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What Kind of Sacrifices and Expenditures Can Be Approved by the Lord?
By Xu Xin
It was late at night, and the dark clouds covered half of the full moon. The cross-shaped clock in the bedroom was ticking, and the two hands of the clock just pointed to twelve. In the pitch-dark bedroom, Yu Yun was tossing and turning in her bed. Soon, she sat up in bed, leaned against the headboard, and turned on the table lamp on the nightstand. Then she picked up the Bible, opened it and slowly read in a low voice, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mat 7:22-23). After reading them, she began pondering: In the past, sisters and I often healed man’s illness and drove out the devils within them, did many wonderful works and also preached to man in the Lord’s name. We had worked hard for the Lord like this and suffered ridicule and slander of worldly people, so we should be accepted by the Lord. But why did He still say those who prophesied and worked in His name were evildoers? Then what kinds of sacrifices and expenditures can gain His approval? This made Yu Yun feel very confused, so she got up to pray to the Lord on her knees beside her bed, “O Lord! You are the lamp before my feet and the light unto my path. I beg You to enlighten and guide me….”
The sun came up slowly in the east and brought man new vitality. Just when Yu Yun was going out, Sister Wu Wei came to her house.
Wu Wei said to her, “I saw you were going out. Do you have something to do?”
Yu Yun said as she poured water, “Oh, nothing particular. I just have a problem that has puzzled me recently. I just can’t understand it, so I want to have a chat with our brothers and sisters.”
“What’s the problem? Tell me. Let’s seek it together.” Wu Wei said, smiling.
Yu Yun took the Bible out of her bag and said earnestly, “I read the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Mat 7:22-23). I can’t figure out why the Lordthose who prophesied and worked in His name were evildoers.”
Wu Wei said, “In fact, I was also troubled by this question in the past. I sought it from some pastors and elders and also read a lot of spiritual books, but I didn’t get the answer. That was until I met a classmate of mine who also believed in the Lord. She gave me a book and I came to get the answer from it.”
“Really? Great. Thanks be to the Lord!” Yu Yun said emotionally.
Wu Wei said, “Thank the Lord! At that time, my question was solved, and I felt very happy, so I wrote down some passages of that book. Let me read them to you.”
Yu Yun nodded, and said happily, “Okay!”
Wu Wei turned around and took the notebook out of her bag. She opened it and read, “If you always live according to your selfish desires, always satisfying your own selfish desires, then this type of person does not have a testimony in the eyes of God and does not have a testimony in the eyes of Satan. This is the mark of causing God to be ashamed, causing God to be ashamed in everything. You say, ‘But I haven’t done anything; how have I made God ashamed?’ In your thoughts, in the intents, goals, and motives behind your actions, and in the consequences of what you’ve done—in every way you are satisfying Satan, being its laughingstock, and exposing yourself to its accusation, and you do not have the least of the testimony that you should bear as a Christian. In all things you dishonor, and you do not have a genuine testimony. Will God remember the things you have done? In the end, what conclusion will God draw about your acts and the duty you performed? Should there not be a result? An opinion? In the Bible, the Lord Jesus says, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?’ (Mat 7:22). What does the Lord Jesus say? (‘I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Mat 7:23).) Why does the Lord Jesus say this? Why have those who heal the sick and cast out devils in the Lord’s name, who travel to preach in the Lord’s name, become evildoers? Who are these evildoers? Are they those who do not believe in God? (No.) Who are they? (They are those who believe in God but do not practice truth.) Correct. They believe in God and follow God. They also expend themselves for God, give things up for God, and perform their duty. However, in performing their duty they are not loyal and do not have testimonies, and their performance of duty has become wickedness. So, the Lord Jesus says, ‘Depart from me, you that work iniquity’” (“You Can Obtain Truth After Turning Your True Heart Over to God”).
Wu Wei fellowshiped, “In fact, this passage has expressed the source of the question. On the surface, we’ve sacrificed everything to preach and work and have suffered a lot. It seems as if we are expending for the Lord; but actually, while we are sacrificing and expending, there are a lot of desires and ambitions mixed in our heart. This is not after God’s heart. For example, some people work hard in order to obtain good fortune; some people sacrifice and expend in order to obtain status and livelihoods and others are in order toand be rewarded in the future. They are not genuinely for the sake of satisfying God at all. Such sacrifices and expenditures are bartering with God. Thus they become those who believe in God and yet resist God. Just like the Jewish priests, scribes and Pharisees who served Jehovah God; they traveled far and wide to preach the gospel and suffered greatly, but as they preached and worked, they only paid attention to preaching their ancestors’ traditions and human reason to make others look up to them. They did not focus on practicing the word of God or following the commandments of God, but liked holding a high position, teaching the people, using their positions to devour widows’ property and coveting sacrifices. The Pharisees always preached and worked for exalting and bearing witness to themselves. They didn’t exalt or bear witness to God, nor did they lead people to follow and worship God. In the process of serving God, they set up their own independent kingdom and brought people before themselves, which caused the believers to only look up to them but have no place for God in their hearts. Such sacrifices and expenditures of the Pharisees caused God to detest them; thereby, they were cursed by the Lord Jesus, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. … You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?’ (Mat 23:27, 33).”
Yu Yun’s eyes lit up. She said: “It really is so. Although the Pharisees had good behaviors and could work hard on the surface, when the Lord Jesus came to work, they didn’t seek and study at all; instead, when they saw that the Lord’s work and word were full of authority and power, they were afraid that the common people would believe in Him, and then their positions and meal-tickets would be in danger. So they condemned Him by the law: They said that He didn’t keep the Sabbath and that He cast out demons through Beelzebub; they even persuaded the people to condemn Him; finally, they nailed Him to the cross along with the Roman government, thus committing a heinous crime.”
Wu Wei said, “Yes. On the surface, it looked as if the Pharisees were believing in God, but behind the scenes, they brought their personal aims and goals into their belief in God. How can ones not be hated by God if they believe in God but do not practice His word or comply with His way?”
Yu Yun nodded thoughtfully and then her face lit up. She said, “Thank the Lord! Today, this is really the Lord’s leading. I’ve understood why the Lord Jesus said those who prophesied and worked in His name were evildoers. It is because when working and expending, they didn’t practice the Lord’s word but worked only for the sake of satisfying their own intentions and desires, exchanging labor for the Lord’s blessings and grace and entering the kingdom of heaven. How can they be accepted by the Lord if they sacrifice, expend and work hard with such base intentions?”
Wu Wei said, “Yes, they worked to satisfy their own intentions and desires but brandished the name of the Lord. That was blaspheming the Lord! So the Lord Jesus said to them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.’”
After hearing what Wu Wei said, Yu Yun sighed and said worriedly, “The words that the Lord said are also a warning to us. I think that I myself also have many expressions which are not in line with the Lord’s will. I also only paid attention to preaching and working; sometimes I used that as capital for cultivating my own image before my brothers and sisters to make them revere and admire me; when praying to the Lord, most of the time, I asked for grace and blessings and only wanted to obtain blessings and the crown and enter the kingdom of heaven one day. Now it seems that I also used hard work to make a deal with God in exchange for a beautiful destination which I wanted. So I was also the evildoer spoken of by the Lord Jesus. Then, what can we do to be in line with His will and gain His approval?”
Wu Wei said with a smile, “We can search the Bible for the records of God’s past work to see who were approved by God and how they gained God’s approval. Then we will know the answer.”
“Yes! Why didn’t I think of this before?” Yu Yun suddenly saw the light. As she was flipping through the Bible she said, “I remember the Bible records that David, Abraham, Job, and so on are the ones that God praises. Among them, David’s wish in his lifetime was to build Jehovah God a temple to make all the Israelites worship God in it; as for Abraham, when God asked him to offer his son as a sacrifice to God, he could obey God’s request and offer his son without conditions; Job lost all his property, his children died because of suffering calamity and he got sore boils all over his body, yet he still praised the holy name of God, standing witness for God and shaming Satan.”
“And Peter was also approved by God.” Wu Wei took the thread and said, “Peter pursued the truth all his life and only sought to know and serve God. He always felt sorrow and pain because he couldn’t fulfill God’s demands. To do God’s will, he always prayed to and relied on God, letting God guide and lead him to fulfill his duty properly to satisfy God’s will. In the end, he obeyed God’s sovereignty and arrangements, and was willing to be crucified upside down, making a strong and resounding testimony and setting a good example to the saints through the ages.”
Yu Yun nodded in agreement and said, “I remember that the Lord Jesus ever said, ‘Not every one that said to 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). And I also remember the Bible says, ‘But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation’ (1Peter 1:15). From these two sentences, we can see that only by complying with God’s will and doing all things without personal impurities and dealings can we gain the Lord’s approval and enter the kingdom of heaven. Like David, Abraham, Job and Peter we were just talking about, they were all people who revered God and stayed away from evil. They believers in God could obey His sovereignty and arrangements and give up their personal intentions and aims. No matter what God asked of them, they could submit to Him. Only such men can receive God’s approval.”
Wu Wei said with a smile, “Now I understand when God measures whether our actions are good or evil, He doesn’t care how well we do on the surface but cares about the intentions of our sacrifices and expenditures. If we do that to care for God’s will and satisfy and obey God, we will be seen in God’s eyes as good; if from the outside, we seem to have done a lot of work for the Lord, but in reality, our intentions are for our personal benefits, then regardless of how we do it, God won’t approve us, and instead, we will be condemned by Him as evildoers”
Yu Yun said with emotion, “Great thanks be to the Lord! It is too important for us to understand how God measures whether our actions are good or evil. Otherwise, if we pursue all along according to our own conceptions and imaginations, thinking that as long as we sacrifice and expend on the surface we can receive the Lord’s approval, but do not focus on practicing His word or pursuing to know and obey Him, when His judgments and chastisements in the last days come, it will be too late.”
Wu Wei said: “Yes.”
After talking about this, they two looked at each other and nodded. As Yu Yun’s puzzle was finally solved, she brimmed with a happy smile.
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