Most lovely God, come to us and fill us with You. Let our eyes be always on You, patiently, humbly, gently seeking nothing but Your will for us. Let us be content with what we have received from You physically, but hungry for a more and more vivid taste of You spiritually. Bless us in Your name and fill us with love for You. In Jesus’ most sufficient name, Amen.
There were two men who lived in different cities. On a certain day, both were studying the Bible.
The first man felt a strong urge to preach the Gospel as he was reading. It occurred to him that, you know, there weren’t really any strong churches in his city. It was a pretty small town, and the only church near it that seemed powerful was far away, about a forty-five minute drive. He wondered about all the people in his town, whether or not they had good access to the Gospel. He felt an urge to preach to them and make known the Way.
He prayed into the urging, and he asked God, “Lord, if this is Your will for me, please send me a sign.” He continued in this way for several days, but nothing happened. No one asked him to start a church, no one spoke to him of the need for a church in the town, his wife didn’t mention to him that she had been thinking about starting a church. He didn’t see any of the signs that he was looking for. So, slowly, the desire faded. He continued in his normal life, his normal routine, and eventually he forgot the desire had ever existed.
The other man was reading the Bible in the middle of a large city, and as he read, he felt a strong urge to start an orphanage. He wondered if there were already established orphanages around that he could join instead of starting his own, and he found that there were, but when he met with representatives of those organizations to talk through the details of him working for them, they told him they were full to the brim with orphans and what the city really needed was more establishments to help with the excess kids.
The man went back home and began to pray into the urging. He prayed, “Lord, if this is Your will for me, please send me a sign.” He continued in this way for several days, but nothing happened. No one asked him to start an orphanage, no one spoke to him of the need for an orphanage in the city, his wife didn’t mention to him that she had been thinking about starting an orphanage. He didn’t see any of the signs he was looking for.
But the man remembered how powerful the urge was, and what joy he felt at the thought of giving his life to help kids--and, worse, he saw in his heart that the desire was fading as he prayed and did nothing. So the next day he got up in the morning, prayed with his wife as they did together every day, and he spoke to her about his vision. He asked her to pray into the matter and see what she felt.
The day after that, his wife came to him and said, “I didn’t hear anything really clear from God, and it wasn’t like God came down from Heaven or anything to show me the way, but I just kept thinking about all those little kids who have to be touched by the love of God in a real way, or they may never find Him.”
The man quit his job, spent a year touring churches to fundraise, and started an orphanage.
Now this is another one of those teachings where you’re like, “Did Cross of Joy get the recordings mixed up again, what does this have to do with election…..?” but I promise, this is absolutely related to whether or not you were chosen by God.
Remember that a primary way that God communicates to us is through our desires, through our wants, in accordance with Scripture. Our desires pushing us towards obedience to God’s Word is one of the primary stages where God reveals His glory in our lives. Why is that? Because desire is a primary piece of love, and our love for God reveals our belonging to God. I’ll say that in another way: Your desire for God and your desire to obey God’s law reveals that you belong to God, because God has made that in you.
So in these two examples of folks trying to determine God’s will for them, one looked at his desires and thought, “Eh, that’s not such a much. There’s nothing there. I need a bigger sign from above, I need the stars to align in the shape of a cross, or someone else to miraculously describe the same goals I have, or my wife to jump on board with me without me telling her what I’m feeling, or this desire of mine probably isn’t from God.”
But think about this with me: He’s basically saying that God needs to work by symbols and signs and magic coincidences, because God can’t communicate spiritually to him clearly enough. Right? Like, the Holy Spirit moving in my heart isn’t enough, God speaking directly into my soul isn’t enough. Why? Because if something isn’t physical, I don’t believe it. I don’t interpret things unless they’re physical and I can see them in front of me--that’s evidence. That’s real. But my desires, those are just fluff, those are unquantifiable, they’re not evidence, and if it’s not admissible in a courtroom, I won’t use it to guide my life.
This way of thinking is fleshly. It shows that you’re focused on the things of this world and blind to the things of God, and I believe it’s largely based in fear. You with me now? Think about this: Your entire relationship with God is spiritual, not physical. God doesn’t come down to you every morning and speak to you face to face. No, you interact with Him in your spirit, that’s where the communication happens, that’s how you commune with God. Therefore it is absolutely imperative for every Christian that we learn to discern the holy desires of the Spirit of God and follow their leadings.
Jesus was compelled by the Spirit to go into the desert to be tempted by Satan, right? So you, also, should seek to be compelled in the Spirit of God towards the work of God in your life. You should long for God’s voice to ring out in your soul, to be rung like a gong in the Spirit and know that sweet closeness with Him. Let’s get desperate and beg God every minute that we would learn to hear His voice and love to follow Him--and this comes through filling our life with worship.
Now think about this with me in the context of your life: Are you scared of following your desires in God because you’re worried they may not be real? Is there a decision in front of you, like where to go to college, what job to take, whether or not to leave everything and move to Cambodia, whether to tell your parents that you’re a Christian, that you’re scared to death about because you don’t know what’s from God and what isn’t? Man, I’ve been there. I have totally done that. It’s okay to be in that state--that happens, from time to time. I think we all wrestle with that sometimes, and it doesn’t really stop as you get older--you still have to take time and discern what’s from God and what isn’t, even when you’re ninety, although your fear does go away as you learn to trust God more.
Here are my thoughts to you: God is acting on your behalf, even now. God sees you. Rest in the promise that if you’re a son of God, God’s Spirit will lead you (Rom. 8:14). That is a point-blank promise. God will reveal the way, and He will show you if your desires are of the flesh or of the Spirit, okay? Period.
Preach that to yourself. Repeat it over and over in your mind, along with a Bible verse you memorize, you pick the Bible verse, anything you want, and when you feel scared or anxious about that decision, you preach to yourself that God will make the way clear and you hold that Bible verse up to yourself in your mind. I recommend something from the Psalms about when David was being attacked by oppressors or enemies or whatever--because right now, anxiety is your enemy and it is attacking you, so all of those verses in the Psalms about ‘God is my refuge’ and ‘God has kept my safe against my adversaries’, all of that applies to you.
So now you’re like, “Great, awesome, that’s comforting, it doesn’t help me make the decision at all, thanks a lot Cross of Joy.” Well, that’s true. I can’t make the decision for you. The best thing I can tell you to do is to meditate on Scripture, set your mind on the Spirit and do what seems best. That’s all I can say--there’s no crystal ball on the table, folks, and even if there were, you wouldn’t listen to me because these would be crazy heretical teachings.
Now it would be a lot easier if God just came down with a huge sign and showed you where to go, right? Or if God would let us throw lots again, and we could base everything on chance, or whether or not four blue cars or four red cars will drive by first, or whether someone will buy my apartment by the end of May? Of course! But then it wouldn’t be based on faith, would it? Then it’d be easy. Anybody on Earth could see God’s will if He advertised it, anybody could follow God, it would be normal, worldly, fleshly, exactly the opposite of holy. We wouldn’t need to depend on the Spirit of God at all for guidance if everything was presented to us physically, would we?
But we’re called to be foolish in the eyes of the world. And you know what’s foolish? It’s saying that you’re starting an orphanage because the Spirit of God made you want to. That’s foolish. That’s stupid. And there’s no better way to glorify God than to take the stupid desires to serve the world that God gives you, and persevere and pray endlessly that they would bring huge glory to Him.
The Bible says all of Christianity is based on following foolish spiritual desires. This is Christianity: Acting on the stupid, faith-based desire that God gives you to accept Jesus, despite not seeing the spiritual world and the reality of what the cross accomplished. No, you haven’t seen the hand of God and the total effect of the cross. You didn’t see Jesus die, you weren’t alive then, it happened two thousand years ago. You haven’t seen anybody in Heaven, so you don’t have physical evidence that the cross saves, you haven’t been up there to check whether or not it’s only Christians in Heaven or if there are Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus too. But you want Jesus anyway, and you take Him anyway, even though it costs you your entire previous way of life, and even though it’s foolish to believe in something you haven’t seen. God has called your heart to Himself, He has commanded your love for Him, and that makes foolish faith happen where faith should be impossible.
So what does that mean for you? It means this, child of God: Lean into the desires that God gives you, after you pray and wait and they remain. Act on them. Set your mind on the Spirit, fill your life with worship, meditate on the Word and study it well, pray without ceasing, and work joyfully under the hand of God, because He goes with you.
But there’s something else we should say here, because there are evil desires living in us, and the desires of the flesh can indeed pull us away from God. So I’ll give you an example of a fleshly desire that should not be followed: If part of you wants to start an orphanage because it would be a great way to serve God and it would fill a need you see, but another part wants to be a famous Christian and get glory for your own name and have books and articles written about you and a Wikipedia page posted online, and this desire seems to sometimes compel you to work and cause you to take steps towards starting the orphanage even when you don’t really delight in it, and you can see that it’s influencing you to be somebody great on Earth in the sight of man rather than to be a great lover and enjoyer of God, then your desire is fleshly. You should not cave to your flesh in this situation. No amount of glory may be stolen from God, so analyze your motives.
A holy desire has that Holy Spirit lace of glory, that little outline of joy in the Holy Spirit and a great worshipful longing to draw others into the joy of the Lord with you. That’s a holy desire. If that’s what you’re feeling, then I encourage you to start praying into it and ask for next steps. If it’s God’s will for the project to succeed, it will succeed, and if God leads it to fail (which absolutely happens, according to God’s will), you have lost nothing because all you’ve done is follow your God. There is no condemnation for failure if you haven’t sinned--that bankrupt business or foreclosed home or whatever may be failure in the eyes of the world, but God sees it as a spiritual success and He graduates you on to the next step of your life. You’ll bow at Jesus’ feet in eternity and tell Him, “I love You,” and you will receive your commendation. So don’t fear failure. It doesn’t really exist, as long as you follow God.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about desires, and there’s a reason why. Here’s the answer to the question, ‘How can I know if I’m part of God’s elected people?’ Ready? Here it comes.
You can know for sure if you’re part of God’s elected people if you want to be part of God’s chosen people. Think about that.
What’s the most basic element of salvation? Faith. What’s a basic definition of faith? Believing in God in truth. And what does it look like to believe in God in truth? Believing God is so valuable that you should trade everything else in your life to get Him. In other words, wanting God. (Matt. 13:44-46)
Now I can hear the question in your mind, you’re like, “Well everybody wants to be part of God’s chosen people--nobody wants to go to Hell, so of course they do.” But hear me on this: It’s not about wanting to go to Heaven. That’s not what it means to want to be part of the elect.
No, it’s about wanting to die to this world and live to Jesus, wanting to kill your sinful flesh and walk in righteousness, to subject yourself to a hard road of holiness because you know the joy of God is better than the pleasure of sin. Yeah, sure, everybody wants to go to Heaven, it sounds a lot more comfortable than hellfire. But that isn’t the same as wanting God to flood over you and transform your life--and that’s what it means to want to be part of God’s chosen people. It’s wanting God more than you want money, more than you want success, more than you want happy and peaceful relationships with your family, more than you want anything else.
If you want that, then you are part of God’s elected people. Most of the world doesn’t want that. They want to binge-watch Netflix and chill on YouTube and relax--they don’t want to change their lives to find God, or even if they do sorta kinda want it, they don’t want it enough to actually do anything about it. The idea of taking up your cross and willingly suffering pain, willingly making your life more uncomfortable for the sake of finding God, is disgusting to the world. And that’s the difference between someone who is part of the elect and someone who isn’t--would you do anything, subject yourself to any pain, to see the face of God?
But even some of the folks who do want God are kinda looking for a sign. Right? Some folks want something they can see and touch and feel, and if they don’t get that dream or that vision or that external confirmation, it isn’t really enough for them that God changes their desires. They still wonder if they’re saved, if God has really accepted them. They doubt. I was like that for a couple years of my Christian life.
Well, here’s the hard truth on that: God is probably not going to jump through a circus hoop and juggle for you just because you ask Him to. I mean, He may. It happens, rarely. There are those stories that you hear about sometimes. But God’s sign to you is in sending the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell you and begin an eternal relationship with you--and that’s probably the only sign you’re gonna get. If that isn’t quite enough for you, if you aren’t really content with that, then I kinda wonder how valuable Jesus is to you.
Jesus was perfectly happy in Heaven before He came down to Earth. Jesus didn’t have to come. He had all authority, He had perfect peace, He had perfect joy. It was paradise--because He is paradise. And He left all of that, all of His power and all of His authority and all of His perfect peace in Himself, in order to come down and rescue you even though He knew it would be incredible pain. Jesus was God, majestic and eternal and whole, and He broke Himself, He tortured Himself in a bloody and gory scene, for You. Because You needed that to be made whole. I know you didn’t know you did, but you did, and Jesus knew too--and He did it, to save You.
Let that be your sign, and let that be enough. Turn your eyes away from physical things, from the need for physical evidence or physical experiences to prove to you that the spiritual world exists or that God’s hand is on you. Let it be enough that God’s Spirit has turned your love away from the world and towards Himself. Because, child of God, that’s a miracle! It’s a miracle that you love something you’ve never seen and never touched and never spoken to! How does that happen, other than the Spirit of God? How could it ever happen?
I was thinking about this the other day as I read the Gospels--Jesus was saying, “You have to hate your mother and father and brothers and sisters in order to follow Me,” and I was like, “Yeah, right.” You know? No way. Maybe for those folks who were there with Jesus, maybe that could happen, because they saw the miracles and engaged with Him physically. But for me, in my life, two thousand years after Jesus died, how am I ever going to love Him? It’s impossible! I don’t see Him, I don’t touch Him, He’s not here in front of me! How do I hate my father and mother, and love this invisible image of something I never physically interact with instead? There should be no true disciples of Jesus on the Earth.
Except for the Holy Spirit. Except for God coming to you and filling you and turning your eyes to Him. That is a miracle, child of God. That is a platinum-certified, Grammy-winning, top-of-the-charts miracle, make no mistake about it. The fact that you love and hope for something invisible is a miracle on par with the dead being raised--and the Bible says that’s exactly what it is, in reality. You were dead to the invisible spiritual world, and now you are alive, if you want to be alive.
Join me in praising God for this, both today and for all of eternity. The Lord has entered us into His Presence for three hundred billion years of joy, and then He has caused three hundred billion more years to come after that, before another three hundred billion years--and we’re just getting started. That’s how long paradise is, child of God. Praise God with me that your salvation is eternity in the wonderful Presence of God!