Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

 

Chances are, if you did any time in Sunday School when you were a nipper you would have heard someone explain to you that true JOY can only be found when we priortise our in this order: Jesus, Others, Yourself. If you were lucky you might have got to make a bookmark to remind you of the lesson, but even if you’ve never heard it before it’s one of those perfectly simple bits of advice that’s simply perfect.

But we struggle to remember it.

Many of us choose to live in a world where our priorities are entirely the other way around. And if you wanted proof, consider the fact that while all sixty three million of us in the UK have access to clean drinking water three-quarters of those in Ethiopia don’t. Isn’t something wrong when one in three children in the UK live in poverty? And what about the 27 million victims of the human trafficking industry? Surely we can see that something’s wrong, can’t we?

A couple of millennia ago, Jesus said, “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). While we may nod in agreement, it’s a lot harder to put it into practice. But just because it is hard, it doesn’t excuse our doing nothing about this upside down life. And if we really are going to sing the songs that tell God of our devotion and desire to be living sacrifices, then we’d better make sure our lifestyle matches up.

If we don’t we might just end up like the worshippers that God reprimanded through the prophet Isaiah. There they were, doing what they were convinced was all the right stuff—praying, fasting and worshipping—but God didn’t seem to be listening. “'Why have we fasted,' they complained, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?'” (Isaiah 58:3)

Finally they got their answer.

Firstly, God questioned their integrity, declaring that their words just didn’t match their lifestyle:

“‘… On the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high’” (Isaiah 58:3-4).

We need check ourselves out too. Does the way we shop, the way we dress and the way we bank contribute to or combat the injustice we sing about? Which screams loudest to God, our words or our actions?

Actions really do speak louder, more than any heartfelt song. He made it clear precisely what He was after when he addressed the Israelites:

“‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Without the action, the practical acts of kindness and mercy, we settle back beneath the grey skies of our limited horizons. Our words stay there with us.

Finally, the words given to Isaiah reveal the closeness of the relationship between our worship of God and our lifestyle. What God wants from us is a lifelong commitment to worship Him and, in doing so, to love others. He wants more than the promising words; He wants to actually see it all put into action, too. God wants us to step out of the bubble, to break free from the mud of selfish values and start to live for something other than our own satisfaction. He wants us to live beyond our own wish lists and get our priorities round the right way.

He tells us, “‘…Spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday… you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings’” (Isaiah 58:10-12).

When we live with JOY in reverse then life becomes primarily about the satisfaction of our own wants, needs, aims and ambitions. But when we learn to put Him, and then others ahead of ourselves then we become fair, right, impartial, honest, honorable, righteous, moral and truthful worshippers.

Is there really any other way you’d rather live?

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