In Galatians 2:20 Paul says, speaking of Jesus, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
In the words of the gospel prophet Isaiah, we see the sufferings of the Messiah described hundreds of years before He was born. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5, 6).
The expression, “we have turned every one to his own way” in modern phraseology is, everybody doing his own thing. Now the prophet here points out that this is what made necessary the death of Jesus. There is something very alluring, very intriguing, very enticing about having our own way, but often poor choices are made impulsively.
Now the prophet suggests that there is more than one way to have one’s own way. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” A hundred people may have a hundred ways to have their own way due to personal likes and dislikes. Isaiah says this problem is at the root of sin. But while there is an individuality in these various patterns of having our own way they fall more or less into three great categories.
Open Rebellion—my own way. I, a creature, shake my puny fist at the God of heaven and say, I want my way and I’m going to have it. This was the way of Nimrod at the tower of Babel. This was the way of Pharaoh as he withstood Moses and Aaron at the time of the Exodus. He perished in the Red Sea. This was the way of Belshazzar as he assembled his lords and drank that fermented wine of Babylon and praised the gods of silver and gold and defied the God of heaven by calling for the sacred vessels from the temple at Jerusalem to be brought in for the services of these heathen gods. All these and millions of others in turning each one to his own way have openly defied the God of heaven.
Pretended Loyalty—while having one’s own way. This does not defy God openly; it seeks to evade His requirements all the while pretending to be loyal. This was the way of King Saul, the first monarch of Israel. The experience of the young king is recorded in 1 Samuel 15. He was anointed with holy oil and crowned king and told to exterminate the Amalekites, a cruel, presumptuous heathen people that had been defying God for hundreds of years. They had filled up their cup of iniquity.
Through the spirit of prophecy God gave him direct instructions in what and how it should be done. Idol worship and all who shared in it were to be destroyed and no spoils were to be kept. It was to be clear that they were acting as God’s sheriffs, but when the job was done they thought, Why lose all the flocks and herds and all the booty? In their greed they began to reason, Wouldn’t it be fine to sacrifice this to the Lord at the tabernacle at Gilgal? Secretly they thought that instead of their own cattle, they could use these to sacrifice. King Saul also had second thoughts about sparing Agag. He thought his triumph would be heightened if Agag, the king, was brought home in chains. Samuel, the prophet of God, met them enquiring, Why haven’t you obeyed what God said? Saul’s feeble excuse was that the people have spared those to sacrifice to the Lord thy God in Gilgal (1 Samuel 15:19–21).
Notice Samuel’s response: “Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:22, first part)? Loyalty is shown not by pretense, not by profession, not even by sacrifices, but by obedience. Jesus echoed it a thousand years later when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22, last part, 23). The Spirit pierced through Saul’s disguises, his camouflages, his excuses, his rationalizations.
People quite often have two reasons for what they do – the reason they give and the real reason. King Saul had two reasons – the reason he gave which was an excuse and the real reason. God calls it rebellion. This all happened while Saul was claiming to be a loyal supporter of the Lord, a loyal subject of God’s kingdom, a loyal commander in God’s army. Saul had his own way while pretending it was God’s way.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He strips away the disguise and exposes the camouflage of those who claim to speak in His name but do not keep the commandments of His Father. He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity [lawlessness]” (Matthew 7:21–23). These people are not like Pharaoh in open rebellion; they’re not like Belshazzar blaspheming the name of God; they take the name of Jesus upon their lips; they repeat His praises; all they do they do in His name and yet Jesus says they’re in rebellion. They are not obedient.
This method of doing one’s own way is far more subtle than the first. There is more hope for the open sinner in bold rebellion to find that he needs to be changed and converted than the one who deceives himself. We thank God for the arrow from the Lord’s quiver that wounds such a heart, but oh, what a deceptive trap it is to be taken in when one practices the forms of religion and sings the praises of God, while in his inner life he is following his own way.
You see, that was the problem with Judas. Christ gave Judas an opportunity to be converted. Judas went through all the forms: he joined in prayer; he was even ordained a minister by Jesus Himself; He was sent out along with the rest of the twelve to work miracles to heal and preach in Jesus’ name but deep in his heart Judas never came to the point of full surrender.
A classic example of this matter of doing something with a different motive is found in John 12. The story begins with Mary anointing the feet of Jesus at the feast in Simon’s house. When Mary’s box of alabaster was broken and the perfume filled the room, Judas’ selfish, covetous soul rose up in protest. He thought the money Mary had spent on the costly ointment could have been sold and put into the treasury. He was the treasurer and actually thought what he could do with it.
Judas said, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (verses 5, 6). Right there in the presence of Christ he dared to condemn that act of love on Mary’s part and give his objection a worthy look while hiding his covetous motive. Judas wanted to be seen as a keen, shrewd, careful, loyal supporter of Jesus and His program and looking after the interests of the kingdom. Interesting though, the disciples all sided with Judas and not with Mary. Only the Savior saw through his disguise. Only the Savior could read his heart.
How dangerous it is to cling to sin while covering it up with a holy pretense. Jesus referred to the scribes and Pharisees as “whited sepulchers” (Matthew 23:27). Inside full of dead men’s bones, but covered over with whitewash on the outside.
Deception—the right thing for the wrong reason. An example of this is found in the experience of James and John. “John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:49, 50). Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and passing through a Samaritan village James and John ask the Samaritans if they could stay there that night, but because they saw that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, they would not receive Him. “James and John saw this, and they said to Jesus, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (verses 54, 55).
Now James and John were not crooks like Judas. They thought they were being loyal to the Master and were not by any means trying in an underhanded way to undermine His influence. However, their selfish human nature had seized upon the opportunity of getting close to Christ and upholding Him as a way to exalt themselves and get their way. This could also be a temptation for you and me. When they saw somebody else doing some work in Jesus’ name, full of zeal, they said, Oh you mustn’t do this; you’re not with our company. You’re not taking your orders from us so you better quit.
Now the book The Desire of Ages in commenting upon this gives us this interesting ray of light, that James and John had thought they were ambitious for their Master’s honor but as Christ instructed them they began to see that they had been ambitious for their own honor. (See The Desire of Ages, 437, 438.) What was it they wanted? Their own way. Now their own way happened to be right in exalting Jesus but the way they went at it was in a way to exalt themselves. Again with the Samaritans they went ahead and Jesus had told them to try to find lodging there and something to eat but the Samaritans wouldn’t receive them so they came back and reported and said, Now Lord, shall we call fire down from heaven and burn them up like Elijah did? And Jesus looked upon them sadly as He said, You do not know what spirit you are of. You think you are trying to help Me and you mean all right, but really the trouble is, you want your own way. You want to either rule or ruin. You want people to jump when you crack the whip and if they won’t do it you’re prepared to use the whip. This is at the foundation of all the persecution in the name of religion down through the ages. Millions of inquisitors and persecutors have put to death tens of millions of conscientious souls in the name of Jesus Christ. Why? They believed they were working for God. Even when the thing we stand for is the right position we still may be very selfish in the way we stand for it.
We live in an interesting age when it has become popular on many fronts to cry out against the establishment, to point out the mistakes in government, in schools, in homes, in the church, and God knows there are plenty of mistakes. But, whether I ride in the streets, burn down the administration building or choose more subtle ways to show my disregard of authority; whether I smoke marijuana, and point out that it’s no worse than my elders getting drunk with whiskey; whether I select a righteous cause and stand for it in the spirit of rebellion, the end result is the same. I am turning to my own way.
When a young person today selects a righteous cause and does it in defiance of his parents, his teachers, and points out their sins and mistakes, only God knows the motive of his heart, but I challenge each young person – be sure when you take a stand in advance of your elders, and God knows many of you need to take stands in advance of your elders, be sure you’re doing the right thing for the right reason instead of the right thing for the wrong reason. It makes all the difference in the world. One road leads to heaven and the other leads to hell. All those who are lost will not be people who got drunk or got high on drugs. Selfishness is something far more permeating in its influence. There are ten thousand forms that selfishness can take. The prophet says truly when he says, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). All of us. Every one of us. Some have taken the road of open defiant rebellion, open and above board. Some of us have taken the road of pretending to be loyal to God and yet in our hearts are thieves, crooks, lustful deceivers, covering it over with whitewash. Some of us have taken the road of seizing the truth and using it as a platform on which to mount for ourselves an exalted throne from which to issue edicts and expect them to be carried out because we are standing for Jesus.
Now thank God there’s a fourth way to have your own way. We’ll find it in Matthew the 16th chapter. There’s something better than these three ways in which like sheep men go astray. Here’s another way. “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (verse 24). This is not the way of open rebellion; it is not the way of evading and rationalizing; it is not the way of choosing truth and doing the right thing for the wrong reason. This is another way entirely. It’s the way of the cross, the way Jesus took, for Jesus did not come to earth to give up bad things so He could be saved. He gave up all the good things so you and I could be saved. And He invites us to join with Him in that way – the way of self-crucifixion.
Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He had seen Christ on the Damascus road as the crucified Savior now risen and ascended pleading with Him, Saul the persecutor, to turn from self-pleasing in the name of religion, and he said, I will show you what great things you must suffer for My name’s sake. Thank God, Paul turned his back on all the self-pleasing in the name of religion and took up the cross of Christ and carried it to his death; didn’t he? And he said, “God forbid that I should glory save in that cross” (Galatians 6:14). Now you say, I thought you said that this was a way to have your own way. It is. It’s the only way that works. That’s the paradox.
I saw some ducks on a lake the other day and as we were watching them eat their dinner while we ate our dinner, we observed how much better they functioned there in the water than we would if we’d been going after our dinner where they were. Do you know why they were doing such a good job of it? They were made for that. They were equipped for that task from head to tail. I want to tell you something, friends, you and I were not made to have our own way. And whenever we try it, sooner or later we’re disappointed. We were made for God’s way. We were made to please Him. He says, “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise” (Isaiah 43:21). And when you and I turn from self-pleasing and see Jesus on the cross and say, Lord, if You love me that much to die for me, I love You enough to live for You. When we do that then we begin to understand and experience a joy which is not the joy of self-pleasing; it’s the joy of pleasing Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. And since that is what we were made for, it works.
As one of old said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Augustine of Hippo. Nothing but Jesus, having full possession of our heart can truly satisfy the soul. We’ll never find satisfaction, friends, in defiance of God in open rebellion. We’ll find only disappointment and disillusionment in trying to pretend loyalty to Him and yet really having our own selfish way. And oh, the sad, sad disillusionment of those who take a righteous cause and march under its banner all the while trying to find their own way in the religion of Christ. No friends. Let’s make one big pile of all our selfish ways and thoughts and plans and turn from it and come to Jesus on the cross and kneel down and give Him everything we have. There’s no other way. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
When we do that more and more while we crucify the flesh, while we deny the selfish cravings, we become acquainted with a life which finds its satisfaction in pleasing God and in helping Him make others happy. Jesus said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). Oh yes, to turn from self-pleasing means to enter the role that eventually will bring us eternal joy here and hereafter. So the Psalmist says, “Delight thyself … in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4). So you want your heart’s desire? You’ll not get it by going after it. You’ll not find it by chasing it. There’s only one way that you can find the real fulfillment, the answer to your quest. It’s by renouncing self and letting Jesus have full control of your life.
If the disguise of sin and selfishness has been torn away from any of the devil’s plans in your mind or heart pray not merely to be illumined but to come to a decision so we can say with Paul on the Damascus road, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do” (Acts 9:6)?
Elder W.D. Frazee studied the Medical Missionary Course at the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. He was called to Utah as a gospel medical evangelist. During the Great Depression, when the church could not afford to hire any assistants, Elder Frazee began inviting professionals to join him as volunteers. This began a faith ministry that would become the foundation for the establishment of the Wildwood Medical Missionary Institute in 1942. He believed that each person is unique, specially designed by the Lord, of infinite value, and has a special place and mission in this world which only he can fill. His life followed this principle and he encouraged others to do the same.