As children of God, as those who are saved by grace through faith, I often wonder what has happened to our desire to please God. Where is the joy in serving Jesus? Or is it that we simply don’t know what pleases God?
A dear sister in Christ and I meet each week as we facilitate a Bible study class each week and as accountability mentors for one another. In our discussion this morning we tossed around the fact that so many Christians are Biblically illiterate. We talked about being disciple makers and what that looks like. We as a church have not done a great job over the past couple of generations of ensuring that those who enter our doors each week leave to walk more deeply with God as a result of having been in Church. But then again, whose responsibility is it really?
Where have the wheels come off of the train? At what point did the individual’s responsibility toward God and knowing Him personally get laid at the feet of being taught in the church? How do church leaders encourage and influence congregation members to invest their time and energy in the scriptures and prayer? Why has this encouragement been relatively unfruitful in the current and recent past generations? Is this just another age-old struggle?
It seems that many in the church are worldly focused throughout the week. They return week after week unchanged. After taking class after class, they still struggle and complain over the same life issues. And as we realize that not everyone has multiple hours each day to spend studying God’s word and in prayer, I do know that even the smallest amount of time each day in earnest prayer and in His word changes you. And that doing this on a regular basis leads to noticeable changes in behavior and attitude, especially over a number of years.
God blesses our efforts. He will multiply our time. He gives us His Holy Spirit to pray for us and to teach us the meaning of the scriptures. When we take what little we know and live it out and share it with others, then He reveals more truth and builds our faith. His promises are true. He is good and trustworthy and faithful to us. He has more for us – to do and to understand.
In the end of our days, when we stand face to face with our Creator, He will hold us all to account for what we have done with what He has given us. For true Christians, it is not our salvation that is in question at the bema seat of God, but rather our rewards.
Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” (Isaiah 62:11 ESV)
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV)
Our works will be tested in the fire. Our rewards in heaven will be justly given in response to the good deeds we have done with the right motives for God’s glory. Rewards that we will use to honor Jesus Christ. We will account for every thoughtless word. Wow is that convicting. It should drive us to want to walk and live and speak in a manner that pleases God. This passage is found just after the Parisees declare that Jesus must be driving out demons by the power of Satan (they are speaking evil against the power of God’s Holy Spirit)
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37
As James so eloquently demonstrates, faith without works is dead. If your Christianity is just a visit to a church each Sunday and some lip service to Jesus, be aware that you may be deceived. How would you answer someone who asks of you, “How has God changed your life this past year?” [The featured picture for this post was taken two years ago and includes several good friends of mine – who (myself included) are not the same as they were then! Praise God!]
If you are truly walking with Jesus, seeking to know God better each day, desiring to please Him and keep His commandments, you will be a different person at the end of this year. God is in the business of changing hearts and renewing minds. Our job is to be in agreement with God’s truth in our own life, confess our sins as wrongdoing and His judgement as just, accept His forgiveness, obey His calling on our lives, and cooperate with the work that God’s Holy Spirit is doing within us.
The Bible was written as God’s story. It is about Him. It is about His plan for all mankind for all time. It is His call to every person to come to Him through the sacrifice of His one and only son Jesus Christ. He wants to be in a right fellowship with us. He calls us His masterpiece, His beloved, His children. He loves us. He is the potter and we are the creation. His character is woven throughout the Bible. Read it. Study it diligently. Know Him.
So I challenge you to take a step into deeper water. Ask God what He desires from your life today and tomorrow and the next day. Be diligent in your pursuit of the knowledge of God. I promise you that He will meet you where you are, and bless your efforts. None of us does this perfectly, but for those who are truly His, we are on the path, imperfectly moving forward toward the goal. Be encouraged. Press on!
Straining Toward the Goal
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16 ESV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)