I was astounded. Maybe it was obvious to most people, but I had never thought of it before. I still vividly remember painting the hallway in my family’s house three or four years ago and listening to an “Ask Pastor John” podcast that rocked my world.
Somehow, I had carried around the idea that even though Christ had saved me, the remaining sin I struggled with left me in a constant place of “not good enough.” So even if I did my very best to try to serve God, at the end of the day, I was always disappointed with myself (and so was sure God felt the same way about me), because there were still sinful motives and thoughts tainting my best efforts.
As Piper explained (and sadly, I haven’t been able to find the podcast again or I’d link it here :), while it’s true our best works on our own are “filthy rags” (Is. 64:6) and nothing we do can clean ourselves up before God, that’s not how God looks upon the Spirit-indwelt believer, who has received a new heart and new desires.
Yes, I still have remaining sin that taints my best efforts and can displease God by my sinful choices. But Christ’s declaration of justification on my behalf guarantees that as God’s child, he is pleased with me. I love how the Puritan Octavius Winslow puts this:
“The thoughts of God, too, are occupied with the returns His people make. Nothing you do escapes His notice. What! Is there anything done by you for God to which He is indifferent? Ah, no! He things of all your sincere desires to love Him, your lowly endeavors to serve Him, your earnest efforts to obey Him, your feeble, imperfect attempts to honour and glorify Him.”
What humbling words! I know myself how imperfect I am, and yet God thinks on me, noticing the least thing I do with the desire to serve him. How much more motivating this is, to feel his pleasure and only desire to serve and love him more, than constantly trying harder on my own?
Let this be your impetus to service: God notices. He is pleased, for Christ’s sake. And that should make our hearts leap for joy!
. Octavius Winslow, The Precious Things of God, 46.