Sunday, February 19, 2012

He that hath two coats

And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:11)  (Luke 3:10-11)

Prayers in Pursuit of God

One of the most difficult things for men to comprehend is that we have no real knowledge of good and bad. The natural man perceives by his action whether he is good or bad. However, this obedience to the law (what appears as good) is not truly good at all, because obedience is out of obligation. Even the most devout Christian desires a reward (be it eternal life or heaven) for his obedience. It may be hard to grasp that a person can do what is perfectly right and still not be right by our Heavenly Father. If it were possible for a man to never break the law, it would be just as possible for that man to be perfectly obedient and not know the Father in his good works.

Consider this story; a teenage boy sees an old lady, that lives a few doors from his house struggling with an arm full of grocery bags; he grabs the bags in his arms and walks with her home. The boy helps the lady put her food away,  sits and has tea with her. Before leaving he turns down every attempt she makes to pay him for his good deed, then he leaves her house making sure that her doors are locked and the old lady is safe.

Now the question is, did the teenage boy act out of altruism? Unselfish care for the welfare of the old lady?  How can we know?
The answer is revealed in the heart of the boy. The revelation of evil or good is found not in the actions but in the intent. If the boy was nice to the old lady because she has a granddaughter that the boy was interested in, then, his actions were evil.  If the boy was a boy scout and by doing this deed he was sure to get a new badge, then his actions were evil. In fact if the boy knew that his actions would cause him gain in any way then the boy was evil in his actions. If however by doing good for the old lady the boy suffers knowing in considering her welfare he can obtain nothing prosperous for himself, than and only then  are his actions seen to be truly good. 

Now, if the boy was a Christian and said within himself that I did a good thing for God. then the expectation of blessing or even salvation makes his actions evil. The fact is that no human can escape is that even the very bast that we give ot God is hidden in our own selfishness.

It is the truth of the fact that nothing good (not even salvation or adoption) will result from his action that makes his actions purely an altruistic deed.

In the same way if we come to Christ with the thought of getting anything from our faith in him than our action are evil. It makes no difference if we single-handedly witness to 10 thousand people per month, build three orphanages, and generated million of dollars for the poor. If in our heart the intent is financial gain, clout or power, fame  a position in the kingdom of Heaven, or even salvation, then we step away from the righteousness of Christ and base our actions on our works.  And though all the things that we have done is good but none of it will God even see, because of our own hidden selfishness, pride, and ego.

But For we have all become like one who is unclean [ceremonially, like a leper], and all our righteousness (our best deeds of rightness and justice) is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away [far from God's favor, hurrying us toward destruction]  Isaiah 64:6 (Amp)

This concept though clearly taught in the bible is often overlooked even by many Christians. Many of us assume that because a person does the work of the church that he is a man of God. Of course this is so because none of us can look within that person and see the intent of his actions [1]. However, intent makes a difference, it is very possible that in all the good that he has done is seen by our heavenly Father as simply filthy rags. Consider this passage;

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 7:22-23 (KJV)

In this passage we see those that have done the work of the church, they have done all that Jesus required of them yet Christ calls them “workers of iniquity”. Why? It is not the sinfulness of their actions, but the intent of their hearts. Let's dig just a little deeper into this passage.

The Semitic use of the word “knew” does not have to do with knowledge but with the relationship. Jesus is not saying that He does not know who they are, as in being intellectually aware of them.  He is the manifestation of the living God, Omniscience, all knowing. Jesus is talking about an  intimacy that was missing from their walk with him.  We can be sure of this because His use of it  is much the same way the Bible says Adam knew his wife Eve (Genesis 4:1). So what Jesus is saying is that there was never a relationship, between those that have purportedly done good works, and Him, there was no intimacy of His will in them. Everything they did was done out of pride, ego or self-preservation.

Remember the story of the teenage boy, he helped the old lady for his own benefit. In the same way many of us, (most of us) that profess the name of Christ do the work of the church for some hidden reason; some to be counted among the righteous, some for the fame, some for the fortune. But if our hearts are not right with God; if we are not doing the work (God's work) for the pure purpose and concern of the welfare and advancement of the Kingdom of God; then God may allow us to do the work of the kingdom, but we will not have done so through a relationship with God. And the mistake of modern Christianity is to presume that because a person has reached a level of fame or notoriety, because he has done some good things to advance the Kingdom than he must have the backing of Christ, but Matthews 7:22-23 tells that God is looking at our intent as much as our deeds.

However, you should not make this mistake, our Heavenly Father will use anyone or anything to get his message across; And because of this we cannot be fooled by works, or fame.
God used a fish to accomplish His purposes with Jonah;  a jackass to  accomplish His purposes with Balaam;  Babylon's pagan King Nebuchadnezzar for Judah's prophesied exile;  The war mongering king of Persia Cyrus (koe-resh) to rebuild the temple and return the people to Judahand God even used Satan to accomplish His purposes with Job.

The fact that God allows the free will of a person to work toward His perfect intent, does not mean that person has the backing of God. With that knowledge we can see how it makes perfectly good sense that Jesus would say to those that did the many wonderful works “I never knew you”

As we peruse our Heavenly Father in prayer, we must ask God to reveal the selfishness in us, the hidden pride and lust for our own glory, and multiply the self-less-ness in us. So that we will not just be used as Satan, or a fish or a pagan or jackass; but we can come to a place where we will know Him and He will know us.

Let us Pray;
Oh Heavenly Father, take from me any hidden motives, deliver me from the lust of my selfishness, and pride, and the urge to compete with another for place or prestige or position. Make me a truly altruistic Christian subdue my ego and give me a true concern for the welfare of others and a pure devotion to You. Help me to forget myself chasing after the things of this world which can never give me peace, and give me Your easy yoke of self-forgetfulness even as Christ carried the Cross of Altruism for my salvation. Help me to subdue my passions for Your Glory alone, In Jesus’ Name Amen

Your Brother in Christ
Soli Deo Gloria

[1] For many people this statement is justification to a stoic mindset toward Christianity. However, stoicism is nothing more than hate in its most extreme presentation. We as Christians must identify sin in all its forms especially with a professing Christian to fail to do so is to sin. Sin causes separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2). And because God’s redemptive plan is to come to know him. we can say with confidence that God hates sin which would come between us and Him.