"At that time, you were without Christ,being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise,having no hope, and without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12
If you worship God because you know you should worship God, you are worshiping God in vain. If you pray because you know you should pray, you are praying in vain. If you serve God because you know He is worthy to be served, your service is no more acceptable to God than that of a Buddhist priest, who also knows that God is worthy to be served. The whole world, the same world that John said "lies in wickedness", knows that God should be served, that everyone should pray, and that all people should worship God. That understanding is the foundation of every religion of man on earth, and being motivated in the service of God by that understanding is the very thing that makes all of man’s religions worthless for obtaining salvation.
Understand this, and fear God! The worship of God is by invitation only. No man can "do God service" whom God does not first call. And the only prayer that ever reaches God’s ear is the prayer inspired by His Spirit to be prayed. No one can love God whom God does not first love. To think otherwise is to think more of yourself than the truth calls for. The flesh hates the truth about itself, but it is incapable of righteousness without God. "God is a spirit," Jesus told us, "and those who worship Him, MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth." But how can this be? Man does not have God’s Spirit; nor does he have God’s truth. How can he possibly worship God acceptably if he must worship Him with things that he does not have? It is obvious that God must give man something before man is able to worship God acceptably. Is it too much for us to confess that, left to our own devises and power, we cannot worship God as He MUST be worshiped?
Once, Jesus’ disciples were stunned and frightened because of the narrowness of the gospel Jesus preached. Then they asked him who could ever be saved if what he was preaching was true. Jesus replied,"With man it is impossible. But with God, nothing shall be impossible." Jesus knew that man was hopeless unless God helped him. Paul told his Gentile converts that they once were hopeless because at that time, they were "without God". My friends, without God – God Himself, not some abstract idea about Him – we are sinning, no matter what we think we are doing. We have no choice but sin, if we are without God.
What is the difference between our worship and that of Old Testament worshipers if we worship God because we know it is time to worship him? Under the Old Testament, God’s people were instructed by the Law as to the proper times to worship God. Consequently, there were multitudes who went to worship God, not because they had any fellowship with their Creator, but because they knew it was time to go. This kind of worship is worship in the flesh, and it is useless for the redemption of the soul. Now, the Law that instructs God’s people is the holy Spirit within them, letting them know when and what to do in their service to God. I know that God said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," but the knowledge of God that saves us is not a knowledge of the proper day or hour to worship God; nor is it the knowledge of the proper styles of dress for worship; nor is it even a knowledge of the Bible. The knowledge that saves is the knowledge of God! The knowledge of God teaches us that the only acceptable service to God is that service rendered from a heart sanctified and led by the Spirit of God.
Man cannot initiate contact with God. Every prayer, every religious deed, every longing that arises from man’s nature is in vain. There is nothing "of man" in the kingdom of God. God must condescend to initiate the contact, He must give us something to respond to in order for our prayer or service to be in the right direction. God must call us to worship; otherwise, we worship God in vain. God must call us to prayer; otherwise, we are praying according to the flesh, not the Spirit. God must call us to His service; otherwise, we will find ourselves doing evil while we think we are doing good, just as Paul did before God reached down to him. There is nothing in us that knows how to worship, pray, or serve God acceptably. "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father", and only what comes down to us from Him is acceptable in His sight.
Jesus told his disciples, "Without me, you can do nothing." Of course, Jesus knew that they could go fishing without him, or work at their tax tables without him, or perform any natural task in the flesh without him. But he was talking about serving God. He was telling his disciples that there was nothing in them that God would accept without it being prompted by the Spirit – which Spirit they did not yet have! And Jesus was not speaking only to his disciples; he was speaking to us all. Without him, none of us can do anything right in the sight of God. But with Him, can there be anything impossible?
You cannot understand these things and be proud. This knowledge, which comes from God, will create humility, and faith in the true God; it will inspire prayer that is acceptable; it will move you to cry out for God’s presence, so that you will not sin. This knowledge will fill you with the fear of God, lest He choose not to dwell among us and leave us to our own thoughts and ways. Our hearts, without God, are "desperately wicked," (Jer. 17:9) and hopelessly ignorant. Paul said that in our flesh, that is, our nature, "dwells no good thing." David sang, "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Men with the knowledge of God know that without Him, they are completely and hopelessly without power to live righteous lives! We must have God to lead us in our daily conduct and choices, our worship, our praying, and our service to Him, for if we do not have God in our midst, we are wasting our time even being alive. Without God living in us and guiding us, we are breathing in vain. We are like blind men groping in the dark, imagining that there is something for us to find.
Please join me in crying out to God for His presence to be among us, and for His power, which alone can keep us from sin, and for His mercy to forgive our vain imaginations and efforts, and to give us something to which we can respond. For without that, there is absolutely nothing right that we can possibly do.
If you understand this, you will be always at the ready, just in the hope that God will lead you to do something. His word is precious, His feelings are perfect, His will is holy, and if at any time He condescends to share His mind with us, who are we that we should hesitate or fear? We are rich if God has thought upon us. That is the knowledge which, not having, will destroy God’s people now, as it did Israel long ago.