“If I ever do a perfect act of love, I’ll probably be proud of it, and then it won’t be a perfect act anymore. Maybe if I die in the midst of performing this act, I could do it.” – man on radio (wish I knew who he was)
When I heard it, this idea struck me. Even my best efforts are littered with selfishness and pride. My “wants” show up in the most unlikely of places – even when I “serve,” I want to be recognized – or I want someone else to take notice and look at me with more admiration, etc. My service serves myself. I’m sinful. Very sinful.
Scripture addresses this too.
Isaiah 64:6 – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.“
Romans 7:21-25 – “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
So here’s the question: How can I get rid of this? How can I serve selflessly? Of course the only REAL answer is Jesus. He alone has done a “perfect act of love” – the cross. He alone is perfect, and so all of His acts were perfect. Ours are NOT. Nor will they ever be. Our acts of service and sacrifice are always going to be tainted with at least a little bit of selfishness. We are sinners, but because of His “perfect act of love” (the cross), we can receive forgiveness and will be made holy. Our selfishness is forgiven and covered by His blood.
A perfect act of love? This is not a goal for us to attain, but a grace that Jesus has offered to us.
I was listening to a podcast by Tullian Tchividjian called “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.” In it, he described how even our spiritual growth efforts can become self-centered by taking the focus off who God IS and making it about what we do.
The intent of spiritual growth is to build our relationship with God, but I’ll confess that sometimes I find myself hijacking it for my own glory. I’m not nearly as interested in spiritual “growth” as I am in gaining spiritual “knowledge” to add to my “spiritual” arsenal or to expand the “spiritual” facade I hold up for others to see. Wow! Did that make any sense? What I meant is this: Instead of being motivated to “grow” toward God, I am motivated by selfishness to make myself look like I’ve “grown” toward God. Sinful. That’s what it is. I’m sinful. I need Jesus to rescue my attempts at spiritual growth. I’m so sick that I need Jesus to keep me from tainting the very practices that guide me toward Him. True spiritual growth efforts are motivated by the greatness of God which moves us to seek Him. Often, my efforts are motivated out of a desire to know more than my friend’s know – out of a selfish “I’m more spiritual” attitude.
I will also confess that I love the way I feel when I go to another “level” or “spiritual” high. Even a new tidbit of information or insight about the Bible is enough to make me feel like I have “grown.” My insatiable desire for more doesn’t allow me to fully rest in Jesus’ effort on the cross. This is sinful. I wrongfully believe my efforts and knowledge about Scripture is what matters. It’s NOT! What matters is God’s character. NOT the things I do, but the things He IS. What matters is the cross! Because of who He IS, He chose to go to the cross. And because of that, I am already close to Him. Even when I seek spiritual “growth” with selfish motivations, even in the midst of my sin, He died for me. He loves me fully! Right where I am He loves me. He . . . . . loves . . . . . me.
God should be glorified. Completely glorified. ‘Cause He’s great and we are not. He is faithful. He is love. He is amazing! Loving each of us no matter how sick we are. He is so out of our league. We can never understand how great He is – how great His love is. His ways are so much higher than ours. (Is 55:8-9)
I guess what I’m saying is that this hijacker wants to return this glory back to it’s rightful owner.
To God be the Glory forever, and ever, AMEN!
Romans 11:33-36 33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” 36For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
I always thought it was a bit prideful of Paul to write things like – “follow my example” (1 Cor 11:1) and “join with others in following my example” (Php 3:17). Anyway, he says things like this throughout Scripture and it always bothered me a little, but last night in our small group it came up again and I think I finally understood it. One of the guys explained that in those days they didn’t have the Bible (well, not as we know it) – most people couldn’t read the letters that they did have either. Jesus had already resurrected too, so there really was no way for someone to know how to live out their faith except in watching someone else do it. Paul was trying to live his life in such a way that others could look at him and know how to live as a Christian.
Just as a father tries to live as an example to his children, Paul was doing the same. The idea of following someone’s example was not a foreign concept for the Jews either – the whole rabbinical system was based upon “becoming” like the rabbi. Jesus Himself taught his followers to do as they had seen Him do. (John 13:15). Anyway, all this is to say that Paul wasn’t just a big headed guy, he was simply trying to teach others how to live out their faith, and he used the same technique as their culture had been accustomed to.