By Donnie V. Rader
In the first article of this series we saw that God demands self-denial. Jesus said that one must deny himself to be his follower (Mark 8:34). Part of the principle of self-denial is learning to put God’s will first.
In preaching to Felix, Paul taught about “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). What does self-control have to do with becoming a Christian? The answer is everything. One will not and cannot be-come a child of God until he suppresses his own will and gives preference to the will of God.
Man Has His Own Way
Man has his own idea of how he ought to live and con-duct his life. What he thinks seems right to him (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). However, it differs greatly from the thinking of God. His ways are higher and greater than man’s (Isa. 55:9-10). Following his own plans, man is led to destruction (Prov. 16:25).
Examples can be found throughout the Bible of those who had their own ideas. When Naaman heard the instructions from the man of God to dip seven times in Jordan, he revealed his disappointment saying, “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper” (2 Kings 5:11). In the days of the judges “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). Paul lived in good conscience while he was persecuting the church (Acts 23:1). The Jews were rejected by God because they ignored God’s will and went about to establish their own scheme for being righteous (Rom. 10:1-3).
God’s Will Is Revealed In His Word
The mind of God has been revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets (1 Cor. 2:9-13; Eph. 3:3-5). We can now read and understand what God’s will is (Eph. 3:3-5; 5:17; John 8:32). The righteousness of God (God’s plan for righteousness) is revealed in the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17).
We Must Accept God’s Will And Put It First
If we are going to serve God, we must suppress our own will and submit to his. It is only those who do the will of the Father who enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Those in the church are those who are subject unto Christ in everything (Eph. 5:24).
The repentance that God demands of us in becoming his children (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31), involves a change of mind (cf. Matt. 21:28-29). This is a change from following our own will to submitting to the will of God. Then, it is no longer us, but Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20).
If we are truly converted to the Lord, we will put the Lord first (cf. “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” 1 Pet. 3:15) in all things. Thus, it is not just a matter of submitting to the will of the Lord in becoming a Christian, but accepting it in “everything” (Eph. 5:24).
Reasons For Putting God’s Will First
God is smarter than we are. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:9-10). Who among men is wise enough or smart enough to give God counsel, telling him that we have a better way (Rom. 11:34)?
Our way leads to death. Though what we think seems right and feels good, it leads to separation from God and eternal damnation (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).
God’s will is for our good. We do not always see how some command or restriction that God has laid upon us can be for our good. However, his commands are for our good always (Deut. 6:24).
If we do not submit to God’s will, we are against God. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30).
Man is not qualified to be his own guide. “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23).
Let’s consider some examples of those who put God’s will first in their lives.
Abraham was so dedicated to doing God’s will that he was willing to sacrifice his own son because that’s what God told him to do (Gen. 22). Talk about someone who would have to really suppress his own will, Abraham surely had to do that. It wouldn’t be easy for anyone to kill a child they loved.
Post-exile Israel had married the strangers from that Land in violation of God’s law. Ezra preached the will of God to them which said that they must separate from their wives (Ezra 10:9-10). Obviously, that wouldn’t be easy. Surely, they loved these women. After all, they had married them. Many of them had children by these wives (v. 44). And yet, as hard and a painful as it would be, they said to Ezra, “As you have said, so we must do” (v. 12).
Jesus himself faced the pain and agony of the cross saying, “0 My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39, 42).
The Corinthians had lived ungodly and immoral lives. Many of them had been fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Yet, they had given all that up (no matter what pleasure was involved) to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hopefully these few points help us to see that if we are going to master self (deny self), we must give preference to God’s will and develop a desire for it.
Guardian of Truth XL: 5 p. 22-23
March 7, 1996