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Monday, April 23, 2012

What God Wants

I recently heard a very good teaching about an issue that had confused me. For years I wondered why God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Was it because Abel offered sheep and Cain only plants? I don’t think God didn’t like His vegetables, but all kidding aside, I think that has very little to do with it. Pastor Lloyd Pulley on The Bridge Radio station recently shed some light on the subject. Mr. Pulley stated that he believed that Cain offered God what he (Cain) wanted to give rather than what God wanted, while Abel offered what God wanted. Therefore, Cain represented man doing religion his way and Abel doing it God’s way. He went on to explain that many religions today are empty because they follow man’s ways and traditions as opposed to a real relationship with God. Being of a similar belief that a relationship with God is central, this got me thinking—what does the average person think God wants? I think a lot of people would probably cite the Ten Commandments and many others the Golden Rule, but I thought immediately of the verse in Deuteronomy 10:12. "Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (NASB). I believe this encompasses much of what wants, but it’s very open ended: for example, walking in His ways. You can’t know all the ways of a person unless you know them. The same for God. Of course God’s Word, The Bible, shows us His ways, but the law is filled with a lot of practices we no longer need to continue because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, like sacrificing animals. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, and He ended the need for continual sacrifice. So how do we know how to walk in God’s ways? The verse above gives us a clue. First we need to fear Him, not be afraid, but reverence Him; something our culture is NOT —reverent. Reverence for someone entails a healthy respect and a dash of awe. All I need to do is look at a sunset or study a flower and I’m in awe of God. My reverence is born out of my relationship with Him as I see how amazing He is, the depth of His mercy and grace along with His incomparable love. His love for me deepens my love for Him. But there’s another aspect to love—obedience. If I truly love Him, I will obey Him. Obey what? His commands. Yes, but Jesus went beyond the Ten Commandments to the Golden Rule of loving God with all your heart, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s a tall order, but if the Spirit of God is living in you, He will give you the ability to do what God wants and go beyond our human abilities. Then there’s turning the other cheek. How can we obey that mandate when some jerk cuts us off? Oops, I mean fellow commuter. Anyway, only a deep relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit can help us love our fellow man or woman to the extent God wants. Forgiving and caring for our neighbor is also a big part of this tall order that the Spirit can help us fulfill. Just think about how many times a day Jesus suggest we forgive another 70 times 7. I believe that doesn’t literally mean 490 times, but it’s a calculation that would have been considered unattainable or limitless. Marriage is a good one for exercising this privilege of forgiving. It’s a privilege because it shows us how much God forgave us, and it’s what He wants us to do for others. It also demonstrates our gratitude for how much God forgave us. So it’s not hard to see that doing religion God’s way requires that we have an abiding relationship with Him. When you know and respect God, you will want to please Him. That’s doing religion the way God wants instead of our own way. At that’s what I want to be Able to do. Now I understand why Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t acceptable; it was half-hearted, not the best or the first,but the last like leftovers. And God wants our all, our very best.