How do we know if we are serving and worshipping God in a way that pleases Him? The only way we can know what God wants is by what He has told us He wants through His Holy Word. If we know what God says, then we can know what God wants us to do. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that only those who do the will of His Father are going to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It stands to reason we must learn what God’s will is and obey it if we want to live a faithful life in service to Him.
In Matthew 15:9 Jesus is recorded as saying “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Anyone who believes in Jesus must believe the things he taught and said. So we learn here that the doctrines of men void our worship to God. Paul wrote that the Jews had “a zeal for God, but not according to Knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom 10:2-3). Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?” (2 Cor 13:5). These Christians were commanded to make sure they were correctly serving God lest they become a reprobate, meaning rebellious and unsubmissive to God’s authority.
When talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus told her that all people must “worship Him [God] in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24). Jesus contrasted spirit worship with the kind of worship being offered at the time which consisted of all the things associated with temple worship under the old law. God’s word is truth (Jn 17:17), so worship in truth means worshipping according to God’s Word. Jesus said we “must” worship in spirit and in truth. The word “must” means we as Christians have no option to worship God any way that we choose. This makes true worship a commandment of God which must be followed if intend to be saved!
It is plain from the New Testament teachings that there is a right way and a wrong way to serve God. The teachings and commandments of men are worthless, therefore it is not left to man to decide how God is to be served. God’s word says those who follow the teachings of men Worship Him in vain. Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” (Matt 7:22-23). Jesus says there will be many who served him who would be told to depart from Him. These people were religious, they served God, they worshipped Him and did many mighty works but they were sent away to eternal damnation. Why? “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that will do the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Why did God judge them accordingly? Because the things they did were not according to the will of God.
Jesus said if we love Him, we will keep His commandments, (Jn 14:15), he said those who do not love Him do not keep His commandments (Jn 14:24). Those who do not love Jesus are said to be “Anathema Maranatha” (1 Cor 16:22), which means “cursed when the Lord comes”.
Men say, “We believe in Jesus”, and the Bible says “whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). Believing in Jesus means we believe in what He said, in what He taught, and in what He commanded of us. Those who disobey Jesus obviously did not believe in Him enough to obey Him. “He that believes on the Son has eternal life; but he that obeys not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn 3:36). Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keeps my saying, he shall never see death” (Jn 8:51).
Some say, “we are saved by grace”, for the Bible says “for by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, (it is) the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph 2:8-9). Grace is the undeserved favor of God. Our works can never be good enough to pay God back for the death of His dear Son. We can never boast that we deserve salvation because of our works. However, this fact does not relinquish us from our obligation to serve Christ obediently. Jesus taught in the parable of the unprofitable servant, “Even so you also when you shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do” (Lk 17:10). Jesus had to die as a sacrifice for our sins. He died in our place for sins we committed and paid the penalty we deserved. We can never repay that debt no matter how hard we try. Regardless of our works, Jesus still had to die so we could have a chance to live. Salvation is by grace, which is something we can never deserve. The same inspired apostle, Paul, who wrote Ephesians also wrote, “I beseech you, therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, (which is) your spiritual service” (Rom 12:1).
Men say, “Salvation is a gift”, and the Bible says “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23). But it is a gift Jesus said we must strive for, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Lk 13:24). In John 6:27 Jesus taught that we must “Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abides unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Jesus said we had to work for something He would give us. To disregard what Jesus taught is the same thing as disbelieving Him.
Jesus Christ said only those who do the will of the Father will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. God is not going to make His Son out to be a liar so that He can give us His grace. God’s grace is conditional based upon our obedience to His will. “And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb 5:9).
How do we assure ourselves of serving God in a way pleasing to Him? How can we be sure we are not serving men’s teachings instead of God’s. How do we know we are submitting to God’s righteousness and not some man’s idea of righteousness? How can we know beyond any doubt that we are faithfully serving and worshipping God in truth?
The Christians living in the first century were taught and guided by inspired men empowered with the Holy Spirit who promised to guide them into all truth (Jn 16:13). These men traveled all over the world, teaching the Gospel and helping establish congregations of Christians everywhere they went. They wrote letters to these congregations revealing the Gospel, teaching people how to become Christians, instructing them how to remain faithful, and revealing God’s will for them. These letters were assembled and became what we know as the Bible today. The Bible makes claims about itself. Peter wrote “Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord seeing that his divine power has granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue” (2 Pet 1:2-3). If all things had been given to the first century Christians that pertained to life and Godliness, then nothing whatsoever was left out. The very first Christians had everything they needed to live acceptably before God and so do we today!
Paul wrote: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim 3:16-17). Not only did the first century Christians have all things pertaining to life and Godliness, God’s will was also recorded for all time. The written word of God thoroughly furnishes us completely for our life of service to God. We do not need the teachings of men who lived hundreds or perhaps thousands of years after the first century. All we need to be assured of living a faithful life to God is the written record of His word. The word of God all by itself is sufficient to teach and instruct and thoroughly equip the Christian today, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes” (Rom 1:16).
If we today, will forsake all the teachings of men in favor of what the scriptures teach, and model our life of service after the approved examples of the apostles of Jesus Christ, we can be assured of living today just as acceptable as they did then. Paul urged the first Christians to be imitators of him, (1 Cor 4:16 cf; 11:1 f; Philip 3:17). He urged Christians to use all of them as an example to live by (1 Thess1:6).
Today, we can do the exact same thing with the exact same results. If we will follow Paul’s command and live like the faithful first century Christians lived, believing what they believed, teaching what they taught and worshipping how they worshipped, we can be today just what they were then. Accepting no manmade doctrines (Matt 15:9), wearing no man-made names (1 Cor 1:12-13), living our lives after the approved examples we have of the first Christians (2 Thess 3:9), living by the truth of God’s word (2 Cor 6:7), adding nothing to or taking away (Rev 22:18-19), nor going beyond what is written (1 Cor 4:6), we can then know we are living as faithful Christians.