“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
There are two concurrent realities that when divorced from each other disallow a person from living in reality.
Reality #1: Life’s not about me, it’s all about God.
Reality #2: Life’s also about me, it’s not all about God.
Let me explain, because this could get heretical in a hurry.
First regarding reality #1: This is an inarguable truth. The Scriptures make it clear that “from God, and through God, and to God are all things, to him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Romans 11). Amen is another word for “case closed”. Through him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17). We were created “by Him and for Him” and he “holds all things together” (Col. 1). I could go on and on, trust me. The case for God’s glory needs neither jury nor judge. There is indisputable evidence throughout the sacred text for the sufficiency, supremacy, and sovereignty of God.
That is why this text says “he leads us…for His name’s sake”. No matter what we do or he does, it’s about his name for his sake. That’s not for sale; that’s not up for grabs.
It could be easy in this passage to get really used to God being about us. He’s taking care of us, speaking to our wants, coddling and cuddling us back to health, nursing our “inner child”. Entitlement can naturally set in as our expectations of his “doing stuff for us” becomes the modus operandi.
So let me be clear about Reality #1…God does stuff for us for His name’s sake. Ultimately, it’s all about his glory is what I’m getting at.
But you’ve heard that before to the point where you begin to wonder about the point. So let me talk about the other side for a moment…
Regarding reality #2: This is self-evident truth. The Scriptures are clear that we possess a free will and it does no good to “pass the buck” of responsibility for righteousness onto God like we have nothing to do with it. (I’m not speaking of the imputed righteousness of God through the atonement of Christ, I’m speaking of acts of volition to choose good or evil each moment of our everyday lives) God’s glory doesn’t exclude the importance of our story. In this sense, it’s not all about God doing things to us or for us. We do things to ourselves and for ourselves (God won’t be credited with or discredited by those personal decisions) and are accountable to realize the weight of our lives stamped with the image of God.
When we start talking like “It’s all about God” or “All I need is God” or “It’s not about me.”…I would wonder if God is like, “Hold the phone just a sec. If you’re speaking about me getting my glory, then carry on. But if you’re talking about me living your life for you and you abdicating your responsibility to pick carefully your paths of righteousness that I lead you to, that’s not about me. That’s about you. Thus, it isn’t all about me…it’s about you, too. And furthermore, if all you needed were me, I wouldn’t have said (before sin) it’s not good for man to be alone while I was standing right there next to him. You need more than me, and I created you that way and I’m ok with that. It’s not all about me, that’s why I work in cooperation with humans to bring about redemption in the world.”
Sometimes I think people just think “God’s gonna do it” or “it’s already taken care of” like acknowledging God’s will somehow means diminishing your own. The shepherd makes you lie down, but you have to sleep. He can lead you to still water, but you have to drink. He can guide you toward paths of righteousness, but you have to walk in them. The Shepherd isn’t going to do it for you even though it’s all for His name’s sake. Your will and God’s will somehow mesh your story and God’s glory. This is reality.
Believing either reality exclusively puts you in a diluted place at best, a delusional place at worst.
It’s about you and it’s about God in relationship. God is not going to live your story and you are not going to get His glory. But somehow when both wills are acknowledged in their proper place, we see the kingdom unfold and the gospel unfurl.
It’s about loving God for Pete’s sake, and loving Pete for God’s sake. Both/and, not either/or.