In the short film “The Atheist Delusion”, when Haley, a professing atheist, was asked if she thought she was a good person, she responded:
Haley was also asked if God would judge her for violating the 10 commandments, would should be found guilty and would go to Heaven or hell, she responded:
“I would go to hell. I would hope that if there is a God he would be understanding that I’m doing my best in trying to be the best person that I can every day”
How many times have you said, or heard someone say “God knows my heart”? Normally, when a person says this, it means that they are giving their best effort to accomplish a task and to please God, or, it means although I’m sinning, you can’t judge me because only God knows my heart and can judge it.
Both meanings are true, the Lord knows our heart and knows if we are giving our best efforts or not, and if we are willfully sinning with no remorse or concern to live a holy and righteous life. But what about the professing Christian who truly has a desire to please God, to live for Him, honor Him with their lives, yet continues to fall short, live a worldly, selfish, disobedient life. Does God honor their good intentions?
Let’s ponder these three stories in Scripture for the answer.
#1- King Saul and the Amalekites
King Saul was instructed by God to “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don’t have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys” 1 Samuel 15:3.
The Bible then records that, “Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn’t want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak” 1 Samuel 15:9
On the surface it could appear that King Saul had a good heart and “good intentions” because he let Agag and some of the cattle live. However, God’s response to Saul’s disobedience was “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king” 1 Samuel 15:11. God ultimately took Saul’s kingship from him.
#2- The Rich Young Ruler
The rich young ruler asks Jesus, “…Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life” Matthew 19:16.
Jesus then tells the young ruler in order to obtain eternal life, he must obey the commandments and list specific ones. The young ruler replies, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Matthew 19:20. Jesus then tells the young ruler to go and sell his possession, give to the poor and then come and follow Christ.
Then the Bible records the response of the young ruler, “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” Matthew 19:22
The rich young ruler seemed eager to please the Lord and genuine in his question as to what he could do to spend eternal life with Him. Yet, when it came time to actually do what Jesus told him to do in order to gain eternal life, he walked away.
#3- Abraham Sacrifice of Isaac
We are familiar with the story of Abraham having to sacrifice his son Isaac. In Genesis 22 God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Without hesitation Abraham woke up early the next morning, with knife in hand, led his son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him on the altar as God instructed. Isaac lies down on the altar to be sacrificed, and “Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” Genesis 22:10.
The Bible then states that, “But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” Genesis 22:11-12
So what can we draw from these three stories? First, let’s see what they have in common.
1- All three men appear to have good intentions to please the Lord.
· King Saul desires to obey the Lord command to go and fight the Amalekites.
· The rich younger ruler eagerly approaches Jesus to learn what he must do to obtain eternal life.
· Abraham woke up early the next morning and took Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed.
2- All three men, obeyed God.
· King Saul obeys the Lord command, for he did go and fight the Amalekites.
· The rich younger ruler stated that he obeyed the two commandments that Jesus mentioned (Matthew 19:19-20)
· Abraham obeys the Lord without hesitation.
Next, let’s see what the differences are.
1- King Saul and the rich young ruler both partially obeyed the Lord. They disobeyed these clear instructions from the Lord:
· Saul was instructed to kill every man, woman, child, baby, cattle. etc.
· The rich young ruler was instructed to go and sell his possessions, give to the poor, and to follow Christ.
2- King Saul and the rich young ruler both lacked faith in God.
· King Saul admitted that he was afraid of the people, so he disobeyed God.
· The rich younger ruler trusted more in his earthly possessions, than he did in Jesus. He rejected Jesus’ call to follow Him.
3- King Saul and the rich young ruler both lacked fear of God.
· King Saul feared the people over God.
· The rich young ruler was more afraid of losing his stuff, than of losing Christ, the Lord of salvation.
4- King Saul and the rich young ruler both were filled with selfish-ambition and selfishness.
· King Saul kept “…the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed” 1 Samuel 15:9
· The rich younger ruler kept all his possessions and walk away from Jesus. (Matthew 19:22)Good intentions often fail due to our lack of faith, lack of fear of God, and selfish-ambition. Click To Tweet
Abraham was the only man to exhibit true faith in God, fear of God, and commitment to obeying God. He was willing to sacrifice his only son, and was not going to profit any physical “blessing” from it. Knowing that he pleased the Lord was enough. His relationship with God was enough. His good intention was followed by obedience.
“ Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams” 1 Samuel 15:22
“And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” Luke 16:15
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” Matthew 7:21
So does God honor our good intentions? Yes and no. Depends on if our motives are truly to please, obey and honor God, AND our desire leads to the action of obedience.
There are times when we obey God, but it’s for the wrong motives. In these instances, the Bible teaches that we will not be rewarded by God for the works done with selfish, ungodly intentions.
“now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has build on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” 1 Corinthians 3:12-14Good intentions do not earn brownie points with God. Click To Tweet
The Lord honors our good intentions when we do what He says to do. We do not earn brownie points with God because we thought about doing something for Him, or we sincerely had a great desire to do something and for whatever reason didn’t do it. We must obey Him.
When we as Christians refuse to live a life of obedience, how are we different from the atheist Haley, who willfully rejects God and His Word, but hopes that if heaven and hell is real, God will see her good heart and intentions and send her to heaven?
While we aren’t saved by our good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), our obedience is an indication that we are truly a Christian. If we find ourselves full of good intentions, yet our lives are characterized by constant disobedience to the Lord and His Word, we must examine ourselves to see if we are truly of the faith. (Luke 6:46; John 8:31; John 14:15)
The great news is that God will reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and when we do fail to obey Him, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9