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What does God want from each of us?
And what does God promise to each of us?
God is consistent: "...I am the Lord: I change not" (Malachi 3:6). What God wants from us has not changed from the beginning. An Old Testament verse, Micah 6:8, summarizes what God wants:
...what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
"To do justly" and "to love mercy"... these are instructions on how to relate to one another. As Jesus stated in Matthew 22:39, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." But "to walk humbly with thy God"... what exactly does this mean? How do you walk humbly with God?
Jesus gave more information in Matthew 22:37: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38. This is the first and great commandment." You simply cannot love God this deeply without knowing Him, and believing Him, and obeying Him. To love and "walk humbly" with God is to believe God, to know God, and to do the will of God. It means living as if you are in the presence of God, because you understand that you are in the presence of God. It means living the way God would have you live. To live this way in these times is no accident: it is something that must be chosen, and strived for. As Jesus said, "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).
Can you really know God? Is it really possible? Jesus showed that it is a requirement! Consider Matthew 7:21-23:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
There is an important message here: a personal connection with God or Jesus is necessary and required if we are to fulfill God's expectation. Since we are expected to know Jesus, it obviously must be possible to know Him. To know Jesus is to know God: Jesus said "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). After His resurrection Jesus appeared to His apostles, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). We can relate to Jesus as God, because that is what He is to us: God the Father has given Jesus full authority over us. There is additional basic information about Jesus in this website.
So how do you come to know Jesus or God? First you must have faith and believe that you can know Him. Faith is trust in God and in the scriptures, the record of His words. The apostle Paul explained that "without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). With faith established, Deuteronomy 4:29 shows that with earnest desire we can come to know God: "But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." You must seek God to find Him. You must sincerely desire to understand Him. You must approach God with confidence that you can find Him. You must approach God with willingness to do His will and to obey Him.
And how do you seek God? A good start is to read the word of God - the scriptures - with an open mind and a earnest desire to understand. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Read the accounts of Jesus' words and deeds as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You will begin to get the true flavor of what God expects of us. And you may be surprised at the importance given to the Kingdom of God (also referred to as the "kingdom of heaven" in Matthew) in these scriptures. Be wary of men's "explanations" of the word of God; let the scriptures speak for themselves. What might not be clear in one verse if often reworded or explained in other verses. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Jesus, in Matthew 7:7).
You also seek God by resolving to change, to comply with God's expectations of us. Jesus advised us to repent, and to remain repentant. To repent is to turn from making your own choices in respect to what is right and wrong, and to do God's will instead. It means choosing to do what God expects rather than deciding for yourself what is right and wrong. It means understanding that we should do God's will because it is God's will and because God is the ultimate and final authority. There is no place for arguing with God. Neither watering down of the commandments, nor rationalization of disobedience, is acceptable to God.
You may have been taught that Jesus came to do away with the the law or the commandments, or to "nail the commandments to the cross." Don't you believe it! Consider these words from Jesus:
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17. And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said [citing a few examples], Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 19:16-19)
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle [the smallest part] shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Jesus kept and fulfilled the commandments by keeping them in their full spiritual intent, not just their outward letter. In Matthew (the fifth chapter) He advised us to do the same. For example, He warned not to hate because hate is spiritually comparable to murder, a violation of the sixth commandment. And he warned not to lust after the opposite sex because that is spiritually comparable to adultery, a violation of the seventh commandment. He criticized the religious leaders because they kept the letter of the law but defied the spirit of the law:
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:7-9)
God wants us to obey in willing spiritual sincerity, not in token compliance. In John 4:23 and 24 Jesus said "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
Can we worship God without obeying Him? Of course not. Jesus asked "And why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Obedience in love to God, "in spirit and in truth," is the foundation of worship.
Here is a selection of other verses that reinforce the importance of obedience to God, to keeping the commandments, all ten of them:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. (Jesus, in John 14:15)
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (the apostle John, in I John 5:3)
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. (the apostle John, in I John 3:22)
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (Jesus, in John 14:21)
If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (Jesus, in John 14:23)
Notice that promises were made in the last two verses above: Jesus will "manifest" or disclose Himself to those who repent and choose to obey God and do His will. And Jesus and God will love the repentant, and come to them, and "make their abode" with them. Can God and Jesus somehow come to us and live with us? Are there other scriptures showing that God can live with, or in, us? Consider 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, where the apostle Paul recounted God's promise to live in us:
...I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing [repent; don't even think of sinning]; and I will receive you, 18. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
God's promise is to dwell in us, to walk in us, to even adopt us as His sons and daughters. But we must first believe His promises and seek Him diligently. We must repent as often as is necessary, and resolve to be faithful and obedient to Him. "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24); God can dwell within our minds and lives by supernaturally guiding and helping our thoughts. This divine presence within us is called the Holy Spirit, also called the spirit of truth, the Comforter and the Holy Ghost in various scriptures. Through His spirit God can help open your mind to understand scripture as you read it. Here is a collection of scriptures about God's Spirit:
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. (the apostle John, in 1 John 4:13)
If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (Jesus to the disciples, John 14:15-17)
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (Jesus to the disciples, John 14:25, 26)
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3:24)
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Peter, while speaking to the high priest about Jesus, in Acts 5:32)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh (Acts 2:17)
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, I Corinthians 2:12)
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Corinthians 3:16)
So then they that are in the flesh [not seeking God] cannot please God. 9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Paul to the Romans, in Romans 8:8-10)
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:13-16)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24. And they that are Christís have crucified the flesh [overcome human nature] with the affections and lusts. (Paul to the Galatians, in Galatians 5:22, 24)
By the power of God's Spirit - by God and Christ dwelling in us - we are guided and strengthened to overcome our own human nature. If we are willing, God will help us to replace our human nature with the character and nature of God instead. This ongoing process of change is called conversion. Herein lies the essence of true Christianity: with the help of God's spirit we can overcome our carnal human nature and replace it with the character of God and Jesus Christ. By repenting, diligently seeking and obeying God, we show Him our willingness; by His power and Spirit, He leads us into the godly character that we can attain in no other way. The apostle Paul said of conversion, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phillipians 4:13).
Carnal human nature, with "the works of the flesh," is overcome by the "fruit of the Spirit" as Paul described in Galatians 5:19-24:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20. Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21. Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24. And they that are Christís have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Overcoming our nature and adopting the character of God is of critical importance. Many today have been taught that faith alone, or just believing in Jesus, or "giving your heart to the Lord" is all that is needed for salvation. But Jesus showed that salvation, which is eternal life with God, is given to overcomers: to those who receive God's spirit, grow in character and display the works - the fruit - of a living faith. When He addressed the faithful in each of the seven church eras, Jesus referred to overcoming, not just faith and belief. Consider these promises, all from Jesus:
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Revelation 2:17)
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. 28. And I will give him the morning star. 29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 2:26-29)
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:5,6)
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:12,13)
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:21,22)
Near the end of the Revelation, the last book of the Bible, Jesus promised:
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7 and 8)
As was prophesied in Isaiah 11:9, at a future time, in the Kingdom of God, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." Hopefully you can now better appreciate what "the knowledge of the LORD" really means. In the Kingdom of God "...they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them..." (Jeremiah 31:34). When the Kingdom of God is established on Earth everyone will know, love and obey God. This is the way life was meant to be from the beginning.
Unfortunately many have been taught that God wants no more from us than to be "good people." In fact that is not so: God wants to dwell in us and be an active part of our lives; He wants us to learn and actively develop His character. He wants to adopt and care for us as His children. He wants us to know and love Him. We were made to be incomplete without God; only with God our spiritual Father can we achieve completeness and true fulfillment.
To know and love God, and be known and loved by Him, is the highest fulfillment we can attain: it is the water of life. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Jesus, in Revelation 21:6). All the things we so easily covet and idolize - the money, the possessions and the power - these are but mirages. Jesus summarized, saying "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
next: What does God promise us?