February 26, 2019 • Life for Leaders
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In yesterday’s devotion, we saw that the old self we are to put off as Christians is corrupted by “deceitful desires.” I suggested that these are yearnings motivated by false beliefs. Deceitful desires lie to us, promising fulfillment they cannot deliver. When we begin to follow Jesus, we are taught to put these away as we strip off our “old self,” our former way of life. Yet we don’t instantly become free of our old ways and desires. Rather, living by God’s grace, we commence a process of putting off that continues throughout our lives.
It might be helpful if I share an example of such putting off from my own life. It has to do with writing. I realize that you may not relate personally to this particular example. But I expect you can think of similar desires and experiences in your life.
I grew up in a family that prized writing. My uncles were both published authors and this gave them considerable status. I remember hoping as a boy that someday I would write books like Uncle Donny and Uncle Tommy. I didn’t have anything much to say back then, mind you. My desire wasn’t about communicating some content about which I was passionate. Rather, it was all about wanting the abundant praise and vibrant self-esteem that I thought came from publishing books.
I spent my college and graduate years at Harvard, where writing books was a paramount sign of success. If I became accomplished in my field, I would write articles. But if I became really great, I’d write books. I used to study in the stacks of Widener Library, surrounded by 57 miles of bookshelves holding over 3,000,000 volumes. I hoped that, one day, I might write a book that ended up in a Harvard library.
My big chance came in the early 1990s when I had was asked to write a commentary on the Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. I was glad for the opportunity to help readers understand these engaging books of the Bible. But, honestly, I was motivated significantly by a desire for the renown and pride that I knew would come when my name appeared on the cover of a book. If I could only finish that commentary, then I would feel what I believed would be tremendous satisfaction.
Finally, after hundreds of hours of labor, the big day came. In 1993, I held in my hand the hardbound edition of my commentary. There it was in bold print, my name, “Mark D. Roberts.” I had done it. And I felt relieved . . . glad . . . somewhat proud . . . and, honestly, underwhelmed. My desire to write had been based on deception. I was tricked by the lie that publishing a book would bring ultimate happiness.
I did not write another book for many years because I gave up that deceitful desire. Finally, in 2000, I began to have a message that I wanted to communicate broadly. So I wrote my second book, After “I Believe”, not because I wanted to be famous or feel good about myself, but because I wanted to share with others the central importance of fellowship with God and his people.
Today, I write enough words every year to fill two or three books. Though I did publish a commentary on Ephesians a couple of years ago, almost all of my writing these days doesn’t end up in books. It shows up in these Life for Leaders devotions. I am motivated to write, no longer by the deceitful desire for having my name appear on a book cover, but rather by my passion for the content of God’s Word and sharing it with others. The joy I feel when I hear that God has touched your life through these devotions greatly exceeds any delight I have known in having my name appear on a book.
I’m not saying that my desires are pure, mind you. But, at least I have been able, by God’s grace, to put off one deceitful desire that once ruled my life. Now it’s time to work on the others . . . .
Something to Think About:
Have you ever experienced anything in your life that is similar to my deceitful desire to write books?
How has God reformed your desires as you have walked with him?
How is God reshaping your desires today, helping your motivations to be more in line with the truth that is in Jesus?
Something to Do:
Talk with a trusted friend or with your small group about the desires that motivate your life. Be as honest as you can be. Then, pray for each other, that the Spirit of God would be mending and purifying your desires.
Gracious God, thank you for helping us to identify our desires that are based on lies. By your Spirit, continue to show us what is real about ourselves and our motivations. Help us to put off those desires that are not based on the truth. May we yearn for the truth and all that it implies. May we desire to honor you and contribute to your work in the world. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
Clarifying Our Values, Passions, and Desires
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.