If your heart isn’t ruled by God’s honor and your life by God’s plan, you may seem religious, but what you’re living isn’t biblical faith.
I want to use marriage as a case study for the principle stated above. None of us has lived in a marriage that is completely free of conflict and tension. None of us has been able to escape moments of irritation and impatience. We all have had nasty arguments or extended moments of silence. We all have been disappointed in our marriages in some way. (If you’re single, apply everything I’ve said to the relationships in your life.) Now, you just have to ask, “What is all that tension and conflict about?” If you were to read the average Christian marriage book, you would be led to conclude that all of the fights and quarrels are about the inescapable horizontal issues within every marriage. So the conclusion is that if you are smart enough to discuss gender differences, personality differences, role expectations, finances, sex, parenting, diet, and so on, you will be able to avoid most of those conflicts.
On the surface, it sounds right, but it isn’t what the Bible says. Consider the following provocative passage:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1–10)
Notice how James explains why we have so many fights and quarrels. He doesn’t say, “They come from those difficult people you live with” or “They are the result of the practical issues that you’re forced to deal with.” No, he says they come from the “passions” that wage war in our hearts. In this context, passion means a powerful, ruling desire. I fight with you because I have a heart problem. Rather than my heart being ruled by God and motivated by God’s honor, my heart is ruled by my wants, my needs, and my feelings. If it is, I am always in some kind of conflict with you. Furthermore, James tells us that human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery. When we put ourselves where God alone belongs, conflict always results. It is all just another argument for the essentiality of God’s grace in Jesus.
For further study and encouragement: Isaiah 29 (especially v. 13)
Taken from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp, © 2014, pp. 132-162. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.