Last week I said that we have nothing to offer God. God doesn't need our money. He doesn't benefit from our prestige. We don't have any special powers which He lacks. When you think about it, you start to realize that we are helpless, hopeless, worthless and useless. It can be very depressing. I certainly don't want you to get depressed. So tonight, I'd like to talk with you about the things that God DOES want from us. The pitiful, worthless state I described earlier is only applicable to the godless person. Once you are a Christian, that changes, because God values us. It is because of Him that we gain worth. Here are some of the reasons why.
God wants your worship. Because He's a megalomaniac? No! Because He loves you! There's a piece of CGI animation called "Nothing but love" in which a sculptor gives his girlfriend fabulous pieces of art, not understanding why she gets sadder and sadder. Finally, she tells him "I don't want your sculptures, I love YOU!" We are the bride of Christ, and He doesn't want us to give Him sculptures. In fact, He told us specifically not to do that. He wants us. He wants our interest, our time and our devotion.
One individual here has also compared our relationship to God as that of a pet to his master. I rather like that analogy. I have a pet rat, myself. His name is Teko. What can Teko give me that I don't already have? Nothing. He doesn't feed me. He doesn't water me. He doesn't shelter me. He doesn't give me gifts. He doesn't clean my room or tuck me in bed at night. I do all that for him. Does that mean he's worthless? Not at all! He gives me exactly what I desire of him. He gives me his attention, his love, his affection and his obedience. That last one is a very precious comodity. Having a rat who does what you tell him is very pleasing indeed. God values those things just as much.
Parents love to have good kids. They rejoice in children who do what's right. They are especially joyful over children who don't fight among themselves. As we saw in our reading today, three things God really craves from us are justice, mercy and humility. Justice is the practice of goodness and mercy is the practice of love. God wants us to have these qualities in our spirits because these two things are the key to being holy. Humility makes a person truly pleasant to be with. That's one lesson our "patron saint" taught us well. Fred Rogers was perhaps the world's foremost teacher of children. He could have taken a superior attitude, but he didn't. He never spoke down to his audience, or "television neighbors". He treated them as his peers, and just spoke straight across to them. Two of Jimmy Stewart's most famous characters, Elwood Dowd and Jefferson Smith, are both men I would have liked to know, because they were pleasant. They were pleasant because they were humble. Either one could have copped an attitude and said "I'm a senator" or "I can see Harvey and you can't." They didn't. They treated others with love and respect. Who do you think God enjoys more? Is it the son who says "You have to love me because I'm your son!" or is it the one who says "Thank You, Father, for accepting me." The bible says that the first one will be brought low while the latter will inherrit the earth.
God loves to see trust. He wants us to believe Him. Not just believe IN Him, but to have faith that what he says is true. To go back to my pet analogy, who here has ever given a rat a bath? Most of you know that rats find the bathtub terrifying. The rats I have had as pets have had two types of reactions. Some tried desperately to escape. Others trusted that I would not let them drown. Bathing a rat is much easier and more pleasant for both pet and master when that trust is present. God wants us to trust Him. His job as protector and provider becomes much easier if we just allow ourselves to trust him and let Him do what He wants to do. It may be scary, but it always works out well in the end, even if our happy endings may not be in this life.
Praise is always precious. It is customary in our culture to deflect praise, or to downplay it, saying "Oh, I'm not that great, really." or "If any praise in this there be, it goes to Christ and not to me." But we love to get it. We love to be acknowledged when we do well. We like getting good grades, getting a favorable review, being presented a trophe, seeing our names in a list of credits. It's only right that even if there is no reward, there is that acknowledgement. With all that our Lord has done. He deserves our praise. Just like anyone else, He enjoys being praised for doing and being good, and it is what He deserves. But there is a better reason still to praise God. The world needs to understand how good God is and how much they need Him.
I have one of the nicest jobs I can imagine as the manager of OtterTunes. I get to find talented musicians and tell the world about them. I make sure to mention their names every time I play one of their songs, because I want to tell the world "Hey, world! Listen to this guy! Isn't he something?" Listen to Steven Blazen, he's righteous! Listen to ben Dabiri, he's funky! Listen to William E. Marks, he's so soothing! Listen to Tomster, he's hilarious!" I love being able to do that because I'm spreading something good around the planet. How much sweeter, then, to spread the ultimate good around the planet? Now Mathgrant was very pleased when I added him to the station lineup and started telling people all about him. How do you think God feels when we tell others what He has done? I believe it warms His heart every time someone says "Jesus loves you."
Finally, when everything else is said and done, God likes to be thanked. Cartoonist Bill Keane once did a Family Circus strip in which Billy said a prayer of pure thanksgiving. Heaven was abuzz. The saints and angels were ecstatic that someone prayed a prayer just to say thanks. I believe Bill got it right. When God gets the prayer equivalent of a thank-you card, I think it makes Him smile. Not just a little smirk, but a great, big grin.
Picture Jesus on the Price is Right, bidding in the showcase showdown. Drew (Or Bob, if you prefer) asks him what he bids on this showcase that includes worship, devotion, love, affection, obedience, justice, mercy, humility, faith, praise, witness and thanks. Jesus smiles and says with utmost confidence "Drew (or Bob), I bid my very life." That's how much this things are worth to the Lord.
All of these things which I have mentioned have a common element. They are all based on having a relationship with God. That is why a nonchristian has nothing to offer. One who has rejected God cannot offer him affection. One who has yet to accept Him cannot offer faith. One who wants God to accept him on his own terms possesses no humility. The relationship must come first. For that to happen, you must accept His plan of salvation and accept Jesus as your Savior.
If you've already done so, rejoice! Because for you, these things have a different common element. They are things which God cannot force from anyone. These things are real only if they are offered freely. God is very powerful, but even he cannot force love, because forced love is a contradiction in terms. If you are a Christian, you are a wellspring of those things which God truly considers precious.
6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?