The difference between, “What Would Jesus Do?”, and “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?”, is something that I believe all Christians need to appreciate. I would rather see a Christian be concerned about finding God’s will for his or her life than be unconcerned or be devoted to having one’s own way in life. Up to a point, it is better to be sincerely concerned and sincerely making an effort, even if we make mistakes. The problem is that it’s still better not to make mistakes that can be avoided through more understanding of God’s Word in the Bible.
Both the apostle James and the author of the letter to the Hebrews, (believed by some of us to be Paul), mention Abraham in connection with faith, especially his two cardinal actions of faith: setting out for the Promised Land when God called him to do so, and offering Isaac on Mount Moriah when God asked him to do so. Although God spared him from actually doing the latter, providing a ram as a substitute – a foreshadowing of God sending His Lamb as our substitute – Hebrews 11:19 says that Abraham did this, “concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
If we were to apply the same reasoning to Abraham’s actions that some do to Jesus’ works, we might conclude that it is a great act of faith any time one of us wants to set out and claim a new geographical area as God’s gift, or, yet worse, any time one of us were to try to “give back” our children to God in a literal sense. Why would it be right for Abraham to do what he did in these cases, and wrong for us? Abraham had been asked to do these things once, in each case, by God. No Scripture remotely suggests that God ever asked him to do either act again, so no reason exists to believe he would ask us.
Serving God, pleasing God, finding God’s will for our lives – all these involve two inseparable things: faith and obedience. Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is described as essential to pleasing God, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” James addresses, (in chapter 2), the relationship between faith and works: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
I believe there is a key element in Hebrews 11:11, which says that Sarah received strength to conceive Isaac at an advanced age, by faith, “because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”
I have come to see faith – saving faith, Christian faith – to be faith in God personally and His character and His nature, not just faith in a system of rules or of promises that He spoke and we try to apply. If we have this kind of faith, such as Sarah and Abraham did, we will obey Him as Abraham did because we believe His plan or His request or command to be morally right, superior in wisdom, and worthy of our obeying it – and we have that same faith in His judgement and timing.
Even brash, impetuous Peter, in Matthew 14:28, first said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water,” and waited for Him to reply, before stepping out in faith. That, to me, is a good example of why, “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?”, is a better philosophy than, “What Would Jesus Do?” While the two ideas may get us to the same place at times, as they did with Peter, where are we after we get there?
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