When John shared Isaiah 58:2 in his sermon yesterday: “For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways” at first glance that verse appeared to be indicating that God’s people were getting it right, but then John pointed out the word “seem”. As I pondered that word, I realized that it always leaves room for doubt. That one word opened up a plethora of thoughts for me.
“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)
Jesus quotes this Isaiah passage in Matthew 15 by saying: “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
To be a hypocrite means to be an actor; to play a role. I have to admit that for a number of years, my Christianity was a religion that looked much like that. I went through the motions, but my heart was not in it. I wanted my heart to be in it, but striving and “doing” to create a relationship with God will never work. Striving and “doing” can not bring life. I was going after approval, I was going after reward from God, I was going through my checklist–quiet time, check; said a prayer, check; went to church, check; but it was dead. It was religion. It was a heavy weight. It did not produce the fruit of the Spirit. It did not produce transformation. It was exhausting, and it was unsustainable. So, when John was talking about daily chasing after God, and differentiating between religion and relationship, the importance of the order of things began to take shape in my mind.
In John 14:15 Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (ESV)
I used to look at that verse and interpret it as meaning “prove you love me by keeping my commandments”; however, I now see it as saying if I love Jesus, truly love him, the natural outflow of that love will be keeping his commandments. It’s not a heavy weight to bear. It’s a beautiful relationship based on His love for me and my love for Him in return. Here’s the order: “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Therefore, knowing that He pursues me, and then pursuing Him, chasing after Him daily, produces exactly what John said.
Chasing after God daily creates obedience–not out of “have to” but out of “want to”. Like David, I long for my heart to beat in time with the heartbeat of God (Acts 13:22 MSG). I’m continuing to discover that doing life His way is a delight. The transformation and fruit that come from delighting in God and seeking His kingdom first have no equal in this world. When I stop seeking His “stuff” and just seek “Him”, I learn that He truly is the reward, He is the treasure, He is the prize. Again–the order of things–“Seek first the Kingdom of God…”(Matthew 6:33)”
Chasing after God daily creates longing–I found the words “soul and spirit” in Isaiah 26:9a worthy of a second glance. “At night my soul longs for You. Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” I believe that the soul is the part of us that houses our emotions, our will, our personality, in other words it is the intangible part of us that makes us who we are. I believe that the spirit part of us is what God breathes life into when we come into relationship with Christ, and is therefore the part of us that connects with Him; my spirit connected to His Spirit. When Jesus tells the woman at the well that the Father longs for worshipers who will worship in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), He is saying–come to me with your soul bared, come honestly, come transparently, come authentically, come ready to connect your spirit to mine. Don’t come as an “actor”, don’t come because you “should”. Come, every day because I love you, and you love me. Bring every feeling, every doubt, every celebration, every decision, all of you to me, and I will meet you there. He tells us: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah. 29:13) Nothing could be better! The daily dependency, the daily chase–this is where life is found. He alone is life.
Have you learned to chase Him daily? Tell us about your journey from “have to” to “want to” and the fruit that has come from it.
Like Luanne, I spent many years “doing” religion rather than pursuing Jesus in relationship. My checklist was long. My smile was plastic. My heart was hard, but longing to be soft–even though I didn’t yet know what that meant. I lived fake-and, for a very long time, I wasn’t even aware of it.
Contained within the inauthentic faith I was living was the lie that I had to mute my questions, manage my emotions and protect my heart-even from God. Especially from Him… Because I flat out did not trust Him.
John talked about asking the questions and fully feeling our emotions in an authentic way. He talked about this in the same part of the message where he talked about our longing for God, the depths of that longing, the seeking in the morning and at night and in every moment. This is not a direct quote, but this is what I heard and wrote in my notes:
“God is big enough to handle every emotion contained within our longing”.
I believe our longing for God is ultimately what drives us to keep chasing after that something we are seeking to fulfill us. We don’t always know that it’s God we’re longing for, but we all have that thing that drives us, that thing we need to find fulfillment.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, out of the Amplified Bible, it says, He [God] has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]…
So our deepest longing, whether we recognize it as such or not, is actually to know God and live out of the eternal rather than the temporal. And that longing, it contains every emotion we feel. Because God created us that way. Our deepest sorrow, our richest joy, our frustration and anger and all of the “why” questions that flow from that place–they live within our ultimate longing for what we were actually created for. Our longing is bursting at the seams with emotion because our longing is actually for the eternal–and only the eternal can handle the full weight of our God-given emotions.
So this longing where our wildest emotions live, it leads us one of two ways–either we seek to fulfill it in everything but God, to no avail, or we find it satisfied in God, as we daily chase after Him. And I have found that the crazy thing about finding that fulfillment in God is that it then produces something–a greater longing. Because experiencing Him always leaves us wanting more, this side of Heaven. While we’re living broken lives on a broken, fallen planet, our longing will never feel fully fulfilled. But as we get to know Him more, it’s not so much a restless, searching kind of longing. It becomes, instead, a longing pregnant with anticipation, anxiously awaiting the day when we will know fully as we are fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
So, I’m asking myself again, and I’ll ask you, too: What are you chasing? What are you longing for? Is it God? What questions are you afraid to ask Him? What emotions do you try to hide from Him? He can handle all of the emotions contained within our longing. He gave them to us. Can we trust Him enough to give them back to Him in an authentic way?