As Christians, we can get really off track in our walk with God when we start thinking in terms of me instead of in turns of Him, the sovereign Lord.
We fallaciously conclude that it’s my life, it’s my ministry, those are my talents, and that’s my money to spend the way that I want to. Instead of sharing in the sufferings of Christ Jesus or humbling ourselves in obedience, the bottom line often becomes this: What’s in it for me?
But since when is this life on earth only about me and fulfilling my needs and desires? Instead of asking, “What can I do for You, Lord?” we prefer, “What is God going to do for me? How is God going to bless me?” Instead of humbling ourselves and saying, “Lord, What must I do to be saved? What must I change to stand in Your holy presence?” we want God to endorse our private lives and sign that blank check while we go off and spend heavenly funds the way we see fit.
We see God as our magical vending machine, granting us favors and possessions because we deserve it. God, you really owe me, we can wrongfully think. Give me the American dream and I will serve You, God. Just make sure it doesn’t cost me anything – my money, my dreams, my relationships, my reputation, even my very life.
The God’s-will-is-to-love-and-bless-me philosophy can subtly creep into our thinking and take over as the new gospel message if we don’t realign our thinking with Scripture. Now, please understand: it is not that God doesn’t want to bless us or want good things for us. He does have good plans for you and me. One of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11, tells us that clearly. God cares for us deeply and desires to give us good things. Psalm 103 talks extensively about the wonderful benefits God bestows upon us. Check it out and you will see the wonder of His will for us.
But there is a caveat in all this “bless me” talk. And it comes with understanding who is in control, who is in charge. The answer, of course, is God. He does not serve us; rather, we serve Him. So often we get that backwards. We must understand the dynamics of this relationship as Christians if we are to truly please Him, avoid quenching the Holy Spirit, and grow in our Christian walk.
We often quote Psalm 37:4, which says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, then He will give us the desires of our hearts, and we can’t understand why the Lord hasn’t given us that Porsche or that amazing job offer yet. We are naming it and claiming it, but are our hearts thankful? Are we truly delighting in our Creator first? And sometimes God does not give us what we ask for because our motives are selfish (see James 4:3). God will not honor me-centeredness.
You see, we are called to love God first. This is the first commandment. The Scriptures tell us, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) We do not exalt ourselves, but rather God. We do not seek our own righteousness, but His.
The problem lies in the fact that we forget that our lives are not our own. We forget that we were bought with a price (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The prophet Jeremiah understood this clearly when he prayed, “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
The gospel message is never about what I want and what I can do. The gospel message is all about what Christ Jesus did for me and how I in turn owe my very life to His amazing sacrifice. Jesus paid the ultimate price for each of us with His death on the Cross done willingly for each of us in our sinfulness so that upon our faith-based acceptance of this beautiful work, we could once again enjoy fellowship with the pure and living God and gain eternal life. Those of us who call ourselves Christians must be identified with Christ in this way. Otherwise, we truly can’t be Christians.
We are not free agents to do as we please, disregarding what our Master wants from us. We must pay a personal price, too. If we are to be like Christ, then death is a part of the equation. I don’t mean physically, necessarily – though there have been martyrs for the cause of Christ and will be more in the future. But I am really talking spiritually. I mean the kind of death that lays an ax to the root of our bad habits, our selfishness, and our unholy thoughts and actions; the kind of death that kills what is evil and allows for the refinement of what is good out of the ashes.
Death must come in order that our new life in Christ can reign. Romans 6:4 tells us, “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” We are dead to our own ways, but alive in Christ. Just as a seed must enter the earth and die before it can become a thriving plant above ground, we also must die to our old selves before we can blossom in the newness of Christ.
But before you throw up your hands in dismay, complaining that all this death stuff is just too hard to do, remember once again, dear one, it’s not about you. You can’t kill your own wrong ways and make yourself righteous without Christ. Neither can I. We simply can’t do it by ourselves. We must call on the Holy Spirit to change us and to bring us new life.
That’s the second part of the miracle of Jesus Christ. Yes, He took away our sins through His death thousands of years ago, but He is also to be praised because now He is all about the process of renewing us in the wisdom and gentleness and perfection that makes Him great. And it’s all for His glory. Our job is to recognize that He is in control, not us, and willingly submit ourselves to God’s will and His timing. May we learn to continually offer up praise unto His worthiness.