Man should not do anything out of a knowledge of right and wrong. Rather, he should do all things out of obedience. The principle of discerning good and evil is the principle of living by right and wrong. Before Adam and Eve took the fruit, their right and wrong were in God. If they did not live before God, they knew nothing; both their right wrong were just God Himself. But after man received of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he found a source of discerning between right and wrong apart from God. As a consequence, after man’s fall, there was no need for him to seek after God. He could get along by himself. He could isolate himself from God and judge between right and wrong. This is the fall. The word of redemption enables us to turn back to God for our right and wrong.
This is from Watchman Nee’s book, Authority and Submission. I’m not very far along in it but this paragraph really hit home. Nee states that every Christian must live under authority and that every work done outside of submission is a work in the flesh, not of the Spirit, and therefore no good. Nee cites 1 Samuel 15 as one example among many to illustrate the prominence God places in submission to His authority over anything else, even sacrifice (or worship) of Him. King Saul thought he was doing well to worship God, but he had a rebellious heart in offering up a sacrifice that was not his to offer, and in so doing disobeyed God and was punished for it. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).
Nee says that God’s greatest demand upon us is submission. Only those who have been broken can truly submit to God’s authority, and once we get a glimpse of God’s authority, at least once, we will be forever changed and our heart will have a new Master. We will see lawlessness (living for self, outside of authority) more clearly, not only in ourselves but in others.
I remember a day when God’s authority pressed Itself upon me to such a degree I went speechless. I was at Pure Life and as was my custom I was down by the cross, alone, praying. My wife and kids were due to visit in just a few days and I was praying for their safety. I was really crying out to God to protect them on the road and that our visit would be a great one. And then, in the midst of this prayer I went numb, and my tongue felt like a 1000 pounds. I began to mutter, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, forgive me.” Why? Because the Spirit of God said to me,
Chad, you are seeking My blessing for a trip you did not consult Me about. Is that not arrogant of you?
I was shut-up. He was right. I was living my life outside the authority of God. I was offering sacrifices (prayers) to God, but my heart was doing my own thing, discerning for itself what was right or wrong. Of course, I told myself, a family visit is “good”! Why ask God about it? The Lord reminded me that day of James 4:13-15,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord will, we will live and do this or that.”
How much of my life has been lived under my authority rather than God’s! For so very long my I lived a lawless existence, disobedient in both big and small things, because regardless of the lip-service I might pay to God, the only real authority I acknowledged was my own. But when the awesome Majesty of God gets hold of our hearts, though, we will be stopped short of transgressing His commands because we will know what it is to live under Authority, and how worthy He is to demand it of us.
As for the family visit? I wrestled for a few days with whether it was right or wrong for them to come (I was still trying to discern myself!) until one night, gently, the Spirit of God whispered, “Child, just ask me.” There was, I believe, a part of me that felt my Father in heaven was stern, and wanted to deny me good gifts. As if my past sins precluded me from having any benefits today. Trembling, I asked, “Father, is it OK for my wife and kids to visit this weekend?” Tears streamed down my face when I felt the waves of His “Yes” to me wash over me, again and again. I also had the assurance they would be well taken care of.
God wants our submission to His authority, and His alone. It is not so that He can deny us that which we may want, but so that He can give us everything we need.