THIS IS A QUESTION every human being should ask himself, for the God of heaven has a claim on him, firstly as creator and then as sustainer, as Daniel reminded Belshazzar, Dan. 5. 23; and as Paul did the Athenians, Acts 17. 28. But in a special way this is a question all believers should ask, for on them God has a peculiar claim; they are His, not only by creation but also by choice and redemption.
The question is not ‘What doth the world require?’, nor ‘What doth the family require?’, or even ‘What doth the assembly require?’, but ‘What doth the Lord require?’ See how personal it is - ‘Require of thee’. So many will say as Peter did ‘What shall this man do?’ but here is a searching question which solemnly singles us out and faces us with God’s requirements for ourselves. Now what are they? Let us examine them in light of the fact that the journey of life will soon be over and we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the heart. Seeing every one of us will give an account of himself to God, it is of the utmost importance to inquire what He requires from us.
1. To fear the Lord
Living in a world where this is practically unknown, we do well to take special care that it is cherished in our lives and in the assembly. We are rightly told that it is not the slavish fear which the slave has when he dreads punishment at the hand of a cruel master; that fear has for us been cast out. The fear of the Lord is a wholesome dread of displeasing Him, causing us continually to look heavenward and to remember the eye of God is upon us. There are several reasons for this wholesome dread, such as God’s greatness, His holiness, and His judgments on those who feared Him not. On the other hand there are blessed results from fearing God; preservation from sin, Exod. 20. 20, right treatment of our brethren, Gen. 42. 18, reverence in our deportment, Ps. 89. 7. The reason why so many assembly troubles are not solved is because of a lack of the fear of God, Phil. 2. 12, 13. There is ample recompense for those who fear God. God says He will bless all them that fear Him both great and small, that He will fulfil the desires of them that fear Him, and will honour them that fear Him, as well as providing for them and protecting them. It is a most profitable thing to fear God.
2. To walk in all His ways
Not just that we should know His ways but that we should walk in them. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples in John 13 ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them’, not happy in the mere knowledge of His ways but by walking in them. It is well to emphasize the expression ‘all his ways’. We are prone to extremes and whilst one particularly appreciates one thing, another stresses some other point of divine truth. In clinging tenaciously to one point it is possible, almost without thinking, to neglect the other. Of the Lord we read, ‘Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’, the equal balance, the fine flour, nothing uneven about Him; because the Psalmist was able to say ‘I have walked in thy truth’, he was also able to say ‘my foot standeth in an even place’, Ps. 26. God would have us to be lovers of all His truth and to walk in all His ways. Baptism is one of His ways, and it must be clear to those who read the Bible with care that every believer should be baptized by immersion. The Lord’s Supper is another of His ways, the Lord desired that His own should remember Him in the breaking of bread and, be it noted, ‘until he come’. Separation is another of His ways. If on reading the Bible we are convinced that God desires His children to be baptized and break bread, we must be also struck with the fact that God desires His own to be separate from all the world’s associations, whether social, religious or political.
I cannot give it up – the little world I know,
The innocent delights of youth, the things I cherish so,
‘Tis true I love my Lord and want to do His will,
But, may I not enjoy the world and be a Christian still?
Nay world I turn aside, though thou seem fair and good,
That friendly outstretched hand of thine is stained with Jesus’ blood,
If in thy least device I stoop to bear a part
All unawares thine influence steals God’s presence from my heart.
But while baptism, breaking of bread and separation are His ways, they are not all His ways. He has said ‘Be ye kind’. Are we as kind as we should be to sick, sorrowing and lonely people, to widows and orphans? Are servants of Christ as kind to each other as they ought to be? ‘Courtesy’ is another of His ways, 1 Pet. 3. 8. While we must never lack courage, let us remember that God requires courtesy in us His people. Daniel was a splendid example of this in his dealings with the king and others, in that though he firmly stood his ground for God, he did so in a gentlemanly way as also did Paul with Festus, Acts 26. 25. Bad manners in public or private are not to be expected of die king’s sons. Holiness is another of His ways - ‘Be ye holy for I am holy’; there is much that is spurious, but the Word of God makes it clear that God desires His people to be marked by real holiness. Though one may say ‘I have been baptized, I break bread, I am separated’ – yet is not kind, courteous and holy, he cannot be said to be walking in all of God’s ways. On the other hand, though a man be kind, courteous and holy, yet has no time for bap¬tism, breaking of bread and fellowship, neither can he claim to be walking in all of God’s ways.
3. To love Him
He is not only a God to be feared and obeyed, but a God to be loved. He was very definite to His people of old that they were to have no idols of any kind, nothing to steal the affections of the heart from Him, for that is what an idol does. It is possible to make even good things idols. The brazen serpent was at one time a very good thing, the means of Israel’s deliverance, but the day came when they bowed down and worshipped it; the Corinthians had received blessing and help from certain men, but later because of their carnal state they were almost making idols out of these men. Many things can become idols. How searching the Lord’s question to Peter in this connection, ‘Lovest thou me more than these?’. Only if we can with sincerity say that we love the Lord more than all the things of this life will they fall into their right and proper place.
4. To serve Him
Why did God make choice of this people, why redeem them by blood and power? It was that they might serve Him, Exod. 10. 3. Paul impressed this upon the saints at Corinth -‘Ye are not your own’, you have the responsibility and high honour of serving God. Have we taken this truth to heart, called into relationship with the great God of heaven not only to fear Him, to walk in His ways, to love Him, but to serve Him? Is it not this that caused men to turn their backs on much in this world and spend and be spent at home and abroad?
May we all with increased desire turn again to our God and seek to know for ourselves what He requires from us and then to the best of our ability put it into practice, counting on enabling grace.