Whoever Does The Will Of God . . .
By Rich Carmicheal
One of the most tragic scenes depicted in Scripture occurs near the end of the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus warns, "Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’" (Matt. 7:21-23). Note that not just a few, but "many" will make claims on the Day of Judgment to have known Jesus as Lord and to have ministered in His name, and yet, Jesus will send them away because He never knew them.
Jesus warns in this passage that it is not enough for us to just profess that He is Lord. We must actually enter into a relationship with Him and do what He says. He states very clearly that only the person who does the will of the Heavenly Father enters the kingdom of heaven (v. 21). Although it is true that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works, it is also true that genuine faith in the Lord leads us to walk in obedience to His will. If we truly know and love Him, we will turn away from sin and keep His commandments. "And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3-4); "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
This seems so obvious, and yet, Jesus says that on that Day many will be cast away from Him because their profession is without any substance. Such a warning is always cause for self-examination, but given the spiritual and moral breakdown in our culture, the warning takes on even added significance. Is it not true that in the church there are many people who profess the name Jesus, and yet they are living contrary to the commandments of Christ and the clearly revealed will of God? Jesus Himself says that it is not just a matter of what one says; it is also very much about what one does. Again, only the one who does the will of the Heavenly Father will enter the kingdom of heaven.
God’s Terms, Not Man’s
So what is the will of the Father? As one writer states, "The will of God relates to His commands in regard to our conduct, His doctrines in regard to our belief, His providential dealings in relation to our external circumstances. It means what God demands of us, in whatever way it may be made known."
A major way the Lord makes known His will for our lives is through the truths and commands He reveals on the pages of His Word. Sadly, this is the point where many people lose their way. Instead of allowing the Lord to reveal His will on His own terms, they redefine His will according to their own opinions and desires, or according to the trends of the world.
Take, for example, the matter of sexual morality. God’s Word states explicitly, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality…. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you" (1 Thes. 4:3-8). God makes it clear from Genesis to Revelation that He considers sexual immorality to include such sins as fornication, adultery, pornography and homosexuality. Those who tolerate or practice such sins are not living according to the will of God, and are ultimately rejecting Him.
Or, consider the love that many people in the church have for the world. The Apostle John writes, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17). In this passage, the love of the world is set up in contrast to doing the will of God. How easy it is today to be deceived by the false teaching that believers can have one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom of God.
Or consider the increasing openness in the church to accept other religions as legitimate means to God. Jesus’ teaching reveals that such openness is contrary to the will of God: "For this is the will of My Father, that every one who beholds the Son, and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:40). While we are to share the love of God and the Good News of Christ with all people, including those of the world’s religions, we are directly opposed to the will of God if we acknowledge any means of salvation other than through Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son. It is true, of course, that God’s will is for "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4), but that salvation comes ONLY through His Son! "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all..." (1 Tim. 2:5-6).
Consider as well the growing number of God’s people who show very little concern for the needy. God has clearly shown us that what He considers good and what He requires is for us to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him (Mic. 6:8). We are to "not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Heb. 13:16). Jesus warns that those who will be rejected on the Day of Judgment will be those who did not minister to Him by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned (Matt. 25:41-46). Those who truly know the Lord, know that He delights in lovingkindness, justice and righteousness (Jer. 9:23-24).
A Humble Heart
One of the major reasons people set their own agendas rather than seek the will of the Lord is arrogance. "Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to the one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jas. 4:13-17). The issue is really a matter of having a proper perspective of who the Lord is and who we are, and in light of this, humbling ourselves and doing what is right in His sight.
The Apostle Peter exhorts us to live "no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1 Pet. 4:2). He goes on to warn that those who continue to live in sin (such as sensuality, lusts, drunkenness and idolatries) "shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Pet. 4:3-5). Jesus "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" (Gal. 1:4). If we really know Him, we will no longer practice sin (1 John 3:5-10).
Doing God’s will is above all a matter of relationship. Those who have a heart for the Lord do what is pleasing to Him. For example, the Lord said of David, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22). Likewise, Jesus could say of His own life and service, "Behold, I come…I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Thy Law is within My heart" (Psa. 40:7-8; Heb. 10:7). Jesus had perfect love for His Father, and came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father who sent Him (John 6:38; cf. 4:34-35; 5:30; Matt. 26:36-44). A key mark of God’s Son, and all of God’s true children, is obedience to the Father’s will. As Jesus states, "For whoever shall do the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother" (Matt. 12:50).
A crucial question to ask yourself, therefore, is whether or not you are living in obedience to the will of God. Do you revere Him and His ways, and do you genuinely desire to honor Him in every aspect of your life? Are you relating to Him on HIS terms, doing what pleases Him and shunning what displeases Him?
Are you willing, like David, to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me…"? (Psa. 139:23-24). And are you willing to so completely live according to the will of God that you will repent of any sin He reveals in your life, no matter how difficult the repentance may be? Our God is absolutely holy, and any violation of His will should be treated seriously and thoroughly (e.g., see Ezra 9:1 – 10:19).
By His Enabling
We must be even more vigilant in these matters since we are living in a culture that is rejecting the Lord and moving farther away from His will and His ways. The days are evil and we must be careful to understand what the will of the Lord is and to walk wisely and not foolishly (Eph. 5:15-17). We are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we can prove what the will of God is (Rom. 12:2).
Of course, the world is very antagonistic toward those who walk contrary to its ways, and you can expect to suffer for the sake of righteousness (1 Pet. 3:14-17). But continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13) and look to the Lord for strength and endurance (Heb. 10:36; 1 Pet. 3:19). And keep in mind that "…the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).
"Now the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever…" (Heb. 13:20-21).