I say this jokingly, but I’m serious at the same time: there are days when I don’t care about redemption; all I want is a good steak!
I’m not making steak for Thanksgiving, but as I prepare the meal that my family will eat next week, I have been confronted again with a significant spiritual tension between the “already” of our conversion and the “not yet” of our home going.
We should enjoy and give thanks for material things without allowing them to rule our hearts.
Let’s consider God’s purpose for material things.
1. Material Things Are For Sustenance
You and I literally could not survive without the material world that surrounds us. The proper relationship is not to hate it or to separate yourself from it. No, you should celebrate how God, in his infinite wisdom and abounding love, built a physical world that sustains you.
2. Material Things Are For Pleasure
If all God wanted was to sustain us, he would provide our Thanksgiving meal in a tasteless gray pill. But that’s not his design. He unleashed his creativity and glory on our diet so that we can consume an almost endless variety of smells, tastes, colors, and textures.
Biblical faith must not be antipleasure. You should never feel guilty for pursuing, participating in, and enjoying the pleasures of the material world God created.
3. Material Things Are For Remembrance
All the variegated glory of the material world has a divine purpose. Everyone who has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive encounters God every day in and through what he made (see Psalm 19 and Romans 1).
The Creator knows how quickly we forget, so in tender love and grace, he purposefully designed the material world to point to him. We are designed to see, and in seeing, we are prompted to remember, and in remembering, we are called to worship.
Simple theology, right? I don’t know about you, but I am regularly guilty of three things:
- I take for granted the material world that God generously provides.
- I tend to allow created pleasure to become the principal motivation of my heart.
- I enjoy this pleasure but struggle to remember God, let alone worship him.
Grace Is Available
God not only provides the common grace of sustenance and pleasure; he provides redeeming grace for our spiritual struggles with idolatry, remembrance, and worship.
The grace of God rescues, transforms, and delivers our hearts. Our Redeemer frees us from our bondage to our self-centered desires, even when we don’t want it.
This grace—our only hope—is not something you earn by your prayers of guilt or by your material asceticism. It is only ever God’s free and eternal gift to us.
This grace will fight for us until it finally wins the war, so that material things will never again lay claim to our hearts.
Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
1. Write a list of all the material things that you need every day for sustenance.
2. What from that list do you take for granted the most? Which do you act most entitled to?
3. What can you do to not take this for granted? What do you need to preach to yourself so that you aren’t so entitled?
4. Write a list of all the material things that please you daily. What brings you the most pleasure and why?
5. Identify something from Question #4. How can you use this earthly pleasure to remember God and stimulate worship?
6. The next time you are with a friend or family member, find an object from the material world to start a discussion about sustenance, pleasure, remembrance, and worship.