Today we’ll have choices to make. Small choices mostly. But even though those moments may appear mundane and trivial, each will really carry with it a weighty choice. We’ll be faced with decisions like:
- Will I exaggerate my part in that story to make myself sound better?
- Will I cover my neediness, my insecurity with a more acceptable, dressed up me?
- Will I prayerlessly make decisions based on what seems logical and successful and secure as I forge forward throughout my day?
With each decision, each path change, each new direction — some menial, some of life-changing import — we’ll be tempted. Tempted to choose paths that promise self-protection, self-promotion, or bolstered pride.
When I sense I’m choosing a path to protect me, or promote me, or puff up me, I remember this post by Ray Ortlund. His words help me understand that there are not only two paths — that of serving God or of serving Satan — to choose between. His words help me question, even in the most menial of decisions, which of three paths I’m actually choosing.
Three paths, three possibilities — not only two
“Your life and mine are not so simple as a question of doing the Lord’s work versus doing the devil’s work. We face not two but three possibilities: (1) doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, (2) doing the Lord’s work in our own way, (3) doing the devil’s work. And the great divide is not between 2 and 3 but between 1 and 2.
To do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is to humble ourselves and prayerfully depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, according to Scripture alone, moment by moment.
To do the Lord’s work in our own way is to move forward with our good intentions and true theology and just keep doing what seems obvious and successful and even right. But on that final day, the Lord will look at it and say, “This belongs not to me, but to you. It was not for me, but for your own glory. I do not see it as an accomplishment. I see it as a hindrance.” And it will fall from our hands forever.
It gets worse.
To do the Lord’s work in our own way is to risk doing the devil’s work. When Peter tried to persuade Jesus to bypass the cross, the Lord said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). How did Peter go so shockingly wrong? Jesus explained: “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter did not have to set his mind on the things of Satan to become useful to Satan. All he had to do was set his mind on the things of man. On obvious, understandable, human things. Like survival, popularity, saving face, and so forth. That’s all it takes. It is easy, even natural. Which is why Jesus had to tell Peter what was really going on. Peter hadn’t decided for Satan. He had just proceeded in his own way, without allowing himself to be overruled by the counterintuitive ways of God revealed in Scripture. If we are not consciously redirecting ourselves into the surprising ways of God, the Lord stops using us and must say to us as, in fact, he said to no one less than the apostle Peter: “You are a hindrance to me.”
To do the Lord’s work in our own way is to become destructive with good intentions, true theology and what seems obvious, successful and right.
To do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is searching and costly. We pay a price. But it is glorious. The Lord himself is in it. And he is nowhere else.” (Ray Ortlund, Three ways, not just two)
Painting: Wood Lane, by Claude Monet, 1876