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.)