But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21)
It’s very easy, even for Christians, to fall into a place of retaining their ‘right’ to independence. The world teaches us this from an early age. We look up to those who ‘make their own destiny’, and we applaud the ‘self-made man’ with little thought to the implications. We are taught to be in control, to strive to achieve our goals, to set our minds to something and make our own choices.
Perhaps that is the reason why so many Christians struggle with the book of Job. Ultimately, what Job teaches us, is that God is sovereign, that we have absolutely no worth, or grounds to challenge Him, and but for His infinite grace would not, could not stand before Him, even as a supplicant. If we look past the things we’re quick to condemn in Job’s life, if we cease to get indignant on Job’s behalf, we can see a revelation of the glory and majesty of God that must leave us trembling in awe as Job did.
We forget, in the business of life and the challenges we face, that God has a three-fold right of ownership that far outweighs anything this world can argue.
First, He has the right of creation. We, like the lumps of clay, were molded by the hands of the creator, and but for His life breathed into us, that’s what we would remain – lumps of clay. It is only His breath that sets us apart from the earth from which we were made. Just as the potter owns the cup or plate or bowl he has shaped, so our God has the right of creator-ownership.
Second, He has the right of conquest. The Bible tells us that ‘He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,’ (Colossians 1:13). Christ took on the powers of Satan’s kingdom and defeated them at the cross, effectively making us ‘prisoners of war’. During battle, anything belonging to the defeated nation was taken as a spoil of war by the conqueror, and they would parade these in triumph as proof of their victory and valour. Where we previously belonged to Satan, we now belong to Christ. He has the right of conqueror-ownership over us.
Finally, He has the right of ransom. Not only has He taken us out of the kingdom of darkness, but He has also paid the slave price, or the blood price – one life in exchange for another. If one man took another man’s slave, he could be compelled to make compensation, either through another slave or through financial payment. Or a slave’s freedom could be bought, or ransomed. Finally, where someone became a slave through not being able to pay their debts, they could be redeemed if someone paid their debt in full. All of these provide a poignant picture of just what Christ did on our behalf. Even though we were already his through the right of the creator, even though we were His through right of conquest, He still paid the ransom price, thus making certain that Satan could never, ever have any hold over us ever again.
What is utterly amazing, though, is that He takes this one step further. He owns us three times over, but His sovereign grace then proceeds to set us free. He gives us the power of choice – free will. He leaves it up to us to decide whether or not we acknowledge Him, love Him, follow Him, obey Him. The almighty, eternal, majestic God of the universe steps back and lets us make up our own minds, in the big things and the small…and allows us to live with the consequences.
We either belong to Him or we don’t. We cannot ‘half belong’. Christ Himself said we cannot serve two masters. If we allow him owner-rights to some parts of our lives and not to others, it’s as good as not allowing him owner-rights at all. We cannot attach conditions or restrictions to our worship, obedience or service when even the ability to make any choices at all is a gift of sovereign grace.
Yes, He is gentle, forgiving and merciful. We learn, as we choose Him, to release our will to Him. It’s a step by step process, a gradual surrender, a life of yielding. He takes us on a journey that begins with a choice and is outworked in our day to day choices as we acknowledge Him as Adonai – My Lord, my Master, my Father, my All.
Today, Lord, I choose You. Show me where I am holding on to self, help me to yield, and bring me to a deeper surrender, a place of ‘not my will, by thine.’