The Word says Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a servant. I know a lot of good Christians. They follow the rules really well. They're in church when the doors are open, they have a quiet time 5-7 days a week, they read the Bible, and they do all the "right" things. The problem is when you ask them what God is like, they don't have much to say. When you ask why they're a Christian, the answer normally revolves around something about not going to hell.
I'm concerned about people that can follow rules, but have no idea how to have a relationship. That's exactly what the pharisees were like. I'm a big believer in obedience, discipline, and holiness, but they are not my priority. Selah. I know, I just lost a few of you that now want to throw the Bible at me. If you're reading this post, you most likely know me personally or have at least found your way here through someone who knows me, so trust me long enough to read to the end.
Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was doing everything in obedience with law and culture. She was serving and that was a woman's job. Mary was in complete disobedience to culture and law, she was making herself known in a room of men by sitting at Jesus feet and looking at Him, this goes against everything "allowed" by the law of the time. Jesus' response to Martha when she's pretty bewildered that Jesus isn't making Mary serve... "Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her" There is so much packed in this little passage that I could expound on, but rather let's just take this main point from it: Jesus found more value in Mary's closeness and intimacy than He did in Martha's servanthood.
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The "other" son stayed out working in a field while one son was out recklessly spending his inheritance. The son in the field was being obedient. He was disciplined. He was doing everything "right". In fact he even says, "I NEVER disobeyed your command", but it is evident by his interaction with his father, that he had no understanding of HIS FATHER'S HEART. His father wasn't concerned about him doing everything right (as we can tell by his acceptance of the prodigal son's return), he prioritized relationship with BOTH his sons. He wanted to know them and He wanted to be known by them. I would even propose that He accepted the prodigal son back even though he still hadn't worked out all of his wrong mindsets yet as he says, "treat me as one of your hired servants". The prodigal still didn't realize how much the Father prized him, but he got one thing right... "he arose and came to his father". He chose connection with the father, he didn't run out into the field to pick up the shovel, he went to the father.
Depart from me (Matt. 7:22-23) We all know this passage so well and again there's so much to be said about it, but it's interesting here we find people who were doing the "works of the Father" in the name of Jesus. We know that Jesus wants this done. He even corrects his disciples in Mark 9:38-41 when they try to stop people from doing the exact same work of casting out demons. But then Jesus says, depart from me, I NEVER KNEW YOU. What an interesting statement that again, Jesus prioritizes RELATIONSHIP over works of power, works of obedience, and works of discipline.
There's many more places in scripture to show you that God isn't looking for a master/servant relationship with you. He isn't even after your ultimate obedience (yes He wants it, yes it is important, no it is not His priority), He wants a child, He wants a friend, He wants a bride... not a slave. Have you noticed that children move their parents hearts? Have you noticed that friends get to be vulnerable and open, sharing who they are with each other? Have you noticed that a bride, captivates a grooms attention, can freely share, serve and receive?
It's interesting how God measures a person. Jesus looked at a prostitute and said, "He who is without sin cast the first stone". He looked at a betrayer and said, be the treasurer. He looked at the denier and said, I'll build my church on you. He looked at the persecutor and said evangelize the world. And the one that baffles me the most is David. He looked at a murderer, an adulterer, a liar, and said, this one, this one was after my heart. So what marks you in God's eyes? Is it your behavior? Is it your loyalty? Is it how hard you work? How religious you can be? I think it's way different than we've imagined, I believe it's our openness to be honest with Him, but our vulnerability to be swayed by Him. He wants a bride. "depart from me, I never knew you". God is all knowing, how is it possible that He didn't "know" them. One of the words for "know" in the bible is speaking of experiential knowledge. To experience someone. To spend time with them. To hear their heart. To share yours. To have a history. To make memories. God doesn't experience you in that way, unless you open up to Him. Intimacy = Into me you see.
Perhaps God's greatest desire isn't an army of obedient servants, but rather a Bride of lovesick believers.
David told God right where he was. Kill them God. I repent Lord. Show me mercy. Help me God. I'm mad God. Pay them back. I worship you no matter what. I don't understand. I'm miserable. Will you continue to turn your back on me? Don't leave me. I need you. Punish them!! Forgive them. Make me like you. I'll never stop telling people of how good you are. Why are you forsaking me? You could read through the Psalms and think that he was bipolar, but I have another theory. I believe we often see one side of a beautiful DIALOGUE. David pouring out his heart, while God pours out His to His friend. David's heart is moved and swayed by the responses of this All Powerful Creator God, who just so happened to be His best friend, the Love of His life, the one of whom He said, "there's only one thing that I seek, to dwell in the courts of the Lord all the days of my life and behold His beauty" You see God is the Lord we bow our knee to and He always will be. We know Him as the all powerful God who gives us directions for how to live and if you'll do it for no one else, for your own sake, follow His commands. We also see a God who allowed Abraham to sway His decision, who backed up Elijah when He decided to have a contest, and who prized David enough to put His Son in His lineage.
How do you know God and how does He know you?
Have you asked Him lately what He likes about you? Have you asked Him what you do that makes Him most happy? Have you had fun with Him lately? Have you laughed? Has His goodness overwhelmed you so much that you could do nothing but cry in His overwhelming pleasure? Do you know what moves His heart? What makes Him smile? Have you talked to Him about what makes you smile? Have you told Him about your favorite foods, sounds, places, and things?
There's a whole side of the Kingdom that feels very serious. I know it well. I lived there for years. It's a place of duty and responsibility. Read enough. Pray enough. OBEY OBEY. Lay your life down. Kids are dying. Injustice is ravaging the earth. Don't forget to obey. What about the wars? The starving kids? Turn around, I just past a homeless person I didn't see. Listen. Don't mistake me, all of those things are important to me, but I found it's not so much about what you do, but the heart you do it with. You can do a lot of loving things, with a duty attitude. When you take on the cares of this world, you are in pride. Something in you actually believes you could do a better job of handling it than He can. "Cast your cares, He cares for you" When you have more faith in your ability to act righteous, than the desperate need you had and have for Jesus to make you righteous, then you're way off base. Reality is on my best day I'm not worthy of His righteousness. I can't read my Bible enough, intercede enough, empty out my bank account enough times, serve enough, get humble enough, worship enough, so instead, I've learned to just fall more in love with Him.
I love reading the Word and I believe in it. I believe when you believe it, that it has the POWER to transform your life. Of course I believe in obedience. Jesus said, "If you love me, you obey me", which just reinforces to me that we don't have a "behavior" problem in the church, we have a relationship problem. I believe in being disciplined in my body, in my mind, in my spirit. The truth is when you "seek first the Kingdom" aka HIM.. all of that begins to come naturally. As you live out of the Spirit instead of the flesh obedience flows easily, and when mistakes are made, so does repentance, forgiveness, and grace. I am not knocking the importance of righteousness, obedience, and holiness. We can't deny its very strong presence in the scripture, rather I'm challenging the very temperature and focus of the heart. So I say again, I believe in obedience, discipline, and holiness but they're not my priority. As I fall more in love with Him the easier it is to hear His Spirit and obey when He's guiding me and leading me. When I fall in love I worship and pray thought the day because it just flows out of me, not because I have to. When I fall in love I HUNGER to read the Word because in that book I find more of what He is like.
My prayer as I write this is to see people sparked with a desire to KNOW HIM and make themselves KNOWN TO HIM. To go deeper in intimacy than you've ever gone. To ask questions you've never asked, to share stories and thoughts you've kept locked up. To have fun with Him. To listen to Him. To go spend hours alone just to be with Him. I pray that you would fall madly in love with the One who created you for intimacy. I pray that every orphan heart would meet the perfect Father. That you would feel no need to earn His love, earn His approval, earn His provision, earn His protection. I pray that you would see your first and primary purpose is simply relationship with Him. I pray you would see that you're not on a behavioral control program, you're in a divine love story. I pray that as you grow to be ravishly in love with Him, that His love in you would dive you deep into love of others. "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." (Eph. 1:17) "and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:19)
Be Blessed, J. Tate
“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ (Hosea 2:16)