Paul’s exhortation to “do all things to the glory of God” is more than pious idealism. It is an integral part of the sacred revelation and is to be accepted as the very Word of Truth. It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. Lest we should be too timid to include everything, Paul mentions specifically eating and drinking. This humble privilege we share with the beasts the perish. If these lowly animal acts can be so performed as to honor God, then it becomes difficult to conceive of one cannot.
There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.
I will either allow my view of evil to determine my view of God and cut him down accordingly, or I will allow my view of God to determine my view of the evil and will elevate him accordingly, excepting that nothing is beyond his power for good.
Oh, that my enemies might seek Your face!
We think we are good, but we aren’t. Often the first, and natural reaction, to this statement is to defend ourselves, to try and prove that we are good, but this only proves that we are somehow lacking something, some kind of goodness. A British journalist named Malcolm Muggeridge once said that the badness of humans is both the most empirically verifiable fact there is, but at the same time, the most intellectually resisted one. And why shouldn’t it be? Such a notion that we aren’t good is insulting! Especially to our pride – which is itself the product, not of goodness, but badness. This assumption that we are good walks along with us in our everyday assumptions and often comes out in the complicated anxiety-generating belief that we can work our way into God’s heart, or do enough good things to become good people, but this simply isn’t true. We function daily being driven by the belief that we are good people, at least compared to other people, but loose sight of the fact that this is ultimately a self-focused endeavor that will leave us empty with the shell of religion to shield us from reality, that is we can’t do anything on our own. I need only think of the last time I defended myself in an argument or became angry with a friend or family member to find proof of this depravity of my own soul.
We simply can not work our way to heaven. That is the entire point of what the Bible says about Jesus. God loved us and understood us to the point that He put flesh and bones on His Words (why do you think Scripture so often calls Jesus The Word of God?) and showed us a standard of human being that has never existed before. That is the standard we are to become more like, and every choice we make has the capacity to make us more like Jesus or less like Him. The only constant is that we are always forming. The reality is, just because I am not a murderer, I also am not Jesus, because He is the standard, not the murderer. Just because I am not like “those people” over there, does not mean that I am like Jesus. “Those people” are not the standard, Jesus is.
This is really beautiful when you think about it because understanding this reality and letting it seep into that conversation we are having with ourselves every moment of the day leads us into the freedom Jesus talks about throughout scripture. If you are feeling anxiety in your life, perhaps it is because you somehow think you are good enough to do this life thing on your own. This is one of the ways pride shows itself in our lives. A Pastor named John Piper put it this way: “The sin of pride will subtly contaminate all our relationships, even where it is not recognized. A disease does not have to be diagnosed in order to infect and kill.” This pride is the source from where our beliefs that we are good and self-sufficient come from. Some it its symptoms will include discontentment, anxiety, inferiority or superiority complexes, hard-headedness, an inability to listen, etc. All of these are the loud racket of a self-focused life, and one that we all naturally tend toward.
A funny thing that we forget is that people who go to church are also “human” and so we too are just as susceptible to this kind of sin. For every person that has existed the standard remains to be Jesus, so what are we to do?
In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, Jesus has a unique interaction with some people that provides a way to understand this:
“When the Pharisees saw this, they asked Jesus’ disciples,
Pharisees: Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?
Jesus (overhearing this): Look, who needs a doctor—healthy people or sick people? I am not here to attend to people who are already right with God; I am here to attend to sinners. In the book of the prophet Hosea, we read, ‘It is not sacrifice I want, but mercy.’ Go and meditate on that for a while—maybe you’ll come to understand it.”
Matthew 9:11-13 (The Voice)
The simple fact is that Jesus didn’t say He came to attend to the people who “are already good enough” or can “do life on their own”. These are the people who think they are well, though ironically they are truly the sick ones living outside of how they are intended to live. To live without God, who is the very One that makes us good, is like sawing off the very branch we are sitting on. It never ends well! We can never be good without God, we can only live under the delusion that we are good, and will find ourselves perpetually unhappy, and then even so blind to our unhappiness. Until we realize we are sick we can’t be helped. Jesus came to help people who are know they are sick, those who realize that they “aren’t good enough”, “don’t have life together” and that they “can’t do life on their own”. This happens in part by His work in us, and in part by our openness to listen to and receive this reality.
This may be too heady for the focus of the conversation, but we have to note that how this process works is often debated by people;however, this debate can run a risk, which is why I bring it up. It is often framed by asking “Did God start the work in my heart to show me I am broken?” Vs. “Did I start the process by choosing to accept and realize my brokenness?”. Though important in some aspects, ultimately this debate is not useful, because even with an answer the process is daily enacted, often in both ways, expressed differently in different people. It is quite narrow to believe God has to work in either one way or the other. The important thing in recognizing this is not how the process works, but submitting to that process as it works. In time it may or may not be revealed to you, but why spend the brunt of your energy there when infinite joy offered in the process? It is like spending dinner wondering how the food was made instead of enjoying the food and being thankful for the hard work that was put into it. A polite inquiry into how it was made is acceptable, but demanding the recipe is ridiculous. Surely the truly important thing is living life with Jesus! This debate’s scope should be given the scope that it is due, which is minimal in light of our brokenness and Jesus’ love. If we are not careful requiring an answer to this question can turn us right back to the pride we have just been freed from.
Realizing that we are not good and submitting to the reality of our need is the first step that must be taken if we are to ever set foot on the path of becoming more like Jesus. He Himself is our salvation and, through His Spirit in us, now we become more like Him; but until we stop and realize we are in need, we will never hear properly the things He came to show us. He came for the sick, not the well.
“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” ― C.S. Lewis
The philosophy of living with an underlying motive of doing everything for one’s own personal peace and comfort rapidly colors everything that might formerly have come under the headings of “right” and “wrong.” This new way of thinking adds entirely new shades, often in blurring brushstrokes of paint that wipe out the existence of standards or cast them into a shadow that pushes them out of sight. If one’s peace, comfort, way of life, convenience, reputation, opportunities, job, happiness, or even ease is threatened, “Just abort it.” Abort what? Abort another life that is not yet born. Yes, but also abort the afflictions connected with having a handicapped child, and abort the burdens connected with caring for the old or invalid. Added swiftly are the now supposedly thinkable attitudes of aborting a child’s early security in his or her rights to have two parents and a family life; aborting a wife’s need for having her husband be someone to trust and lean upon; aborting the husband’s need for having a companion and friend as well as a feminine mate; aborting any responsibility to carry through a job started.
Considerable confusion on this topic has resulted from trying to think of being lost in terms of its outcome. Theologically, that outcome is hell — a most uncomfortable notion. Certainly, if you are lost in any sense there is little likelihood of your arriving where you want to be. But the condition of lostness is not the same as the outcome to which it leads. We’re not lost because we are going to wind up in the wrong place. We’re going to wind up in the wrong place because we are lost.
Rest: yes becomes rest
Peace: piece becomes peace
Just: just becomes stop
Yes: I becomes You
The stars that make the night sky seem full are the ones you cannot see when you do look at them. There is something about how this universe was made that makes it harder to see a thing when you focus upon it too much. There is a certain clarity that can come with naïveté, if so chosen. This practice of innocence, this gazing upon the important things, can lend answers which evaporate with too much thinking. Jesus said, “let the little children come to Me”, and as such we too must come - willingly setting down the demands that the flesh has cleverly disguised as questions. Not all things need answers. Not all things can be known by the mind. The heart has a deeper capacity to know - and there lies the blessing and curse of humanness. Not all needs to be known - to think this may be to forfeit a full night sky for a less full one.
The genuine inner readiness and longing to secure the good of others.
When I call out the good things my troubles seem so small. (A commentary on James 1:17)
Every time you love your enemy, you are resting in the sovereignty of God. Every time you speak lovingly and softly in the face of someone else’s anger, you are choosing to rest in the sovereignty of God. Every time you resist the temptation to win an argument at all costs, you are resting in God’s sovereignty. Because he rules, nothing you do in obedience to him is ever futile. Your life has meaning and purpose because you are included not only in the plan of the One who rules it all, but also in his family!
The biblical God is unique. The cultures of the ancient Near East boasted of many gods. These gods were usually associated with some phenomenon of nature; that had a god of the sun, a god of the wind, a god of the Nile, and so forth. But Israel had only one God, a supreme being who transcended all earthly phenomena. His own name underscores his uniqueness. “I AM WHO I AM.” In other words, God transcends physical reality, national boundaries, and tribal ownership. Nothing in the world can explain the nature of the One who stands outside the world; nothing within history can capture the essence of the One who stands above history. God simply is; God is his own self-definition. We can’t define him; he defines us, as creator, redeemer, and judge.
Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.