Monthly Archives: April 2014

God’s Gift

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Part of the eternal characteristic of God is His desire and willingness to give. His gifts are neither random or arbitrary but designed to fit the need and personality of the recipient. He does not give everything we want or expect but what we need and which helps us know Him both intellectually and intimately. Here is a conundrum our expectations and assumptions place upon the perfectly fitting gift of God. We want our way, our stuff, our desires, not His. But our way is death and His gift is life.

Speaking to the people He has just fed and who are seeking Him for more physical food to fill their bellies Jesus tells them to pursue food which has eternal benefit not that which give temporary filling. “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” [John 6:27 ESV]. He wants to give them everything they need to live for eternity and they only want that which will meet their immediate, sensual needs. They want that which perishes, which does nothing for their eternal selves because their focus is upon their belly not their soul.

Jesus tells them what to do.

Honestly, it is hard for the corrupted self to focus on eternity when the stomach growls and the head swims for lack of food. This does not give us permission to make food, or anything we perceive as a right or need, into an idol or something which must be had. God knows we need food. He provides food. Perhaps not the food we want but what we need. Perhaps not in the amount we want. But there comes a time when He calls into eternity when we will no longer need food. Or anything of this world. Ultimately, we need Him more than anything this world offers.

Again, Jesus is challenging the way we think. Think more about eternity and what has eternal value than anything, including the most basic need of food. We have to think of the practical things of our life. But, thinking more of eternity is not practical. In fact, those who think more about God and Jesus and their place before Him in eternity open themselves to the ridicule and derision of the world. This is not a comfortable place. Like being hungry is not comfortable. Like being a Christian in most of the world is not comfortable.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [John 6:32-33 ESV]

They were talking with and listening to the gift of God to them. No, they were not listening. They did not want to listen. Which means they did not hear what He was saying. They could not hear because they were unwilling not unable. God gave them His image so they could hear and understand. They chose to not hear, to grumble and complain and walk away from Him. God gave Himself and told them to work for eternal food, which is His Son.

God’s Image

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

How is it possible for people to know something is true when confronted by verifiable evidence yet suggest or even demand it not be true. “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up” is a statement and motivation of utter ignorance and laziness. Jesus healed people yet the Pharisees were more concerned about a possible Sabbath law violation than with the one healed. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Instead of marveling at what Jesus did they determined to kill Him because He was drawing people away from them.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” [John 11:47-48 ESV]

Later, they also decided to murder Lazarus because his life was direct evidence of Jesus’ authority over death and was drawing many to the man they hated. This faulty reasoning is undeniable confirmation of the corrupted nature of man. We think since man is bent by sin so is the image of God in man. We are looking for something specific, based upon our assumptions and expectations, unable to see the obvious. Once my family picked me up at a train station yet I did not immediately see them because they were in a car I was not expecting. Though standing only a few feet away I was looking for a car not a person and completely missed them for a long enough time for embarrassment.

People have the image of God as an essential part of their being. This image gives them all of the tools needed to come to correct conclusions when confronted with undeniable evidence. I am going to step out onto a limb. I am beginning to believe that, though man is corrupted by sin, the absolute image of God in man is not degraded. This does not mean we are capable of thinking as God would want. Nor, does this mean we can trust our emotions. We still filter the evidence through our bent and twisted sin nature. We make the evidence say what we want it to say. We have the tools needed but decide, through the compulsion of sin, to draw and believe a lie. Does our broken nature mean the image of God in us is also broken?

Does not Scripture say we are incapable of intimately knowing Him or willfully obeying Him? It does. Do we not forcefully rebel and fight against Him? With every ounce and fiber of our being! We not only can’t do and be what He wants but actively strive against Him to be everything He doesn’t want. Do we have so much control over our selves we can corrupt that which God has created? If the image of God in us is as corrupted as we then nothing has changed. We are still accountable to Him for our sin and rebellion.

Let us suppose the image of God in us is not corrupted though we obviously are, though the vessel is broken and tarnished beyond remedy. Would not His image draw us to Him? And would not our defiled nature war against this attraction to its Creator? We are the undeniable evidence of God’s work and love.

God’s Work For Us

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Finally the people asked Him a question He answered forthrightly. They don’t like His answers because they are truths they do not expect or have been trained to grasp and recognize. Our assumptions and expectations always color our perception. We are trained to view life in a specific way. Any deviation baffles and sends us scurrying to find an acceptable answer to the dilemma we face especially when the quandary has ramifications outside of our experience and understanding.

Read the exchange between Jesus and those seeking Him for more food.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” [John 6:27-29 ESV]

He has already declared their self-centered motives for seeking Him. Now He demands they change the way they think and trust and act. They wanted to make Him king by force to fulfill their perceived needs. As their king they would have Him work  for their benefit after their own fashion in a prescribed manner guaranteeing a life of ease and pleasure where every conceivable need and want is met.

Jesus tells them to work. Work after the fashion for which they were designed by God. Work like Jesus works. This baffles them because they have been told all their lives they have to work in a particular way and given an approved method. Their religion and traditions tell them to work, to fulfill specific obligations to please God. Is there more they could be doing? What aren’t they doing?

Jesus uses the word pisteuo which is translated “believe” or “to entrust.” It means “to have faith in” God. Not only were they to believe the evidence of the work of God, in this case the “signs” Jesus did, they were to trust His promises. Their obedience is found in a intimate relationship with God not in the assumptions and expectations they manufactured and tried to impose upon Him.

If sin is an “in-your-face” rebellion against God then faith is an “in-your-face” rebellion against the world through believing, trusting and obeying God. Just as it is the whole person God redeems and recreates so it is the whole person He is preparing for eternity. There is no option to cling to the things of the world, the defiant ideas and philosophies, the false safety and security, the deceptive and insidious lure of the senses and pleasures, when one is ushered into the kingdom of God. We were not created for these things and to make them the obsessive focus of our temporal existence denies the image of God integral to our being.

Faith is the hardest work facing anyone and everyone called into God’s kingdom. Doing stuff for God is easier than being how God wants and we are designed.

Seek Eternity

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Why do I seek Jesus? Not, why do I follow Him? That is a different question. In John 6 Jesus confronts both questions. Jesus doesn’t actually ask a question but states the obvious to those who followed Him across the Lake after He miraculously fed them. Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” [John 6:26 ESV] They wanted Him to continue to fulfill their immediate needs and wants. After listening to Him teach and witnessing “signs” they were more concerned about the rumbling in their bellies than the longing of their souls.

Does immediate comfort take precedent over eternal well-being? For those who have suppressed their comprehension of what eternal well-being suggests, yes, immediate comfort is more important. But, being created in the image of God everyone has the eternal tools they need to make sense of their spiritual longing. Still, making self the center is only natural in a world governed by sin, by rebellion against the Creator of the world. We have no right to do so. Simply being human and callous toward the presence and love of God does not remove Him from the center of eternity. There can be only one center. He is that center which means we are not.

Placing self at the center means compromising faith. He did not create us in His image for us to worry or strive after clothes and food and any of the necessities of life. He gave in the image an eternal perspective. For those who face the insecurity of place the striving for food, clothes and the necessities of life becomes paramount. For those who have achieved a level of comfort and security the demand for selfish desires grows stronger taking the place of met necessities. Wants become needs. There is a reason God placed “You will not covet” at the end of the list of statements in Exodus 20. Coveting is the foundation of all sin. Wanting anything more than wanting God is evidence of not trusting Him and an in-your-face-God act of rebellion.

Why did the crowd seek Him? Because they saw signs, watched Him heal the sick and were finally miraculously fed by Him. These same people who followed Jesus so He could continue to feed them had wanted to make Him king after feeding them the day before. “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” [John 6:14-15 ESV]. As king He would feed them, heal their illnesses, drive away the Romans and protect their borders. They would live in safety and security.

With a focus on themselves and the present they missed their Creator and the eternal. Fickle are the emotions of people satisfied with a moment. As their focus upon Jesus waxed so it would have soon waned as their stomachs emptied. Besides, He would not let them. Jesus will not be used in such a fashion. If we seek Jesus with the expectation He will fulfill our basic needs we are seeking Him for the wrong reason. Reasons to seek Jesus are, by His nature, eternal.

Why Seek Him?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Jesus demands we change the way we think and act to fit the image of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. This means no longer thinking and acting like a citizen of the world while remaining active and participating in the world. For this to happen our deepest motivations have to change. We have to want to do what God wants.  It is not good enough to do His will with a selfish and self-centered motivation. Jesus has harsh words for those who religiously pursue the will of God without pursuing God Himself through relationship.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” [Matthew 7:21-23 ESV]

How can doing the work of God be counted as not doing the work of God? When it is done for the wrong intent, to draw attention toward self and away from God. But doesn’t doing count for anything? God commands us to do and demands the responsibility of action. He never asks anyone to do His  will. He commands they respond according to His obvious direction. We obey because He designed us to obey. Yet, in our rebellion we have turned around and inside-out the intent of His will. We claim He is obscure in His demands, or unreasonable and irrational. We hear His clear words and question them and twist them to our own ends. When we obey, according to our twisted understanding, we make the results an act of merit and demand, through our expectations, acknowledgment and payment. We come to believe, without questioning, God is obligated to us and will reward us for what we have done for Him. This just scratches the granite surface of the hardness of heart beating in the corrupted person originally created in the image of God.

Jesus confronts this attitude and motivation throughout His ministry, in the Old Testament, in the Gospels and the Epistles. In John 6 Jesus feed thousands of people and then dismisses them and leaves. Many of them follow Him across the lake, searching for the man who could miraculously feed them. Why would they not want to be with someone who could take care of their most basic needs? Listen to the exchange.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” [John 6:25-26 ESV]

Of course they sought Him. But, Jesus had just spent the day with them teaching them about the kingdom of God. They did not pursue Him to hear more about God and their place in His kingdom. They pursued Him because He fed them both spiritual and physical food and all they saw and remembered was the taste of the bread. Their expectations were on the immediate, which passes away, ignoring  and disregarding the eternal, which never ends.

There is an obvious question hidden in plain sight in this exchange. Why do I seek Jesus? Why do you seek Jesus?

(In the last almost three months my family has cared for an emergency placement foster baby, premature and withdrawing from exposure to multiple drugs. My wife has carried the greatest of the weight of care for this baby. Last week a healthier baby went to live with her aunt and uncle. We are pleased and grieved. God’s grace has carried us.)