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Chapter 25

The Intention of the Heart

 

All for God and nothing for self.
—St. Mary Magdelene dei Pazzi

 

 

There are those who use religion for money, sex, or power.  Under the cover of religion, they seek not God, but goods.  Not the Lord, but lust.  Not humility, but authority over others.  Judas Iscariot tried to use Jesus for money. (John 12:6, Matt. 26:15)  That did not work out so well.  In other words, they use religion to find the world, not heaven.  This is worse than the worldly who know that they are not Christians and do not pretend to be.  St. John the Apostle wrote to all Christians—“Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world (worldliness), (to that degree) the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh (impurity), the lust of the eyes (greed), and the pride of life (the life of pride) which is not of the Father, but is of the world.  The world and its desires are passing away, but whoever does the will of God, lives (with Him) forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

The goal of every true Christian is God, to find Him, to love Him, to serve Him—in everything—the best they can.  The goal of every unconverted person, although they may not know it, is self—to feed the ego of the “old man” and sinful passion which have the upper hand.  They are self-serving, self-centered, self-referential in a way that may not be obvious.  The converted Christian tries to grow closer to God, their true happiness and end, by using everything in life as He wills and desires, as best they can.  The unconverted person tries to satisfy (him or her) self by using everything ultimately, perhaps even religion, for a selfish purpose and sinful end.  They may both appear to be Christian, they may even do the very same things, but the one does them to please God, the other to please men.  God sees the intention of the heart.  What do we really want, to please Him or to please ourselves and protect the “old man?”

For the converted Christian, even though they sin, they can get back up again and continue the journey to God, sometimes with even greater humility, wisdom and grateful love, because of their humble contrition, sincere intention to do better, and honest effort at reform.  God knows the desire of their heart to please Him.  For the unconverted sinner, even if they do good humanly, they gradually grow worse, not better, become more proud and self-centered, because of their secret selfish intention to satisfy their own will and pleasure.  Their only hope is to be woken up in some way or to hit bottom so that they can experience a true spiritual conversion by which they are freed from the prison of self and given a new life in Christ.

It is the difference between unredeemed human love and true Christian love.  Human love, in our fallen state, will say, “I will love you, if you love me.  I will help you, if you help me.  But if you don’t, I won’t, and even if you do, I may not, if I don’t get what I want out of it.”  True love says, “I want what is best for you according to God’s will.  It may not be what I want or my will, but it is what God wants and His will, and God loves you more than anyone ever could.”  True and perfect love is divine, unconditional love and goes so far as to say, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)  It is the difference between the sacrificial love of Christ, and the self-serving love of fallen man.  No one can love like Christ without becoming one with Him, and that is our intention as Christians.  That is our goal—to become one with the Son of God, Christ the Lord, more and more.

 

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