Doing the work of God

BelieveIf your heart beats at all for Jesus, you want to please Him and do the work of God.

But what is it that we’re supposed to do? And how do we go about doing it?

First, we must understand that the question was already asked and Jesus answered it (emphasis mine)…

“Then they said to Him,
“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God,
that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29

It’s human nature to want to do many good things for God. We feel good about ourselves when we do them, and whether we want to admit it or not, we will look down on others with a sense of religious pride when they’re not doing them.

And it gets worse when we equate what we do for God with our relationship to Him.

You see, we’re looking for what we can do. Jesus is asking us if we will believe.

Jesus will only accept one work–to believe in Him. That’s it.

Religious people do works, believers do one work.

Okay, I hope I’ve got you asking by now, “what does that mean?” Am I saying we should do nothing? Just sit back and spiritually navel-gaze, calling it doing the work of God?

At the heart of our problem is that we don’t understand the full implications of believing in Jesus. And because we don’t understand this we don’t value believing more than doing.

We equate “only believing” with doing nothing.

But it’s really just a different way of doing.

And believing in Jesus is the same thing as believing like Jesus. So, are we believing like Jesus? Let me clarify my question by posing a couple of questions…

Jesus said He would sent us the same way the Father sent Him (John 20:21). What does that look like? Do we believe we’re following the Father the same way Jesus followed Him?

And if we’re being sent the same way Jesus was sent, and He did nothing except what He saw His Father do first (John 5:19), are we “doing” this?

I think we’re initiating a lot of things we’re not seeing the Father do first, don’t you?

Why is this? Because, again, we value doing for God more than being in relationship with God. We prefer what we can understand in the natural realm more than developing a relationship with the Father in the spiritual realm. This “walking by faith in the Spirit” stuff is too strange to us. We have no grid for this and we don’t really see the value of developing one…or we see it as secondary to “getting out there and doing something.”

But wasn’t Jesus’ point in Matt.7:21-23 that all our good doing is “lawlessness” if we’re doing it on our own, without His initiative or intimate knowledge?

Of course, we can’t talk about doing for God without bringing up James. After all, didn’t James say that faith without our works is dead?  Yes, he did (James 2:17, 20, 26). But how does this “work” work? Does it mean we just get out there and do something? Anything?

It means two things here…

First, if we’re loving people with God’s love we will show the same mercy and compassion that Jesus showed to people (James 2:8, 15-16). It doesn’t mean that we must start a social justice program (not that those are wrong), but that we respond to people with the same love that Jesus has because we have received the same love Jesus has. This work is the overflow of love. I wrote about this before.

Secondly, James tells us that our works are responding to what God says to us and about us by faith, like Abraham (James 2:22-23). What was Abraham’s “work?” He believed. And he demonstrated his believing by offering Isaac.

In this light, you who point to this passage to tell us to get off our blessed assurance to feed the poor and clothe the destitute, I say, praise God. But are you also going to sacrifice your son or daughter on an altar with equal passion? I’m serious. Because James gives both illustrations the same weight. So, if you’re going to do one “because the Bible tells us so,” you better do the other.

Of course, that’s absurd. But it makes my point.

And I think it makes James’ point. We are selective about what we obey (see James 2:9-10). We think obeying is following the Law but we won’t follow every jot and tittle of the Law. We want to help the poor but we don’t want to sacrifice our children. Therefore, James is saying this is not really obeying Jesus at all.

What I’m trying to do is to get you to stop serving God like an orphan and start serving your fellow man like a son or daughter who has his or her Father’s heart and knows what He want him or her to do.

God told Abraham to offer Isaac. He initiated the conversation. Abraham believed God by taking Isaac to the mountaintop. Abraham didn’t offer Isaac because he read it in the Bible. He did it because he heard God. He heard and responded by faith, not by sight.

Do you see now how our good intentions have gotten the proverbial cart before the horse? We’re trying to do for God when we’re not hearing what He wants us to do, or seeing what He’s doing…and doing that.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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14 Responses to Doing the work of God

  1. Michael says:

    I love the pervasive scope of believing in Christ that you present here. It is not unlike the Hebrew concept of the knowledge of God incorporating more than (the Greek idea of) mere intellect, but practice and God’s wisdom applied to every affair of life. Very thoughtful post, Mel…been missing you.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Mike. We are to “do” out of our relationship with our Father in Christ, representing (“re-presenting”) His heart, out of His love like a son and not out of duty or obligation like a slave. As I said, we’re God’s sons serving man by representing the Father’s heart and His Kingdom. We’re to be looking through the Father’s eyes to the world around us.

      Also, thanks for missing me. 🙂 Between being away for the holiday weekend and some ministry pile-up, haven’t had much time to write or read. I’m going to try to catch up today and tomorrow. Blessings.

  2. This is so good Mel. Sometimes we jump ahead of God in our attempt to please Him when He isn’t even asking us to do some of the things we want to. There is a very thin line between serving God because we have a need to do good things and serving Him because He actually calls us to do that specific thing. It’s so important to seek His counsel before we rush into doing something (no matter how good whatever that thing may be). Thank you for this!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Anna. Much appreciated. I like what you said,”There is a very thin line between serving God because we have a need to do good things and serving Him because He actually calls us to do that specific thing. ” Amen. And they both may look the same from the outside but they have very different motives and outcomes. I heard it said that “everything with God begins with waiting on Him.” That’s important. We need to learn to “do” from a place of rest.

      I think I should also point out here something I didn’t mention in the post. There will be things we will do while we’re on our assignment from the Father that are not planned. The woman with the issue of blood is one example with Jesus’ ministry. Jesus healed the sick on the way to where His Father was sending Him. In other words, do good when it’s in your power to do so, but it should not be the basis of why we do what we do or the basis of our relationship with God.

      • “We need to learn to “do” from a place of rest.” I love this! It reminds me of Mary and Martha and the fact that before we go “do” like Martha we need to first rest like Mary did at the feet of Jesus. As believers good works should be part of our lifestyle as we are guided by the Holy Spirit, but it should never be something forced or just a check mark on our “to do” list. God will show us exactly how, what, and when we need to do something after we spend time with Him. This was such a timely reminder for me. Thank you Mel for always shedding God’s truth with your words!

  3. Another wise and see-filled post, Mel. It’s so important we stop to consider where God is working. If God is putting a new roof on a house, and we put up a ladder and scaffolding on the home across the street, we are not assisting God; we have our own agenda. He’s directed us, but we’ve not obeyed the assignment. We can stand at that ladder all day long, but God will not be there to fix that roof. He’s harvesting elsewhere.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, Susan. We can actually be getting in the way of HOW God is doing something, the timing, etc.

      Another thing, we’re also getting burnt out and all frazzled because we’re doing so much stuff in our own strength and not resting in Him. Whatever God calls us to do He empowers us to do. If we don’t sense His power and peace to do it, it’s a good indication that we’re probably doing it on our own.

      Thanks for your comments, as always.

  4. bullroarin says:

    Great post Mel, there is a ton of stuff to consider here…very serious stuff for all of us who call ourselves Christian and are comfortable with the notion that all our work must be good and holy simply because we are doing what seems to be right or even religious in our own mind.

    An old friend of mine once told me when expectations (and maybe a wee bit of condemnation) were put on him for something he did, or didn’t do, his reply was, “I’m a human being, not a human doing.” I got his point, most didn’t.

    If I may, I think our time would be better spent if we put as much effort into waiting on the Lord as we seem to put into working for the Lord. If our work for God does not come out of our relationship with Him, its worthless. One portion of scripture I struggled with for years was; Matt. 7:21-23.

    “Not everyone who cries Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven…And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.”

    The very ones who were about “doing” all the right things, prophesying, casting out demons, etc. had no intimate relationship with Jesus and therefore He never knew them. He called their activities “lawlessness.” Ouch! I have a lot of lawlessness under my belt so believe me when I say I’m not judging anyone else…I know how hard it is to just listen when everything around you is calling for human action. It all falls under the realm of religion, and we know how Jesus felt about that!

    You’ve given us some good advice, Mel, good advice indeed. Thank you!! ~ Dave

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thank you for your comments, Dave. I think we’re undergoing a very much needed fundamental shift in Christianity today. We’re learning what it means to be son or daughter of our Father.

      And I don’t even think God condemns us for doing things without His initiative. I just think it makes Him sad to see us floundering around, busying ourselves, trying to please Him but not coming into relationship with Him. This is what Jesus meant in Matt.7:21-23. It’s about those who prioritize ministry over intimate relationship with Him. But everything with God flows out of relationship. Nothing else we do will remain. And when we see this and do out of the overflow of the Father’s love, the doing is very easy and invigorating.

      And as it’s been said, lovers get more done than workers. 🙂
      Blessings.

  5. lilkaraphael says:

    That was a really powerful post. Thank you.

  6. Cindy Powell says:

    “We equate ‘only believing’ with doing nothing.But it’s really just a different way of doing.”
    This is SOOO good Mel. Thank you for taking the time and effort to find language that helps bring clarity to this crazy important issue. The word you used several times that hits the nail on the head for me is “response”. When we value the relationship above the doing, we position ourselves to “do” only in response to His leading. Been pondering the idea of “response” a lot lately–in fact, I’ve had an idea for a blog post on this very subject sloshing around for a while. If I ever get around to blogging again (if that’s the right response–ha ha), I’ll have to refer back to this post. Blessings to you!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Cindy. Yes, we have this absurd notion that the Christian life can be lived without abiding in Him, that other things come before relationship. So we fumble around in our own minds in the dark trying to figure out what God wants us to do. But God begins and ends everything, not us. We love because we are loved, we do what we see our Father do. As I wrote in my other posts, everything starts with receiving, transformation happens from being loved by God.

      And I totally understand about finding language. My whole teaching ministry since 2007 has been trying to find language for what God has been showing me. I still don’t feel I quite have it right yet. But it’s fun trying!

      Enjoy your rest in Him, although we do miss your “sloshing around” when it finally finds itself on your blog… 🙂

  7. Pingback: No longer slaves | In My Father's House

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