People feel as if they have no choice in what the heart desires. Common thinking is that “If I want it, that’s all that matters.”
Christianity and civilization demands that we practice some degree of self-control. It does no good to tell people that they should desire God. They already know that, and they don’t have the desire. Telling them to hunger for God does not create a desire.
People’s desire for God is clouded by their desire for a good job, a nice home or some other temporal thing. They think that God’s job is to serve their needs not that they should serve him. They think that God is rich, so why shouldn’t he fulfill our desires? Can people change their desires and start hungering for God even when they’re not hungry?
Can people change the desires of their heart? The answer is yes. The Bible says that we can. It is not easy, but it is possible. God has given us the power to shape our lives, instead of being carried along on the current. We all fall short of what we know is right. So, God offers help. It’s called a change of heart. No, the Bible is not talking about a physical organ, but a spiritual element within us, the seat of our thoughts and desires, the reality of who we are.
God does not take over our hearts and change our desires overnight without any involvement from us. No, God works on the heart that we already have, changing it, making the old one new. This takes time, and it takes our involvement. This process of change comes when we say “no” to the wrong desires of the heart – “no” to adultery, for example – and “yes” to the right desires.
What if this hunger for God sounds really boring, what if you’d really rather have a good job, a nice house, and a spouse? There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But there is far more to life than this, and there is something wrong if we are satisfied with a life that has no more than this. Christ is offering us something much more.
In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul wrote to the people in the city of Colosse who were looking for salvation in all the wrong places. Some of them said physical things were bad, so we ought to live without them as much as possible. Some were apparently into rituals, and some were saying that if we observed the holy days of the Jewish calendar then we would be closer to God.
Paul responds that no, those festivals were only shadows of Christ. They were a promise of good things to come, but now that the good things are here in Christ, we should not get fixated on the promises.
Paul is saying, Do you want to get close to God? That is exactly what Christ is offering us. In him all the fullness of God dwells.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1)
Paul says that we can choose to set our hearts on good things, and we do not have to be slaves of our own desires. We can choose to desire the things of God, rather than the things of this world. That does not mean that the things of this world are wrong, but simply that they are not the greatest good in the universe.
If our attitude is only what we can get, then we will never get enough, or have enough; we will always want more. The only way our desire can be fully satisfied, is if our goal is something infinite – and that is God himself. We need to seek the source, not just some of the byproducts. If we want righteousness, we need to seek the author of righteousness. If we want love, we need to seek the never-ending supply of love, and that is God. If we want a good job and a nice house, we need to seek the author of joy, the creator of homes and families.
Paul continues in verse 3, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” When our hearts are set on God, what does our life look like? Verse 5 tells us: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Paul emphasizes that when we desire and hunger for God, it translates into righteousness, love for others and self-control.
Kathy Houston of White Hall is pastor of Christian Fellowship Center of Grace Communion International.
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