What God Really Wants from You this New Year

Micah 6:6-8 says, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

 

Sometimes it is hard to understand what God really wants from us. If you listen carefully on any given Sunday morning, when I am preaching you might hear me encouraging the congregation to be faithful to worship God though giving of our tithes, treasures and talents. Then on another Sunday you might hear something that sounds completely different. For example, I might say that “God doesn’t ‘need’ your money,” or “It’s not about how much you read your Bible,” or something similar. This can sound confusing. You might leave sometimes wondering, what does God want from me?

 

In short, the answer is that God wants us to have a changed heart— one that worships him as King by finding our delight and dependence on Him, and one that loves others well. Deuteronomy 10:16 says, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” This command is repeated again in the Covenant in Deuteronomy 30:6: “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

 

Jeremiah 4:4 repeats this again, then later, Jeremiah warns Israel, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh…” In other words, if we don’t match on the inside what we proclaim on the outside by perfunctory religious activity, God will reject our worship. That is why the Apostle Paul says in Romans 2:28-29, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”

 

A few years ago when I was flying down from Dallas to San Antonio for a weekend seminary class, on one of my flights, I met a woman who bemoaned the Church. She grieved of the hypocrisy of her mother who ruined several marriages through her marital unfaithfulness. Yet her mother was one who faithfully attended church three days a week, tithed, read her bible, and was baptized. This woman, like so many of us today, equated religious activity with pleasing God. In other words, her outside behavior did not agree with what she professed about her inside to others. That is not what God wanted from her or anyone else. Surprisingly (or maybe not), this problem has been around for the ages. It is something we can all struggle with from time to time.

 

In Micah 6, we get a great picture of what God really wants from His people. Here, Israel is in God’s courtroom. Israel was a nation filled with religious activity. They did many rituals and deeds and offered sacrifices, yet God was bringing charges against them. Israel was filled with dishonest individuals who demonstrated no concern for treating others fairly. Micah charges that they took advantage of and neglected the poor. He also points out how God’s people were allowing idol worship. Religious people often would be seen publicly engaging in sex with temple prostitutes in order to get the attention of the god of fertility known as Baal. This was an abomination to God.

 

Israel was really good at performing spiritual activity for God. However, their prayer, sacrifices and faithful religious performances could never make up for their shortcomings. It was easy to see why God was not impressed. Israel was in serious breach of Covenant with God.

 

Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? In other words, what God wants from his people is no secret. He wants them to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him. God wanted them to be people who have been changed by His grace.

 

To “do justly” literally means to do the right thing. God wanted his people to do what is right all throughout life. To “love kindness” means to demonstrate loyal committed love toward God and his people. To walk humbly with God means to have daily communion with God— much like what Adam and Eve enjoyed with God in the Garden before they sinned. God wanted Israel to enjoy the blessings of being in his presence.

 

Not much has changed today. God wants us to enjoy his presence though our worship. God will reject those who simply say “I am a Christian” but do not do what is right. Whether it is in our marriages, how we raise our children, or how we treat our business relationships, there is a link between our behavior and our faith. James 2:17 teaches us that faith without works is dead. Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone. Faith and works live together. Where you have saving faith, you will also find works that are the fruit of that faith.

 

God’s word teaches us that spiritual activity does not equal transformation. In other words, if our lives are not changed, it does not matter if we go to church one day a week or three days a week. It does not matter if we read our Bible, fast, are baptized, or give our tithe. Our outward symbols and actions should be visual reminders of inward realities. If our lives are truly changed and we are doing the right thing, demonstrating loyal love to God and others, and walking humbly with God, then our religious activities actually take on new meaning. That is what God wants from those who call him Lord. That is what God wants from us as we start this new year.

 

Blessings to you,

 

 

Pastor Jeremiah