John 5:39-44 You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.41 “Your approval means nothing to me, 42 because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. 43 For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. 44 No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.
It’s an amazing and paradoxical reality that one can know the Scriptures, be heavily involved in religious work, and yet neither know nor love God. Here Jesus calls out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. Religion was their disguise. Instead of humbly dying to themselves, seeking God, and serving others, they used religion as a way to prop up their own ambition, and the agenda of Self – all the while appearing holy and righteous.
Jesus’ own disciples struggled with this early on – vying for position and prestige – arguing over “who was the greatest,” the most important, the most loyal, the most effective, etc.…(Luke 9:46; 22:24). This has always been a sobering passage for me. It has served as a measure of accountability that I go to often, checking and examining my motives for why I do what I do. I’ve been a pastor for 32 years. Have I done that for His glory or my own? Have I desired His approval, or the praise of others? The truth is a mixed bag of honorable and selfish motives. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has, and continues to help me sort through them all – teaching me the daily work of ridding myself of Self, and allowing only Christ and His agenda to reign in my heart. It’s a humbling experience to say the least. It is also an essential and unavoidable process that each of us should enthusiastically embrace if we desire an authentic relationship with God and our fellow man. Let your prayers echo David’s desire – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24).