God Steers Moving Ships

He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. – 2 Corinthians 5:15

Let me remark that being “led by the Spirit of God” is a remarkable expression. The Bible does not say, “As many as are driven by the Spirit of God.” No, the devil is a driver, and when he enters either into me or into hogs he drives them furiously. – Charles Spurgeon

God turned down David’s offer to build Him a house. David lived in a really nice house himself. Second Samuel calls it a “house of cedar,” an Old Testament way of saying “blingin’.” Meanwhile, God dwelt in a drafty old tent, so David thought he would do a favor for God and upgrade His abode. But God said,

In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word… saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’… I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name… And I will give you rest from all your enemies… Will you build me a house? The Lord declares to you that He will make you a house. – 2 Samuel 7:7-14, v. 14 paraphrased

God did not need David to build a house for Him. In fact, God was building one for David.

God said David’s offer did please Him, however (2 Chronicles 6:8), because it revealed two things about David’s heart — two things that should characterize any believer’s heart: he was filled with a desire to sacrifice for God’s kingdom, and he was completely yielded in surrender to God. These two characteristics embody the posture of “active waiting”. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Posture 1: A Desire to Sacrifice

David felt so overwhelmed at what God had done for him that his heart overflowed with a desire to give back to God.

This pleased God, so while God told David he could not build the temple, He did allow him to collect the materials that his son Solomon would use to build the temple. The writer of Chronicles records that David provided “a large amount” of materials, more than could be counted, and “at great pains” to himself (1 Chronicles 22:4, 1 Chronicles 22:14).

A heart that truly understands the Gospel overflows with gratefulness to God. Extravagant grace produces extravagant givers.

David knew he had been nothing when God chose him to be king: a shepherd, the lowliest occupation in Israel, and the “least” of eight sons.

God gave him everything. And even more than an earthly kingship, God gave him forgiveness of sins and an eternal inheritance in Heaven.

David’s heart burst with thanksgiving.

Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far? – 2 Samuel 7:18

He had to do something. Something big.

Have you ever stopped to think about how much you “owe” to God? Where would you be had Jesus not come to earth to save you? He had no obligation to come. What were you when He came for you? You were condemned, having sold yourself to sin. Yet, God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He voluntarily absorbed the sting of your rejection and died in shame upon a cross in your place, going through hell itself for you, just so you could live with Him in indescribable joy forever. When you understand that in your heart, it changes your attitude toward what to do with your life. How could it not?

Realizing the love of God for us produces love for God in us. Extravagant generosity compels extravagant response.

When we realize how great a debt we owe to God, we become willing servants, eager to be poured out for God and His Kingdom. If we do not feel that way, we might never have truly understood the Gospel.

Gifts that please God express a heart of deep gratefulness and passionate worship.

Jesus praised the woman, for example, who poured out the expensive perfume on His feet, not because He needed that perfume — after all, it sweetened the air for only a few minutes, and was wasted in an economic sense — but because it expressed His priceless value to her. Jesus didn’t need the perfume; it was she who needed to wash His feet with her tears and offer her most expensive possession. Jesus would wash her soul with His blood; she needed to declare His worthiness.

God calls us to be generous, not because He has needs, but because He wants us to become generous, as He is.

Generosity is not something God wants from us, you see, as much as something He wants for us.

He wants us to be consumed with His glory and filled with compassion, just like He is, moving instinctively to a world of need around us.

Toward the end of his life, David wanted again to give something to God — a field on which God would construct the temple. The owner told David he could just have it. But David responded, No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. (2 Samuel 24:24)

David would not give to God an offering that cost him nothing, because by this point he understood well that his offerings were not about meeting God’s needs, but about expressing God’s worthiness. If the gift had been about meeting God’s needs, then a free field would suffice. But to give God a gift that cost David nothing would not express to God how he felt about Him.

So, is your heart ready to be led?

The first question to ask is this: Have you offered your life to God in grateful sacrifice?

God steers moving ships — ships driven by the winds of worship, gratefulness, love to God for what He’s done, and compassion for those He cares about.

Posture 2: Complete Surrender

Not only did David present his life back to God as a grateful sacrifice, he also yielded himself to God in complete surrender. Whatever God would command, David stood ready to obey. So later, when the prophet Nathan told David what God wanted from him, he obeyed with great zeal. His exuberance in obedience became so contagious that he brought all of Israel along with him into his offering (1 Chronicles 22:2-19).

Following Jesus means a full surrender of our wills to God.

David likely remembered how his predecessor, King Saul, had failed so badly in this. Rather than giving God what he asked, Saul had offered a substitute — although a generous one — in place of surrender. God rebuked Saul with these harsh words, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

At the end of the day, obedience is what God desires most from us.

The first command Jesus gave for those who follow Him is the complete surrender of our wills. He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

“Deny yourself” means a total surrender of every desire in your heart to God. Every dream, every desire, every ambition. You say “no” to all that you want from life so that you are ready to say “yes” to all that He wants from it. “Take up your cross” means you embrace His agenda in life rather than your own. The cross is the best-known Christian symbol, but for many Christians it has become little more than a sentimental piece of jewelry to hang around their neck. For the first disciples, it was no piece of jewelry. The cross was an instrument of oppression, torture, pain, and death. Crosses struck fear into the hearts of all who beheld them. Yet this is the image Jesus says should characterize the lives of His followers.

To follow Jesus means that you die to any control you maintain over your life. Like a man on a cross, you place yourself under Jesus’ complete domination, with no more dreams of your own. Dead men have no more ambition for their lives.

Have you ever presented your life to God that way — with no conditions, no restrictions?

This Is the Will of God for You

Grateful sacrifice and complete surrender. When Paul summed up in Romans 12:1 what God wants from us, he called for those exact two things:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. – Romans 12:1

We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God as an act of worship. Notice that we do this in response to something — the mercies of God. The mercies of God in the Gospel, Paul believes, should cause us to be so overwhelmed with gratefulness that we joyfully die to everything we have wanted from life so that we can live to fulfill His desires.

So again, I ask you to consider: Where would you be without Jesus?

Short answer: Lost. Forever. The only way others will hear about the gospel is through us. Others are at exactly the same place that we would be without Jesus.

As Martin Luther said, “It wouldn’t matter if Jesus died a thousand times if no one ever heard about it.” It is impossible to understand that and not have your heart rise up to say, “Please, Lord, send me! Use me! I’m ready! Give your command.”

The true Spirit of Jesus serves the mission of the cross. His goal is to make the cross larger in our hearts and to compel us to yield our lives in service to its purpose. The Holy Spirit, you could say, is always leading to the cross or from it, to carry its message of healing to others.

Watch the Author Chat with J.D. Greear

Excerpted with permission from Jesus, Continued… by J. D. Greear, copyright Zondervan 2014.

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Your Turn

When we realize the depth of God’s love our hearts long to respond. Have you completely surrendered your heart and plans to God? Are you ready to go wherever God leads you? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you!

J. D. Greear

J. D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The Summit Church has been ranked by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. J. D. has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved and Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Veronica, and their four children.

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