Picture yourself. Thousands of years in the future, a king and priest in the family of God. Endowed with the nature and power of God, second in rank only to God the Father. You will be worshiped, and you will have every right to that worship. God says so.
Revelation 3:9 …behold, I WILL MAKE THEM to come and WORSHIP before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Of course, now, you are no where near deserving of that. You haven’t overcome. You haven’t conquered your own carnal nature. Even now that nature is pecking away at your resolve, searching for a chink in your armor so it can coerce you to rebel against God and fulfill its lusts. As long as that is the case, you can never be trusted with ultimate power – and therefore, cannot be worshiped as God is. Even Jesus, while He had that nature in Him, was not worthy of worship. Again, He said so.
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou ME good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Of course, He was greater than we are, or any other man who had lived (Matthew 12:42). And He was perfect, and He ultimately proved that He COULD be trusted… And none of us have done that yet. Now, He has been resurrected, “born of God”, as we one day shall be, and the carnal nature no longer has any influence over His nature, for it has been replaced by the nature of God.
1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
But even now, we will be worshiped at times – not worshiped as a God, but worshiped just for being right. Or for being wise, or wealthy, or any of the other things men respect. Christ even gave us specific instructions for HOW to be worshiped by men! …
Luke 14:10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt THOU HAVE WORSHIP in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
You see, we worship God because God is right. God is trustworthy, and God is greater than we are in every respect. We worship Christ because Christ has proved that He, too, is “good”. And so as we obey God, it is natural… no, inevitable is the proper word… it is inevitable that we will approach, gradually, being “good”. Good in the sense that Christ meant when He said “there is none good but one – God”.
And as we become good, we will be growing better than others who have not obeyed God. More noble. More righteous. We will be worthy of praise because we can be trusted more than other people. We can be counted on not to steal, or lie, or kill. And as we grow to understand and obey these commandments better, we can be counted on even more – to the point where our obedience, and our happiness, peace, health and prosperity are literally legendary!
1 Kings 10:7 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.
God’s way produces this! It produces it EVERY TIME! It produced it for Job, it produced it for Abraham, it produced it Joseph, and if you obey God, IT WILL PRODUCE IT FOR YOU, EVERY TIME! Solomon DESERVED this fame he had received around the world, because he WAS greater in wisdom than any other man before or since! God said so!
It is inescapable that if you obey God, you will gradually become worthy of more and more praise, more and more respect, and more and more worship! But there is the trap! Well… not so much a trap, as a test. This life is an obstacle course of temptations and lusts, betrayals and sins. We must overcome our nature and stop stealing. We must overcome our nature and stop working on the Sabbath.
Farther down the road, we must love our enemies, and bless those that curse us. We must turn the other cheek when slapped. Ultimately, we must be willing to die for those killing us. But then after that there is one last test! One test that is, in many ways, harder than all the rest! And that test is PASSING the other tests!
Just the fact that you’ve PASSED the other tests means you’ll be worthy of praise, honor, and worship! Because you’ll be more noble than your fellows! And that test will dig up the last remaining vestiges of evil that yet reside in you, so that they can be purged and dealt with, leaving you ready for the family of God – or so that they can ensnare you and show that you just aren’t “God material”.
Proverbs 27:19, 21 As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. … As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
A fining pot takes silver, heats it, and since silver is heavier than most impurities, the impurities float to the top. It can then be scraped off leaving the pure, noble metal behind. Gold is done in essentially the same manner – by putting it in a furnace until it melts, and scraping off the undesired junk. And PRAISE DOES THIS TO YOU!
Proverbs 27:21 (Douay) As silver is tried in the fining-pot, and gold in the furnace: so a man is tried by the mouth of him that praiseth.
You will DESERVE praise! If you don’t, you will have failed even the most rudimentary steps of obeying God! And that praise will be hard to handle, because it will be TRUE! When someone says that you’re good, your natural response will be “why, yes I am!”
Of course, you could do what most “good Christians” do, and lie about it by saying you’re not good, when you actually think you are, just so you appear humble.. But that’s just as bad – even worse, actually, for that’s hypocrisy!
How you handle this praise may well be the hardest thing you’ve had to do. Perhaps not in degree, but certainly in kind. This was the pitfall that trapped Lucifer, whom GOD said was perfect! It was the snare that entangled Saul, and countless others! They DESERVED praise! Saul WAS a mighty man, a righteous man, and a head and shoulders taller than everyone else in Israel – and Lucifer was PERFECT in wisdom, and PERFECT in beauty!
But they, and the others like them, succumbed under the pressure of the final test – success. They were both righteous. They obeyed God, and they TRUSTED God, and none like Lucifer, all of whose actions were PERFECT until the day he sinned (Ezekiel 28:15).
But they failed this test. The test of well-deserved praise. So where did they go wrong?
Solomon earned praise like few men in history. He was legendary, and the fame was justified, for he was the wisest man ever to walk this Earth. Solomon’s mistake was that he didn’t realize, or didn’t care, that his heart was “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). He focused, and allowed others to focus, on the “good” in his nature, and ignore the bad.
1 Kings 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
And this nature eventually coerced him to sin. And this showed that his heart was not perfect before God – in other words, that for all his wisdom, brilliance, and obedience up to that point, HE WAS NOT GOOD! Now, had Solomon been a hermit, living in some cave, this might never have been an issue! He would never have faced the test of praise, and quite likely would have remained righteous!
But because he was king of the most powerful nation in the world at the time, and had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and had everyone whom he ever met telling him how great he was, how smart he was, and how good he was… he started to believe it. After all, it was all true – FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW!
As Plato put it in The Republic, “When a man cannot measure, and a great many others who cannot measure declare that he is four cubits high, can he help believing what they say?”
But compare that to his father, David. David faced most of the same tests – he was a mighty man, a king, wise, gifted with music, had great understanding, and many wives… and yet this test, the success that David experienced, did not overcome him. Why?
Don’t say “he was humble”, or some pat, meaningless answer like that! We want a REAL answer, something we can see, use, and apply, or else YOU might fall into the same snare! So what SHOULD they have done when someone said “Wow, you’re the smartest man on Earth!”… ? How should they have passed this refining fire that is well-earned praise?
2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
When you stop stealing, and then compare yourself to the rest of the world, you are GREAT! When you start keeping all ten commandments, you are OUTSTANDING! But ONLY as long as you compare yourself TO OTHER MEN! Other men SHOULD respect and worship you when you obey the ten commandments, for you are closer to God than they are! You are, despite any other faults you may have, better than they are when you obey the laws that they do not!
But that’s only when you compare yourself to other men – which the Bible says is not wise. Because when you compare yourself to God, and line yourself up against the yardstick of His nature, you realize there is quite a difference. Not just in obedience, or righteousness, but in motive.
See, you don’t obey God because you love truth. You don’t refrain from running an offensive driver off the road because you’re basically a good person. You’re not. You’re deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. No, you obey God, if at all, because of some ulterior, tainted motive. Maybe you’re just afraid of being punished by him. Maybe you want a ticket to the place of safety, or to live forever.
Regardless of your motive, you’re not doing the right thing simply because your nature WANTS to do right, you’re doing it because you are COMPELLED to do so! Compelled by fear, desire for a reward, or a need for companionship, but COMPELLED! It isn’t an emotion that comes OUT of your heart, it’s an emotion that must be FORCED ONTO IT!
You’re not unique in that; all men are in the same boat. And the fact that you do obey God, despite that fact, makes you worthy of a certain amount of glory – compared to other men. Still, when you compare it to God’s nature, which simply WANTS to do good, you realize that you aren’t “good”, you’re just “behaving”. See, God isn’t the slightest bit interested in sinning. He so fully realizes that “crime does not pay”, that it is impossible to tempt Him to do it, because He doesn’t WANT to do it!
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
You still, regardless of your current level of obedience, WANT to do evil on some level. This makes God, the Father, good. And everyone else who has a carnal nature, not good.
Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
And since Jesus had that carnal nature warring in His members, just as you and I do, He was “not good”. Despite being “tempted in all points like as we are“, and being “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), nevertheless that nature remained with Him until His death. And as long as that nature remained with Him, there was a mathematical possibility that He would give in to it!
And Jesus knew that the existence of the carnal nature inside Him meant that “…in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: …” (Romans 7:18)! And so when someone praised Him by calling Him “Good master”, Jesus knew that, compared to the man saying it, He WAS good! But He also knew that He was only good because HE FORCED HIS HEART TO OBEY! And so, compared to the perfect, divine Being He once was, He was NOT GOOD! And of all the universe, at that moment only the Father was not under attack from within by a carnal nature, lusting to sin! And so ONLY HE WAS GOOD!
David realized that! Solomon and Lucifer did not! Jesus was worthy of more glory, worship, and honor while He was alive, even though tempted by a carnal nature, than any man ever to live. And He received glory from many people, and He deserved that glory.
John 13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
But He recognized that the wisdom and honor He had was only there because He FOUGHT His nature – not because of it! That it wasn’t HIM that wanted to do good, but only the bit of God IN Him, that same bit of God that WE have in us, if we have the holy spirit!
Jesus realized that it wasn’t HIS spirit that wanted to do good, but another spirit, the holy spirit – and that if He ever stopped battling His spirit, even for a moment, His carnal nature would reassert itself and He would not be “good” anymore.
So the proper answer, anytime we start to feel that we’re something special, is… we are, if we obey God. But only because we are more like God than those around us. And we do that only because of God and His spirit nagging us constantly to obey. And while that does make us worthy of a certain amount of glory, compared to others around us, let’s face it – in us, that is in our flesh, dwells no good thing.
We are not good. We are becoming good. And as we grow towards someone God would want in His kingdom, we should get pretty close to BEING good, and we should be “workmen that need not be ashamed”, and should be able to hold our heads high, knowing we are diligently seeking God.
Even so, we should realize that this CAN be a temporary situation, for if God were to break His promise and “put upon us more than we can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), we would, before too long, sin. This means we are not completely good for now, and cannot take credit as if we were.
One day, we will have the nature that Jesus does now, the one that CANNOT sin because the nature has been converted, our carnal soul will have been changed – by God, but with our active assistance – into a nature that IS good, just like God’s. A nature that cannot be tempted to do evil, for it fully hates every part of evil. Where we have defeated that trap that Plato wrote about so long ago in “The Republic”. To where we can succeed at success.
If you can escape that snare, and truly be successful at handling praise, then you’ll never again need to be tested – for if you can handle that, you’ll have passed through the refining fire – and conquered the test that is success.