Desire has certainly got a bad rap in the Church. Desire has lead people to do some idiotic things in the name of Jesus, but desire in and of itself is not the problem—the strength of desire is not really even the problem. There is one line from the devotional that stands out to me: “The problem with perverted desire is not its strength, but its object.” Let me clarify that “perverted desire” is not perverted in the since of sexual perversion. “Perverted” means twisted or knocked off course. The issue with twisted desires is not that they are strong, but that they are misdirected. In Desiring God (and the shorter version entitled The Dangerous Duty of Delight“) John Piper quotes from C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory, where Lewis says that fool around with sex and drink, but our desires are not too strong, they are too weak—because their object are in temporal pleasures. These temporary desires do not compare to the desire for God, which is much stronger. The issue is not strength but object. A passionate person is not lead astray by the strength of his or her passion, but by the object.
Romans 12:11 exhorts us to “keep (our) spiritual fervor….” The phrase “spiritual fervor” means Holy Spirit desire. Gordon Fee makes it clear in Listening to the Spirit, that there is no Christian spirituality in Paul’s writing that does not include the Holy Spirit. That is Christian spirituality in the New Testament is inherently rooted in the Holy Spirit. Any reference to “spiritual” in Paul’s writing is a reference to the Holy Spirit. So “spiritual fervor” equals “Holy Spirit desire.” There are certain traditions that do not emphasize desire. Some Christian traditions have a vibe that says desire is bad and rational control is good. The extinguishing of desire is not Christian at all; it is Buddhism. The Buddhist tradition teaches a concept of salvation called nirvana. This is not the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” kind of nirvana, but the complete repression of desire. The Holy Spirit does not want to get rid of your desire. He wants to redirect your desire in a righteous direction. The list in the devotional is a bit confusing. Here is the list rewritten, describing the work of the Spirit in redirecting our desires:
The Holy Spirit wants to redirect our desire:
FROM self service TO a desire to serve others
FROM obsession with material things and experience TO worship
FROM self-centered love TO a desire for relationship with HIM
FROM a lust for power TO a desperate dependence upon God, our strength
FROM a need for recognition TO a holy passion for His fame
FROM a need for acceptance TO a desire for biblical community
FROM anger and frustration TO developing a heart of a warrior, ready to battle the enemies of the soul
FROM selfish pleasure TO a holy hunger for the kingdom of God and the joy unspeakable that is found there.
My prayer today: Father, I want to be a man of passion, a man of desire like Jesus. I don’t want to be weak and passive. Lord, let your Spirit direct my feelings in a godly / righteous direction, because in the end I want you to be pleased. In Jesus name, AMEN!