When I Don’t Desire God

Part 4

Desiring God 2005 Regional Conference | Greenville, South Carolina


Now clarification number three is: Do not fight in order to be justified before God, but fight as a justified sinner. Or, as I like to say: Learn the secret of gutsy guilt. I hope all of you know the secret of gutsy guilt. I suppose that in this crowd, I don’t need to say too much about the doctrine of justification, but I want to anyway. I will say something. The fight for joy is not the foundation of your acceptance with God.

The foundation of your acceptance with God is Jesus Christ, his blood and righteousness, his living, his dying, his rising from the dead did everything to make you wholly acceptable to God and you have that purchase by faith alone, apart from works of the law and apart from a fight for joy. It is a falling on Jesus, not a fight. Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us.” So this we know. Everything the law demanded of me I have failed to perform as I should and, therefore, I am under the curse of the law, which is damnation. I am, therefore lost. All the people in the world are in this condition apart from Christ and Christ then it says became a curse for us.

“Christian Hedonism does not make a god out of happiness. Whatever makes you most happy is your god.”

Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not with him freely give us all things?” So you have not only the curse removed, you have a commitment, a covenant, blood bought commitment that everything good for you for eternity has been bought for you and will be given to you. The curse is gone. The guilt is gone. The sin is gone. And every blessing in the heavenly places is purchased. It is finished. And to enjoy that position with God as totally acceptable, all of his anger removed, replaced with total mercy, blessing me forever with everything that will make happy in eternity, the way you get in on that is faith alone. Galatians 3:28. We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Faith alone.

You Can Conquer Because Christ Defeated Sin

Therefore, the sins that you fight in your fight for joy, the joylessness that you fight is a forgiven joylessness. The only sin that you can defeat is a defeated sin. The only sin which is prompted by finding your pleasure somewhere other than in God that you can defeat, the only way to defeat it is to see it as a punished sin, a covered sin. This is the mystery of the Christian life — fighting as a justified sinner. My sins, all of them, were covered by Jesus. Therefore, when I make war on them, I know they are already defeated, covered, punished. And those are the only ones I can get any victory over. If I turn this around and begin to think: Now there are some sins and I am going to attack then and defeat them so that God will accept me, you are dead, dead in the water.

There is only hope if we get the order of justification and sanctification right and do not the mingle the two, which is the great Roman Catholic error, the mingling of sanctification and justification, getting right with God on the basis of Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone to the glory of God alone, learned about from the Bible alone is biblical truth. And then when you are standing right with God by faith alone, you make war on sin. That is the fruit and evidence that you are right with God. It is not the way you get right with God. It is the fruit and evidence. A person who is cavalier about their sin sees no problem with living in sin because they are saved by grace isn’t. At least we have no biblical warrant for saying they are. There may be a season of backsliding so we mustn’t judge too quickly, but a person who goes on treating the sin in their own life in a cavalier, nonchalant way using grace as license has not understood what it is to be born from above, because a new person comes into being.

Gusty Guilt

I want to give you a text from Micah 7. I would like you to go there if you have a Bible, because I want you to get gutsy guilt. Oh that all could learn gutsy guilt. I am thinking of those of you who have fragile personalities who are very sensitive to your own failures, are always feeling defeated, who wonder if you are a Christian half the days of your life. I would just love to build into you some gutsy guilt. So let’s go to Micah. Can you find that book? Use the index if you can’t find it. Micah, a little prophesy in the Old Testament. Listen and see if you could identify what I mean by gutsy guilt as I read this amazing New Testament glimpse of justification by faith alone. Micah 7:7–9:

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
   I will wait for the God of my salvation;
   my God will hear me.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
    when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
   the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
   because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
   and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
   I shall look upon his vindication.

Let me just guide you through that in the order that makes the most sense to me. Step one in verse 8. “When I fall, I shall rise.” So he has fallen. Because I have sinned against him. So that is the nature of the fall. He sinned. The prophet sinned. I don’t know what he did. I am glad I don’t know what he did, because I can fill in my own there. Step three up in verse 8 again. “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy.” Do you see what the enemy is doing?

Ha, ha, ha. Christian, you sinned. Christian sinned. You are not what you say you are.

Oh, how often the devil and others can come at us. Rejoice not over me, oh my enemy. Step forward, down in verse 9. “I will bear the indignation of the Lord,” meaning,

Ok, I have sinned. I am sitting here in my dust and ashes. I feel terrible. I feel rotten. And I am going to bear it.

Fathers get mad at sons. Did you know that? Fathers get mad at sons. This is not wrath. This is not punitive. This is not judgment of a final kind. This is a fatherly,

I am mad at you. You sinned against me. You made my name look stupid and I don’t like it.

That is step four.

“Believing in Jesus is a coming to Jesus so as to find your heart hunger and heart thirst satisfied.”

Step five. Watch him now. He has got guilt and it becomes really gutsy. He is clearly guilty. He is bearing indignation. It is dark. And now back up in verse 7 near the end. “My God will hear me.” The phrase just before that. “Therefore, I will wait for the God of my salvation.” See the gutsiness of this guilt is starting to show here. Yes, he is mad at me. Yes, I am sitting in the dark. Yes, I am under his indignation. Yes, I feel guilty and rotten. And I am going to wait here as long as it takes for my God to become the God of my salvation to show him to be the God of my salvation. Now at the end of verse 8. When I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light to me. Well, now are you in darkness or are you in light? I am in darkness. I feel awful. It is late at night. I just did a terrible thing this afternoon at work. I said something I shouldn’t have said or I did something or I have been exposed for something that I have been doing for a long time or my taxes or, oh, I just . . . I would like to die.

And in that guilt he says: God will be a light to me. That is gutsy. This is what a justified sinner must learn to do. We must get gutsy with the devil and gutsy with our own condemning souls. And we must say: “There is enough of a ray of light. Just a little sliver of light shining in here to me.”

Now in the middle of verse 9. I am going wait here until he pleads my cause. I have got an advocate. Yes, he is frowning. Yes, he is indignant and he is my advocate. Can you do that? Have you got the theological, spiritual framework in your brain to be feeling guilty and get gutsy to say that God is both angry with me and interceding for me? It is easier for us to do it on this side of the cross, because we see who is the interceder, right?

And then that amazing statement right after that in verse 9, “Until he pleads my cause and executes judgment.” And you think he might say, “Against me.” And he doesn’t say against me. He says, “For me.” Listen to this guy talking to the devil or talking to his own soul. Then saying, “Yes, I sinned. Yes, God is angry with me. Yes, I feel guilty. Yes, it is dark. There is a little sliver of light. God is going to become my salvation. God is going to intercede for me. God is going to exercise judgment on you, enemy. Do not rejoice over me.” Boy, if that isn’t gutsy guilt, I don’t know what is. I don’t know how people live who don’t learn the secret of gutsy guilt, because I sin every day. I sin every day.

I love the gospel. I love the grace of God. I love the cross of Jesus. And I love to fight for joy as a justified sinner and I hope you get it. I hope the Holy Spirit would just come now and grant you illumination so that you sense the sweet sufficiency of the blood and righteousness of Christ like granite under your feet as all the darkness beats against your life so that you can say, “Rejoice not over me, devil. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy. When I fall I will rise. Yes, I will sit here for a season. I don’t know how long it is going to take the Lord to break in on my heart and completely vindicate me and restore me. I hope it is sooner rather than later, but I am going to wait, because he is on my side and will execute justice for me.” That is clarification number three: We fight not in order to be justified, but we fight as justified sinners for joy.

See God for Who He Really Is

The last clarification before we take a break is the fight is mainly a fight to see. The fight for joy in God is mainly a fight to see. The reason for that is that it corresponds to God’s purpose in the universe that we began with, namely, to display his glory. If is God’s purpose in the universe is to display his glory for the enjoyment of those who embrace Christ as their highest treasure, then the human counterpart to a display is see. And so the main fight in the fight for joy is to fight to see God for who he really is.

There are two kinds of seeing, are there not? Jesus said, after he told the parable, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see.” So clearly there are two kinds of seeing. Seeing they see. They do not see. So here they are with eyeballs that are working just fine in their head. Ears in their head working just fine. The decibels are reaching. The light rays are shining and they are seeing and listening to Jesus. And they are blind and deaf.

So what is this second kind of seeing that they don’t see? Hearing they do not hear? And the answer is the glory of God is a spiritual reality. It is not a material reality. You do not see it with the eyes of the head. You see it with the eyes of the heart as Paul said in Ephesians 1:18. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened that you may know the hope to which you are called.” You have eyes in your heart. They are either blind or seeing. If they are seeing, they see spiritual reality.

Now this introduces us into very great, complex issues that I am not going to go into because they would take more than the time we have together. But I have big chapters in here on complex things. Well, wait a minute. You said that the physical eyes cannot see the glory of God, because the spiritual reality. What about Psalm 19:1? The heavens are telling the glory of God.

So sunrises or what did the disciples mean in the beginning of John? We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father. And my answer to both of those is the same. The sun points to the glory of God. The sunrise points to the glory of God. the sunrise when it comes up in this town is a parable of the glory of God, which you see with the spiritual eyes. And if you are a believer you see it immediately.

The sun rises and your heart bursts with praise to God. You don’t say, “Praise, sun.” Your eyes go right up the ray into heaven to the maker and you know that in the age to come it says there will be no sun there because the glory of God will be their sun and the Lamb will be the lamp. You won’t need physical light anymore because there will be another reality that makes these lamps and that sun look like a candle against the physical sun today, only ten million times more. So just know that there are complex issues in how our bodies, our ears, our eyes, all of our senses, relate to spiritual joy and I have got a whole chapter called how to wield the world in the fight for joy, how to wield food, how to wield exercise, how to wield sunrises, how to wield poetry, how to wield music.

Those are all physical and not spiritual realities. But they all are used by God to mediate spiritual realities. And making that distinction and learning to see spiritual reality in and through God’s good creation which can so easily become idols. Music can become an idol in worship. The book of Scripture can become an idol rather than the meaning of Scripture so that you put it on a nice shelf and dust it off, but its meaning means nothing to you. Anything can become an idol, but God. And so we must learn to see spiritually. And we are blind, as I said earlier, and God has to come and give us light.

Glory in Two Books

Let me close by asking this question. Where do we see the glory of God? Where do we see it? If the goal of life is to see and savor or enjoy or delight in God in all that he is, where do we see that? And the answer is in his two books, the book of nature — Psalm 19:1 — “The heavens are telling the glory of God” — and the Bible. And they are not equal. This book is inerrant, infallible, inspired, and authoritative over the other book, because the other book is too ambiguous to function that way for us.

“The Bible is inerrant, infallible, inspired, and authoritative over the other book.”

I asked my wife last night a trick question. I wasn’t sure what the answer was. I said, “Ok, if God has two books, the book of nature that he writes with providence and the book of the Bible, which he wrote by inspiration, and this one is inerrant, is that one inerrant? Does God write an errant nature book?” She didn’t answer. And I am not sure what the answer to that is. I think God has no false meanings in nature. Anything God means by a tsunami is true. But it is so ambiguous that you can’t read it without this book. You can’t read a tsunami without this book. You can’t read 9/11 without this book. You can’t read tornadoes in Wisconsin without this book. You can’t read AIDS in Africa without this book. You can’t read nature without this book. This is the authoritative interpretation of the other book. But oh how precious is the other book. God wouldn’t have wasted so much of this universe.

Sometimes people ask me, “I don’t see how you can believe in God. Look at this vast, empty universe and how teeny, weeny you are.” I say, “That is the point. That is the point. The universe is to say something about the comparison between me and God.” Get it? I am really, really, teeny and he has flicked out the universe with his little finger. So get on your face and tremble instead of carping at the dislocation in your brain.

There are two books and this one is the authoritative one. It is the one that leads us to see Christ.