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Before we get saved there is a “battle of the wills.” Procrastination is the name of the game. Why? Because we still want more time to “do our thing.” We’re not ready to resign from our “sin career.” We are fugitives from God, not wanting to “turn ourselves in.”
Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! (Hosea 7:13)
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:5)
The call of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a call to repentance. True repentance in nothing other than full surrender to God. When we surrender, we don’t tell God what we’re going to do with ourselves; we let Him tell us what He wants us to do.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:6)
Self-love and self-ownership characterizes the unsaved life. Before we were saved we were quick to please ourselves; and slow to please anyone else. After we got saved, our love for the Lord was expressed in a diligent desire to please Him by serving others.
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:9-12)
Slothfulness is not incapacity. The sluggard can work. His firm commitment to his own will keeps him from doing anything but what he feels like doing. When called upon to do something other than what’s on his agenda he comes up with excuses.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets. (Proverbs 22:13)
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason. (Proverbs 26:16)
The order of the kingdom is God first.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
Before we enter the kingdom of God, our will is more important to us than God’s will. We come first. All we have belongs to us and is at our own disposal. What we want matters more to us than what God wants. How we wish to spend our resources (i.e. time, money, energy) matters more to us than how He wants us to spend them.
And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (Luke 11:2)
We cannot answer the call to follow Christ and be brought into the true worship of God while we are still hanging on to what is ours. Discipleship is costly. At whatever point we deem what God wants of us to be too expensive, we will turn back from following Him.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)
To follow Christ we must deny ourselves, and look to please Him.
As long as we have more important things on our agenda, we are not fit for His kingdom.
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. (Luke 9:59-61)
God knows when He is first, and when He is not. Doing things for Him is no substitute for simply, obediently loving Him. The “first works” involve having the heart we had when we first got saved – (i.e., a willing delight to do all He wants us to do.)
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Rev 2:4,5)
The first thing God wants us to do is love Him with all of our heart.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37,38)
Love finds practical expression. When we truly love, we gladly give. (John 3:16) We willingly give ourselves to God as an expression of our love for Him. We give not because we “have to,” but because we want to. We freely give to Him because He has freely given to us.
… So let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
We are to give honor to whom honor is due. The God who has loved us and given so much to us is worthy of our highest honor. God marveled that His people displayed how little they valued Him by the lax manner in which they gave to Him.
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. (Malachi 1:6,7)
God knows His own worth. He looks for those who will give Him the worship He deserves. (John 4:23; Rev. 4:11) He takes “no pleasure” in us when we take no pleasure in Him.
… I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD. (Malachi 1:10-13)
Our heart is where our treasure is. Our love relationship with God becomes stale when we cease giving Him what He deserves out of a grateful heart of love. God knows when we are “weary” of Him and grudgingly “going through the motions.”
But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. (Isaiah 43:22-24)
A true return to our covenant partner involves a return to a cheerful, diligent giving to Him what He is so richly deserves.
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:7,8)
Canaan land was the place where the Lord desired to establish His people as a worshipping “kingdom of priests.” The offering of the first of all their increase was a continual recognition of His proper place in their lives and a remembrance of His blessing upon them.
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. (Exodus 23:19)
All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. (Exodus 34:19)
But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:
And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7)
The first of all our increase, which we willingly give to God, in recognition of all He has given us, is a “sweet smelling savor” to Him. By diligently giving Him what He deserves we demonstrate that we are not unmindful or unappreciative of Him.
O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jeremiah 2:31,32)
When we worship the Lord we don’t misuse, spend, consume what is holy, and afterwards question where our resources have gone.
It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry. (Proverbs 20:25)
Our faithful diligence and delight in giving to God what He deserves is the expression of our true, abiding love for and worship of Him.
Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. (Exodus 22:29)
I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. (Psalm 119:60)
The Lord loves true judgment. He would direct our actions according to what is true in His sight. The people failed to honor what He honored. Instead of giving to Him what He wants and delights in, as an expression of their love, they took and spent it elsewhere.
For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. (Isaiah 61:8)