You ever watch the show Joan of Arcadia? Neither have I, but the hook of the show was that God would appear to a young high school girl, asking to do things and go places. Kind of a romantic notion isn't it? God wanting someone to do things. Things that take them out of their private existence and pushes them into the world, doing the will of God. Sounds good. I think on one level, her experiences may be closer to what God wants from us than we believe.
Over at Steve's blog people have already jumped the gun on this series, assuming I am dismissing personal devotions, or a personal relationship with Jesus, or that I am creating a conflict between what we do in the closet and what we do in the world. I am not, but the picture will not be complete until the end.
We have settled for a crapulent Christianity, a religion that promotes a private spiritual gluttonyMy point is that many Christians have settled for a spirituality that exists almost entirely during our devotional time, or is primarily directed to our own spiritual benefit. Many have come to the conclusion, even if they have never articulated it for anyone, that what God really wants from them, and is most important, is daily Bible study, prayer, fellowship and evangelism (if you can handle it). All of this amounts to a mutated form of spirituality that is more narcissistic than biblical. We have settled for a crapulent Christianity, a religion that promotes a private spiritual gluttony, and does not intentionally share, give, or bless others. This is seen in the conviction felt when we skip a day of "devotions," and the absence of conviction after a year of doing little for others.
I am not suggesting that one's "quiet time" is unimportant. In fact, I think such time alone with God is critical to walking with Jesus. How that relates to the whole will be discussed in the last post.
What does God want from us?
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
What God wants from us is not private spirituality that ends with our own improvement, but a public spirituality that seeks the glory of God and the good of our neighbor.
What does God want from us? Justice. The idea is not that we would simply love justice, but that we would "do" it. Because the imago dei remains with us we all desire justice on some level, but doing it requires intentionality, labor, conflict, and even sacrifice. The work of justice is most often others-oriented, and is the necessary result of following the "second greatest commandment." When his people champion justice God is revealed to the world. It demonstrates God's values, it becomes God's work, and it foreshadows God's plan for the future.
Justice means we work to provide for those who are in need, while avoiding greed and gluttony. Justice is something the people of God should sing of, and be known for. Justice means we will care, with our own hands, for those who cannot care for themselves; that we speak on behalf of those who do not have an advocate. This is what God wants us to do (Deut. 24:17-22; Ps. 101:1; 103:6; 106:3; 146:7).
In Isaiah chapter one God calls for his people to repent of their sin. In returning to God they are called to,
learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. (Isaiah 1:17)
Matthew Henry said,
You, that have power in your hands, use it for the relief of those whom others do oppress, for that is your business. Avenge those that suffer wrong, in a special manner concerning yourselves for the fatherless and the widow, whom, because they are weak and helpless, proud men trample upon and abuse; do you appear for them at the bar, on the bench, as there is occasion. Speak for those that know not how to speak for themselves and that have not wherewithal to gratify you for your kindness." Note, We are truly honouring God when we are doing good in the world; and acts of justice and charity are more pleasing to him than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices.
All of this work, what God wants from us, is aimed at both physical and spiritual realities. It includes providing both drinking water and living water. It demands that we are peacemakers between men as well as between man and God. It couples preaching the Gospel boldly with words and works.
God takes more delight and pleasure, either in showing mercy himself to poor miserable sinners; or in acts of mercy, compassion, and beneficence done by men, to fallen creatures in distress, whether for the good of their bodies, or more especially for the welfare of their souls, than he does even in sacrifices, and in any of the rituals of the ceremonial law, though of his own appointing. John Gill
I know some are likely to take issue with this and argue that what God really wants from us is love, or a personal relationship. While I want to push that topic to the end, let me just say this at the half-way point of this series. God does want our hearts; love for and from us has always been his desire and plan. But what does he want loving, believing hearts to do? Where does he want our faith in him to take us? What will worshipping hearts that encounter the God of justice be moved to do? I think we have long cultivated the personal relationship aspect, but without an outward aim, and it is time to begin feeding and serving others. This is part of what God wants from us. He speaks to us daily, asking us to do things and go places; he calls us to "do justice" as a body of believers and as individual followers of Jesus.