I've been sharing ways the Lord tests us for good, proves our potential, and today how He tests our motives and gives us opportunities to adjust our hearts.
Eat my flesh, drink my blood
Matthew, Mark, and John record Jesus walking on water, and each records a particular point of view of the event, but only John captures what happened AFTER the boat got to the other side. (Mt 14, Mk 6, John 6)
You'll recall Jesus had just fed 5,000 men plus an unstated number of women and children by multiplying a boy's lunch. Afterwards He sent the 12 away in a boat with instructions to get to the other side and He would join them later. Meanwhile, He went up into the mountains to pray, but came walking on the water to them between 3am and 6am. (Mt 14:25 states it was during the 4th watch, which was 3-6am)
Matthew is the only one who records Peter getting out of the boat and walking on water. Mark tells us Jesus would have kept walking right past the boat had they not cried out in fear. And John tells us when Jesus got into the boat "Immediately the boat was at the land to which it was going." What we call 'translated' - boat, contents, and the 13 men in it - were instantly transported 3-4 miles (5-7km) to the shore on the far side of the lake. (John 6:21)
"The day after, the crowd that had been on the other side of the lake when He fed them saw there was no other boat there, only the one Jesus had sent away with the disciples in it, and knowing Jesus had not gotten into that boat...and when they found Him on the other side of the lake they asked Him, 'Rabbi, how did you get here?'
"Jesus answered them saying, 'Truly, truly I say to you, you seek me NOT because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the bread and were filled.'" (John 6:22-26, my emphasis on 'not')
Jesus is still cutting right to our true motives today: 'Truly, truly I say to you, you want to be involved in the Sunday school not just to give to others, but because you hope the pastor will notice.'
'Truly, truly I say to you, you want this job not so you can give more as you have told people, rather you want the raise and boost to your ego it would bring.'
'Truly, truly I say to you, you aren't going to the Wednesday night service to receive from me, you are going because you hope I will notice the extra effort and be reminded of that prayer request you want answered.'
'Truly, truly I say to you, you aren't fasting just to draw closer to Me, you are fasting to also lose 10 pounds.'
Truly, truly I say to you...fill in the blank. The only difference between John 6 and now is that today we have the Holy Spirit within trying to be heard by that still, small voice, asking us to purify our motives.
What if purifying our motive means someone else with all the wrong motives gets that position you wanted? Will you rejoice in your heart that you grew just that much more in Christ today, or mourn the position lost?
Separate the men from the boys - back to the loaves/fishes people
Once Jesus told them they were following Him not because He was Messiah, but because He was apparently an endless supply of food, He taught them the loaves and fish were a type of Him being the endless source of eternal Life. He also taught them Moses' manna was a type of eternal life, not just food.
This is similar to people following Jesus 'with strings attached' today - He seems to be their endless supply of ... These are users of people and God, and impure in life, using God and man to get what they want.
Jesus is always going to direct us through the Holy Spirit to purify our motives, holding up our ugly impure motives before our face, giving us the opportunity to reject them and choose Life, moving into maturity just that much more, all in a moment in time. Some choose wisely, some choose to serve God for the endless supply of the things of earth.
These people followed Jesus all the way around the lake and many followed Him into town where, and still weren't dealing with their motives, so He finally put an end to it by saying this in the local synagogue:
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life..." (6:54)
If they are willing to purify their motives THEY will make a decision towards their destiny even if their mind doesn't understand the parable. But many did not want to deal with their motives: "From that time on MANY of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. (These weren't just 'followers' and 'hangers on', these were DISCIPLES of Christ.)
We don't know if Peter understood all Jesus said, but we know he stepped back and looked at the larger picture, which helped purify his motive and identify his core values. Jesus said to the twelve, 'Will you also leave?' Then Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life! And we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (6:66-69)
The Lord is still asking us to not jump off the cliff with the others who were offended and left Him; He is still asking us to identify our core values and purify our motives. Are we jumpers or disciples?
Jesus said the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. That truth also means the ugly truth about our own motives and ego. How many of us started out as a disciple just loving God, but along the way we attached expectations and strings, some to the point they think God serves them, or that faith is for getting things from Him, or they can make Him do things, or He is a means of getting rich?
When I was in Bible school I worked the night shift at a convenience store. When the shifts changed the cash and receipts were balanced out so that the next shift began 'even' in terms of cash on hand.
One day when money was very tight for us, my cash drawer came out $20 extra at the end of my shift. I momentarily had a thought God was blessing me with that $20 and I could pocket it, thinking how much that would help with food that week, but I rejected that and recorded it properly. My motives had come up before my face in a moment of time by the Holy Spirit, and I responded properly, dismissing my genuine need and thought of spiritualizing an illegal act in the name of God in order to justify the crime.
Rich young ruler
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, he said; "Good master, what must I do to have eternal life?"
Most miss the fact Jesus immediately exposed his core need and issue: "Why are you calling me good? There is no one good, but God!" (Mt 19:16-22)
In other words, Jesus was asking him; By calling me good, are you calling me God? We read from one sentence to the next in 10 seconds never stopping to realize this was a real conversation taking place, full of pauses, reflections, responses, over time. As a result we fail to grasp that it took place over minutes not seconds - these pauses and exchanges indicated for us by a period or comma or semi-colon. Are you calling me God because you called me good? Pause, wait for answer, no answer, change tactics.
The failure to answer the direct question from the Lord meant the young man wasn't willing to deal with his true motive and true love of riches openly, so Jesus would have to make him deal with it another way: "Go and sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor and you will have riches in heaven, and come follow me." The man went away from Jesus very sad, for he was rich.
The core issue was the man wanted to serve God while loving money and status and never settling in his heart just who Jesus is. Because he wouldn't answer directly if he believed Jesus was God, the Lord exposed his motive and made him deal with it by telling him to sell it all for the sake of riches in heaven, AND become a disciple of Jesus. If he had done that he would have purified his heart and started serving God with no strings attached, valuing heaven alone - just pure love of God.
People want to hear God's voice and have all sorts of spiritual experiences, and I fault no one in this, but the truth is He speaks to us most often down inside, asking us for purity of focus, purity of motive, purity of love.
More next week on how the Lord leads us in these ways. Blessings,