The math is simple. Whatever area in your life that hasn’t been fully surrendered to God and where you haven’t learned how to derive pleasure from communion with Him alone (make Him your very great reward) is simply an area where you are vulnerable to seduction by other things. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new believer of if you’ve been saved for years or if you’re the pastor of a church. Cisterns that don’t hold water (Jer. 2:13) is simply a principle of the kingdom that cannot be violated. Any time we derive satisfaction from other things outside of an understanding that only the presence of Jesus can bring us fulfillment we are making an idol of it. Whether it is something that is blatantly sinful or it is something that is legitimate yet not God’s highest for us, it does not matter. We were simply made for intimacy with Jesus and nothing else will do. To understand this and live by it is the way to become seduction proof. If I have an area in my life where I am continually being seduced by the enemy, (i.e. continually convinced to choose sin) then it is simply an area I have yet to surrender to God. In the circle of church leadership that I am in, I find that most seduction comes in the form of seduction for power, influence and success in ministry.
In ministry we justify ourselves by success or our desire to do the works of the kingdom. Yet, the works of the kingdom can be just as much an idol as carnality. This is simply because I was not made to be spiritually fed by the works of the kingdom. I was made to be fed by the presence of Jesus. In ministry we are taught to be driven to succeed. We talk about our ministries in the context of growth in numbers of people and financial income. If we do, we’re simply as deceived and idolatrous as the pornographer or drug addict. Our drug is simply success and power.
The only way to become seduction proof is to pursue the reality of Genesis 15:1, “I am your very great reward…” Can I say that this statement is true of me? Is Jesus my very great reward? Give it the test. Do I get excited when the numbers go up? Do I get discouraged when they go down? Do I feel a sense of accomplishment when the seminars I’ve planned get a good response? Do I get discouraged when they don’t? Do I feel a sense of gratification in leading people to Jesus? Do I get discouraged when they reject the message of Christ? After all, that is the greatest thing to do isn’t it? The truth is, leading people to Jesus cannot be my spiritual food. Only the presence of Jesus can. It is important to note that in the right context, when my understanding is aligned with God’s and I live in a way that demonstrates His presence is my priority, ministry success can be gratifying and exciting. We are meant to enjoy doing the work of the kingdom and to reap the fruits thereof. But if ministry is my substitute for intimacy, as is so common the case in today’s church, I will inevitably get burned out and unhappy.
God’s laws are unavoidable and inviolable. When you see a well known evangelist fall or someone leave the ministry out of discouragement or even someone who was zealous for God and doing the works of the kingdom enthusiastically and years later they are cynical and angry, you tend to wonder what happened? You tend wonder, “Will that happen to me? Don’t wonder. It is always the same thing. Their reward was something other than the presence of Jesus. And if yours is also, it will definitely happen to you. They were doing all the right things but they had the wrong priority. Jesus was not their very great reward, something else was. They walked with Jesus and lived with Jesus and preached Jesus but there was something else that they sought to fulfill the deepest longings of their heart other than communion with Jesus. And it inevitably left them empty inside. Perhaps it was success in ministry or acceptance by their peers or that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you help someone in need and see their appreciation. These things are good and in the right context they can be rewarding but they are not meant to be our spiritual food. When the bible says, “Man does nor live on bread alone but on very word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father….” It is to be taken in the spiritual sense but it is also to be taken literal. God’s word is the only thing that will feed my spirit man, otherwise my spirit man will starve and I will unavoidably seek fulfillment in other things. This is in the context of the written word (the bible) but also the revelatory word that comes from meditation and the place of prayer and worship. The apostles understood this when they said in Acts 6:4 “But we will continue to devote ourselves steadfastly to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (AMP) We simply must make the place of prayer and study of the word the centerpiece and the highest priority of our lives otherwise we will inevitably grow cold and become vulnerable to deception and seduction from other things. And it is important that we seek to live out this devotion in the context of the greatest commandment which is to pursue wholeheartedness for God, to surrender every single desire to Him. If we do not pursue this with all of our hearts, we will be vulnerable to seduction and will inevitably grab onto other things for fulfillment.
It’s not like this is something that may happen. It is inevitable. Galatians 6:7 says, “DO not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside). [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.] For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap.” We only reap from what we sow into. If we sow into the flesh (or fleshly interests), we reap corruption. If we sow into the spirit, we reap spiritual benefits. Sowing into the flesh doesn’t only speak of lust or blatant carnality. It speaks of doing anything from a motive other than bringing glory to God. If, deep down inside, my labor for the kingdom is performed so I can feel good about myself and justified before God, I am in violation of His principles and therefore sowing into the flesh. My labor must always be done as a sacrifice of praise. A sacrifice gets burned up, it is not a trophy to be put on a wall. It is not an accolade to touted before men or to be placed before God as a bargaining chip for His blessings (See Song of Solomon 5:5). It is simply to be offered up and forgotten. Examine your heart. If you cannot allow your charitable acts to be burned up, this indicates an ungodly value associated with them. We somehow have justified a Christianity where we advertise our good works and make memorials to them when Jesus clearly said not do your good works where they can be seeing and don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. We must repent.
The most important thing for us to understand is that we were created by God to only find lasting fulfillment in the place of communion with Him. This should not be an ambiguous idea. A life of communion is simply a life where relationship with Jesus is the priority and demonstrated as the priority in a way that meets the expectations of any healthy relationship. Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants but friends…” We can simply use our understanding of friendship as a guideline for how to pursue intimacy with Jesus. Friends call each other and share the details of our lives. Friends enjoy just being together. Does this criteria apply to your present walk with Jesus? If not simply repent and change your priorities. We can begin the journey into true intimacy at any moment. He is waiting patiently for us to seek His face.
Every trial I go through and every calamity God allows in my life is simply to get me to keep asking myself the question, “Is Jesus my very great reward?” Or are there other things that I am finding fulfillment in. Oswald Chambers said, “Jesus came to send a sword through any peace that does not come from relationship with Him.” This is true. And when we not only accept that truth and then partner with Jesus for the enlightening of our own hearts. In other words when we, instead of resisting this process choose to submit to it and do our part in it’s completion, we will see a favor and a grace released into our lives even now in our weakness and immaturity. You can resist this process for 30 years of successful ministry but the Lord will not let you go past it. He will faithfully continue to place circumstances in your life to cause you to become whole hearted for Him. When God told the people of Israel He was a jealous God, this is what he meant. He wanted His people to be wholehearted for Him and would accept nothing less. Wholeheartedness is not a place of maturity that you will attain at some later point in your life. Wholeheartedness is the decision right now to surrender every area of your life to God and to submit to the process He is putting you through to reveal the areas of your heart that need to be surrendered. Wholeheartedness is when we commit ourselves to loving God so that we may one day, in all honesty say, “You are my shield, my very great reward.”