The question is simple, the topic of conversation is not, are your desires to please the Lord in your life there because of your love for Him, or your fear of Him. In other words, are you serving the Lord out of the desires of your heart, or because of the possibility of retribution if you don’t. Are your works His works?
I know of an individual, as I am sure many of you are, that occasionally brings up in conversations something generally similar to this, “I don’t feel as if I am doing enough for the Lord.” It is very important to take into account not only the context of what is being said at these moments, but also the tonality and inflection that are behind the words. Were they said in such a way as to infer a heartfelt need to be of more service so that the Name of Christ will be glorified in their life even more, for they love Him so deeply, or is there a self-centered fear within them that whatever they do for His name, no matter what it is, will never be accepted by Him, that they will never be good enough.
These latter mentioned individuals many times need to feel, as it were, a self-worth within themselves that says “I am worthy” and although they may not recognize it, they believe there is a need to prove to Christ that what they are doing, their works, makes them good enough, and if the works are not enough, then they are not acceptable to Him, and if not acceptable, then not loved, and if not loved, then the fear of not being good enough returns. It is a vicious circle, and it is not so easy to help them to see that they are loved as they are, and that in patience He will grow them.
Do not the Scriptures say we are to live within a specific boundary of spiritual, and to a degree, even temporal rules so that we will be pleasing in His site and known by the world as His children. And if we follow this line of thought, when we are disobedient, we will be chastised, for He loves us, (Heb. 12:6) if we do not repent. (1st John 1:9) We should always be trying to please our Lord by our actions, deeds, words and even our thoughts, and so in a sense these brothers and sisters in Christ are always walking on eggshells, as it were, trying never to make a mistake in their Christian walk, or they will be chastened, and the fear of this correction is their lifelong downfall. Perhaps in this short letter the Lord will bless us with His wisdom, and in our humble submission to it those that are in this strait can be freed from this unwarranted fear.
I will admit that it will be difficult, to say the least, for there are numerous religious organizations that teach that we are worthy of continuous punishment from God, that we deserve it, for we are sinful creatures who could not serve Him well if we tried. If you add onto that a nature that lives within us that demands that self always comes first, a spirit that is always at war with the Holy Spirit, (Gal. 5:17) then it is no wonder that so many Christians live in fear of God, are afraid of His retributions on them for being disobedient to His words and commands.
For some “All our works are like filthy rags,” (Isa. 64:6) has become a key verse, and no matter what they do or hard they try, they can find no joy in the Lord, for they believe they will never be good enough. For others, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all righteousness.” (1st John 1:9) has become a catch phrase that needs to be repeated many, many times a day, for though Christ has in love forgiven them for whatever sin they believe they have committed against Him, they will not forgive themselves, and have then placed themselves above God, whether they realize it or not. Again, these individuals will never know true rest in Him, for they have not come to the truth that all of our works are the result of our salvation, not a way to it, and that when true repentance for sin is asked for with a broken heart and contrite spirit, it is given. (Psalm 34:18)
Then there are those who have assurance of their salvation in Christ, there is no question in their hearts that they will indeed enjoy the Kingdom of God and His presence forever, yet feel compelled to do works for Him not so much out of fear, but in a sense trying to “pay Him back,” to let Him know that what He did on the cross was enough for their salvation, but not enough for them to lose all desire to try to remunerate Him in their own way for their shortcomings. They in a way feel the need to add something to the cross, and so in fact are operating out of the fear that they are not good enough. There is still a very small part within these people that wants our Lord to come down and say to them, “Wow, you are really doing a great job for me.”
If we name just some of the examples we have been blessed with in the Scriptures, Moses, Jonah, Gideon, you will see one thing in common with all of them, “I’m not good enough, and I really don’t want to, Lord.” Of course, when His power was shown through them, and not their own works, they repented of themselves, believed and followed, and what man would not want to follow the leading of the Lord? No Christian is laying up treasure in heaven so he can compare it to other believers treasures when they get there, and likewise, we should never compare the works that our Lord bids us to do here with what other obedient servants have been called to do. Does not the body have many members, they are not the same, yet they are all of the body of which Christ is the head. (Rom. 12:4)
I know of individuals who are called to the fight against abortion, against spiritual darkness in very high places, against pornography, against human trafficking, and even one who has been called to put nearly everything else aside and write letters. And do you know what all of them have in common? They are all adamant, to the point that they care next to nothing about what others think or say, for they know for a fact what God has called them to do, so they fear no man, they fear only Him who has the power to cast the soul into hell, (Luke 12:5) the very place that He has saved them from, that they will never enter. They fear Him in the best possible description of the word ‘fear,’ “reverential trust,” they know for a fact that their redeemer lives and that He is leading them on the path they are on, and they are fervent on this path, and will remain so until the work that He has set before them is complete. (Phil. 3:14)
Do they rebel against Him at times, yes, do they seek their own instead of Him at times, yes, are they going to willingly fall to the temptation to quit and become weary with the work, no. (Heb. 12:3) Why not? Because they are doing works for Christ that come from Christ and can only be done by Christ. They are submissive, obedient servants of the Lord, and hearken to the will of the Holy Spirit within them. They have planned and prepared by studying the Word of God diligently, (2nd Tim. 2:15) they understand the armor of God and never remove it, (Eph. 6:10-17) they do next to nothing without seeking His will first. (Prov. 3:5-6) They have absolutely no fear if the works they are doing for the Lord are pleasing to Him, for they know they are His works, they have prepared and patiently awaited His orders, and after testing the spirits, (1st John 4:1) have obeyed, no matter what.
I know this will sound rude my friends, but if you have not prepared to serve, all the works that you do will be useless and self-serving, for the Lord sends none to the battlefield unless they are prepared for battle, and that preparation lies in you. He has given us His complete and inerrant word, the Bible, and you are expected to read, study, and apply it every day. The more you do this, the more you earnestly pray for His wisdom, knowledge and guidance, the more you will grow, and then you will understand that through submission to His perfect will His works will be done through you, and you will realize that they were the works you had been wanting to do all along.