There are three things I often think about when I write these articles: listening, changing mindsets, and the Kingdom of God. Why? Well, look at the teachings of the prophets and the parables of Jesus and it is clear those are pretty important things. But they aren’t just important to think about. They are important to cultivate and be changed. God doesn’t want us to merely be convicted to do something, he wants us to change into people who do good things naturally. In other words, God doesn’t want us to DO good things. He wants us to BE good people who do good things. He wants our hearts.
It is so easy to get caught up in serving and all the things that we think we need to do. And those things are good, but we do them as a response and reflection of who we are as Children of God. Look at the rich young ruler in Luke 18. Along with Abraham, I see it as one of the best illustrations to show that God wants our hearts. When the man asks Him how to inherit eternal life, Jesus responds in a typical Jesus fashion. He mentions the Commandments. Notice how Jesus is not telling him what he needs to do? He just brings up the Commandments. The young man responds with legalism. He has done all these things. That is the way the Pharisees thought. He thinks he has done everything he needs “to do” to get into heaven. Jesus hits him with “sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor…” Is this what Jesus calls all of us to do? No, that would be a new legalism. That would just be saying that the Pharisees were following the wrong set of laws to gain their way to eternal life. The point is not to put those things before God. Following God is the priority. God wants our hearts.
Look earlier in Luke 18. Luke frequently places stories together based on topic and to accentuate the common meaning. Here he places the “Rich Young Ruler” together with the parable of the “Pharisee and the Tax Collector.” That’s when the Pharisee brags about how righteous he is, how much he’s done. Then the tax collector confesses that he is a sinner and that God is in charge. Which one was justified? Only the tax collector. Only the one who recognized that we are sinners, not law-keepers. The two stories go together. When we do good things, it’s not with motives of getting into heaven, it’s because we belong to God and that is what He wants. He wants our hearts.
And here is the tough part. How do we respond? What does it look like when God has our hearts? It’s in the Bible. Read Acts, it is my favorite book in the Bible because they were regular guys that God used. Just like you and I can be. God had their hearts. They pursued Him and His will. I’m not talking about a three year old saying she wants to give her heart to Jesus. I’m talking about on your knees bawling, life changing, never-be-the-same again, giving your heart to Jesus. Do you think the rich young ruler’s response to Jesus was to say “I was really convicted by your message today, Jesus!” and then go on with his life? Do you think Jesus would have been satisfied with that? Jesus challenged him to give up what he wanted and pursue what God wanted. Because Jesus loved him. And he couldn’t do it, and went away sad. He couldn’t put God first.
That is why when I read our vision, to passionately demonstrate the love of Jesus, I see the “choosing sacrifice” part and think “wow, that’s tough.” Choosing sacrifice is not about helping other people, at least not directly. It’s about giving up what we want. Its about bringing it to God and letting God be the leader. It’s about giving our hearts to God and not just doing the things He wants us to do. It’s being the people He wants us to be, and doing those things because we want to.