Recently in my youth group, my pastor gave three criteria for examining our actions to see if they are what God would call good:
“What kind of actions do you think God would call good?”
• Those done in obedience to God’s command
• Those done in reliance upon God’s power
• Those done for God’s glory
But as I thought about them, these three criteria really convicted me. Can we honestly say that even as believers, all of our actions fit into these three criteria?
Unfortunately, we cannot.
Done in obedience to God’s command
God gave us the 10 commandments to follow in the Old Testament, and not one of us here have followed those perfectly; so therefore we cannot claim to do good perfectly all of the time. John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If we love God, we will keep His commands–because as fallen creatures, that is the only way that we can show love to Him.
What are some ways that our actions can be done in obedience to God’s commands? One way is to consider how they apply to all of our lives. For example, the seventh commandment is do not commit adultery, so if something inappropriate comes on the TV, our obedient action may be to just turn the TV off.
However, if we follow His commandments without doing the other two criteria, then that love is not good.
Done in reliance upon God’s power
So we may know that the right thing to do is to turn the TV off, but if we are relying on our own strength, and not God’s, then we will ultimately fail–not only in fighting off our own sin, but also to do good. Every single time that I have relied on my own strength instead of God’s, I have failed and fallen into sin.
Jeremiah 17:5-9 says, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
God clearly states that men who trust in themselves and rely on their own strength are like shrubs in a desert. What does that mean? John Calvin said that it represents a small fruitless tree or bush, that was absolutely useless.
This shrub was also growing in salt land–and though all plants need some salt to grow, to much is poisonous. So those who trust in the strength of man are useless, poisoned, shrubs.
But the man who trusts in the Lord, is like a fruitful tree that is planted by water and it has healthy roots. So when trials come, this tree does not fear. So if we trust in the power of God we have nothing to fear, because He is all-powerful and all-knowing.
So why is our immediate reaction to fight off sin by ourselves, instead of going straight to God for help? Is it not pride and arrogance? How should we then ask God for help? Through prayer.
For God’s Glory
Why does it matter that we do good things in God’s strength? Because it is one hundred percent impossible for us to make any ‘good’ action without relying on God.
Doing things for God’s glory is one of the hardest things to do because we are very selfish people. Due to this selfishness, if I make a decision, it is tempting to base it off of what will bring me glory or attention. What are ways that we can give God glory through our actions? How can we make God our first thought, and not ourselves?
We have to deny ourselves and serve only God. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” It is also true that we cannot serve God and ourselves. If we are serving ourselves, we are serving the wrong master. Then we are not serving God and bringing Him glory.
We have to die to our own selfish desires and put God’s desires first. Why is that so hard? Because our sinful nature is very self-centered and arrogant. So, we have to have the Holy Spirit working in us to be able to put something other than ourselves first. Because the Spirit dwells in us, we are empowered to walk in God’s way.
Every single day, I have failed to do good actions that give glory to God. But brothers and sisters, we cannot despair! Every time you fail, look at that failure as God teaching you to lean completely on His strength instead of yours.
Even today, I struggled as I attempted to study my homework for a quiz, but instead got distracted by frivolous activities. I pursued my own laziness and desire rather than studying diligently in a way that would have brought my Savior glory. But that doesn’t mean I will surrender in this fight to do good.
Don’t only attempt to please God in just the big things. Give glory to His name by doing good in everything! This is not an easy thing to do, but we were not created to accomplish easy tasks. I instead encourage you to rely on God’s strength, do every single thing for His glory, and in obedience to Scripture. We were created to do the hard things.