How to Align What You Desire with What You Believe

Living things grow. It’s true for every organic life form, but it’s also true of us spiritually. When we are born again in Christ, we are set on a trajectory of spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit is in us in order to empower this transformational process by which God grows us up into the likeness of His Son, and that growth fleshes itself in all different kinds of ways.

It means that we continually grow in the fruit of the Spirit as our character is developed. It means we continually pursue purity and godliness in our lifestyle. It means we share the gospel more and more freely with others. It means our priorities shift from safety and comfort to the priorities of the kingdom of God. It means we hold more and more loosely to the material things of the world as we pursue the imperishable things of heaven.

But here is one other way we grow up in Christ over the course of time. Perhaps this is one way we don’t often think about, and yet one that might in the end bring us tremendous joy:

Growing up in Christ means an ever-increasing alignment between what we desire, and what we know.

Let’s use a simple example to flesh this out – that of reading our Bibles every day.

We know this is a good thing for us. We know that this is the inspired Word of God. We know that if we want to grow spiritually then the best thing in the world for us is to every day crack open God’s Word and prayerfully read it, believe it, and obey it. We know these things. And yet at some point this very week – maybe tomorrow – you won’t feel like opening God’s Word. And neither will I.

We will feel like sleeping. Or we will feel like scrolling through Twitter. Or we will feel like watching TV. We know we should read our Bibles, but we don’t want to. In fact, we might even know it so deeply that we want to want to do it. And that’s the state in which we live much of the time:

We want to want.

And it’s not just about Bible reading. We want to want to pray. We want to want to be holy. We want to want to be generous. We want to want, but there is still this war inside of us by which our flesh battles with the Spirit. We are torn on a daily basis between what we know and what we desire.

But, friend, consider the hope of gospel if you feel this acutely today. Consider the wonderful promise that God, who began His good work in you will indeed carry it onto completion (Phil. 1:6). Consider that it will not always be this way. For there will come a day when we will no longer want to want, and instead, there will be a glorious unity between what we know and what we feel. This is the work the Holy Spirit is doing, slowly, patiently, over the course of time in us – He is bringing unity to our whole selves.

As we embrace His work now, often times through the practice of self-discipline, it is entirely appropriate for us to long for the day when that work will be done. For that will be the day when faith is sight, and at long last we will not only know the truth of the gospel, but we will feel it as well.

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Michael Kelley

I’m a Christ-follower, husband, dad, author and speaker. Thanks for stopping here to dialogue with me about what it means to live deeply in all the arenas of life. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife Jana who is living proof of the theory that males are far more likely to marry over their heads than females are. We have three great kids, Joshua (5) and Andi (3), and Christian (less than 1). They remind me on a daily basis how much I have to grow in being both a father and a child. I work full time for Lifeway Christian Resources, where I’m a Bible study editor. I also get out on the road some to speak in different churches, conferences and retreats.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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