J.D. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC and the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is also the author of many publications including Jesus Continued, Ready to Launch, and Gospel Revolution.
In the Gospel: Recovering the Power of Christianity study, J.D. explains how God doesn’t want our service out of obligation, but a true desire of the heart.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
You see, ultimately that’s what’s behind all of our sin. There’s something you place a greater weight on than you do upon God. If you try to correct the behavior without first correcting the heart then you’ll just end up using God at best. You’ll serve God because you want to get something from Him, not because you love Him. You’ll serve Him because you want to keep Him off your back, you want to avoid punishment, you want Him to bless parts of your life. That becomes very wearisome to you. And it’s also not pleasing to God.
When I was in high school I started to date a girl that I just really wasn’t, I guess, that into. We didn’t really seem to have chemistry. We never had a, what we call back then, the “DTR” – the “determine the relationship” talk. So I wasn’t really sure of our status and the crisis came when we were still kind of dating around Christmas time.
Now every guy knows that if you’re dating a girl at Christmas time, you are obligated to get her a gift. Right? But I wasn’t really sure if we were officially dating or not. I was supposed to see her two days before Christmas and so I had this terrible thought. I’m like, “Am I supposed to get this girl a Christmas present?” Because, you know, if she gets me a Christmas present and I don’t get her one, then I look like a dirtbag. But I don’t want to drop 70 bucks on some girl I’ve got no future with.
So I’m driving out to see her. She lived 45 minutes away from me. I swung into the mall and I ran in. I went into a sporting goods shop and there I saw it. It was perfect. It was an Adidas neck warmer. You wore it when you went skiing. It said “Adidas” in great, big letters right here. It was 7 dollars. 7 dollars! I thought, “That’s perfect.” Cause that looks like it’s a lot more expensive. I’m going to buy that and if she gives me a Christmas present, I’m going to give that to her. And if she doesn’t give me anything, ha ha, that puppy’s mine.
So I got it. I wrapped it up, boxed it up, put it in my backseat where nobody could see it, drove the other, you know 40 minutes out to see her. I go up, I knock on her door. She opens the door. First thing out of her mouth, “I got you a Christmas present!” I was like, “I got you a Christmas present too.” And she ran and went underneath her Christmas tree and pulls out this beautifully wrapped box. I’m opening it up, and when I open it up, I hold up – to my horror – I mean, I could tell, I’m not a clothing connoisseur, but I could tell that was an expensive sweater. It was a top of the line piece of clothing.
She’s like, “Do you like it?” And I said, “I love it.” And she said, “Well where’s my gift?” And I said, “I…I left your gift at home.”
You know, of course it’s in the backseat of my car, but I’m thinking, you know, then I get to go home. Then I get to go out and buy a new gift and mail it to her.
She said, “Well, you know, we really don’t have any plans tonight. My parents aren’t here so we can’t stay here. So maybe we – I haven’t seen your parents in a long time, maybe we should drive back to your house and you can just give me the gift there.” I said, “That sounds like a great idea.”
So we get in the car, drive 45 minutes home. I go, I walk into my house. I told her, I said, “Would you wait here for a minute?” I go in to see my mother. I’m like, “Mom, do we have anything that we’re going to give to…” I have a younger sister who’s three years younger than me. I said, “Do we have anything we were going to give to her that she doesn’t know about yet?” My mom said, “Like what?” I said, “I don’t care. Just something that costs like $50 or something.” So my mom was digging through the closet, comes up with something, puts it in a box, puts this girl’s name on it. Takes my sister’s name off, puts this girl’s on.
I go walking out to the van and I’m like, “Here’s your gift!” And she opens it up, and sure enough it’s a, nearly identical in level, you know, piece of clothing.
Now let me ask, especially you girls, let me ask you a question. This is a very upstanding girl. She’s very respectable. Do you think, had she known the circumstances of that gift, do you think she would have been honored and flattered to receive it? Do you think it would have brought joy to her? No! No, I mean, she would have been insulted by that. She had no idea, at least until this Bible study series has come out and she’s sitting in some living room somewhere listening to this. Or something. But she would not have received that. Because no girl wants to receive something that is given to her out of obligation.
Somehow we think God is different. That God is pleased and He’s glorified when we do a bunch of stuff for Him that we don’t really want to be doing. That is wearisome to us and it’s also not pleasing at all to God.
What God desires is a heart that desires Him.