Most of us (I hope!) would say that we love the Word of God… that we depend on it, submit to it, and try our best to fully abide by what God says. But the way that sentiment is realistically worked out in each of our lives is often dramatically different. Sometimes those differences are caused by the pervasive influence of the world. Sometimes it’s because we selfishly pursue our own interests. But in my experience, the fundamental reason why we don’t approach our relationship with God and our reliance upon His Word in the same way is because we do not bear the same standard when it comes to living for Yeshua. The reason we fail to know God and listen to His Word is because our aim has drifted from the goal.
Consider the limitations we tend to impose on our relationship with God. For example, many of us primarily relate to God experientially. We pray, praise, worship, study the Scriptures, attend services, and perform various sacred acts because these are the means by which we feel God’s presence and express our devotion to Him. We sense that God is pleased with us when we passionately seek His face, and are affirmed by the emotional release that can accompany spiritual experiences.
Then there are those of us who pursue God primarily out of a sense of duty: having been bought at a price, we consider ourselves indebted to the Master’s service. We therefore practice our faith through assorted spiritual, religious or charitable feats. We seek to please God through our obedience, and are comforted by the accomplishment of righteous deeds, or the keeping of His commands. We desire the programmed management of our spiritual lives, and the structure that assures compliance with His will.
The varying ways we relate to God may be motivated by the zeal to know Him more. And yet, these very avenues are often highly effective means of missing Him entirely! How can this be? Because in our unbalanced fervor, we become fixated on the means and the methods of our devotion. Our aim drifts from the goal of Messiah when we reduce our identity in God to the acts we perform to please Him.
All too often, in the course of “making it our aim… to be well pleasing to Him…” (2Corinthians 5:9), we mistake our “doing” for God for a relationship with Him. Before we know it, the passion for Yeshua that used to be fueled by worship has now morphed into a passion for worship. The love of God that used to be awakened by Bible study has now mutated into a love of Bible study. Our experience with God has become an encounter with the “experience;” our duty toward God has become an obligation to “duty.” Our arm has dropped and our gaze has dipped such that God Himself is no longer in our sights. Now, we define ourselves not according to who we are in Him, but rather the things we do in His Name.
As disciples of Messiah, it is absolutely essential that we seek His face, obey His Word, and boldly bear the standard of Scripture. But when even godly goals become our focus, we end up creating our own custom-fit religions devoid of the very One we are attempting to enshrine. We become so caught up with obeying God and trying to please Him that we forget why we are “doing” for Him in the first place. It is crucial that we make this adjustment in our aim: the goal is not to “do” for Messiah—the goal of “doing” is Messiah. Our primary purpose is to “be still, and know that I am God….” (Psalm 46:10); then out of that relationship, the “doing” may flow.
This “Word from Kevin” was previously published in Messianic Jewish Issues.