The following are some thoughts I wrote down in my devotional journal this week. It may contain a theological perspective that I am still uncertain about.
John 6:38 says, “For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Later in I Corinthians 4:4, Paul, also speaking of doing the will of another, said, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ.” As Paul invites us to follow him and ultimately to follow Christ, we too are to do the will of the Father. We are to do what pleases God. We are to do right. However, as God changes my heart, doing my own will becomes doing God’s will. Or we had best put it the other way around- doing God’s will becomes doing my will. This is a way of life, not something you get done for the day and forget about. It really is silly to think of getting God’s will done so that I may move on to my own. As if there were portions and times of my life in which God has no explicit way for me to act or obedience for me to exhibit.
So we immediately run into two problems:
1. The sheer impossibility of actually doing this even if we wanted to.
And the greater of the two,
2. Actually wanting to.
I think here we find the essence of what it means to be a Christian. It also speaks much about what God does when he saves a person.
You see, no one actually wants to surrender his life to live it in the service of another person. At least no one I’ve ever known. At least not to the extent that the Bible speaks of it when we come to fully understand it. Those who seem to want it inevitably do so for selfish motives, and that is perhaps worse than simply admitting rebellion and being done with it.
And so God must change us. He must make our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He must take what is dead and make it walk again. No, not even again, but for the very first time. It is still unclear to me when this change occurs. Of course it has not fully occurred in any of us, and perhaps we can say it has more fully occurred in some than in others. But could it be that this change has not occurred in every person who has faith in Jesus? Or does their faith presuppose that God has at least planted the seeds of change? Of one thing we may be sure: the change will come. It must. For to grab hold of God is to grab hold of doing his will as a servant and in the process eternal life.
Truly, we should hardly think of the two (doing God’s will and eternal life) as separate. Did not Jesus say that whoever loses his life for my sake will find it? So it would seem that eternal life is found along the way of doing God’s will. Yet, we must not forget that doing God’s will and more importantly wanting to do it are gifts from God from the start.
If we must think of them as separate for the sake of better understanding, let us suppose that to lay hold of God is to lay hold of a rope consisting of two strands- one being doing God’s will as a servant, the other, the attainment of eternal life. You could no sooner simply grab one strand of the rope than you could jump into a lake on a hot summer day with the hope of staying dry. You can jump into the lake to enjoy relief from the heat, but you will most certainly also get wet, and you had best prepare yourself for that. Indeed, we could think of the rest of the world’s religions as attempts to untangle these two strands. Because everyone wants eternal life. No one wants Jesus. Not in their natural state. Not when it means becoming a servant as he was. Not when they really understand him and what following him entails. Even if they were to succeed in untangling the rope, it wouldn’t be strong enough to save them. I am reminded of preachers who speak of the danger of coming to Jesus as simply a fire escape from hell. I think their warning is much-needed because those who think of Jesus in such terms are not really thinking of him at all.
To lay hold of God is to lay hold of doing his will as a servant and in the process eternal life.