Because God First...
Looking around us, the realities that settle into our communities, cities, and nations, may seem to be far from a reality we would or could have dreamed up. The very finite nature of mankind has, in my opinion, been on full display for the past 11-12 months. The moment we perceived that the end was near, it proved just to be a new beginning to whatever tumultuous, difficult, or altogether unthinkable page turn from the book that was and is both 2020 and 2021.
It can feel, for any Christian, as though God is absent. Even more, the very unpredictability of the passing and future events can lead to a state of fear, worry, or desire to act in order to avoid - only proving that our finite nature is not just seen in action but in our ability to forget we recognized just how limited we are days or weeks prior. If you're like me, you may have jumped from one footstool to another, aiming to avoid the hot lava of either desperation or surrender to doing anything at all. Both engrossed with the quickly shifting plotlines and longing for the wherewithal to find a cloak of invisibility, both action and reaction have felt next to impossible or wisely avoidable.
I've spent months calling out to the Lord to give guidance on what to say, what to do, and how to be a part of this world but not of it; how to shine the light of Christ and live out of an overflow of the living water I received at the well of my own wretched sins. It wasn't until recently that I discovered a locked safe of pride, selfish ambition, and conceit within my heart, aiming more at what to do to serve me rather than serving Him who adopted and saved me from that well of my trespasses and transgressions.
Were there glimpses of aiming to 'do' unto the Lord rather than self or man? Definitely. The root, though, of my doing was more often centered on the doer [me] rather than the giver [God] of anything good within me. It wasn't until I began to meditate on the "one another" commands given in the Bible that I discovered both the most freeing and yet unnatural approach to doing what Scripture and Christ command of us. First, we are to serve, love, honor, and glorify God as holy and most important in our lives. I would venture to guess this idea is not new to those of you who are Christians. What the Holy Spirit convicted me on, though, was just how often the Bible commands this only after telling us how and why we can 'do' any of what the Scripture says. Any righteous, loving, caring, kind, faithful, or patient act or thought we have is not derived from our own ability to manifest or conjure it up in our hearts and minds, but rather...
We [Christians] do and are because He first did.
Let me explain.
We are created in His image only because He [God] is the Creator of us. (Genesis 1:27)
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
We obtain the inheritance of Christ because He [God] predestined us according to His will. (Ephesians 1:11)
We only serve others in a Christ-like manner because He [Jesus] took on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [Philippians 2:7)
We display correct and Christ-like humility only because Christ humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
We have new life in Christ because He [God] is rich in mercy and steadfast love even as we were still dead in our trespasses. (Ephesians 2:4)
We become children of God because He predestined us for adoption. (Ephesians 1:5)
We are given salvific faith because He [God] gave us the gift of immeasurable grace. (Ephesians 2:8)
We are able to be humble and not consider others as more than ourselves because of the grace and faith that God has given us. (Romans 12:3)
We accept and welcome one another because Christ has first welcomed and accepted us. (Romans 15:7)
We have freedom because it was Christ that set us free from the bondage of sin and death. (Galatians 5:1)
We are able to not gratify the desires of our flesh because of the work of the Spirit in us. (Galatians 5:16)
We grow in Christ-likeness because God is sanctifying us. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
We can go to the throne of God with confidence in our time of need because of the blood of Jesus that gives us the ability to have a relationship with the Father. (Hebrews 10:19)
We are seen as the righteousness of God because God made Him [Jesus] to be sin although He knew no sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
There are many more examples in Scripture of the we are, we have, we do, we become because God, and I encourage you to read, meditate on, and behold the goodness that each of them encapsulates. They each are a treasure of truth pointing us not to ourselves and our doing, but to Him whom we live and find our being.
The quest and search for identity and success are all too familiar in both the country and world we live in. The Gospel and truth found in Scripture are in such opposition to all of what the world says with regard to these things. We do, not because we will obtain the next promotion, get the best partner, be seen as the holiest Christian, or reach any level of worldly success. We do and are because for those that are His, He transferred us out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son. He saved us, while we were still sinners and completely dead in our trespasses so that we might be His adopted children for eternity. We are not called to 'do' in this world because it clicks the checked box of a list we must complete.
Rather, we do and love fruitfully as we abide in Him who is completing every good work He started in us; we do because the longer we walk with Christ, the more clearly we see and know that the fullness of life we desire is found under the Lordship of Him. Our hope is not in being able to do and say all the right things, post all the right articles and videos, or find the perfect balance between saying something and nothing at all. Our hope is found in the truth of God's Word which tells us over and over again... that we love because He first loved us.
If you are at all similar to me, you might be ironically asking yourself how we do this well? How do we abide in what Christ has done in order to live out of an overflow of Him? John Piper explains it this way.
"Abiding in the vine means receiving and believing and trusting in the words of Jesus. It means receiving the love of Jesus for the Father and for his people and the joy that Jesus has in the Father and in us. It means sharing the joy, the love, the words with Jesus. The goal of abiding is the glory of God. John 15:8 says, “By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The whole design of our not being the vine, but being utterly dependent branches grafted into the vine is to give glory to God. The whole design of depending on a vinedresser to manage the outward shape of our vine structure and our branch structure is so that God gets the glory for bringing it all about. The bottom line is, hour by hour, let us receive and rest in and trust and savor and enjoy Christ’s word and love and joy while we submit externally to the merciful providences of God."
So, let us as Christians look first not to the world for what we should do or who we should be, but rather, let us renew our minds in the truth of God's Word knowing it is where we are transformed rather than conformed to this world (Romans 12:2. Let us stir one another up in these truths so that we might live and find our being in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
We do and are because He first did.
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