*As you read this blog, please also read the scripture references in their entirety.
In Matthew 22:34-40, the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus into saying something wrong so they ask him to tell them which commandment in the Old Testament Law was the greatest. Jesus replied it is to “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind….And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vs. 37-39). As we think about Jesus words, let us ask ourselves this question: “Am I more focused on loving God and others or am I more focused on loving myself?”
To help us answer this question, let’s pretend there are three different chairs before us which could describe our relationship with Jesus. The first chair is the chair of Commitment. The characteristics of people who sit in this chair are:
Actions: Loves People, Uses Things / Knows God, Knows His Works
Attitude: God First, Me Second
Description: Spiritual, Hot, Whole Heart for God
Examples: Abraham, Hannah, Peter
The example Hannah gives us is found in 1 Samuel 1:1-28. Hannah was married to Elkanah but she couldn’t have children. This brought her great sadness and grief. She cried out to the Lord and asked him to give her a son. She told God that if he would do this, “then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…” (Vs. 11). Later on, God allowed her to conceive and give birth to a son, Samuel. Hannah then kept her word to God. After Samuel was weaned, she gave him to the priest Eli to raise so “for his whole life, he will be given over to the Lord” (Vs. 28). Imagine how hard it would be to give up your 3 or 4 year old son to be raised by someone else. Hannah did this because she was sitting in the seat of Commitment. She placed God’s will above her own.
People who sit in this chair aren’t perfect. They still have faults and struggle with sin. Nonetheless, they have a heart for God and strive to be obedient to him. A modern-day example we are all familiar with is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He wasn’t perfect and had some severe moral failures but he committed his life to the mission God gave him to complete.
The second chair before us is chair of Compromise. People who sit in this chair have the following characteristics:
Actions: Loves Things, Uses People / Knows God, Knows Not His Works
Attitude: Me First, God Second
Description: Carnal, Lukewarm, Half Heart for God
Examples: Isaac, Solomon, Sadduccees
1 Kings 3:1-10 tells us Solomon started off well in his walk with God. He loved God and “walked according to the statutes of his father David, except he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places” (Vs. 3). God was so pleased with Solomon that he appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (Vs. 5). Solomon simply asked for God to give him wisdom so he could govern the people and distinguish between right and wrong. God was pleased with this request. As Solomon grew older his heart for God changed. 1 Kings 11:1-6 tells us that by the end of his life, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. They were from foreign cultures and worshipped foreign gods. “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (Vs. 4).
Solomon’s decline is a good reminder that we too can move from the seat of Commitment into the seat of Compromise rather easily. Although we want to put God first and ourselves second, it can be difficult to do. For example, on January 17th I felt led to omit the closing hymn and replace it with an altar call. During the altar call, several people came forward for prayer because God was bringing healing into their lives. During the following week, I heard several comments from people that they missed the closing hymn. However, not one of the people who made these comments about missing the closing hymn said a word about what God did during the altar call. My point is this – “If we become more concerned about missing the closing hymn than we are about seeing people healed by God, we’ve moved into the seat of Compromise because, at that point, we’ve put the thing (closing hymn) before people.” The sad truth is that all of us do this more than we care to admit. That’s why we must always ask ourselves this question when we are tempted to question others about their ministry or even complain: “Is this something God wants or is this just my personal preference?” If we concentrate on our personal preference more than we concentrate on God, we’ll become like Solomon and drift away from our First Love.
The last chair we can sit in is the chair of Conflict. People who sit in this chair do the following:
Actions: Uses People, Uses Things / Knows Not God, Knows Not His Works
Attitude: Me First, Me Second
Description: Natural, Cold, No Heart for God
King Rehoboam gives us an example of someone who is in constant conflict with God. I Kings 14:21-24 says Judah “did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done” (Vs. 22). They followed other gods and “engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (Vs. 24). The reason the nation of Judah acted this way is because the king not only permitted it, he also engaged in these practices with his subjects. He simply didn’t want to follow God.
Current examples of people who sit in the chair of Conflict aren’t hard to find. Anyone who is rejecting God and living for themselves are sitting in this chair.
The Bible is clear that we simply don’t have the ability to be faithful to God on our own. Without Jesus and the Holy Spirit living in us, most of us would be sitting in the chair of Conflict. However, even as Christians, we can still choose to ignore the leading of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well as reject the teachings found in God’s Word. The more we choose to ignore them, the further we move from the chair of Commitment. The more we choose to follow them, the further we move from the chair of Conflict.
Which Chair Do You Sit In?