Moves Like Jagger

Being a wedding photographer affords me the opportunity to hear an array of popular dance music, most of which I detest. However, there are a few gems in the mountain of rubbish which pop music comprises. For one reason or another, I’ve found myself oddly addicted to the two-chord song Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 with it’s catchy whistle melody and driving bass drum beat.

After listening and dancing to the song a number of times, I was struck by the lines I’ve put in parentheses below.

Baby it’s hard
When you feel like you’re broken and scarred
Nothing feels right
But when you’re with me
I’ll make you believe
That I’ve got the key

These lyrics hint at a problem that all human hearts encounter: the deep feeling of inadequacy. Notice how our lyricist perceptively detects the insecurity that, in this case, a young lady feels. She is “broken and scarred”, used by many men but loved by none. The cure to this disease offered by the song is the hope of fulfillment in this young man’s affections.

Inadequacy is alien to none of us. We have all come up woefully, embarrassingly short at one time or another. Whether it’s the moment that you missed the game winning shot, were turned down by the guy you had harbored a crush on for a year, or found yourself still jobless even after tons of applications and interviews, inadequate feelings are something we all share in.

The salves that we apply to these uncomfortable feelings are diverse but similar. Diverse in the sense that there are an endless amount of things we do to feel better, but similar in the sense that we are trying to satisfy an eternal soul with a temporal experience. Perhaps, if you’re the woman pictured in Moves Like Jagger, you will look for adequacy by becoming the object of a man’s sexual attention. But that is a flimsy patch for a gaping hole. It’s like trying to use FlatFix on a tire that has been completely shredded. At that point you aren’t even addressing the problem. No, our struggles with inadequacy can’t be fixed by mere carnal experience. We need something much more satisfying.

In the Bible, God addresses our struggle for lasting contentment. Psalm 4:7 reads: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” This verse pictures two different people: the man who contents himself in God and the man contents himself in temporal experience (feasting and drinking). What’s striking here is that the man who seeks pleasure in the eternal God is more temporally satisfied than the one who seeks it in food and drink! The psalmist is not hoping for joy in the future, he has it right now even in the midst of shameful circumstances (Ps. 4:2).

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be content. In fact, the feelings of discontentment presently burdening us are whispers of the greater pleasures for which we’ve been made. The trouble is that our sinful hearts have distorted this desire by looking for relief in created things rather than the Creator. The invitation, then, is not just to flee from sexual experiences, drinking, eating, and so forth, but to flee toward God who satisfies.

And do you want to know the greatest thing? God’s pleasure in you is much greater than your pleasure in Him will ever be. You are the satisfying reward of Christ’s suffering (Isa. 53:11) and in your restoration God finds so much joy that He rejoices and sings (Zeph. 3:17)!

This experience of God’s affection is precisely what your soul needs to be satisfied. When it is, the offers of our dissipating world become repulsive and God becomes your true delight. Who would run into the arms of a guy who has “moves like Jagger” when the arms of the eternally-loving and all-satisfying God are open to them?


Being a “Man After God’s Own Heart”

Most of us, at one point or another, have pointed to 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 zealously declaring we should be men after God’s own heart just like David! This is a mistake. When we say that, we mean that David is a man who seeks after God’s heart. But do you see the word “seek” in either of those passages? It’s not there and here’s why. King David being designated by God as a man after His heart is about God choosing David, not David’s character.

The phrase “after my own heart” was commonly employed by other ancient near easterners.* It simply means, “this is the person I’ve chosen.” When a god or king chose someone to rule, he would describe the successor as a man after his heart. When God utilized this phrase to describe David, He was not commenting on David’s stellar character (which was anything but stellar), He was alerting the audience that David was the chosen ruler of His people. This is contrasted with Saul who was appointed king as a judgment on Israel for their rejection of God’s kingship and their sinful request for a king like all of the other nations (see 1 Samuel 8:1-9).

A Lesson from This Phrase

King DavidDavid’s installment and perseverance as Israel’s king was a result of divine election and promise-keeping (cf. Psalm 78:70, 1 Kings 8:16), not the result of any particular merit he possessed. God is the one with the wisdom and authority to designate this son of Jesse as the “man after his own heart.” When David commits his egregious sins, he is kept in office because God picked him. This points us to one of the most notable features of the Old Testament narrative: the major figures are incredible sinners. And yet, they remain God’s instruments in advancing the redemptive story because He ordained their part in it.

In like manner, we who are chosen by God have confidence in His promise to keep us as His own. God has “predestined us for adoption” (Eph. 1:5) and we have complete assurance that no sin can take God’s favor from us. All former, present, and future transgressions have been paid for by Christ and we can confidently enjoy God’s abounding love. The point is that our character does not determine whether or not we are men and women “after God’s own heart.” God has already picked us. Rather, knowing that God chooses to save us despite our glaring deficiencies is precisely what shapes our character.

The Anticipated “Man After God’s Own Heart”

The selection of David as a king “after God’s own heart” is not an end in and of itself, but rather serves as a foreshadow. When God promises in Jeremiah 33:17 that David’s throne “shall never lack a man” He is pointing us to a much greater figure than King David. Isaiah 9:7 describes the Messiah as one who would assume the “throne of David.” Then, in Luke 1:32, the angel Gabriel explicitly tells a trembling, frightened Mary that “the Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of his father David.” Christ is the eternal King from David’s line. He will be called King of Kings and His kingdom shall know no end. He is the King that God has chosen to rule and reign forever. Jesus is the longed for “man after God’s own heart”, the royal Son of the Almighty, who gave His life to transform rebellious subjects into sons and heirs.

We all want to be people after God’s heart. The beautiful thing is that – because of Christ – we already are.


*For example, see this excerpt from Henri Frankfort’s book Kingship and the Gods – a study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. Scroll half way down the page, look for the heading THE CHOICE OF THE GODS and examine the end of the last paragraph. You will see Cyrus the Persian describing the god, Marduk, as searching for “a king after his own heart.”

Love for the World

I was humbled and grateful to get to share a message with my church, Sovereign Grace Church of Orange County, this past Sunday! The subject was “Love for the World” and I chose 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 as my text. If you’d like to have a listen, you can hear or download from our webpage by clicking here.

Also, The Gospel for OC has just posted the first of a two-part series I’ve written on being saved from God by God. You can read the first installment here and be looking for the second to show up soon!

For His glory and fame,

Feasting for the Fame of Christ

Recently I met with Chris Poblete from The Gospel for OC, a ministry that “exists to spread the glorious news of Jesus Christ-His death and resurrection-throughout Orange County, California, and beyond.” One of the main expressions of their ministry is a blog and Chris asked that I begin to contribute a couple articles each month. I was excited to do so and today my first post has been published! It’s entitled Feasting for the Fame of Christ and it is my meditation on how feasting can draw our minds and affections toward the Savior. I hope you will read it and be blessed by God as you consider Christ in your abundance of food this Christmas!

The Children in the Road

Last Sunday, Dec. 4th, I was privileged to preach at Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church in Riverside, CA. This church was incredibly gracious, kind, receptive and encouraging! It built me up and convicted me to see their hearts to serve.

If you’d like to have a listen, you can access the audio for this message on their website by clicking here or you can listen to it on this post where I’ve embedded it below. If, after listening, you feel the desire to serve children in foster care please let me know! I’d love to connect you with opportunities so that you could be a blessing to these kids and they could be a blessing to you. Also, if you would be interested in having me come to share this message or a similar one at your church please don’t hesitate to ask. Blessings in the Savior!

The Children in the Road

Morality Can’t Save

There are a number of voices today heralding a powerless gospel: the morality gospel. It goes something like, “I don’t really know about Jesus or faith or sin or anything like that. But, I know that God wants us to live a good life by being nice to our neighbors and non-judgmental.” While this sounds appealing on the surface, there is no way to demonstrate that God would be pleased by that kind of lifestyle.

And yet this sounds like such an agreeable way to live. Why won’t God be pleased by such a simple, moralistic lifestyle? Let me answer in three parts.

1. Without Christ’s intervention we are under God’s wrath not His favor
Romans 5:18 states plainly that “one trespass led to condemnation for all men.” Without a shift in our relationship with God, we all start out in danger of being served God’s justice. Things are not okay between us and God until Christ enters the picture and removes God’s wrath. But He only removes it for those who are united with Him in His death and resurrection. We see it later in Romans with the glorious promise of chapter 8 verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2. Our good deeds do not please God
The natural passage to turn to is Isa. 64:6 which reads, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” In and of ourselves we cannot be selfless. Our attempts to be charitable are stained by an insatiable desire for recognition. We are incapable to “do good for goodness’ sake” precisely because when we do good our goal is to be worshiped. Since our attempts at sacrificial love are selfish, God cannot be pleased by them.

3. Our self-righteousness robs us of our need for God’s mercy
If we could attain the righteousness which God requires all by ourselves we would not be in need of His charity. What makes God so loving is our desperate need for pardon. If we were not in need of that mercy how would we ever know that He loved us? We are only capable of grasping His love because He had to make such a radical sacrifice for us to be saved. And when we do grasp that, we are finally free to show His love to others.

The bottom line is this: our morality is utterly incapable of saving us from God’s righteous retribution. He is a just judge who must punish wrongdoing. How could He do otherwise? Either Jesus was punished for our sins or we will be punished for them, but payment must be made.

If you have succumbed to the idea that living a “good life” will keep you in God’s good graces, then please hear my plea. He will not see your good deeds because sinful condition has so profoundly tainted them. Know that Christ has lived your “good life” and died your death so that God may be pleased with you. And for those who are in Christ, be assured He is exceedingly pleased with you! As a father delights in his child, as a groom delights in his bride, as a king delights in his people, in all of these ways God richly delights in you. Respond to His jealous love with profound gratitude and supreme devotion.

May you ditch all efforts to save yourself and be wholly satisfied with all that God has done for you in Christ Jesus!

For His glory and fame,

Unnecessary Debate: Preaching the Gospel vs. Living the Gospel

More and more, I’m seeing some church leaders argue over the priority of preaching the gospel versus doing good deeds as they pertain to the Church’s mission (for instance, see this upcoming debate). This distinction baffles me a bit and I’d like to spend a few words detailing my concerns about what I consider to be a false dichotomy. Let me give two reasons why this debate shouldn’t exist:

  1. No Biblical Support
    The Bible doesn’t say anywhere “Declaring the gospel is MORE IMPORTANT than to live a life of Christlike service to others.” I’ve never seen a passage which makes that kind of distinction (feel free to show me one if it’s there). Jesus actually says that caring for others IS caring for Him (Mt. 25:40). The Scriptures assume that God’s people will bear the testimony of Christ while pouring their lives out for the sake of others. James 2:18 is perhaps the best verse I can go to in order to illustrate this: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Notice how James categorizes every part of the Christian’s life as “works.” What you say with your mouth and do with your hands are both part of the same category: works! So why make any distinction? It’s unnecessary.
  2. Inconsistent with the Gospel
    One pastor made the point that people are not saved by your good deeds and therefore their need to hear the gospel preached is more important than your practical acts of service to them. True, but they are also not saved by your preaching of the gospel. It is Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as well as the re-birth of the Spirit that saves them. Our job is to point them to that. So how can preaching be more primary than good deeds? Moreover, Christ’s actions for us are just as important as His words to us. If all Christ had done was to come as a prophet and simply give us a message, Christianity would be just another religion. The evangel is precisely that Jesus did all the necessary work for our salvation. He HAD to do it and we HAD to hear about it.

As you’ve figured out, my thesis is not that one of these is more primary than the other. I’m saying that they are both an essential part of our witness. Would it make sense to argue that the rind and the pulp of an orange are two different pieces of fruit? That would be ridiculous. Both are different parts of the same fruit. Similarly, the Church should be committed to gospel preaching and gospel works. Our mission should be to spread God’s fame through every part of our lives. So let’s quit arguing about it and put the greatness and grace of Christ on display in everything we say and do.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin Smetona