Friday, March 4, 2016

Shifting Allegiance

(In my attempt to organize some cluttered thoughts about  following an invisible God... this is what I came up with.  It is a work in progress.)

Follow me, my yoke is easy…
This is a familiar verse to me. And for the longest time my personal translation of the verse was - To follow Jesus is easy because we can unload our burdens to him to carry for us. There could be no better motivation to follow Jesus than that! I believe there are others who share the same understanding of the verse. But what does that make of our Lord Jesus Christ then if not a mere servant to whoever follows him?

In any given journey, there comes a point when we have to choose a path to follow one and disregard all others – which only function then as markers.

Follow me… Jesus calls us to follow him. God is invisible. He exists beyond human’s physical sensory capabilities. In the Old Testament we read that God showed himself to his people in the form of a cloud that hovered over the tabernacle - a portable one that they carried along with them in the wilderness. But when they did not see the physical sign of the presence of God the Hebrew people they made god for themselves to worship. Unaware that God walked with them, they replaced him with a material object to which they gave their worship to. For man, it is easy to follow a leader if he is discernible by the human judgement. A thorough background check of his qualities coupled with a personal audience tells us whether a leader deserves our loyalty or not. But God is invisible. How to follow an invisible God? The Old Testament Israelites are not so far from where we stand today. And just like them, sometimes we do not have a clue about God even if he walks with us daily – because He is invisible. So we make up his image based on the shallow knowledge we have and most often the best we can come up with is a golden calf.

“What would Jesus do?” is a common saying when we want others to choose wisely. God gave mankind an instruction manual and tools on how to go after Jesus. But just like the manual that comes with IKEA furniture, no matter how they convince us that it is easy to assemble, it takes careful investigation of the pieces and carefully following the steps.

But where is God?
In this time and age the golden calf has evolved in to something more educated and modern interpretations. It has become simply a religious group. That group is spirit-filled and charismatic – just like how King David’s church would have been. Sometimes it is what Christian groups believe. Their statement of faith coincides with what I believe is true therefore to join them is following the Lord. It can also mean service. Follow the Lord in mission. I will follow the Lord wherever He sends me - the mission field. Observing the Ten Commandments, attending church service, reading the bible, getting involved in a church ministry, tithing, teaching/attending a bible study, etc. can all often be interpreted as “following” nowadays. But is that really where God is? Are they not similar to the laws the Pharisees tightly clung to for righteousness sake? Assuming that these are the valid ways to follow Jesus, then it is easy to know when or not we are following Jesus. But because we do not know where these ways of following him end it is rather difficult to know what is considered enough. This is a burdensome situation.

 Assuming this is what it means to follow Jesus, then what does it mean to NOT follow Jesus? If we are not following him then who is there to follow in his place?

I believe there is a complicated question at hand. If I do not know where God is, how can I follow his lead? If I do not follow Jesus then who is there to follow?

Man’s every though is either motivated by his pursuit of God or his pursuit of God’s created things. It is often easy to quote the bible, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

This means to strip your thoughts and ambition of the rewards for the work you do except that which comes from God. Yes, we get paid by God only by his grace. Sometimes we Christians say, “we do this and we do that for God” - but behind the façade of our activities, somewhere in the depths of the mind we also expect to be seen by others as being good and thus elevate our image to some degree. We all vie for that position, accolade, recognition, salary range, medal and that trophy. I work so that I will come out better, richer, smarter, skinnier, more popular, more recognized and cooler. All these, to me, are not working as unto the Lord. We work for my own end. Yes, we pray to God ever so intently to get him support our agenda.  But do we have room for God in our thoughts?  (Psalm 10:4)

Shifting Purpose
In his book The Pursuit of God, Tozer says that “self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us”. We, in our own personal motive, make up our own hindrance into God’s presence. This seems very simple and easy to understand. But it is quite complicated and often misunderstood and unnoticed. There is a very fine line between our good intentions and our pride. We can start with the perfect motives on the things we do and think about -- but in the process, our thoughts shift from God is great to I can do it. Our initial goals of seeking God turn into seeking fulfilment with God as my almighty helper. What seems like a subtle alteration is in fact a severe shift in our purpose. We all intend to be living proof of God to our world. But in the subtlety of the human ego, our motives veer ever so slightly to provide a living proof not of God but of the one that was created in God’s image – self.

Apart from God, man’s desires and cravings pull him away from his Maker. We’ve seen this portrayed in the life of the first ever man and woman on earth. Adam and Eve desired knowledge that they disobeyed the one and only commandment God gave them at the time.  It is a natural tendency for any man to grab the title for anything we perceive as great. But when we fail to maintain the steering wheel towards the direction of God’s glory then we fail God.  Proverbs 16:2 says “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”  Do your actions announce the presence of a great God? Or have you changed the direction of your path so that your actions proclaim your worth and the things you deserve?

Do I find joy in knowing God and do I desire more of Him everyday? My God, forgive me, you know I'm guilty. Examine my heart and show me where I fall short every waking moment.  Amen.

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