Mark 10:35-40, And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptised, you will be baptised, but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not Mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
A man falls ill, more ill than he’s ever been before. Usually he gets over a cold pretty quickly, but this time it just won’t go away, so he gets some medicine. After a couple days, nothing has changed, so he says, “Lord, if You heal me, I’ll go to church more often.” A couple days later, his cold is gone, and he says, “Never mind. The medicine healed me.”
We’re all guilty of bargaining with God. We ask Him to do something for us because we think we deserve it or we’ll do something in return to deserve it. We say things like, “I’ll pray more,” “I’ll go to church more,” “I’ll give more at offerings,” or even, “I’ll believe in You if You just do this for me,” whatever it is we choose to bargain. We should already be doing all those things; they aren’t bargaining chips to use against God.
The only thing God requires of us is to believe in Jesus (John 6:29), and for those who believe Jesus prepares a place for them (John 14:1-3). (God also requires good works from us, but those flow from our faith in Christ for the benefit of our neighbour.) James and John thought they were able to take the cup and baptise themselves, but Jesus tells them it is He who gives them both (thus the Baptist’s “believer’s baptism” is erroneous). Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath that we were unable to drink, and so we drink the cup of grace in the Lord’s Supper. We are unable to baptise ourselves and thereby save ourselves, grasp the Holy Spirit, and sanctify ourselves, so it is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who baptises us, saves us, gives us to Himself, and works sanctification in us.
It is because of Jesus that we can approach God. “Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We don’t need to bargain with God. We can confidently approach Him in prayer in Jesus’ name and trust He knows what’s best for us.