Luke 22. 39 to end|
What was it that Christ stood for that we also must espouse and consummate to be called a true brother or sister? Some will say ‘love’—too general--needs point of reference; others say ‘faith’—needs definition. The truth we seek is best found in Luke who records Christ’s words: ‘not my will, but thine be done’: todays lesson from the life of Christ in a nutshell.
The phrase, not my will but thine be done, does not place the emphasis exactly where it belongs. It may strike you as submissive and passive. The same thought is better expressed for our purposes by Christ in his sermon on the mount:
Not everyone that says unto me Lord, Lord
Shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven;
But he that does the will of my Father,
Which is in heaven. (Mat 7. 21)
The implication here is a call for action. Jesus had the strength of will to do God’s will. His entire life was a supreme example of will power, even to the cross. The lesson is highlighted early in his ministry, in the wilderness temptation. In a spare recounting of the event, Matthew amplifies the idea:
Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by every word that proceeds
Out of the mouth of God. . .
Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. . .
Thou shall worship the Lord thy God,
And Him only thou shalt serve. (Mat 4. 1 – 11).
Christ’s life was filled with objectives that normal men shy away
from. But then, Jesus was the perfect man, whose example was one of prime quality. We need to strive for this same quality in our lives as well, though we are painfully aware it is the one in which we are most weak. Paul the apostle felt this way himself. It affected him so deeply, he called it a law, in that famous tongue tangling phrase:
For that which I do, I allow not:
For what I would, that do I not;
But what I hate, that do I.
If then I do that which I would not,
I consent unto the law that it is good. ( Rom 7. 15, 16)
The gist of which is, I do the things I don’t want to do. So Paul preaches Christ and our need for him in our battle against sin.
We’ve all known successful people in our lives. Not so much in the ‘brains’ department, but dedicated, disciplined, and manifested in great will power. So far as our own lot in life goes, we’re influenced by The Preacher’s words:
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Neither yet bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill; but
Time and chance happens to them all. (Eccl. 9. 11).
Can we be dedicated to the high principles of Christ in view of the fact that the good, the bad, the rich, the poor will win or lose due only to circumstances? Someone told me once, that he only acted or did something significant when he was forced into it, marking a distinction between what is great, or merely average. What do we see when we look to certain Bible characters who showed strong will power—a man like Moses who, at the age of 80, obeyed God’s direction to lead the Israelites to the promised land, or the prophets who proclaimed God’s message to man through ages past. Stephen, whose dedication we read about in the Acts of the Apostles, who endured stoning by members of the council, saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7. 60). Peter, after Pentecost, became a changed and better man. These men were not creatures of circumstance as we seem to be. They created, or attempted to create the circumstances to effect change, by making the environment more suitable to the nurturing of truth. If we have the will to do God’s will, we can’t trust to luck. We cannot count on being carried to the kingdom on the tide. And we can’t just hope we never do anything contrary to God’s will—a useless gesture.
When the main lesson we learn from Christ’s life is to do the will of God, it therefore ought to be defined. What is the will of God, after all? Timothy tells us succinctly and simply; he makes God’s will easily understood:
(God) who will have all men
To be saved; and to come into
The knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2. 4)
The choice is set before man here and now. But when we read Jesus words to the young man who asked what good thing he could do to have eternal life, does his answer strike fear in your heart? Is true goodness really within our grasp? After all, we’re rich, often distracted, and this goal can be overwhelming. But let not your heart be troubled. We hope it’s only a matter of semantics. Christ said,
Why call me good? There is none good but one, God.
If you will be perfect, sell all you have,
And come and follow me. (Mat 19.16 – 21).
How do we please Him? How do we please Christ, our advocate? When no one is good except God, and no one is perfect except Christ; how do we presume to achieve these goals now? We can’t. Nevertheless, they are the ideals which drive us to do the will of God. These high ideals will be realized in our future, if we do today those things which would seem at first to be less pleasurable, the unnatural thing. The bond of perfection resides in charity, and with various acts of love we can bring to life the way that God proposes and thus be reconciled to Him through Christ, His son,
to whom God would make known
what is the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
whom we preach, warning every man,
and teaching every man in all wisdom,
that we may present every man
perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col 1. 27, 28)
So preached the apostle Paul. What God wants from us is to dutifully and wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves toward developing the mind or character of Christ, to further His will in the world.
He who will enter the kingdom is he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven