a bright beacon that extends all the way to heaven, pointing to the love of the Savior to His bride. And yet, we burn ourselves with this most precious gift. While hope that our children will cultivate love, but we know the dangers of lust. We all know that a fire can keep warm and destroy. How we worry that they will stray from the warm paths of love to the inferno of lust! They are free to love, only God forbid that they stray. Such beautiful freedom; how easy it is to fall and be enslaved!
And when they do unite in marriage, and love abounds, we rejoice when two become one flesh and God gives children to this most sacred union. Now behold the danger of this gift! We love them so; we see so much of the Master in them that our love for them masters us. Our own children become speaking idols to draw us away from our God. Our lives revolve around them, and we dote on them, and we believe that their well-being is totally dependant upon us. Eli let the temple be profaned for the sake of his wretched sons. Parents forsake the fellowship of the saints for the sake of whiney children.
Even in nature, we behold something of the nature and wonder of God. We are drawn to the sunset and sunrise and mountain views because something of our Master can be seen there. Could we come to love it too much? The fisherman who wastes Sunday after Sunday to be on the water looking for bass? The hunter who neglects family to be in the woods? Are they not drawn away by lawful things, good things, to do that which is unlawful? The beautiful things can be the most dangerous for the uncautious soul.
Where could we end with the abuse of God's good things? God has given us food that is savory and good, and with it we fatten ourselves to death. He has given us drink, yes even wine is a blessing, and we use it and become drunkards and gluttons. We use the gifts and we dishonor the giver. God give us temperance to enjoy the good and not love it more than we should. How wise was Augustine when he wrote, "So much less does he love you who loves anything else, even together with you, which he does not love for your sake" (Confessions Book 10,sec. 29).
Oh God, grant us good gifts, and keep us from the snare of loving them too much, or rather, from loving them for any reason other than for Your sake. Keep us on the paths of loving wisdom. Grant that we, in our blood-bought freedom, walk circumspectly in this world, not dabbling in the lust of the flesh, but seeing and loving Christ Jesus in all that is good and shunning forbidden loves that are evil. Help us to see you in all things, and to perceive your hand in them, that we may love you more and the world less. Amen.
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