Stopping Just Short of Gethsemane
God is not required nor has He promised to receive from us what we decide to do in His name. In fact, He will only receive that which He inspires us to do by His Spirit.
We can live our entire lives doing "good" for Christ and never actually be in His will. Did we really comprehend that? We can continually make sacrifices, give offerings, produce worship, start ministries, preach the word, heal the sick...and never be doing God's will.
It is the difference between coming to Christ and looking up at the cross versus coming to Christ and getting up on the cross. This is because many Christians never go through the winepress of Gethsemane. Instead of denying their own will so that God's will can be accomplished through them, they use their own will to go about doing 'good works' for Him. God never accepts such offerings.
Don't think this is true?
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23
Can we not say that those who were prophesying, casting out devils and such were doing "good" works? Indeed, the Scriptures say that these were "wonderful" works. Yet, God did not receive ANY of them. The question is, "Why?" Why didn't God accept these offerings? Because while they were doing good works, these people were not doing God's will.
Doesn't God want prophecy to come forth? Doesn't He want demons to be cast out? Doesn't He want to do wonderful works in the earth? Yes. However, God only accepts that which He fathers. Further, we should note that even our "wonderful works" done in God's name are considered by Him to be works of iniquity if they are not birthed by Him.
In a previous article, we discussed what it means for God to be our Father. We noted how the Greek word for father (the word pater) literally means to be the "originator and transmitter". If God is not the originator or inspiration of our work, then it matters not how "good" the work seems; it still remains a dead work.
The barometer for whether our work is "of God" is not how we feel about it or even people's response to it. It is whether our work was birthed by God or not. Being inspired by God doesn't mean that we consider His goodness and our love form Him and then start thinking of things we can do for Him. Inspiration is truly a spiritual term which speaks primarily of what God is doing through us, not what we are doing for Him.
An example of such "inspiration" is seen in the Scriptures (II Timothy 3:16). Being inspired by God literally means to be "God-breathed." A work originates solely from Him and His Spirit moves through men to bring that work to pass. Scripture is not the work of man, but of God precisely because it was inspired by Him. The same can be said of our works. If our works do not originate solely from the Spirit of God, then it is not God working, but merely us working.
Consider just a few more examples of people offering works to God which were not inspired by Him.
So what does it mean for faith to be the motivation behind our works? It doesn't mean to simply believe because even the demons believe, but they don't have faith.
Faith is the action of obedience in response to believing God's word; it comes by hearing and obeying the word of God (Romans 1:5, 10:16-17, 16:26). While Cain offered what he thought was good, Abel desired to know what God wanted him to offer...and did just that. As a result, Abel was accepted.
"If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." Genesis 4:7
Note that the words above from God were spoken to Cain before he killed Abel. Not only was Cain's hard-wrought offering rejected, God said that it was "sin"! Cain didn't get credit for having good intentions, for the time & effort he put into it, or for the fact that he was doing it for God. It was all a work of the flesh because God had not inspired him to give what was offered. Just as in Matthew 7:23, this good work was the equivalent of sin.
In Leviticus Chapter 9, we see the people of Israel coming forth to worship God and His glory descended among the people to receive their offering.
Were Nadab and Abihu making offerings to idols? No, they were making an offering to the Lord. Again we see that God doesn't just take what we offer in His name. Not only was this work rejected, but Nadab and Abihu were judged and destroyed because of this one act of "worship".
What was the problem? They did not consider what God wanted them to offer, but gave what was right in their own sight, and this kindled God's wrath. Once again, what was done as a work for the Lord was looked upon by God as sin.
Similarly, we see in the Book of I Samuel that the Amalekites were defiled to God and He wanted King Saul to "utterly destroy" all that belonged to them; man, woman, child, and every animal (I Samuel 15:3). Yet, Saul did not.
"And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." I Samuel 5:13-15
Oh how this reflects the religious nature of man's heart! We take away from God's commands to do what seems right to us and want to offer it to God while boldly (and falsely) proclaiming to be performing His will. We see things in the world that look attractive to us and we decide to offer those things to God, even though He tells us not to (I John 2:16).
God had condemned the Amalekites and all that was associated with them. There was nothing He wanted from them and more importantly, God had instructed His people to take nothing from them. All they had to do was obey.
However, just as what happens today, King Saul saw something in the Amalekites that he thought he could use; something he could salvage as an offering to God. Afterall, wasn't it okay to do what God said not to do as long as he was doing it for God's glory? Wouldn't God overlook his disobedience since he was trying to make a sacrifice to the Lord? No!
No matter Saul's intentions or motivation, God only saw his disobedience (I Samuel 15:11). God saw Saul's "sacrifice for God" as sin, as evil, as idolatry (I Samuel 15:16-23).
"And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king." I Samuel 15:22-23
As a result of this one act of "worship", the kingdom was rent from Saul's hands and he became rejected by God.
Only that which is sanctified by God is able to be received by Him. This is a lesson that Uzzah, the son of Abinadab, had to learn the hard way.
King David sought to have the ark of God (symbolic of His presence) returned to Israel from the house of Abinadab where it was held. Abinadab's sons, Uzzah and Ahio, proceeded to drive the ark on a cart back to Israel when the following occurred:
"And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God." II Samuel 6:6-7
Was Uzzah motivated to do a good work for the Lord? Absolutely. He was trying to stop the ark of the covenant from falling. However, he was not permitted by God to touch it. In spite of his good intentions, Uzzah's work was in "error" and resulted in his death.
Once more we see that it is not acceptable to God for us to disobey His commands, even if we do it with the mind of doing something for Him.
God says that no flesh shall glory in His presence (I Corinthians 1:29). Yet, what do we see today? Flesh glorying before God and people claiming that such is ordained by Him. Too many times we want to take the works of the flesh and pretend that they are sanctified before God. Yet, this is far from true.
God doesn't need our bright ideas; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
God doesn't need our money; all the gold and the silver are His (Haggai 2:8).
God doesn't need our strength; all power is in His hands (I Chronicles 29:12).
So what is God after? Our very lives. He is looking for us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. What does it mean to have given God your bodies? It means that He has control of your eyes (what you watch), your ears (what you listen to), your mouth (what you say), your feet (where you go), your hands (what you touch), your mind (what you think), your heart (what you desire)...It means that you truly no longer live for yourself; you have been crucified and Christ lives through you.
In order for this to happen, we cannot be driven by what we like or what we think. Our wills must be subjected to His will so that we can receive the inspiration of what He wants to be done in us and allow His Spirit to perform it through us.
Obedience is better than sacrifice.