I noticed an amusing trend while in seminary. Every time a fellow student would describe ministry efforts they were involved in or the work they were doing in their ministry setting, they would always interject at some point something along the line of, “Well, I didn’t do it. God did it through me.” I never really noticed this trend until one particular class the phrase was used three or four times in our group discussion and one student was moved to pipe up, “Okay, I think we’re all mature enough to understand the sovereignty of God. Can we just talk under the assumption that God is working through us without qualifying everything?” It was a revelation. Why do we feel so compelled to omit ourselves from God’s work? God doesn’t do that.
I think, generally speaking, we are afraid of pride. I know, that as a pastor, speaker, and author, I wrestle with having to self-promote. I want the message of God to be foremost and me to be involved. It used to be that I wrestled with my calling and function in the body because it seemed prideful to me to declare that I would have such a public ministry. What I have been coming to realize is that I declared nothing. In fact, I ran from this for a long time. I was afraid to recognize what God had made me. Hiding behind a false humility does nothing more than shove the glory of God under a bowl. Think about it, what gives God more glory, to do all the work himself through a lifeless, no-good wretch, or to make that lifeless, no-good wretch into something new; something capable of doing good things…of doing God’s will?
Jesus invited us to take his yoke upon us. In other words, we are invited to work side-by-side with Jesus. We are told in Ezekiel that God would give us a new heart – a good heart – and his Spirit will compel and enable us to obey his commands. We are told in Corinthians that we are a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come – we are now Christ’s ambassadors, that is what we are. John says that God has declared us to be his children, and that also is what we are. Ephesians teaches us that we are called to do good works which God has prepared for us to do, and we are told all throughout scripture that we will be judged based on what we do with what we’ve been given. God is completely sovereign. Apart from Christ, there is no good thing in us; no ability to obey and honor God. In Christ, however, we are made new. In Christ we are good. In Christ we are strong. In Christ we can do all things. God, in his sovereignty, has made us partners in his work and given us dominion and authority. It gives greater glory to God to say “I have done this because of what God has done! For in Christ I am not what I once was” than to deny our involvement all together.
I was studying in Genesis and came to the realization that I am dirt. From the dust of the ground was man formed, and to the dust we will return. We are dirt, and only God himself gives us life and breath and value, meaning, and purpose. All we are is a gift from him. I was meditating on this one morning around 3am as I was heading to my other job. As I was driving, God drew my attention to the moon shining bright and full in the night sky. As clear as I have ever heard him he said, “The moon is just dirt too.” Yes, it is dirt, and yet it shines so bright. That moon is breathtaking. It’s light is not its own; it reflects the light of the sun, and everyone knows that. We too, through we are dirt, when we reflect the light of the Son – his glory – we are also beautiful. We shine like a star in the darkness of night and reflect God’s glory. We cannot be afraid of that glory. To deny who God has made you is to deny his work of regeneration and redemption.
You can do great things because of what God has done. He has given you the Holy Spirit to live in you – the gift of God – to enable and empower you to do things. You are a new creation and false humility denies that. True humility is not self-degradation; that is blasphemy. True humility is a realistic view of self in light of the glory and work of God. That means acknowledging your weaknesses, but also your strengths (it’s okay to have them!). It means understanding that you are not bound by the old self (as the enemy would want you to be), but that you are a new creation – a product of God’s mercy and grace. Do not fear your glory, for God delights in it, and praise Him that has made you new. Everyone knows that we cannot be what the child of God is on our own. That is why the world asks those whose glory shines, “What’s different about you?” And that is when we get to tell what God has done for us.