March 25, 2017

A subtle desire for glory

Months ago, I presented an idea for ministry to our church leadership. They were all for it. However, I’ve been wondering if the idea was God’s or mine. Others think it is a great idea, but participation isn’t happening. I suspect I’ve goofed up somewhere, and asked the Lord to show me.

One answer came from today’s reading in My Utmost for His Highest. It is about ‘who gets the glory’ and even though I know this truth, knowing it is not the same as putting it into practice. Chambers uses this verse as his basis for what he says:

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” (John 3:29)

Jesus is the groom and His friend who stands near and hears Him is like any best man, he is not there to grandstand, but to rejoice in the Groom and hearing His voice. Everything he does is about Jesus.

I’m not always doing that. Chambers says my goodness is not to attract attention to me, but be a magnet to draw others to Jesus. Otherwise, I can be a hindrance because people will glorify me instead of Him. The hard part is liking that attention.

Chambers goes on to say that obedience is occasional while abiding in Christ is a constant. If I’m not called to “do” any good things, I am still called to “be” in right relationship to my Savior. The ‘being’ part forms the greater portion of life. If my ‘being’ is intent on maintaining a close relationship and loyalty to the Lord, then when called upon to act, that focus will come to the forefront. If my ‘being’ is intent on fitting in, doing a great work, being a good prayer warrior, or any other thing, no matter how good that is, then that will be the focus, not Jesus.

I get it. I know it. I’m not there yet.

God shows me how my regular devotional reading is related to what Chambers says. It points out that ‘doing good’ is about the ‘rules’ of Christian life, and in trying to be a good Christian and do good things, my focus too easily slides to that instead of to glorifying Jesus Christ. He is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

Romans 7:1-13 speaks of the need to be dead to the law so that I can bear fruit for God. It adds, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

This passage points out that the law is not sin, but it serves to show that whatever we do in an attempt to obey it, we fall short. “Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.”

What then is the point? From this passage and from others, I realize that trying to do ‘all the right things’ is futile because my efforts are my efforts. If this ministry idea is from God (and I’m not sure about that either), then He will work out the kinks and give me whatever I need to do my part. If not, then no amount of human effort will make it work.

Jesus, my efforts at self-glory are subtle, but they show up and, at best, are fruitless. My idea sounds good but its roots are in the wrong place. Instead of grace making it happen, I’ve been relying on my efforts. I’m aware that ‘relying on grace’ can also be a subtle selfish effort to get You to bless this plan. Instead, You have said that I am dead to sin and alive to God. Please turn my focus on the amazing goodness of You and teach me what I need to be so that You receive all glory. 

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