Points to Ponder: Being godly without God

Points to Ponder
Being godly without God

Are you running ahead of God, expecting Him to follow you to where you want to go? How many well-meaning people will take on a project and claim it for God? Maybe they won't say it in such a pious way, but they think, "This thing is good, and therefore it's of God." And because they're doing a good thing, it's therefore a godly thing, and therefore they are serving God. There are a lot of good people, very busy doing many good things, but God's not in it.
How can God not be in a good thing? He's good, so every good thing certainly is blessed by Him. If it is good and He is good, then every good thing we do is for God - right?
Consider this: Can you do the right thing for the wrong reason? Can you do a pure act while having impure motives? If you ponder that for a few moments in humble honesty, you'll remember the times when you've done that.
Jesus makes this shocking statement to "good people" who are confident that their personal goodness is enough to deserve a pass into heaven.
"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:22-23).
What does He mean, "I never knew you." He's referring to knowing in an intimate, relational sense. He's expressing the idea of people being "godly" without God. They are their own standard of goodness. (And God is lucky to have them in the world, thank you very much.) There are legalistic religious people who think that keeping a bunch of rules will please the Lord and unlock heaven's gate for them. They're shocked to think that those who don't keep all the rules could ever have a chance.
Then there are the nominal believers. They don't know about any rules, not even the ones that are actually in the Bible. They don't read the Bible. God's a nice guy. They're good people trying to be nice themselves, and so God will overlook their mistakes. In both of these scenarios, there is very little to do with God Himself. It's a very self-centered, self-focused righteousness.
I meet so many people who say, "I believe in God;" or "I believe in the Lord." Some will lament that their lives are unhappy, unfulfilled. They work hard, they serve others; constantly busy doing good things. But is this of God? Is it God's will for that person to be doing that thing? Or is it a control thing, a power thing? Are some people busy so that they won't have time to slow down and think about why they are so busy? And, really, for whom?
Jesus' words (which ironically are often read at grave side services) got me thinking about Godliness without God.
"If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also" (John 12:26a).
Do you go on your own initiative and then expect the Lord to follow you? He says that where He is, there His servant will be. To serve Him means to follow Him. That takes prayer. It also takes a willingness to submit to God's will in the matter, regardless of what you thought or desired about it.
And we have these assuring words when our motives are right:
"If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor" (12:26b).
If you seek to honor God, God in turn will honor you.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:50pm, both days. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.