I believe that a critical question at the beginning is this: What is our goal? In other words, is our goal God Himself, or do we seek fulfillment in something else? This is not a question to be passed over lightly. We may say that our goal is God, but it is very easy to drop to a lower place and pursue other interests. The majority of mankind finds fulfillment in the things of this world--this is easy to see. But the much more deceptive danger is to find fulfillment by trying to serve God in our own way and with our own resources.
If our goal is serving God, our natural minds are quite capable of creating standards of righteousness that satisfy the conscience. We may feel virtuous for the things that we do or don't do, believing that we are pleasing God and that our service is of value to Him. Some of the outward acts may seem good (feeding the poor, doing kind things for our neighbors, preaching the gospel, and so on) but at the same time, the motive of the heart may be wrong. We may feel "righteous" and others may praise us and speak of what "good people" we are. But what does God think? Is this the righteousness that God requires?
If we search the scriptures with open hearts and minds, I believe we must come to one conclusion: there is only one goal that should motivate and direct us, and that is to enter into and continue in a love relationship with God. God's purpose is that we be joined together with Him, to be one spirit with Him, and to be available for Him to live His life through us. Our fulfillment is simply to be found in this right relationship with God.
This truth is to be found throughout the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. One passage where this is clearly stated is chapters 14-17 of the gospel of John. Jesus was about to depart this world, and in this discourse to the disciples just before going to Calvary, He imparted as much of the purpose of God as He was able to at that time. There is nothing in this passage about doing great works for God out of our own resources, but rather of abiding in Christ and His life, that He might bring forth fruit through us to the glory of God. The goal Christ holds before us is union with God. Love is the expression of this union, and in this expression God is glorified and we are fulfilled.
These thoughts are not new to most of us, but agreeing with the truth does not necessarily mean that the truth captivates and directs us. I strongly encourage us to stop and wait before God and let the truth sink into our souls. Is my goal God Himself? Do I know this place of union and communion with God? Am I satisfied with God, or am I finding satisfaction in something else (even in serving God)? The goal determines all, and if we are wrong at the foundation, we will be wrong everywhere. Are we willing to let God search our hearts and reveal exactly where we are? The stakes are eternal.