Monday, June 21, 2010

God of Creation, What Shall I Do?

Headed by my re-reading of Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy a week ago, I have been struck by God's self-existence and self-sufficiency in new ways of late. The reality that God has absolutely no needs from anyone or anything outside of Himself is remarkable. I cracked open Genesis 1 this morning and was reminded of it again in that simple opening sentence of the Bible, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

There, in that one sentence, is that same truth: God needs nothing from anyone. He creates by an act of His unfettered will, though even that creation itself is not something He needs in any meaningful sense of the word. He simply wants to do it, so He does. Christians have never been able to figure out why He would create but for one reason: He delights in His own glory, and creation reflects that glory.

And here am I, an infinitesimally tiny blip on the historical landscape of that creation running about with constant thoughts of what I can do for God. Scheming, planning, brainstorming, and conversing, all about that question: what shall I do to bring God glory? But Gen. 1:1 retorts, "You do indeed exist for His glory, Andrew, and He does indeed value you as His image-bearer, but how do you so quickly forget that He can bring Himself glory just fine without your help?"

So I'm not "doing the Lord's work". He can do His work just fine without me, thank you very much. I'm asking Him to do work through me. Wonder of wonders, I'm allowed a place in God's kingdom-mission to glorify Himself. Given this reality, why do I plan so much and pray so little? Imagine Warren Buffet's son setting up a lemonade stand to contribute to the continued growth of the family income. Such is my foolishness.

Maybe God's self-sufficiency has captivated me of late because my life does not reflect that I believe it is true. That lack of prayer is the largest pointer to this. Do I desire to reach lost people for Christ? Do I desire to grow in holiness? Do I desire to preach more effectively? Then I try to think of relevant outreach models, I try to read more Christian books, and I try varying my rhetorical techniques. I don't pray.

I suspect I am not alone in this. I suspect, in fact, that many evangelical churches and their pastors struggle because they aren't really committed to prayer much at all. The ceaseless barrage of advertisements for better mouse traps from Christian publishers worsens the problem. Just once I'd like to see a Zondervan catalog come to our church that didn't have any books or DVD's. It would just be a single page that said, "Don't buy our books this month. Try praying a lot."

But the financial bottom line would not allow for that, just as the ministry-output bottom line in many churches wouldn't allow for a pastor to take that advice. "That's fine, pastor, quit all of our programs and get everyone to pray and fast for a month instead." Unlikely advice, for we've always got to be doing something if we're really going to earn that paycheck, which, I remind you, comes from the people's pockets. Whether the pressure is from the pastor's conscience or the congregation's mouths, isn't this the way it goes?

Maybe I'm a pessimist, or maybe it's just a mood. In any case, I'd do best now to take my own advice and stop giving advice. I must pray.

-----------------------------

All-Sufficient God,

Nothing is impossible for You. You have no limitations, no boundaries, nothing within or outside of Yourself that can or will stop You from carrying out Your plans. Far from being academic truths for systematic theologians and their students, this is bedrock, every-day stuff. And yet I forget it almost every day- even when it has been on my mind uncharacteristically often.

So then, if You can do all things You desire in order to glorify Yourself, my prayer is simple: use me in that. This will be my greatest joy. In the midst of that, Lord, teach me to pray like someone who really believes all this. Teach me to trust You. Teach me to delight in You and You alone.

I can only ask these things in the name of the One Who Has Reconciled Me to You, the Lord Jesus Christ, and so I do.

Amen.

-----------------------------

(NB: I know this is not a post about the cross. But like I said in the intro to the month, not all of them necessarily will be!)

6 comments:

lostinthecloud said...

Faris,

As always, thoughtful post. It is always wonderful to look back on those foundational truths and to see ourselves in perspective.

Here's a thought (something I am currently exploring as part of my Ph.D.): If we look at Genesis 18 we see God engaging in a conversation with himself within an intentional earshot of our boy Abraham. God is speaking of his plans for the destruction of the perverse cities he looks upon. But a very interesting conversation follows. Abraham appeals to God and bargains for the possibility that God might spare the city if a righteous community is present. You know the story, but what gets me is that God seems to invite Abraham's conversation. His patience also seems to indicate this invitation.

What I have been drawing from this small example is that God desires something that is uniquely human from the subjects in his kingdom. In Revelation 21 we see that God invites the glory of nations into his kingdom. As is every human endeavour, this creativity ultimately and absolutely depends upon the grace and empowerment of God, but I think it also gives us an opportunity to effectively participate in something eschatological in creative human ways (empowered by the Holy Spirit). This is an exciting opportunity we have as the Church in this present age. And in the end we will receive crowns when we are Resurrected and we will gladly cast them at his feet. God's creativity is astounding.

Just some thoughts that came to mind...

Elijah
Lost in the Cloud

Sarah Abigail Kuriakos said...

Hey Andrew:

Thanks for this post. It's one of the best this blog has ever produced, in my opinion.

While it's true that God can and does bring Himself glory all the time (everytime I look at a cell I want to fall on my face before God in worship), there are certain things that God can't do Himself. The most important of these is presenting Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. He needs man as intermediary to do His work in this respect.

Which reminds me. What you wrote set me to thinking. God isn't just One who loves, He IS love, and Love gives, so He needs someone or something to give to. So He created man. But man rejected God's love by going his own way and eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (generic man, not gender specific), and sin entered the world. Thus arose the need for Jesus Christ and salvation. At that point God needed man to be His intermediary, because He had to have a way to bring Jesus to earth so He could do His work and die on the cross (that wonderful, glorious cross, makes me cry everytime I think about it), and so on goes the tale...

I totally see your point about God's self-sufficiency, and I agree with it absolutely. I just think that maybe God needs us a little more than you've suggested. I definitely agree with you about prayer, however. I REALLY need to pray a LOT more!! (Thank you for reminding me!!)

Sarah

Jared said...

Sarah,

Don't forget that God is in trinity, and so part of his perfection is his relational perfection between the trinity. God didn't NEED humanity in order to exercise his love, there was already perfect love shared between the godhead.

God's creation of man was not to make up for some deficiency on his part, rather it was to exercise the perfect attributes the Godhead already possessed in all it's facets. Thus all of creation and history serves as a sort of mirror to "show off" the majesty, beauty, and greatness of God. But here I go, spoiling what was going to be a post in the near future . . .

Andrew Faris said...

Sarah,

Thanks for the kind words. Your encouragement is always appreciated. Interacting with you over this stuff makes me realize just how smart you are and makes me wish that back in the CVV days we could've started some kind of theology reading group or something. Hey, at least you, me, and Jonathan would've been into it- that would've been enough for me!

In this case I'd urge some caution. Once we start throwing out terms of God's needs, I think we tread on some pretty thin ice. God, in fact, doesn't need us to spread the gospel. We are simply the means He has chosen to do so. At any moment God can reveal Himself to any person. He has allowed us the joy of participating.

And again, God created man out of no need in Himself (I'd put my chips in with Jared's comment 100%), and did not need man in order to reveal Christ. That puts the cart before the horse. If He didn't create man, He'd never need to reveal Christ at all. So it's all from His good pleasure.

I suppose what it comes down to is that you can't really affirm God's self-sufficiency and a need for us. Again, my whole point is to stress that God could've chosen any way He wanted to show Himself to people- He chose us because it would be a wait to bring Him glory and to bring us joy. Not because He needed us to do it.

Super thoughtful comment, even where I think you're wrong!

Andrew

Highanddry said...

Andrew,

This is a great post, and is so prescient for where my conversations and thinking are at the moment. I was able to pass it on to a friend of mine struggling to maintain her patient faithfulness in the face of insurmountable odds. She also found it very helpful.

We had been talking that night about the need to deepen the sense in which we abide in God (and God in us) as a response to the challenge of loving others. Your reflection spoke right into our conversation as if you were there.

Finally, your call to prayer is a timely one and one I will be taking to heart over the next few days (months and years hopefully).

Peace.

Andrew Faris said...

Highanddry,

Occasionally as a blogger, especially a couple years in, you start wondering if there is a point to writing anymore. Comments like yours are more encouraging than you might know.

Andrew