According to God

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

The natural mind is very active and creative in the physical realm. We marvel at its diversity and complexity, and at the many new inventions it conceives. Since it can only understand the natural realm, it is limited to this realm, and everything in the unseen spiritual realm is therefore downgraded to fit in with its carnal thinking. Although it cannot know God, it still thinks it can, so it substitutes religiosity and intelligence for the true God. In its religious zealousness it creates many gods, and worships the images it has created.

Humanity can observe God's wonderful creation yet remain in darkness and ignorance in its knowledge of God, because the natural mind loves its darkness and is unable to know God. It sees God's amazing provision for the continuation of physical life, but doesn't find its answers in a loving God. Since the mind is so amazing in the natural realm, we find it difficult to believe that it is dead to spiritual realities and unable to perceive the things of God. Our earthy ideas of God and of ourselves seem like truth to us. We want to use God to fix our troubles, yet shrink from submitting ourselves to His will.

We see this concept demonstrated in Israel. Israel saw the miracles God performed for them in Egypt and in the wilderness, but they did not enter into a relationship with Him; they never learned to know God. They grumbled and complained with every new difficulty, for they wanted an immediate fix to their problem. They were ignorant of His ways, and did not believe that God was greater than their difficulty. Their constant disobedience and lack of faith proved that they did not know God. Moses, on the other hand, had learned to know God and His ways. In Psalm 103:7 it says, "He (God) made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel." Moses, on the other hand, listened to God and obeyed Him, so an intimate relationship with God was established. We too can only learn to know God by hearing His voice and then obeying Him.

No wonder Christ began His ministry with the announcement that Israel, God's chosen people, needed to repent. They needed to repent of their natural thinking so they could receive the thoughts of God! It is not enough to repent of the sins we have committed; we need to repent of the thinking that caused the wrong actions. Without repentance we cannot submit ourselves to the mind of Christ! Our new birth gives us the mind of Christ, but we have to learn to live in His mind - the thought life of submission and obedience to the will of God - as well as in the knowledge that God's will for us is perfect! Understanding this principle helps us to see our need of true repentance, not only of our sins, but of the Adamic thinking that brings sin and death into the world.

The knowledge of God has to come to us by revelation. In reply to Christ's question, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16:16) Christ's answer to this statement is very revealing! He said, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." (v.17) This knowledge came from the Father - not from any logical thought processes. In spite of having received this revelation, Peter later denied knowing Jesus Christ. Why? Peter had only received this revelation in his natural mind, and that mind is unable to keep us from sinning. After Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit, the fear of man no longer controlled him. He was free to do the will of God!

Those who do not know God may breathe a sigh of relief when they hear that they cannot know God unless He draws them with His love. If God is the initiator, and He has not drawn them to Himself, does that not exempt them from all responsibility? How can God expect them to know Him if He does not initiate this friendship? How can they know Him if He does not speak to them? To this we reply that God has revealed Himself in creation. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20) But those who are not willing to submit themselves to a living God will be blind to this fact.

God's greatest revelation of Himself is in Jesus Christ! Yet many have not heard of His wonderful love that prompted Him to send His Son to die for us. But the time will come when they too shall hear. Although the Bible is the best seller, yet it is also the least read. God has given us the scriptures in which He reveals His love and purpose for us, but unbelief still resides in the hearts of most people.

Paul gives us the reason for man's unbelief in 2 Cor. 8:12. There he states, "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that He has not." (KJV) If there is not a willingness to hear His voice, it won't be heard. We see this principle demonstrated in children when they don't want to hear their mother's voice. They just keep on playing and refuse to hear her voice. The Jews too were unwilling to hear Christ's voice because they were unwilling to leave their understanding of the law and the prophets and of God. All the good deeds Jesus did and all the miracles He performed did not persuade them to follow Him. They were in love with their traditions and self-effort, and nothing could persuade them to leave their images and ideas. Therefore they rejected Jesus Christ, and crucified Him.

In order to receive truth we have to be willing to leave our old thinking, and believe what God is telling us! Once our eyes are opened to this fact, a door in heaven is opened to us, and we come into a spiritual realm that is rich with gems of truth! Truth reveals an eternal God who is omnipotent and omniscient and who always works everything according to His will and His mighty power! He also intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:27 The greatness of His power is revealed in the life of the believers. "And what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might." (Eph. 1:19)

Truth reveals that God's very essence is love! He is righteous altogether! He cannot be corrupted, and there is no evil in Him! He lives in unapproachable light and there is no darkness in Him! Since this is who He is, it follows that He must be against everything that does not measure up to His perfection of being. Therefore we can trust His leading, knowing that His will is perfect in its entirety!

The natural mind distorts God's love and motives and everything He says. It depicts God as a monster who will eternally torture in a burning hell everyone who has died without repenting of every sin he has ever committed. It cannot understand that all God's disciplines are redemptive and that He can achieve His purpose of bringing all humanity into the knowledge of the truth. Since the natural mind worships its own ideas, it does not understand that the scriptures give us the story of how a man, formed of the dust of the earth, can become a new creation in Christ and grow into the spiritual image of God. God's wonderful plan is hidden from the humanity that is in Adam.

In our desire for intimacy with God, we need to look at the way in which God works. We want to commune with Him and worship Him because we understand who He is, and that He is worthy of our trust. In learning to know God, we learn what true love is. We learn that God always loves us; our failures do not stop Him from loving us. His plan for us and for all humanity is good. In order to flow with His goodness we need to submit our thinking to His thinking and submit our will to His will, because His plan and purpose are perfect.

The only way we can get to know God is in Christ Jesus, because He is the exact representation of the invisible God. In Christ we learn that we can do nothing of ourselves, that we do not do our own will, and that we only do what the Father shows us to do. In Christ we learn to know what love is. We learn that we are here to serve - not to be served. We learn the meaning and cost of obedience. We learn that we do not choose our own path of righteousness, but that we let Him lead us into His path of righteousness.

Christ never tried to get God to change His plan. He was always in total submission to whatever God wanted Him to do! Because we often focus on our own comfort zone, we try to twist God's arm to do our will by our fasting, prayers and reminding God of all our good deeds. Christ never did that. He had total confidence in the Father's love and wisdom!

God wants us to know what is ours in Christ. "In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." (Eph. 1:10b-11) Have you ever meditated on the vastness of our inheritance in Christ? It consists of everything that Christ is! Since God works all things according to His will, He does not seek our advice, nor does He receive our advice. He knows exactly what He needs to do in order to achieve His will so that He will be all in all! To accomplish this, He has to eradicate everything that is corruptible in us, for He is eternal. He is working in us according to His purpose.

God's promises reveal His will to us. God promised Abraham that his seed would bless all the families of the earth. This promise is fulfilled in Christ. "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Gal. 3:29) "From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus. (Acts 13:23) God's promise revealed our need of a Savior as well as His ability and will to supply that need.

God's promises are received by faith. "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all….In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, `So shall your descendants be.'" (Rom. 4:16,18)

Notice that it is by faith - not by choice - that His promises are received! If it were by choice, it would be according to works. The scriptures clearly teach that it is not by works, lest any man should boast. God wants us to know that His salvation is due to His grace. We did not deserve it, but He desired it for us!

Abraham's faith was revealed by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise through whom the promise would be fulfilled. Abraham understood that in order for God to keep His promise, Isaac needed to live until he had produced an offspring. Therefore, if he sacrificed Isaac, God would have to raise him out of death. His faith was revealed by his obedience, while Adam and Eve's unbelief was revealed by their disobedience. Our faith or lack of faith is also revealed by our deeds. If we say we have faith, yet walk in disobedience, our deeds reveal our lack of faith. They reveal what is in our heart.

This helps us to understand why we will be judged according to our deeds. We will quote just a few of the many verses that state that God will repay us according to our deeds. "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds." (Matt. 16:27) "Who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation." (Rom. 2:6-8) "Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor." (1 Cor. 3:8) "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." (Rev. 22:12)

In these verses we notice that the purpose of this judgment is to reward the good deeds and to show God's indignation and wrath against evil deeds. A careful study of the scriptures reveals that there are good deeds that flow out of obedience and good deeds that flow out of selfishness. God differentiates between these two kinds of good deeds. Not all of man's "good deeds" are good deeds in the sight of God. The good deeds that come out of selfish ambition for honor or gain do not receive a reward.

This judgment is for the deeds of Christians as well as for those of unbelievers. The deeds of Christians need to be judged to determine their worthiness for a reward. Did they flow out of love and life, or did they flow out of a desire for honor, gain, or self-gratification? Did they flow out of obedience or out of a sense of obligation? Did they glorify Christ or self? This judgment does not determine whether or not we have an abode in heaven after we die. Our good deeds can never justify us. To those who thought they could enter the kingdom of God on the basis of their good deeds, Jesus said, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matt. 7:23)

Unbelievers are already judged because they have "not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." (John 3:18-10) However, the judgment according to their deeds is still necessary in order for them to recognize the true condition of their heart. "And the dead were judged from the things that were written in the books, according to their deeds. " (Rev. 20:12b) All who are dead in their transgressions and sin are judged according to their deeds as recorded in the journal of their life.

The judgment according to our deeds is taking place at the present time. This is a promise - not a threat. Its purpose is to reward the good deeds and bring to light the deeds that are evil. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:10) The judgment seat of Christ is not a throne in the sky that will appear at the end of time. This judgment takes place through Christ, for Paul wrote that, "God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." (Rom. 2:16) He is the truth - and truth always judges error. Christ, the truth, lives within us, so the judgment seat of Christ is within us. The ongoing judgment that truth brings, is necessary for our spiritual growth. Truth endures forever, and truth always reveals the counterfeit and judges it.

It is very important that we recognize that evil deeds can take on the form of good deeds. To discern the counterfeit, God has to shed His light on our motives. Deeds that are done in order to make us acceptable before people or to gain righteousness, God sees as evil deeds. We need to receive God's judgment at this present time so that we can be purified of all our wrong ideas. It seems to take a lot of judgment to rid us of the law and self-effort. All glory belongs to God!

Paul continues to give us further instructions. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 3:10-11) Works that receive a reward have to be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Paul then goes on to explain that the building also has to consist of the right materials. "Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (vv. 12-15)

Gold symbolizes God's divine nature, silver symbolizes redemption, and precious stones symbolize the gifts God gives us. These works flow out of our obedience of faith. Wood symbolizes humanity, hay symbolizes carnality, and straw symbolizes that which is no longer useful for growth. These works have the outward appearance of being good, but they are produced by humanity's self-effort. Believers may receive a ministry from God and then veer off into a worldly method of administering it. Ministries and good works that bring honor and attention to self do not qualify for a reward; nor do ministries that have financial gain in mind.

God differentiates between the good works that flow out of obedience and those that flow out of self-effort. The day, or light of Jesus Christ, reveals what is hidden in darkness. To destroy the hidden evil, God uses fire - not a literal fire, but a spiritual one. This judgment by fire does away with all our natural concepts of God and all the counterfeits employed by the natural mind. This opens the way for a greater depth of understanding of the truth. "Our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29) He consumes all that is perishable, and this purifies that which has eternal worth! This helps us to understand John the Baptist's announcement that Jesus would baptize us with "the Holy Spirit and fire."

God works all things according to His purpose and kind intention for His creation. Humanity's anger and rebellion against God does not change His plan. He has planned to be the Savior of the world in Christ Jesus, and His mighty power is able to achieve His desire. "This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:11)

Adam and Eve's disobedience did not catch God by surprise. According to the Scriptures, it was in God's eternal purpose that Christ should die for our sins, be buried, and raised on the third day! (1 Cor. 15:3-4) Jesus, in perfect obedience, "gave Himself for our sins so He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." (Gal. 1:4) He rescues us from this present evil age by putting us into Christ, the second Man, in whom there is no evil.

Before the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, God's plan for the ages remained a mystery. In Christ, God made known to us the mystery of His will. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him." (Eph. 1:7-9)

God's purpose in Christ is so vast that it is beyond the comprehension of the human mind! The forgiveness of our sins is just the beginning of the unfolding of His grace. In Christ we are a new creation! We receive a new heaven (a new government), a new earth (a new sense of being), a new name (a new nature), a new song (a new joy), a new covenant (one that does not depend on us for its fulfillment), a new Jerusalem (an abiding place in Christ)! In Christ our stony heart (the law written on tablets of stone) is removed, and we come into grace and truth.

God is always motivated by perfect love, and He never veers from the lofty position of truth. He disciplines us in love, and He never disciplines us more than is necessary for what He wants to accomplish in us. God wants us to come into maturity. "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons, through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." (Eph. 1:4b-5) In biblical terminology, adoption means to come out of the servitude of the law and into the freedom of sons. In the kind intention of His will, He has the highest purpose for us, namely, to grow us into mature sons who are qualified to reign with Him! He wants us to participate in His work. To qualify for this great task of reigning with Him, we first have to reign over the lusts of the flesh by submitting our will to His will, and by learning obedience in the midst of suffering even as Jesus Christ did. Jesus also had a will that was opposed to the Father's will, for He said that He did not do His own will; He only did what the Father showed Him to do! He never exercised His own will. In God's kingdom choice does not exist; it only exists in the kingdom of this world where humanity feeds on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God wants us to know that His power in us is enough for everything we are called to do, as well as enough to overcome every trial and temptation. His enabling power is more than enough for every work He requires of us. "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." (Eph. 3:20) Things that are beyond human ability look impossible to us, but not to God! God wants us to recognize that His power is unlimited, and therefore extends far beyond the natural realm! Nothing is too difficult for the Lord! God wants us to ask according to His power - not according to our idea of His power.

This poses a question. If God wants us to ask big, why do so many of our prayers go unanswered? There may be different reasons for this, but at the present time we only want to zero in on one aspect. In James 4 we read that we often ask with wrong motives and for the wrong things. We ask selfishly because we are thinking only of our own pleasures and lusts. We would like to enjoy a life that is free from difficulties, so we ask God to remove the cause of our frustrations. We want a good job, a beautiful house, and honor and power over people. Instead of asking God to let more of Himself flow through us, we want a quick fix. Jesus Christ promised that all prayers to the Father in His name will be answered. Prayers in His name are prayers according to His nature. These are prayers that will glorify God - and they will be answered! As we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us. (Matt. 6:33) God's kingdom is His government. As we function in His government all our needs will be supplied!

"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19) The words, "according to," are so important! What are the glorious riches of Christ? They are spiritual riches, like faith, life, truth, power to overcome every temptation, freedom from guilt, submission to God's will, joy in doing His will, humility, and perfect trust in God's provision!

We need to see that, "to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." (Eph. 4:7) This does away with our dependence on our natural gifts and talents, for they only cause doubt or pride to rise up in us. The measure of Christ's gift to us is overwhelming! It is Christ Himself! The extent of His grace toward each of us is immeasurable because there is no limitation in Christ! The mind of Christ in us sees the Father's power and provision! It understands that every assignment needs to be done according to God's directives, and that all the glory belongs to Him! In His faithfulness, He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear! "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (I Cor. 10:13)

In summing up, we see that God works all things according to His purpose, His will, His resurrection power, His promise of life, His righteousness, His desire for all men everywhere to be saved, His riches in Christ, and His grace and mercy! He also intercedes for us according to His will. He wants us to walk in the strength of His power through His Spirit. He wants us to be strong in the inner man, to be built up in love, to be of one mind (and that one mind is the mind of Christ), to be free from corruption and deceit, to live in the Spirit according to the will of God, and to be changed into the image of Christ! Since God works according to His will, we also need to work according to His will! This requires a life of obedience. What a high calling is ours in Christ!

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