Over the past several months, God is showing me the difference between “being first” vs. “doing first”. Specifically, I’m talking in a spiritual context and the motivation or heart behind my activities. To illustrate what I’m talking about, I’m going to use Jesus as an example. I’m starting to see Jesus (the person) in a different way. He has been described on a regular basis as a revolutionary and I disagree. Sure, he was proposing a different way of thinking, but it wasn’t anything new. In fact, Jesus was calling people back to what was intended all along, so in that sense, He can be best described as a traditionalist.
The Old Testament is filled with rules (also called laws) that were intended, in my opinion, not so much to set some “safe” boundaries for God’s people, but to shape a lifestyle that was different enough for the world to take notice and therefore, create opportunities for the Jews to point to their God as the One True God. The motivation behind following the Law needed to be out of a love for God, but it got morphed over time for some to blind obedience. Jesus said that He was on earth to fulfill the Law and show first-hand what it looked like to BE first rather than DO first.
If you look at how Jesus interacted with the Pharisees (the most schooled people on God’s Law), you’ll notice an intense examination of their heart – the motivation behind the rituals performed. He continually chastised them for not only following a ritual with impure motivations, but also for propagating that mentality on to the rest of the Jewish community. Jesus wasn’t talking about a new Christianity, he was reminding them of the way it should have been all along. Abraham was saved, not by his relentless following of the Law, but by his faith in God and His promises of salvation. His obedience to the Law flowed out of his love for his God. In essence, Abraham loved God first and that love was the motivation for his actions.
So, that brings me to today and a close examination of my own heart and those that God has given me watch over. I believe He has always called us to focus on our heart; spending the majority of our time examining our character, developing a reputation of integrity and a genuine love for others. In short, it is the inside of a man is what proves to power long-term motivation that brings God pleasure. It is out of that mature heart that action is given influence.
The struggle is against a culture that readily produces activities that we are supposed to “do” in order to grow in our faith. Sure, there are things that we can learn by doing that make a difference in our heart and then there are other activities that we do out of a sense of guilt. It is the latter that I believe Jesus was asking us to reject or at least scrutinize.
To sum up, I’m starting to “do” things that develop who I am first and allowing that maturity to overflow into how I serve – always examining my motivation and learning from the “poor choices” I make along the way. Thoughts?