Presence Deprivation

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus as quoted by Matthew 7:13-14

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, “The narrow gate is obedience–and the confidence in Jesus necessary to it…The broad gate, by contrast, is simply doing whatever I want to do.”

I have written before in this blog about obedience. There is no way around its life controlling grip. Thus stated, far too many people turn to obedience as a savior rather than a response.

Willard has the right idea here when he states, “the confidence in Jesus necessary to it.” Willard is talking about a relationship. A relationship, which when realized, delights and sustains. As a parent, I want what is best for my sons. Nothing is more frustrating to me than when my motives around this are questioned. Conflict occurs when what I think is best for my sons, and their idea of what they want do not mesh. I delight in my sons. Jesus delights in me. Jesus wants what is best for me. The entire “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew chapters 5,6 & 7 is His ‘journey’ for life with Him.

This is why in the 7th chapter, Jesus summarizes, telling us that it all comes down to obedience. Our obedience, to do what Jesus tells us to do, comes from our relationship with Him. Our obedience is our response, not out of drudgery, not out of manipulation with eternal goals, but obedience to someone whom we trust, because we know He has our best interests in mind.

So many relationships suffer from what I call “presence deprivation.” We do not put the time or the energy into our relationships, and thus they suffer. We are not present for each other, and thus deprived of the wonder of living life with another human being, we wander from one broken relationship to another. We find obedience hard, because we have not put in the time it takes to build a relationship with our Savior. We have chosen the wide path. We do what we want most of the time with a little bit of “religious action” thrown in for good measure.

So many spiritual relationships also suffer from “presence deprivation.” We assume some worship time here, some Bible reading there, and occasional prayer here, there and everywhere, will do the trick. Our relationship with Jesus, is perfunctory. We go through the motions because we think we should. The Kingdom reality is that Jesus delights in us, we are infinitely valuable to Him. When we delight in Jesus, obedience is our response. It is the narrow gate.

A wonderful human being that I have the privilege of guiding in the area of discipleship told me this week…”Lately I have been anxious with excitement to get to church on Sunday, joyful to open my Bible at work and dive in…expressing God’s love in day to day conversations. His words are what I have been feeling.”

Putting in the time, building the relationship, the delight comes, the relationship grows, the obedience follows.

David Platt, Follow Me, writes, ““The central question, then, is clear: Are you delighting in God? Are you emotionally overwhelmed, even at this moment, by the thought that you are his child? Have you truly tasted his transcendent pleasure in a way that provokes you to read his Word, pray, worship, fast, give, and share the gospel, all in addition to hosts of other actions that are now compelled by affection for God? This is the heart of following Jesus: enjoying God as Father through Christ the Son. And when this is a reality in your life, then your reason for living is utterly revolutionized.”

None of us do this perfectly. I don’t do this perfectly. There are times when our/my faith feels perfunctory. Don’t be discouraged or beat down. Instead, allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to inspire time together with our Jesus. Let’s allow our ‘confidence’ in Jesus to inspire our actions to live out what He said is best for us. Let’s keep on the journey, in the reality that we live and move and have our being in the unshakable kingdom of God. We have all that we need in Jesus. Let us be embraced by and embrace Jesus, the act of which is the narrow path.

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