November 2015

I am on John Ortberg’s “Soul Keeping” journey. It’s a pretty interesting discovery process. I introduced you to this journey in the summer and then I slipped in a reflection upon “enough” before I returned last month to soul keeping. Let me try to tie these two together. In chapter 14 Ortberg says “the soul needs satisfaction.” Basically he asserts that our souls are incredible craving machines. We want, desire, crave or whatever your favorite term might be, we want more. Hunger, thirst, excitement, recognition, sensuality, influence and ease are all powerful appetites that drive our lives. No matter how hard we push none of these will ever satisfy our souls deepest longing. There is a good reason they won’t and can’t satisfy.

Sin cuts us off from God. We are separated from His life by our rebellion and disobedience. Without Him we can never be satisfied. Our souls long but can never be satisfied until we are satisfied in Him. Our inability to find satisfaction in no way diminishes our craving, or pursuing. We are consumed by these longings. Jesus expresses it this way in Mark 8:34–37 (ESV) 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? The only way we will ever experience satisfaction is when we deny ourselves and follow Jesus.

Ortberg says “the soul worships what it desires.” So ask yourself what is that I really desire? What is it that drives my daily pursuit? What is my essential craving? Remember that we are masters of deception. We know what we really want but we are always faced with the dilemma as to whether that is good or best for us. We’ve all been there (probably today) I want that second donut, ice cream, car, house, promotion, award, contract, or opportunity but it might not be best for me. I want it but to get it might put me in a worse position. We wrestle then with what we want and what we ought to want. Christians are particularly vulnerable to this challenge. We have been taught Luke 10:27 (ESV) “27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” We know what Jesus said, the problem is we don’t really want it first. We want riches, power, prestige, and ease first, then we’ll love the Lord. Our turmoil comes because what I really want conflicts with what I believe I ought to want. There goes all my satisfaction with it.

Here’s Ortberg’s answer (and Jesus’s as well) “ The paradox of soul satisfaction this: When I die to myself, my soul comes alive.” See Mark 8:34–35 above. So how do we do this? Listen to Jesus in Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It is interesting to note that Jesus is saying the same this as Isaiah does in 55:1–3 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

So here are the steps. Come to Jesus. This begins the journey to satisfaction. No one can do it for you. You have to make the commitment, spend the time and attention to accomplish the objective. It’s simple on the surface come to Jesus. Meet him face to face. Then we have to listen. Jesus says “take my yoke” and Isaiah says “listen” but both mean that we are fundamentally changed in who we are and how we live. Listening isn’t just hearing, it’s also doing everything that’s heard. It’s being yoked to Jesus. If Jesus doesn’t change our heart, our mind, and our actions then we aren’t listening.

When we come to Jesus and listen we will find real, authentic satisfaction. “Rest for our souls is ultimate satisfaction. Consider well Jesus’s warning, Mark 8:36 (ESV) 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Is your soul satisfied?