- (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
Like everyone in the world, you are on a journey through life. Round and round it goes, where it stops only the Lord knows. Well, the Lord knows and you probably have a pretty good idea yourself.
Your dominant desire is charting a course for you. That is, if you are following the lead of that yearning. People tend to follow their dominant desire most of the time.
The only way not to follow that powerful craving is to gain a different dominant desire. And then the new longing becomes the revised course for your life. Every dominant desire leads somewhere.
Take yesterday for example. What thirst would you say provided the strongest motivation for you yesterday? And is that the road you really want to be on today? If it was yesterday's dominant desire, and today's dominant desire, what do you suppose will likely be your dominant desire tomorrow?
This isn't rocket science. It is human nature. Just look at where people end up in life as they pursue their greatest passion. It's all around us. People living out the logical progression of their dominant desire. Sometimes it ends well, and other times not so much. It all depends on the particular aspiration.
We kid ourselves if we think our dominant desire isn't leading us somewhere. It always does. By acting on the desire with our thoughts and our behavior, we reinforce its influence in our heart and life. The more we act on it, the stronger the desire grows. In fact, try to find even one example where that isn't the case. Try to find one example where acting on your dominant desire does not increase the intensity. I can't think of one. Can you?
Jesus clearly understood this dynamic when he called people to follow Him. He knew that in order for it "to stick," a person needs to act on his initial desire. Without that action, the interest quickly fades away. And we actually see that happen quite often to people who initially felt a rather strong attraction to "go with Jesus" and be His disciple.
Every addiction also fits this same pattern. The appetite never decreases by giving into it. "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." (James 1:14) For that moment, and many moments to follow, the dominant desire is in control of your life. We see this all the time with addictions, but we also see it with anything sinful. It doesn't take too many compromises for the evil desire to become the dominating influence. That is simply the nature of the beast.
Every desire is on a path. It leads somewhere. But you probably knew that, didn't you? There are times in life when we don't like to admit where our dominant desire is leading us. Some words for that reality are "deception" and "denial." And it can happen so easily to any of us. It happened to men and women in the Bible, and it happens to people all the time in our day. Some of them see it while they are in the middle of it, but many don't see it. Or they choose not to see it.
We like to rationalize our behavior to "make it sound better." But that doesn't help anyone. We would be far better off taking an honest look at where the dominant desire is leading us. The deception is often found in the fact that we convince ourselves to feed that ungodly desire "just one more time."
And then there are holy desires. God is the author of righteous longings. He is filled with nothing but holiness, and He chooses to place those desires within His children. In fact, when we trust Christ to save us, we instantly receive an infusion of holy desires. This is due to the fact that our body instantly becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. Where He goes, holy desires go. Where He departs, holy desires depart.
Here is a clue for us as we seek to discern the nature of a desire. Christians are not "driven" to pursue holy desires "just one more time." That sort of twisted logic only seems to take place when sin is involved in our thinking and rationalizing. Instead, the Holy Spirit gently and continually leads us to pure water that refreshes our soul. It is a very different experience than when we are being driven by the flesh.
Can you think back to how that difference has played out in your own life? The difference between being "driven by the flesh" and "led by the Spirit" is the difference between night and day; restlessness and peace; sin and holiness; rebellion and submission; addiction and freedom.
The Word of God teaches us this fundamental aspect of Christian discipleship. "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." (Romans 8:5-9)
Christians are instructed to "be filled with the Holy Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18) The tense of the verb literally means "keep on being filled." In other words, the need for a believer to be filled with the Spirit is not a one-time event. It is intended to be the daily experience of a Christian. God wants to fill our heart everyday with His love and with holy desires. Spiritual conversion happens in an instant, but the Spirit-filled life is an ongoing calling for every disciple of Jesus Christ.
D.L. Moody said that before we can be filled, we must first be emptied. Wise advice. And only the Lord can take out the old and bring in the new. But He won't take out the old until we admit to Him that it is wrong, and then ask Him to replace it with His desires for us. That is an act of our will, and God won't make that decision for us. He just won't.
When Christ is living in us through faith, our dominant desire will most often be to live for Him. "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) We didn't create that desire within ourselves. It just showed up. And it showed up the moment He showed up. When He came into our heart through faith, the living water came in and began to fill us with new desires. These new desires are holy and righteous. These desires correspond to God's will for our life. That is just the way the Christian life is experienced by those who come to know Jesus.
We may be tempted to think that once I become a Christian, I am then responsible to create these new desires to live for the Lord. That simply isn't how it works. If anything, our job is just to stay out of the way. We do that by saying "no" to those desires that are not holy. That really is one of the main "jobs" of a Christian.
The apostle Paul put it this way: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:11,12) Could God's Word be any more straightforward on this issue?
If you are a parent, you know how many times little children must be told, "No." Children need to learn the meaning of that word. But you know what? Our sinful nature also must regularly be told "no" as well. That is the part of us that still wants to act like a little child, and always get its way. When was the last time you said "no" to yourself? That is, to your sinful desires. A professing Christian who doesn't learn to say "no" to himself is a professing Christian who hasn't even gotten out of the starting gate.
In other words, Christianity involves saying "yes" to Jesus and "no" to sinful desires. And then just do that for the rest of your life. Pretty easy, right? Well, the "yes" part is easy because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Learning to say "no," and then repeating it as often as necessary is the challenging part for every believer. That's because the desires of our sinful nature still regularly show up and seek to dominate us. But there is no good reason to ever again allow those desires to gain the upper hand. Not one.
And remember. Jesus never said it would be easy to live the Christian life. There is no "bait and switch" here. The easy part was accepting Christ, and the easy part will be entering paradise one day. Until then, buckle up and learn when to say "no" as one who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. That is, if you are already trusting Jesus to wash away your sins. Repentance and faith brings a person into this new life, and without it, a person will be continually dominated by his or her sinful nature.
So where is your dominant desire leading you? And is that destination really where you want to end up? Make no mistake about it my friend. Everyday you will continue to be led by the Spirit, or driven by the flesh. And some days, both of those occur in the life of a believer.
Is it any wonder then that the apostle Paul would write, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24) Oh to be in that land where no desire goes unfulfilled, and where every desire is holy. If you think you know what paradise will be like, you don't. And neither do I. It will be so much better than we can imagine. And there will be no conflicts in heaven between sinful desires and holy desires.
You know, like the peace Adam and Eve experienced before they chose to listen to the serpent and allow a sinful desire to enter their heart. It all went downhill from there. But thanks to God and His unconditional love, His grace reached them and us even after we too descended deep into the valley of sinful desires.
Aren't you glad God's dominant desire was to save us rather than condemn us? (see John 3:16,17) We will have eternity as believers to thank the Lord for His love and goodness to us. Does that sound like a path you would like to be on? If so, then just talk to Jesus about it. He is still in the business of forgiving sins, and He still changes hearts, lives, and desires forever.
Now that is definitely the best news I know.