In any consideration of God’s essence, John’s definition of Him as love immediately comes to mind. (1 John 4:16) All of us finding comfort as well in Matthew 11:28 - 30 where Jesus described the task of following him as easy and light (at least when compared to the consequences of not following Him); and that if we do grow weary, we can find “rest” in him. His love of us prompting our redemption (John 3:16); scripture characterizing our response to him and those he places in our realm of influence as likewise grounded in love, expressed through words and deeds of compassionate concern. ( 1 John 3:16-18 & 4:19-21) Jesus declaring, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” And that, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love,…” John14:15 & 15:10 His commands aptly summed up in loving him first and foremost and loving our “neighbors” as we do ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40, see also John 13:34,35)
Jesus gives us a fairly substantive list of attributes anyone trying to live up to his expectations will clearly model in their lives in Matthew 5,6 &7; a practical expression of God’s will or “mind”, which we are admonished to renew ourselves in (Romans 12:2 & Ephesians 4:23); enabling us to then develop the same characteristics (or heart) of Christ. (Philippians 2:5) Included in the list are injunctions against a number of actions we would expect; murder, adultery and divorce – with a twist. Defining demeaning and hurtful speech as murderous; describing looking but not touching as lust-filled desire waiting for an opportunity to act; characterizing divorce as not just a cancelled legal document but a broken promise and defeated purpose.
We are also instructed to speak honestly and to live with integrity; saying what we mean and meaning what we say. To exact revenge on no one; allowing others to use and even abuse us – all the while attempting to bring hope to their lives and glory to God. Further advising us not to expect preferential treatment because of our faith, but to be faithful none-the-less.
Equally expected are the directives of generosity to the needy, diligence in prayer and earnestness in fasting; as well as an injunction against worrying. That whole process fostering the realization of our real source of joy, peace and purpose – God. We are to be discerning, not judgmental; encouraged to ask questions so we can truly comprehend Him; seeking the truth that fosters genuine faith and knocking on doors that reveal new horizons for us. Realizing that achieving those goals will often seem daunting, the Way too narrow to travel; we must understand as well that the broad, easy path merely caters to our whims and appetites – leading us away from Godliness and redemption while fanning the flames of selfishness and destruction. God expecting us to bear out a fruitfulness in our lives that testifies to our commitment to his cause and the faithfulness we can expect from Him in return. The foundation we build our lives on, either the solidity of God’s Word or the shifting sand of public opinion and personal gratification, then dictating whether we stand or fall on so many different levels.
A genuine Christian will mourn for the unsaved world and the hurt inflicted on us all as a result of its “fallen state.” A true Christian will be meek, not incapable of bold action or reluctant to speak clearly, but rather like a “broken” horse, he is trained – his power restrained, focused and channeled to useful purposes. Necessitating on our part a desire to be consistently in the Word, fed and energized by His will and way; being merciful even as we have been shown mercy, developing a purity of heart that allows us to see and love others as God does.
But to do so may very well mean feeling what he has felt; broken-heartedness. The kind God experiences as he views the mess we’ve made of his creation and the cavalier way we live our lives; reliving the moments when He was questioned, denounced and rejected, misunderstood by those who should have anticipated his coming, misrepresented by others who resented his claim to authority and finally killed for being different than many could accept or were willing to even consider throughout the whole course of human history. (Prime examples being the, “Did God really say…?” of Genesis 3:1 and the unregenerate condition of the world after just a short period of time noted in Genesis 6:5,6.)
To know God then – to be Godly in its deepest sense is to know or at least identify with his suffering in all its aspects; finding wholeness in Him even as He “found” it with His Father. (John 17:20,21) Allowing us to then fully “experience” – deep in our souls – the true essence of God’s love for us and thus develop a heart like his.1
Scripture assures us that, “This is the one (God) esteem(s): he who is humble and contrite in spirit, (who) trembles at my word.” Is. 66:2 What Jesus possibly refers to as “the poor in spirit” in Matthew 5:3. The Psalmist declaring that “The sacrifices of God (what we legitimately offer him) are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart…” Psalm 51:17 Speaking to a brokenness of self-will, a humility of spirit; a willing submission of our will to His. (Contrition described as the “rubbing together” of opposites, a grinding of one upon the other – until something gives – denoting deep sorrow and remorse for contrariness, but joy at the final product!) Jesus proclaiming that after contrition occurs, redemption is possible, and that, “…there is rejoicing…” in heaven “…over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
An ideal example of the “heart” He is looking for further noted in Luke 18:9-14 in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The self-confident Pharisee – exalting himself – earned God’s condemnation. The self-effacing and genuinely sorrowful tax collector being justified by God’s grace and promoted – by Him – all the way to heaven.
1From Mark Galli’s book, Jesus Mean and Wild, Baker books
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