"Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
"No eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for Him."
I'm sitting here reading Desiring God by John Piper, specifically the chapter on prayer. The concept of Christ dying for us, of serving us, is hardly a new one, but tonight it has struck me in a fresh and most exciting way. I think too often I feel that my services for God, as a regenerate believer, magnify His glory. But the truth is, my services for God are nothing more than the desires He has already worked in me, according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). So my actions are only possible because of God working them in me. Meaning, I'm not offering up something to God that He couldn't be doing Himself if He so wanted. God doesn't need anything from us. Notice this passage from Acts 17:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth,does not live in temples made by man,[b] 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope thatthey might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28for
"'In him we live and move and have our being';[c]
as even some of your own poets have said,
"'For we are indeed his offspring.'[d]
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
Could it be, then, that when I think of my actions originating with myself, with my own being, apart from God, that I am actually engaging in idolatry? I think so. Definitely. In God we live and move and have our being. We are contingent beings, deriving our existence from God Himself. We are, as Romans 9 says, clay pots, being molded by God, some for wrath and some for mercy. Jars of clay. And what shall we say to God, given that we are the clay and He is the potter? My mind too often thinks of me as having a separate existence from the being of God. But I don't. If God ceased to be, I would cease to be, because "in Him we live and move and have our being."
What are the implications of this? The implications are that my willing to do good is not me willing to do good outside of God or apart from God, but actually the outward manifestation of God's good will towards me. His good will towards me is to glorify Himself through me, by using me and making me love Him more and more and more. Thus, sanctification is really God molding us, forming us, into the image of His Son, the perfect, sinless, work of art. The perfect mold.
The Son of man came to serve, not to be served. Piper is right when he says that God is glorified through us when we let God serve us. When we try to serve God, we are reducing God to an idol, assuming that God actually needs us, or that we can somehow offer Him something that He could not offer Himself. We are living vessels! When we try to form ourselves and serve God from the standpoint of thinking He needs our service or that our service is something we produce apart from God molding our hearts, we are actually engaging in hard-hearted rebellion and denying Him glory!
We were made to let God shape us however He sees fit, and He sees fit to have us reflect His glory, His nature, by having us ask Him to increase our desire to be like Him! Prayer is the means by which we acknowledge our dependence on God, and thus how we acknowledge that all of our "good deeds" are nothing but the outworkings of what God is working in us by His Spirit.
Think about it. If I seek to serve God apart from prayer, apart from coming before Him and asking Him to make me more like Him, I am essentially saying that I can mold myself into His image by my own willpower. And even if I could to some degree, what glory does that give God if it is me, and not Him, doing the molding? It is nothing more than a cloaked attempt at getting my own glory! Our glory comes in heaven, and its not us being high and lifted up for all that we did for Him-no! Our glory is being a beautiful clay pot, a beautiful painting, perfected by the Master Painter!
We are the artwork, He is the artist. 2 Timothy 2 says:
20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,[c] he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
So we have a job to do, and that job is to cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable. Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness. But how do we do that? It's not through our willpower, through our goodness, but through the power of God, the power of His Spirit. Faith, love, peace, are these not fruits of the Spirit. A pure heart, is it not a gift from God given only to the elect? So our good works are nothing but the outward manifestation of the Master Potter molding us more into conformity to the image of His Son- the perfect pot, the perfect painting.
So we serve Jesus by letting Him serve us. We serve God by letting God paint us without us trying to paint ourselves and then foolishly looking to God and expecting Him to be pleased, as if what we make of ourselves is better than what He could make of ourselves!
When I try to know God more, it is really God revealing Himself more to me and clearing my mind. So the more I pray for clarity, the more I will know of God. The more I try to know God apart from prayer, the more I am thinking that this is about me pursuing God rather than He pursuing me. God wants to pursue us, He does not want us to think that we can pursue Him and then get glorified for our pursuing of Him. This is because we only pursue God because He first pursued us, and is continually revealing Himself to us! Our hearts and passions are for Him because He is working that desire in us, not because we are working it in us.
So if we want more joy, if we want God to get more glory, we need to get out of the way and let God mold us, and we do that by praying that God would increase our love and passion and devotion to Him. We cast our anxieties on Him, because He wants to serve us. And in serving us, He gets all the glory.