Then again, want might be the wrong word. “Want” implies that I’ll be able to go on with life without the desire fulfilled, doesn’t it? I want a pumpkin spice latte, for instance, but will I survive without it? Sure. I’ll settle for what’s at hand and keep that particular want in the back of my mind until autumn when pumpkin spice lattes are again in abundance. It’ll keep.
As good as my favorite coffee may be, it’s not like a drink I do need: water. Water is necessary. I couldn’t wait until October for my next drink of water. It’s essential to my well-being… to my life. I, quite literally, would not survive until October without it. If I couldn’t find it in my own home today, I can assure you that I’d go out and search for it… I’d do whatever it took to obtain it.
So, no, it’s not only a want I’m feeling when it comes to God.
Although I long to see Him, the Father who formed and loved me from the beginning, this runs even deeper than an emotion of desire.
I need His comfort and His wisdom. I need His peace that transcends my situations and His presence that brings deepest gladness to my soul. I need Him to be with my children, with His church, with me.
I need Him. I need to hear His voice. I need to see Him.
Because this world, it is under attack by an enemy who has no scruples, no conscious, no kindness.
We live in a culture which says yes to lust, to greed, to seducing our children into a raging appetite that begs for more pleasure and is never satisfied. There are violent uprisings, threats of nuclear attack, the unknown-but-certain next environmental disaster… there are diseases rampant and families hungry and so many without a place to safely lay their heads at night.
There are the personal, daily sorrows like a child pushed around on a playground, his head hanging low in shame, the frustration of another bill to pay, husbands and wives going to bed angry with each other… every day there are both small and large hopes deflated by harsh words and difficult situations.
There are days that can begin with wonder and delight in meteors dancing across the early morning sky and end with the images of murdered children flashing across the news.
So, yes, in this world where joy and despair can be only a second… a breath apart… I need to see my Father at work, to know that He is bringing all things together according to His purpose.
Yet this is what I’ve been wondering: do we look for the light of Jesus as often as we take notice of the darkness?
I’m sure you’ll agree ~ it is easy to point out the consequences of sin around us. We see them every day.
For us, the children of God, shouldn’t His handiwork outshine all else in our lives?
Is it possible that, without us even taking notice of it, satan has bound us up in a chain of disbelief, distraction, or apathy? Have we allowed our expectations to be lowered, our hearts trying to find satisfaction in the things around us? Have we forgotten that our God is alive and able to do exceedingly above what we could ask or imagine?
The question isn’t whether or not God is at work ~ He is the Author of life from beginning to end. The question is this: are we looking for Him? Have we prepared our hearts… our spirit-eyes… to see Him?
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus promises this ~ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
I thrill at the word shall. It does not allow any room for ‘if’, ‘maybe’, or ‘if you’re lucky’. It is a promise ~ it is a certain, unwavering truth that we will see Him if our hearts are pure before Him.
If you’re like me, maybe you draw back, a little alarmed at the word ‘pure’. Maybe you, like me, wonder if that means our hearts must be perfect to see Him… and fear that we won’t be holy enough to qualify.
If that’s the case, here is step one: Jesus Christ gave His life and bore our sin so that we can be righteous before God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
By His grace, our hearts are made new and holy before God.
It is nothing we achieve in our own attempts to be ‘good’. It is freely given to us, the gift of hearts made right with the Father. Receiving this gift is, of course, the first piece of living in this blessing promised to us by Jesus.
Step two is digging into the word “pure” and understanding what it means here in this Sermon on the Mount. The Greek word translated into pure is actually “katharos”. Katharos is defined as ‘unmixed, unadulterated.’ In other words? One hundred percent. Purely committed.
To see God, our hearts ~ the center of our being, out of which everything we do flows ~ must be wholly surrendered to Him.
We must be undivided, full of only one thing ~ His Spirit. We must be focused, dedicated, given over to the pursuit of obedience to His Word. If we want to see Him, we have to be looking with one hundred percent of our lives. The first and greatest commandment, Jesus said in Matthew 22, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Even in this, we are not left in our own strength. In Ezekiel 11:19, God promises “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”
This tells me that God will put the right spirit and the right motivations into my heart if I ask Him to do so. David did ask Him to do this very thing in Psalm 86 ~ “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided (pure) heart, that I may fear your name.”
I’ll never get over the marvel of His grace ~ our Father gives us what we need in order to please Him!
But, oh, we need to make the choice to keep our hearts wholly His. We make choices every day ~ this is why we are told in Proverbs to guard our hearts and in Ephesians to put on a breastplate of righteousness.
We can, whether it is a conscious choice or the danger of non-choices (that ever-dangerous current of complacency) find pieces of our hearts given over to other things. Anxiety, perhaps, or people. Pleasure, maybe, or ambition. The enemy is, always, trying to steal our hearts away… and, sometimes, for me? It has been by simple distractions… small choices that put up little dividers in my heart. Easily removed, I would think… and not a big deal… but walls are made brick by brick and not all at once.
Every choice matters. Little choices set the precedents for bigger choices.
Plain and simple, heart-space cannot be shared by my fleshly desires and the Spirit of God.
We cannot serve the things of this world and the Creator of this world. We cannot serve two masters. A double-minded, double-hearted man or woman is unstable in all their ways. Joshua said to the Israelites ~ “Choose, this day, who you will serve.” It is a choice we must make.
The question is this: do I need God ~ do I need to see Him ~ more than I want the things of this world? Do I love Him more than I love what I have in this life?
Will I choose to pursue His presence instead of the new episode of my favorite show? Will I talk my problems out to Him before I call my mom or my friends? Will I give my time to Him instead of to that new book of poetry sitting on my nightstand? First thing in the morning, do I open His Word to renew my mind in Him or do I check Facebook and my blog reader?
God does give us good things in this world… friends, hobbies, music, art ~ I am not saying that these things are wrong. However, we have to make sure that our first love is the Giver of these gifts and that we seek Him before all else. Paul wrote this in Colossians 3:17 ~ “Let every detail in your lives ~ words, actions, whatever ~ be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (MSG)
So at the end of the day, have I consciously done everything like I am doing it all for Him? Do I obey Him or my own will? Do I surrender all of me to His purpose?
When my actions speak, are they saying that I choose Him with an undivided heart?
Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m being a little extreme about this giving up of self. I know that it seems like a hard thing to do. I can only tell you what Jesus taught:
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34)
Again, in Luke 14:33, He speaks about the cost of following Him: “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.”
But with the cost comes the promises!
Listen to these words of Jesus in John 10:10 ~ “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
And remember His invitation in Matthew 11 ~ “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”