Still reading Owen’s book Indwelling Sin in Believers, and something really struck me last night. Owen discusses how one of the ways sin creeps in and takes over our hearts, moving us away from doing all to the glory of God (our ultimate aim in everything), is by first distracting the mind away from that duty and showing itself to be more satisfying than God. And one of the ways sin deceives our minds is by making us think in very general terms about the glory of God. We think we are pleasing God in our works many times when really God’s glory is no aim at all, but just performing the duty and getting it done so that we cannot be bothered anymore.
Owen says that sin deceives the mind so as to make us think that just generally aiming for the glory of God in what we do without actually analyzing the particular ways our deeds will glorify Him, will suffice; and it is a grievous error, and is exactly what Saul did when going before God with sacrifices that were utterly displeasing to Him (1 Samuel 15). He could have cared less about God’s glory and name in the act, but rather just performing the duty so as to keep his position, and keep God off of his back. How many times has this been myself!? I cannot count the ways I’ve offended God with my so-called “righteous acts.” I’m a miserable sinner in need of perpetual grace. Praise God for the work of Christ alone to provide what He commands!
Herein lies just one aspect of the deceitfulness of sin. We may suppose to be doing all generally to the glory of God, assuming ourselves to be satisfying the law in God’s eyes in this or that “Christian” task or other normal daily task, when really our aim in the particular acts and duties are not centered on God and His glory in any manner. What an offense to Him! The duties (praying, reading Scripture, enjoying a meal, relating to family members, relaxing, working at a job, overseeing a Bible study, preaching) are performed just as if you were an atheist and were simply attempting (in your flesh) to be a good person (and in relation to God and what He deems good, this is an impossible supposition without the work of the Spirit – see Romans 8:5-8). God has given us minds that we may exercise them to be intentional about giving God glory in the particulars, from the smallest thing to the largest. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Hebrews 11:6) To even be able to trust Him though, we need Him to work in us His supernatural power by the Holy Spirit, which is exactly why we must seek Him, so that He will work in us.
This is the question we should all desire to intentionally ask ourselves when doing important duties as well as seemingly mundane duties: in light of the Gospel and Christ’s infinite suffering on the cross on my behalf, to bring me to God, how does this deed or work make God look good? Does it at all even? Does it preserve the honor of His name? Or am I totally ignoring God in this altogether? “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) In every way that we don’t give glory to God or ignore Him in our good actions and deeds, we offend Him deeply. And just with that thought I look at my life and see all the thousands of ways in which I fail to give Him glory and just echo with Paul in Romans 7:24-25a, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” In our flesh, we are absolutely deficient to accomplish anything to God’s glory, even the most benevolent act in human terms. In every act, we have to, we must lean on Christ for the power, ability and strength so that we may do our specific actions and deeds to His glory.
“For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We can do nothing right in God’s eyes apart from Him working in us to do that which is right, provided sufficiently in the Person, Work, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. In every act, we must not trust ourselves (trusting your flesh), but lean on Christ by the Holy Spirit to even perform the work to His glory. Hebrews 11 is chock full of people in the Old Testament who leaned on God to grant them the ability to do the work to His glory. He is our only hope of doing anything right. As David Phillips used to say, “We must repent of our repentance,” because even in our good “Christian” deeds, if we ignore God in them, we trample on His name and are deserving of wrath for these things. Ugh.
May we tremble and fear the Lord that He may come and work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure! May we come to Him and repent to receive forgiveness at the foot of the cross for the ways in which we don’t give Him glory in our “good” works. By the working of the Holy Spirit in us, may we intentionally use our minds to analyze the duties in which we are to give God glory (namely all of them), so that sin may not gain a foothold in our minds and move us away from the all-satisfying glory of God! May we bow in submission to His sovereign authority over our lives that He may change us from the inside out. It is our only hope. Lord Jesus rescue us from our wicked depravity!