Sunday, November 24, 2013
The One Thing
The Beatitudes (a section of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:3-10) offer us an amazing insight into the heart of God. The late Rich Mullins once told me that this scripture is the condensed version of everything Jesus taught. Yet most of its concepts are so foreign to us today, even in the church. Our culture is not fond of the meek, the merciful or the peacemakers. We in USAmerica certainly don't understand being persecuted for Jesus' sake. But perhaps nothing is a foreign to us as the concept of being "pure in heart."
I used to think that being "pure in heart" meant moving beyond sin; that my heart would be pure when I was free of sin and fully in the arms of God. I know now even being in the arms of God, even walking with Christ everyday and living my life under guidance of the Holy Spirit, will NEVER keep me free from sin. I am human, therefore I will sin. That is the Biblical truth. I think being "pure in heart" means something altogether different. In the movie City Slickers, Curly (played by Jack Palance) is asked what the meaning of life is by Billy Crystal's character, and he responds by holding up a finger and saying, "One thing." When asked what the one thing is, he tells Crystal that he has to figure that out for himself. Rich addressed this in song, pointing out that when Jesus becomes our "one thing" then we begin to become one of the "pure in heart." We do not become sin free, but we do understand what it means to repent and know the grace of God. We focus our lives on the things of God and the teachings of Jesus. We begin to understand that while there may be more in our life than our relationship with Christ, there is actually nothing else we need. Rich wrote, "Everybody I know says they need just one thing, but what they really mean is they need just one thing more...You're my one thing, and the pure in heart shall see God."
The truth is we are not likely attain this pureness either, at least not on this side of Heaven, because we are so easily distracted. But we can strive for it. We can seek to make Jesus our one thing. Notice I didn't say strive to make church our one thing, because the church so often distorts what Jesus taught with its own history and bias. If you make Jesus your one thing, you will lose some friends ("What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak...). Your world view will change, and the only citizenship that will matter to you is the one you hold in the Kingdom of God. You will understand that politics have absolutely nothing to do with following the Christ. You will know that "the least of these" people in our society are of great value to Jesus (See Matthew 25). You will treat people differently, ceasing to judge and offering love to even those who despise you. And the more you make Jesus your one thing, the closer you get to a clear picture of the heart of God. That is an amazing promise. And the best part is you don't actually have to do anything. You just have to surrender your heart, and be willing to live without the "one thing more." Let Jesus take over, and you will discover that you can be meek, and merciful, and a peacemaker. You will "hunger and thirst for righteousness." And you may just see God in a whole new way. You will have what my friend Sabrina calls "I spy God" moments that you never expect and can barely imagine. You will know the presence of God in your life.
I know this is a rambling post, but God is putting it more and more on my heart to remind my readers that Radical Christianity is all about following Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. Anything (including organized religion) that draws us away from that one thing is a distraction we cannot tolerate if we seek to be "pure in heart." My prayer is that I (and you!) may take another step towards that purity every day.
Because of Jesus,