Chapter 3 Lift Us Up To Fall

Though I struggle to remember it at times,
I’ve been blessed to discover that God doesn’t need me after all.
Wait, what?
Yeah, It’s true.
God doesn’t need my words, my songs, or my obedience.
He isn’t sitting up in heaven, wringing his hands, wondering
if I’m going to pull through for Him either.
In fact, God doesn’t need me at all.

What Mike?
What are you even saying?
How else will people hear the good news?
I thought the whole goal of being a Christian is to lead people to Jesus?
I thought that if we don’t tell the world about Jesus, then this could be
the last generation of Christians the world will ever see?
Well, no.
This will not be the last generation of Christians.  I guarantee it.
I’ve read the end of the book, and you know what?
There’s Christians there at the end.
Unless of course,  Christ comes back before this generation dies,
then I suppose it could be the last, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m speaking about people who believe its up to us
to keep this whole “Jesus thing going.”
To those people I just want to scream, “Relax!”
The church will endure, and it is Christ alone who will preserve her.
If He has to start preaching through donkeys, He will.
I mean, He’s done it before hasn’t He?

Now to those of you He think I’m completely out of my holly jolly mind,
I’ll give you a little Biblical street cred to back up what I’m saying.

“God is not served by men’s hands as if He needed anything.
But He gives to us life, breath, and all things.”

That from the book of Acts, chapter 17.
And its a pretty substantial blow to the old ego isn’t it?
One of the most humbling truth pills that you’ll ever have to swallow
is that God is not contingent upon you.
He’s not.
And on top of that, he’s not gonna let you steal his glory either.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things!”
Romans 11:34-36 keeps the punches coming our way.
Paul argues we can’t even give to God what He doesn’t already have.
In fact, He gives to you the gift of serving Him in the first place.

So now let that soak in for a minute.
God doesn’t need you.
No, seriously.
Hear it again.
God doesn’t need you.
You need Him.

“life, breath, and all things.”

I wonder if we really believe this.
Because this means that we can actually serve God in a way that blasphemes Him!
Did you know that?
Did you know that if you serve God, because you think He needs you to,
you’re actually offending his strength, power, and majesty?
You’re saying, “Here God.  I know you can’t do this without me, so I’m gonna get
the job done for you!  And hey Jesus!  You better be keeping track of all this good
I’m doing, because I expect to be rewarded handsomely when this is all said and done!”

Don’t you know people like that?
People who serve God as if it were the most annoying thing in the world.
Who grump around doing doing doing all the time, but they always
seem unhappy about it?  And then to top it off, they give you a huge guilt trip
if you don’t make much of them and all their terrific efforts!
I know people like that, because I’m one of them!

And I guess I say all this, because as of late, and especially in light of the Christmas
season, I feel like we tend to spend a lot more time talking about what we need
to do for God, and too little time talking about what He has already done.
Not that I blame any one group in particular, I just think we need to stop and
remember that this whole thing isn’t about us.
No really.
At the end of time, when we’re all standing around the throne of God,
we’re not going to be screaming, “worthy am I! And worthy are all
my accomplishments!  Way to go Salvation Army!  Way to go Compassion!
Way to get the job done all you people and organizations!  It sure is a good thing
we pulled it together and did all this for God!”
Good heavens no!  Instead,  when we get home to heaven,
we’re going to exclaim, “worthy is the Lamb that was slain!”
And I think we’ll see that all those opportunities, all those good works we did
were actually prepared in advance for us to do, and that it’s not about what we did
at all, but it’s about what He did and gave us the privilege to do.

But that’s so hard isn’t it?
Because at the end of the day,
we don’t like making much of someone else.
We want to be made much of.
We do.
We want to feel important.
We want to feel useful.
We want to earn it.
And the biggest problem with grace is that it implies that you can’t earn it.
And in fact, it actually implies the opposite.  We earned death,
and all this life and serving and accomplishments, He earned for us.
Dang.
Isn’t that disappointing?

I mean, I know a lot of worship leaders that just play music “for God,” because,
well, it gets them noticed.  I know a lot of people who do a lot of good things
for people, but at the end of the day, its just so they can get their name on a
building, or get applauded, or even earn a pat on the back.
I know a lot of people like that, because, well, I know myself.
And my biggest problem isn’t sexual immorality, or anger, or gossip or lying
or drunkenness or anything obvious like that.  Although I have struggled with all of those
things at one time or another.  But No.
My biggest problem is I think the world is about me.
Not too surprising from an old theatre major I guess, but its true.
I think that if I get credit, noticed, and famous, then I’ll be happy.
If I could just do enough good, if I could just earn something for God,
then I could rest secure that He loves me.

And so the gospel is really quite hilarious at the end of the day,
because the gospel teaches that you can’t really ever accept God’s grace,
until you realize that you can’t ever ever ever ever ever earn it!
In fact, only the beggars are able to open their hands to receive the righteousness
that God provides.
Why else would Jesus have so many problems with the successful and religious?
It’s because they thought their serving God got them points in some sort of
messed up elementary gold star performance chart system that your teacher
used to use to get you to behave.
Remember those?
Well, God doesn’t have one of those.
He just has one big star that Jesus earned for all of us, that He wants to give to us.
Not because that will make us good enough to earn our own stars,
but just the opposite.  So we could receive his merit and rest from our striving.

Because you know, none of those things make us free.
Being good, being successful, earning our way to the top to hear
everyone applauding and shouting our name will feel really good for a time,
but the trick is, none of that will ever free us from the tyranny of self.
You know what does though?
Forgetting about ourselves altogether.

And so how do we do that?
We get caught up gazing on someone else.
I think that’s what makes falling in love so beautiful at first.
For a few minutes or hours or days,
you actually forget about yourself,
because you’re so caught up in the beauty of another.
And I think this is what God has in mind for us when He tells us to do stuff.
Not to be justified or honored or praised, but simply because we’re in love.
Think about all the crazy things you’ve done or heard others do when
they’re in love?  You’ll stand in the rain with a boom box over your head.
You’ll walk miles in the snow, uphill both ways.  You’ll go without food,
you’ll go without sleep, you’ll spend exorbitant amounts of money.
You’ll get so enamored, that you’ll actually forget about yourself.
And oh, when that happens, that’s when we’re free.

And so it should come as no surprise that the ultimate reason we’re saved,
isn’t to be useful.  We don’t need to be clean to be used.
And quite frankly, I’m tired of people foolishly preaching that from the pulpit.
(God used Jonah, Pharaoh, and Judas, to name a few, so that should give
great hope to screw ups like you and me)
We aren’t adopted just so that we can advance the gospel and evangelize the world.
(Although that’s a beautiful gift we’re given)
Ultimately, we are saved to draw near to God.
To be close to Him, to know Him, and to fall in love with Him.
“This is eternal life, that you might know the one true God and Jesus Christ
whom He has sent.”  -John 17:3

And in that process, turning our gaze away from our works,
our other gods, and finally ourselves, we actually
find the freedom we were looking for all along.
It isn’t from feeling good about ourselves, it’s from giving up on ourselves.
Like staring at a sunset, or a mountain top. or the grand canyon, it’s when
we forget about ourselves in the grandeur of God that we are truly and finally set free.

So may He lift us up to fall before Him,
open our eyes to see His beauty, and give us good works to express our love for Him.
It’s not about what we do, it’s about what He has done for us.
Or as John Piper once said,
“Man was made for mountains, not mirrors.”