Be Humble, or Be Humbled

 
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What happens if we discovered that there is nothing that we can do to get in good with God? What happens if we were forced to accept that there is nothing we can do to make God's relation to us better? These questions often cause us to contort our face into worried, indignant shapes. We're so used to trying to make things better, focused on leaving the world a better place than how we found it. It's an itch we just can't give up scratching, even when it comes to our relation to divinity.

On account of Jesus' work for us to reconcile us to God, there isn't anything we can do to improve our relation to God. This gives us a chance to breathe, to sit down and listen and watch what's going on - to focus on what He’s doing for us. It sounds so simple it seems it's not worth doing. But listen to what's going on and watch what we do in response. Don't be in a hurry to think we know what God’s up to, saying, "Well that's God working over there in that place." "This is God's will for my life, I know it." "This is what God wants me to do."

When we think God is doing something for us here or there or everywhere, or God is stockpiling worldly blessings and spiritual blessings for us, we are simply fixing labels and putting value on what we imagine God is doing for us. This leads us to become fixated by what we are doing and not doing to improve relations with God. We begin to work out for ourselves how life will develop and improve for us. We daydream about how the afterlife will offer us the relief and rewards we thought we deserved in this life. In all of these activities, we are just projecting our desires and cravings for a better life - whatever that means - onto each other and calling it "God."

When we think God is doing something for us here or there or everywhere, we are simply fixing labels and putting value on what we imagine God is doing for us.
— Donavon Riley

In the same way we can't understand how our brain works, we don't wrap our mind around how God works, not outside of what Jesus says to us about how He works for our good. But for this to happen two things are important: first, Jesus must speak to us, and second, we must get out of His way...that means we have to get out of our own way too. But, how do we get out of our own way without turning it into just one more self-improvement project?

We can't get out of our way by thinking. We can't get out of our own way by doing. We can only get out of our own way, we can only get out of Jesus' way, by acknowledging there's nothing we can do to improve our relation to God. There's nothing we can choose to do, nothing at all, that can help us get closer to God. We can only listen and watch what He says and does for us Jesus-much.

To be blunt, we must be humbled. We must be made to see that our thinking and doing for God is of no importance to God, or of salvific use to Him. Before we can judge God’s relation to us correctly, we must consider ourselves to be of no importance whatsoever to the matter of our salvation. Only after we’ve been humbled can we appreciate that it's God power, God's kindness, God's glory, God's restoration, God's strength, and God's support that carries us through it all. Through all our suffering and messes, through all our trials and temptations, through everything, Christ Jesus carries us through.

You don't have to worry about improving yourself; you just have to recognize that your doing for God is of no great importance to God! All you get to do is say, "God help me, a blind, deaf, dead-beat sinner."

That's what humbles us: when we get out of our own, blind, deaf, dead-man-walking way. We’re humbled when God sets us down and shuts us up so He can do for us. When He baptizes us, bodies and bloodies us, Gospels us, creates selfless love in us, works in and through us for our good and the good of everyone we meet - that's what humbles us.

We can’t improve our relation to God, because our whole way of thinking and doing is selfish. But Jesus' will is entirely for us in the way of selflessness. He’s so selfless that he even suffers Himself to be rejected by us because of our internal need to abandon God's doing for us. We’d rather turn our back on all Jesus does for us so we can improve our relation to Him, improve ourselves, make the world a better place, and on and on.

We can only get out of our own way, we can only get out of Jesus’ way, by acknowledging there’s nothing we can do to improve our relation to God.
— Donavon Riley

So we either humble ourselves, or God will humble us. We either humble ourselves before the Lord, or we will be strangled by our attempts to improve our relation to God, transform our relationship with God, remodel and renovate the relationship so that it goes better for us here and now, and hereafter. We either humble ourselves, or we will be humbled by the knowledge that nothing we do is of help or relevance to the One who shed His blood and life for us at Golgotha. He’s our Strength and Song. To Jesus belongs all glory and praise. He will support us and rule over us and guide us to the wedding feast of the Lamb without end.

We are afflicted by an urgent feeling that we must improve ourselves. But, in relation to God, can we? No, we can't.

There's nothing that needs to be improved as far as God's relation to us. Listen to His Word and watch what He does; He waters, feeds, loves, and strengthens us. We will be humbled by this, so why not sit back, relax, and enjoy being humbled? Why fight for what we’ve already received? There's joy, freedom, and peace in being humbled by God. We're off the hook for care-taking the relationship. Our relationship to God is all Jesus, all gift, all faith, love, kindness, gratitude, humility, and hope. All for us today and always.

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'.



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