Reframe Your Goals

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The Grace Dwellers
In marriage, you can be a rule keeper: “It's a contract. You do this and I do this, and don't mess up.” You can be a pleasure seeker and just use your spouse for your pleasure and fulfillment. Or you can be a grace dweller, and say, “God put this person in my life so I could be the physical manifestation of God's grace to them. And so that by being married to them, I would learn even more to depend on God's grace.” In your pain, you can be a rule keeper: “God, aren't you powerful enough for this?” You can be a pleasure seeker: “God, I'm just going to numb it any way it takes.” Or you can be a grace dweller where you beg God to remove the thorn in your flesh and you hear him say, “My grace is sufficient.” And you press on.  In your doubt, you can be a rule keeper: “God, give me the answer.” Or you can be a pleasure seeker: “God, I'll go somewhere where I can get an answer.” Or you can be a grace dweller, and say, “God, I don't get it. And this is one more reason I have to depend on you.”  In your loneliness, you can be a rule keeper: “God, you promised in this verse.” You can be a pleasure seeker: “God, if you don't provide, I'll take it into my own hands.” Or you can be a grace dweller and pray, “Oh God, how I need you.”  The way the rule keeper will exhaust you. The way of the pleasure seeker will disappoint you. But the way of the grace dweller will sustain you. This why in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Read how Eugene Peterson paraphrases the end of this passage; he says, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me. You'll learn to live freely and lightly.” Don't you want to live freely and lightly? You have to walk in the way of grace! Reflection/Discussion Questions: Do you tend to be a rule follower, pleasure seeker, or grace dweller? How can you take steps to be more of a grace dweller in life?
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What is Your Appetite For?
Philippians 3:18-19 reads, “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their appetite, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” It's interesting in this verse that Paul starts with general things, but then he says something very specific about their god being their appetite. Isn't that interesting? Out of all the things Paul could say about people headed for destruction, this is the one specific thing he calls out. You may have read a translation that says that their god is their belly or their god is their stomach. Some people shop too much so their god is their next purchase. Some people may exercise too much so their god is their mirror. Some people drink too much so their god is their alcohol. Some people do all kinds of things too much, but reason that Paul uses this phrase right here is simply to point out this is the baseline for all of us. This is something we all have in common. If you're focused on the here and now, maybe what Paul is saying is the first indicator that you're a pleasure seeker is your god is your appetite. The problem with being a pleasure seeker with food is the same with all pleasure; it's fun for a while, but it never truly satisfies you. Maybe, when you think about it, this is even why the scriptures talk so much about fasting, because as Christians, we have a duty to learn to deny the flesh and the most primal way to do that is to pick times where we just go without food completely and call on God. Jesus said in John 4:34 that “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” This should be what satisfies us and brings us contentment.  Reflection/Discussion Questions: When was the last time you fasted? Consider asking a close friend to fast with you sometime this week as a way to focus on your dependence on God, instead of food.
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The Pleasure Seekers
The second way of life that Paul describes in his letter to the Philippians is that of the pleasure seekers. In stark contrast with the ruler keepers who pride themselves on following all the rules and being constantly “good enough”, Paul says that pleasure seekers brag about the shameful things that they have done or continue to do. This is something most of us struggle with, even though it is sometimes difficult to recognize in ourselves. Think about it though: How much money have you stored up for yourself? How many hours have you been lazy playing video games or scrolling through social media? We can boast and pridefully discuss the worldly “accomplishments” we have achieved when these things are not good or pleasing to God. The pleasure seeker lives for the here and now. Everything needs to feel good for them. This precise moment is all there is and all that matters, so considerations don’t need to be made for the future impact that these decisions make. The way of the pleasure seeker ends in shame though. This way of living leaves you feeling empty because you are filling yourself and your time with things of this world that will never satisfy you in the way that you are searching for.  We read in Philippians 3:10-11 that Paul states, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul says that he wants to suffer with Jesus; hence, being a pleasure seeker doesn't fulfill him. Paul wants his readers to know that the worldly things that promise pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction in that moment will never be able to do what a relationship with Jesus can.  Reflection/Discussion Question: What is an area of your life where you seek out the immediate pleasures of this world over the things of Jesus?