THE GOSPELS 62
DOING THE WILL OF THE FATHER
It is very difficult for people in this physical world to realize and pay attention to the spiritual aspect when responding to God. As a result, worship, in most places, consists of a set of acts which we perform, instead of a spiritual attitude and involvement of heart and mind which should dominate our thoughts. It is not unusual to have religious teachers list and talk about the “items” of worship, as if to make sure we do the right things according to the rules.
I recently heard about a church which was making tithing a major subject of teaching and emphasis in their services. In my opinion this is a serious mistake. The Old Testament Law was built around a legal system, and in it the subject was told exactly what to do, what kind of sacrifice to make and specifically when and how to do it. Every other facet of the Law was equally mechanically specified. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus changed all of this. His “But I say unto you” emphasized the spiritual nature of God’s will for mankind. He replaced the opprobrium against murder with a strong condemnation of hate. He took each point of the Law and pointed out that it was the condition of the heart and spirit of the person that was important, not the act itself. Tithing was replaced in New Testament teaching with, “God loves a cheerful giver”. It was not the amount that was specified but the attitude and spirit of the giver.
I have said all of this because so much of our preaching and teaching has to do with the rules of behavior, and does not give the supreme importance it should to the heart and spirit of the person who claims to be a follower of Christ. At this point in His sermon Jesus says, “Not everyone that calls me Lord, Lord, shall enter into Heaven but the one who does the will of My Father”. Unfortunately, many preachers and religious teachers interpret this to mean keeping all the rules and carefully following all the legal commands. Nothing could be further from what Jesus had in mind, which one will realize if they read carefully the other things He taught.
He has just said that the sum of the law and the prophets was to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. When asked for the greatest commandment, He said, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”. James (James 2:8) says the Royal Law is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. When one speaks of the “Will of God”, one is not talking about the things we do but the kind of people we are. It is not our actions that God looks upon. He looks into the “thoughts and intents of the heart”.
Jesus was condemned by the Pharisees for not keeping the Law when His compassion for an afflicted man caused Him to heal him on the Sabbath day. There are too many people who meticulously keep the legal rituals and rules of their religion and ignore their spiritual self which has to do with self-discipline, loving attitudes toward others, sacrifice of their will to the will of the Father, and daily prayer and consciousness of His presence in their lives each day. Worship is not the things we do in a church building but the heart and mind we present to God as we recognize His presence, and pay Him the attention and homage of our heart and soul.
Doing the “will of God” is a process of bringing our spiritual selves into the discipline and attitudes that He desires, not performing the right religious acts on Sunday.