The Heart of the Matter

When most people think about Christianity, they think about rules. They think tradition. They think about churches that have left a bad taste in their mouth. They think of childhood, and hymns, and little old ladies who pointed their fingers or cast judgmental looks their way.

There are other people who, when they think about Christianity, think about meals that filled their bellies and warmed their hearts all at the same time. They think about the kindness that people showed, or the encouragement they gave. They think about the way they felt loved and supported and accepted by the church. They think about life-changing experiences they had with God in the pews, or on the mission field, or even in their own quiet times, alone with God. They may even think about miracles they have witnessed or been personally affected by.

Whether your perception of the Christian faith falls into the former or the latter description, the truth is that Christianity was really only intended to be boiled down to one thing: love. God’s love for humanity, our response of love back to Him, and the overflow of that love relationship toward the others we are surrounded by. The rest of the journey is supposed to be the fruit of that love.

If your experience of Christianity has been stinging or wounding, your willingness to try and embrace God’s narrow way again will be more difficult. But even if your experience has been positive, there is still, quite often, a journey needed to lead us back to the real heart of the matter of true religion.

It’s easy for us, as humans, to get caught up in the stuff of life. It is equally easy for us to get caught up in the stuff of religion. We, much like the people of Jesus’ day (when He walked among them in human flesh), can tend to “follow” Him for the wrong reasons. This, I’m afraid, is no better than not following Him at all. It is always a point of caution to me that many of Jesus’ confrontational discussions and warnings were given to the people who did church well. The religious leaders who were trying to lead others in following God. Turns out, they too missed the heart of the whole matter. This reminds me that I am capable of the same, and it urges me to consider where things tend to get off course in our lives.

In Luke chapter 19, Jesus looks out over a city and weeps for it. His heart breaks, because the people there don’t recognize what time it is, and why He has come. The crowds that have followed Him have done so because they wanted or needed something from Him. They were fascinated by and wanted to benefit from His miracles and His power.

Those who didn’t follow Him had concluded that He had nothing they needed or wanted. They were content with their lives and their own versions of faith. Maybe because He hadn’t answered their requests. Or maybe because they were too skeptical to even ask. Either way, the bottom line was the same for both of them. They were missing the real thing.

And right there, in verses 41-44, we see the heart of God in plain view. It is broken over their misperceptions and their lack, because He loves them so much. He tells them that all He has told them, and all He has done, has been for their good. He wants only what is best for them, and He reminds them that He is the only place it can be found.

Here is where He has lost most of them. It’s still where people tend to turn away today. Its where I want to grab a megaphone and shout: “Just believe Him! He’s telling the truth! He really is the way, the truth and the life. You really can’t find what you’re looking for anywhere else!” But Jesus doesn’t shout.

He cries. Because He knows what they’re looking for isn’t Him. It’s all the other stuff.

So He warns them of where that path will lead. He tells them that there is disaster approaching. Enemies will invade and overtake. Their families will be harmed. And He wants to offer them a way out of that trouble. It isn’t punishment for rejecting Him. It’s the inevitable end of the road that sin has paved. He has come to remind them that this disaster cannot be averted, that it must come in order for the fulfillment of all things to be accomplished. But He wants to rescue them. While they may walk through the fire, He longs to spare them from the devastation of it. If only they would run to Him. If only they would find their home in His love.

But they were missing the point. Soon, He would go to the cross, and the phenomenon would be over. The miraculous power and provision they had seen would subside, for a time, and they would return to what they knew before – their comfortable ways. The places and things they had settled for. He wanted to change that for them. He wanted them to believe that there was more to the story of why they were alive and why He was alive, and why it all mattered. He was offering them more than what they asked for, but what they asked for was all they could – or were willing to – entertain.

We aren’t so different, are we? With the help of the world, the devil, and our our flesh, we have made Christianity out to be all kinds of things it was never meant to be. The real heart of Christianity is love. God is love. And God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to redeem us from a life rooted in something that isn’t love.

Returning to God and being rooted in faith, and even preparing for the dark and difficult days ahead isn’t about working harder or gathering supplies. It isn’t about learning more and setting ourselves up to have enough stored up to get us through. It isn’t even about going to church more – although He tells us to make sure we do {https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+10%3A24-25&version=NLT}.

Ultimately, It’s about being immersed in His love. It’s about yielding to and dwelling in what we were created for.

He never intended for us to settle for lifeless religion. Neither did He mean for us to live without religion. He came to bring people on both sides of the religious tension into a single reality: that He calls us to live in intimate love with Him and with others. He heals us so that we can. And He empowers us to be able to.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, I want to pose a question for your journey today: what have you known Christianity to be? Whether you are a follower, or walking the fence of maybe not wanting to follow anymore, what conclusions have you drawn about God, and about the church, and about the point of it all?

If you are willing to look closely, to let God search your heart, I guarantee you will find some hidden distortions there. It’s nearly impossible to get through life in this world without them being formed beneath the surface of our experiences. But when you begin to recognize them, I encourage you to let God lead you back to the truth, back to the heart of the matter.

Are you seeking and following God because of what you want Him to do for you?

Have you given up seeking and following because of what He hasn’t done for you?

Are you somewhere in the middle, unsure of what it really all means and whether or not you really believe and should follow Him, maybe because all you’ve ever seen and heard are people talking about what He has done and what He hasn’t? Or maybe because some of your prayers have been answered, but others haven’t?

The heart of the matter, Beloved, is that God is love. And because He is love, everything He says and does – and doesn’t say and doesn’t do – comes from that love. Our response to that love mustn’t be about what we will gain or lose, but about returning to the One Who made us in love, and for love. We were created to know this love. To live in it, through the gains and losses. And to thrive because of it, and fail to thrive without it.

What it all boils down to is that God draws near in order to pull us into His heart. That is home – His presence. That’s where everything is resolved. That’s where disappointments lose their sharp edges, and successes lose their intoxicating ability to distract us from the pursuit of Love. That’s where confusion gives way to clarity and clarity is humbled by the wisdom of a God Who is sovereign over all things in Heaven and on Earth – and yet chooses to set His loving gaze upon us.

This God wants an intimate relationship with each one of us, and with us collectively! This God pursues the broken heart to heal it. This God approaches the hardened heart to soften it. Not to teach it a lesson about who’s in charge, but to reintroduce it to love that does not wound.

We are desperately in need of this love. All of us. The question we can ask ourselves daily is this: am I living in the true love of God, or in the shadows of His offering? Have I become either satisfied with the fringe benefits of His love, or determined that I can live without them? Herein lies the tension that causes most people to pick a side to settle on. Meanwhile, God continues to call us into the fiery heart of His love…

God’s heart is reaching for us, passionately, in this hour. He is calling all men unto Himself, because He loves us so deeply. He is weeping for those who don’t recognize it. The time has come for us to decide: will we return to what we were made for, and be led in His peace in the coming hour of darkness? Or will we remain as we are, and be left defenseless and uncovered as the enemy approaches and does what he will to those who are not found in the shadow of Jesus’ wings?

The God Who is Love is extending to you and I His invitation to more than just a worship service, or a commitment to more discipline in our daily lives. He is holding out a wedding ring. He longs to spend eternity with us, and to spend the time between now and then living with us in the resting place of His perfect and redeeming love.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}


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