The most important thing – being?

by Jim on 11 March 2007

Heart as window

Let me set your mind at ease right off the bat.  Is being the most important thing?  Nope.  You’ll have to wait a little longer to solve the mystery.

This is the next part of our series, entitled The most important thing.  That’s the introduction.  The question is, what is the most important thing in our service to the Lord?  What should we value, and what should we focus on?

First we wondered if results were the most important.  We concluded (I say we because no one left a comment of total disagreement) that, although results are very important, they shouldn’t top the list.  Well, what about doing – is our obedience to the Lord in ministry the most important thing, for instance?  There’s no doubt that the Bible is full of wisdom on what to do and what not to do.  Obviously our works are important – perhaps even more important than results.  But there’s a danger that we can overemphasize our actions – particularly our visible, outward actions.  No, “doing” is not the most important thing.

So I would like to argue that being is even more important than doing and results, even though I’ve already said I don’t think it’s #1 on the list.  Paul really gets to the heart of the matter in Romans 8:28-30:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God’s desire is that we become like His Son, Jesus.  Becoming like Jesus, from the inside out, is what it’s all about – not just acting like him, but being like Him.  And at this point, we start to see these three things, results, doing and being, coming together in the Bible.

Take David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10-13 for example.  First David asks God to create a clean heart in him – not clean up his old heart, but give him a brand new one.  Restore – uphold – and what will happen?  After the being, David starts doing – teaching people.  After the doing comes the results – sinners will be converted.

Doing and Being are constantly woven together in Scripture.  Many of Jesus “beatitudes” in Matthew 5 are things we should do, but many are phrased as things we should be.

If you really want to see how closely connected the two are, consider the story of the rich young ruler (Mat 19:16-22).  This guy comes to Jesus asking what he needs to do to live forever.  Jesus doesn’t tell him to believe, or trust, or receive.  He tells him to give his money to the poor!  Why was Jesus telling him to do something?!

It’s clear in Scripture that giving to the poor doesn’t save us.  But Jesus knew this man had a problem with trusting, and a problem with being, that was showing up in what he did.  The rich young ruler wanted to accept 90% of what Jesus said.  He wanted Jesus to forgive 90% of his sin.  He wanted Jesus to rule 90% of his life.  His problem in the area of “being” was holding him back.  (I’m not suggesting we need to be perfect to be saved, you see.  I am saying that we need to admit that we need Jesus to forgive all our sin.)

Being shows up in what we do.  Jesus asked the rhetorical question – how could an evil person speak good things?  Jesus said speaking is like showing off the treasure that’s in your heart – good or bad.  That’s why your words condemn or justify you (Mat 12:33-37).  Wisdom is justified by her children (Mat 11:19).

Though it’s hard to overemphasize the importance of being like Jesus, we can get a wrong perspective.  For example, we can run into trouble if we disconnect being from doing.  We might get the idea that being is all about your secret inner life, and that’s it.  Canadians are infamous for this, thinking that somehow their religion is a “private” matter.  Certainly, we are to examine ourselves (Psa 139:23-24; 2Cor 13:5).  But a good part of the evidence of what’s in our hearts comes out in what we do.

We might start to get lazy, thinking that we’re basically nice people inside and we live basically good lives.  We might get proud when things go well, and end up like the famous Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who spent his time in the temple parading his goodness before a God who knew better (Luk 18:9-14).

This is not an either/or thing.  You can’t say that you’re going to concentrate on “being” and not worry about “doing”.  Frankly, our eyesight isn’t that good – we can’t always recognize what’s in our hearts.  God often shows us what’s there by pointing out problems with what we’re doing – disobedience, laziness, yes – overwork too.  And sometimes when we start doing God changes our hearts as a result.

If we do have a proper perspective, it’s true that a person who’s heart is right will not have a problem with doing and results.  That’s why I put “being” as first of the three.  But we run into trouble if we don’t recognize the importance of the other two.  And of… well, we’re getting to that.

There really is a lot of confusion over the idea of being, how it fits into the picture and how important it is.  It is important, but it’s not the most important thing.  In order to really understand the importance of being, you’ll need to understand something even more important.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, remember to let God change your heart, and to demonstrate that change to the world.

If you love Me, keep My commandments.
(Jesus in Joh 14:15)

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