When I go to breakfast with people I always feel conflicted between the urge to order a pile of pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage swimming in butter and syrup and that little voice reminding me that oatmeal will lower my rising cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. Anyway, it's an angst I've been feeling a lot lately because I've begun having regular breakfasts with a new group of friends who, like me, are hungry for more of God and life and reality than we're finding in Christian culture.
Yesterday, as I leaned over my bowl of oatmeal (attaboy John), someone asked, "What's the one thing we each really want?" Several of us offered answers until one person finally said, "All I want is Jesus; and in Him, everything else is provided." It sounded so true and godly that no one questioned it; but for some reason the answer didn't entirely satisfy me.
As I drove home praying about it, I found myself thinking, "Okay, we want Jesus. Got it. But what does he want? What does God want?"
It occured to me that this seemed like a much more helpful question in our pursuit of life's best. If God loves us and created us with a specific design in which we must function to find fulfillment for our created heart’s desire, then isn't His desire – the desire of the Master Architect - the only one that will really satisfy us?
So what does God want?
- Genesis 1 - God creates life in loving, inter-dependent community, entirely dependent on Himself, placing the first humans in a complex web of interconnecting relationships that included God, each other, the created order on the earth, and even surprising realities like the Serpent and the forbidden tree of independence. The first thing declared “not good” is Adam’s aloneness (Genesis 2:18).
- Exodus - God says He wants Egypt to know Him as God.
- Deuteronomy 6 - God opens the Law by explaining His oneness and calling people into a love relationship with Himself.
- Ezekiel - God repeatedly calls His people to know Him.
- Micah 6 - God wants people to have relationships filled with justice, love, and humility with each other and with Himself.
- John 3 and 10 - God wants eternal and abundant life for us.
- John 17 - Jesus wants us to have sanctified, unified community with each other and with God.
- 1 Corinthians 13 - greatest virtue is love, a relational reality.
- 2 Corinthians 5 - gospel of Christ is called “the ministry of reconciliation.”
- Ephesians 1 - God’s plan is aimed at “an administration of fullness [which is] the summing up of all things in Christ.”
- Ephesians 4 - Christ's followers are members of one another like organs in a body.
- James 4 - humbly submit and draw near to God so that He can draw near to and exalt us.
- The whole Bible - God is preparing for a wedding and marital union between Christ and His people.
It seems to me that God’s primary desire as expressed in what He created through Christ (John 1:3) and is working to redeem and perfect through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30) is for ever-increasing life in community within Himself and within His good creation.
- Does this affect how often Christians fellowship with each other?
- Does it affect where Christians choose to live in proximity with each other?
- Does it affect our value of living among the needy (poor, orphaned, imrisoned, isolated, etc. - Mt 25) as we minister Christ to them?
- Does it change our expectations for Christian gatherings (i.e. "church")?
- Does it fuel dissatisfaction with infrequent (i.e. weekly) programmed, stage/audience style meetings or our "small group" experiences?
- Does it change our understanding of Jesus' lifestyle?
God's desire for us is ever-increasing life in community with Himself, His kingdom people, and His still-being-redeemed creation. In what practical ways, as we grow closer to Jesus, is He leading each of us into that soul-satisfying reality? What trappings of Western, suburbanite, capitalistic consumerism are working against His desire for us? Are we ready to surrender them?
It will mean sacrifice. "Denying" and "dying to self", as the Bible terms it. The same hard choice demonstrated in Mark 10 ...