Meditating on the Will of God: 7: He leads, I follow
Rom 12:1,2 I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We made reference in the previous study to the partnership that requires our acquiescence to His leading, in our ongoing Christian lives. Let’s consider that some more. The apostle Paul in our verses above calls us to present our bodies to God for His use, His disposal some might even say. Talk of ‘God using us’ implies that God leads the way and I follow and allow Him to bring about His will on earth through me. That, surely, what must be in Paul’s thinking when he says what he says above.
Now there is a danger that is observable in modern-day Christianity that can flow out of this talk, and the talk of Christian discipleship. The danger is that we adopt a wrong attitude to our ‘service’. We see ourselves sometimes as slaves who are at God’s beck and call, who are available to be burnt out on the altar of His service, and in one sense something of this is true but such thinking forgets bigger thinking. Let me try and explain.
Let’s start with Jesus parable that we of the refer to as the parable of the talents in Matt 25. There are three recipients of the talents from the master. When the last one, who had received only one talent faces his master, he declares, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” (Mt 25:24,25) Many of us see God as ‘a hard man’ and our life and our service, deep down, is motivated by fear and as a result we are not fruitful. We do what we do because we ‘ought’ to, because it is expected of us, not out of the love and wonder of the relationship that we have with the good and loving God. We see Him as hard, to be ‘obeyed’. Well of course a young child obeys its loving parent because it loves the parent and it is a natural response. The child who obeys out of fear has a poor relationship.
When our children were small we caught them one day holding what was obviously a church service and one of them leading it was clearly supposed to be me! They took me off well. Little children copy their loving parents because they love and admire them. Where we feel we ‘ought’ to pray, read our Bible, worship, witness etc., each of those actions is pretend and artificial because they come out of duty not out of the loving flow of the Spirit. ‘He leads, we follow’ is supposed to be a natural flowing thing.
When the disciples followed Jesus they did so because they saw something in him that was otherworldish and which was good and worth being with. When God leads it is always to lead us into something good, something which will bring blessing – to us and to others. When God called Moses at the burning bush it was to make him into a great leader and deliver His people. When God challenged Pharaoh it was to confront the one thing that stopped him becoming a giant in God’s sight – his pride. It was – and this would only be seen if Pharaoh had recognized God moving through Moses – a call that would deliver him from superstitious worship and lead his own people out of that as well, into a relationship of blessing with the living God, but his pride and his hard heart rejected that. What a classic picture of folly. Nebuchadnezzar, used by God to discipline Israel and the surrounding nations, didn’t understand that he has acting as the arm of the Lord and so went over the top in his activities and had, himself, to be disciplined as we considered before, but ending up with that real relationship with the Lord where he concluded, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.” (Dan 4:37)
Coming back to our starting verses from Rom 12, I suspect that there are some of us who fear such language: “offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” We fear because deep down we feel God is a hard God who might cause us pain. Another way I have heard it put is that we come with the attitudes of orphans, we don’t see ourselves as sons with a loving heavenly Father. Orphans struggle on their own and have every reason to feel that life can be hard, but we are called to sonship: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 Jn 3:1) and “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” (Gal 3:26) and “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son,” (Gal 4:6,7) Sons in the Bible are those who enter into the inheritance and joy of the father; they are those who have a relationship and all they do flows out of that relationship. When they ‘work’ it is an expression of that loving relationship.
So often in the parable of the prodigal son, we highlight the wrong attitude of the elder son at the end of the parable: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” (Lk 15:29) That is the language and mentality of a slave. How many of us serve the will of God like this? Instead of enjoying the wonder of the relationship we get bogged down with ‘serving’ with ‘discipleship’ with ‘laying down our life’. We miss the wonder, the freedom and the abundance of joy and blessing that comes when we realise that God is a loving, giving, good God who desires our constant blessing. If you struggle with these words, it is probable you see yourself as an orphan or a slave or a worker, instead of a glorious son of God. Ask Him to open the eyes of your heart to see the reality of what He has on His heart for you and the wonder of His daily, giving love for you.