Just in case my title is confusing, “sark-denial” is another way of saying “flesh-denial”. The Greek word translated “flesh” sounds like saying “sark” in English, so our home church often uses that word to address how easily we can be “sarky” (fleshly) instead of Spirit-filled.
The over-all theme of my time in the word lately has been the eternal nature of our rewards. There are many rewards of faith that happen in the present time, but there are some components of our salvation that are waiting for the return of Christ, and learning to wait well is part of our present growing up to maturity in Christ.
(Star, Asterisk, Flashing Light) Some of us have never gone through the stage of maturing that is supposed to begin happening in our third year of life where a dad lovingly starts training us to do things we don’t want to do and to handle delayed gratification.
SELF-TEST: how do you respond to God as a Father when he shows you what he is doing and it requires you to do something you don’t want to do, and when joining him in his work would mean an inferior gratification must be denied in view of a superior gratification that is coming later?
This should set the stage for how you relate to the rewards of drawing near to God that are coming later, especially those that are waiting for us in our heavenly home.
When Peter expresses his praise for God’s great mercy that has given us the new birth into our living hope, he also identifies that our salvation includes, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”.
It is interesting that getting older seems to increase the focus on inheritances. As people die, dealing with their estates cannot be avoided. It often brings out the worst in families.
However, the reality of an inheritance is a huge part of our relationship with God. And, while our earthly inheritances may be in jeopardy from all kinds of influences, our heavenly inheritance is an absolute thing. What our inheritance is cannot change, and neither can the fact of it being ours in Christ and with Christ.
All that brings me to consider what it is like from God’s side of things when I fit Asaph’s description of himself when he almost slipped because he envied the wicked. Asaph described himself like this:
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Everything he says there is that he was “empty-minded”. He was stupid like a cow. His mind was detached from truth and his heart was pierced with grief because of the stupid thoughts in his head (not things that were really happening).
At that very time, God was still absolutely true. God’s wisdom and knowledge were ready and willing to help Asaph understand what was true. The sanctuary and the word were standing by ready to fill Asaph’s mind with truth, his heart with joy, and his soul with life. God was still being fully himself even while Asaph was losing touch with who he was in the only true God.
Which brings me again to that amazing expression that comes next: “NEVER-THE-LESS”.
NEVER-THE-LESS, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
When God brings us to our senses in the sanctuary, and we suddenly realize that all our amazing ideas of rejecting the hard life of doing things we don’t want to do, and giving up on denying ourselves immediate gratification, were just plain STUPID, what do we find when we turn around on the spot and look to see what is on God’s face?
This is what blows me away right now. Even while we are envying worldlings because we are overcome with addictive attachments, and we are ignoring God because we are as ignorant and stupid as a cow, we are continually with God.
Where will we find God when we finally come to our senses and contrast the destiny of the wicked to the destiny of the righteous? He will be right there at our right hand showing his children that we were in his hands the whole time.
What about when we have let our sarky minds counsel us in all manner of pride, and self-importance, and self-justification, and self-protection, and we have given God’s counsel the bird, so to speak, because our childishly immature and ignorant hearts were so convinced that we had superior understanding to our Creator? What will we find God doing after we have maligned him like that?
We will find him guiding us with his counsel! That’s what we will find!
And, when we come to our senses and allow ourselves to see where worldlings are headed, and what is soon to come of them, and we realize that their demise is not worth any immediate pleasure in the world, and we admit that we have been so stupid as to imagine their pleasures could be greater than the fullness of joy in God’s presence and the eternal pleasures at his right hand, what have we done to our relationship with God? Have we ruined anything? Have we lost our inheritance? Have we been disowned for being so stupid?!
No. NOTA (none-of-the-above). Asaph says that “afterward”, meaning, after a lifetime of being continually with God, being held by our right hand, and being guided by God’s counsel, “afterward you will receive me to glory.”
As I run the race into my seventh decade (ouch, but that happened fast!), I am so aware of both the brevity and meaninglessness of this earthly life if there is nothing more. Enduring bad government at every turn would be unthinkably hopeless if this world was my home. Even living with religion that was nothing more than external activity would be utterly meaningless if it were nothing more than the manmade attempts to please a holy God.
The earthly pleasures that seem so bright and glittery as children and teenagers lose their luster as the years go by and experience after experience proves that they neither last nor fulfill the deepest desires of the heart.
However, in the Never-the-Less of God, the blessings of God are never less than the deceptions offered us by the world. In fact, God’s grace is never-the-less than our sinful stupidity that chases after our adulterous friendships with the world. The always-the-more grace of God is so much greater than our sin that, no matter how we trample on our Father’s love by imagining that the world offers us so much more, we never stop being his, we never stop being loved, and we never stop hearing his shepherdly voice seeking us, and finding us, and bringing us home.
Somewhere in this past couple of weeks I was deeply impacted by the reminder that Jesus’ sheep hear his voice and follow him. This means that, when Jesus’ sheep are lost because of their stupidity in envying worldlings, Jesus is speaking his voice through his word, through his Spirit, through his church, so that we will hear him calling us to announce ourselves. Our Savior is calling us to bleat out our acknowledgement that we are lost and tangled in sins and addictions and we have heard him coming for us and desperately want to be found.
In the four lines of Psalm 73:23-24, three of the lines describe what we will experience in this lifetime when we daily meet our Savior in the sanctuary and let him constantly bring us to our senses about everything. We are continually with him, he holds us by our right hand, and he daily guides us with his counsel.
The fourth line adds the beautiful, hopeful, glorious and gracious reminder that, “afterward you will receive me to glory.” And sometimes we need just that reminder about future grace to help us do something our sarks do not want to do, and to accept that some of the gratification of our eternal life is kept in heaven for us, awaiting the end of our earthly life and the return of our Savior.
When we contrast our “afterward” of glory with the worldlings’ “afterward” of terrifying ruin, we can receive the encouragement of God’s word that says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
Asaph in Psalm 73 serves as an example of someone who became as stupid as a cow when he envied worldlings but came to his senses when he went into the sanctuary. When he saw again where worldlings are headed, and what was ahead for the children of God, his whole attitude and focus changed because right beliefs express good emotions.
Question: when God seeks to motivate you by showing you his future grace, what do you learn about yourself, and how can other believers in your church join you in joining God in his work?
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)
 Paul’s contrast between the sark/flesh and life in the Spirit is very clear in Romans 7-8 - https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+7-8&version=ESV
 This is based on Hebrews 11:6 where we see that part of our motivation in drawing near to God is that he “rewards those who earnestly seek him”. Some of those rewards are now; others are yet to come.
 I Peter 1:4 (context is I Peter 1:3-9)
 Ephesians 1:11, 14 speak of this in the context of Paul’s expression of praise for everything we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14).
 I mean this, of course, as it relates to everyone who has been born again into the family of God through genuine faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
 Psalm 73:21-22
 Psalm 73:23-24
 Psalm 73:16-17
 We have recently looked at Scriptures that describe God’s people drifting so far away from him that he had to put them under discipline, including what we learn of Israel’s exile into Babylon, and God assuring them that, no matter how they have offended him with their adulteries and idolatries, he is ready to draw near to us when we come to our senses and draw near to him. See: Deuteronomy 4:29; II Chronicles 7:13-14; Jeremiah 29:3; James 4:1-10, especially James 4:7-8.
 Just go for a drive somewhere when there are cattle on the back roads and try getting past them. You will quickly understand what Asaph was describing about himself.
 John 10:28-30
 Psalm 16:11
 See James 4:1-10
 John 10:27 (context John 10:1-42)
 I Peter 4:19