Looking for Love

(Part 1 of a series)

In All The Wrong Places

In North Africa, around 354 A.D., a baby boy was born to a Christian mother and a pagan father. As the boy grew into a young man he found trouble and mischief at every turn. When he turned 16 years old, he traveled to Carthage, which was a Roman territory. There he studied rhetoric and debate. While studying in Carthage, this young man sought fulfillment in his life. We might say he was looking for love in all the wrong places.

The young man met a young woman and moved in with her and they had a child together. His mother, who never ceased to pray for her son, was not happy about his new living arrangements and continued to intercede for him.

As he got older he became quite accomplished in the area of rhetoric and was a much sought-after teacher. Students from all over the Empire came to study under him. He enjoyed all the privileges and things the world had to offer. However, every time he went home to visit his family, his mother asked him when he was going to become a Christian.

A Restless Heart

And though he would never admit it to his mother, his soul was restless. He still desired meaning and purpose for his life; something deeper and more meaningful than he was experiencing. Everything he had sought after and trusted in, up to this point in his life, was fleeting. The things of the world just didn’t last. So, he began studying the different philosophies and religions of his day, everything except Christianity.

He had nothing but contempt for Christianity. He believed Christianity had nothing to offer, because becoming a Christian, he thought, meant having to stop thinking altogether. Not only that, he believed becoming a Christian meant he would have to change the way he lived. He didn’t want any part of that.

A Mother’s Love

However, his mother continued to pray for him. In fact she would occasionally pester the local priests, asking them to “save her son.” Well, because she loved her son, she decided to find him in Carthage and beg him to become a Christian. However, after several weeks of his mother’s “persistence,” he decided to sneak out of Carthage and head to Rome, without telling her. So he left, and wouldn’t you know it, his mother followed him there as well.

While in Rome, the young man began to have doubts about his beliefs. Nothing seemed to satisfy the restlessness of his soul. In an effort to ease his restless conscience, he visited a church and listened to a preacher there. He never went all the way in the church, but stood at the back, just to listen. And, as time went on, his perspectives about life began to change. He began to learn more about Christianity.

Intellectually, he was fighting becoming a Christian, but his heart (via the Holy Spirit) was convicting him about the way he was living his life. This led to a spiritual crisis for him.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Purpose-Driven Israelites

A Clear Purpose

 “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”

With these words from Deuteronomy 11:1, God, through Moses, gave Israel a purpose. Her purpose was to “love God and obey him… always.” That’s a pretty clear purpose. Solomon summed it up like this in Ecclesiastes 12:13,

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.

But there’s more to it. It also included a “here’s what it looks like” portion. If the Israelites would be obedient to God, they would take possession of the land – the Promised Land – which God had set before them. Obedience would be tough, the risk may be great, but God assured them it would be worth their effort. More importantly, he promised to be with them always and never forsake them. In Deuteronomy 11:11-12 we read:

But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. [12] It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

Love and Obey

The blessing of obedience to God’s covenantal commands was that Israel would get this coveted land and more. The curse of disobedience was that she wouldn’t… and more.

Obedience is an essential part of purpose. We can’t wiggle out of it in the New Testament, even though we know we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. Why? Because Christ reminds us multiple times in John 14 and 15, as well as in 1 John, that an expression of our love for him is doing what he says… it’s obeying his commands. This is to our Father’s glory, that we bear much fruit (John 15).

What would be the point of knowing God’s purpose for your life – the very reason for which you were created – if you didn’t pursue it? It’s only as we reveal our love for God by obeying him that we experience God’s blessing for our lives – which may take on a variety of manifestations as we travel down the path of righteousness.

But can any of us hope for more than the knowledge that the eyes of the Lord are continually on our purpose, from the beginning to the end? And it’s as we trust and obey God’s commands and pursue that purpose that we find ourselves aligned with his will for our lives, which is blessing enough for any of us.

Thanks be to God.