Consider, for example, the child who is told by his mother to clean his room and then dutifully goes to work stuffing his toys, books, and clothes into his closet and under his bed. Later, the child's mother enters his room and is pleased with her son's work. However, her pleasure quickly fades once she opens the closet and looks under his bed. Did the child clean his room? A very strong argument could be made that he did. But did he clean his room in a manner that was acceptable to his mother? No, he did not.
Friends, we must understand that it is possible to do that which we have been instructed to do in an improper way.
In Genesis 4, we read of Cain and Abel and their respective sacrifices to the Lord. In verses 3 through 5, we read how "Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord" while Abel "brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat." The Lord "respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering." Although God desired a sacrifice from both Cain and Abel, Cain's sacrifice was rejected because it was not done in the right way. Hebrews 11:4 provides a divine commentary on this situation, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous...."
In Leviticus 10:1, we read about how "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them." Like Cain, they performed an act that was required of them, but they did so in an improper way. What was the result of their erroneous presumption? We learn in verse 2 that "fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord."
Even in the New Testament we find examples of people serving God in an unacceptable fashion. In Acts 5, for instance, we find Ananias and his wife Sapphira giving money to the apostles, but doing so with deception. Because they lied to God and the Holy Spirit, they both fell down dead.
So what is the lesson for us? Quite simply, the lesson is this: in order to be acceptable to God, we must do as He commands in the manner that He has instructed us through His divine word. This is true obedience. Just as we read of some in the Bible who disregarded the Lord's instructions, we also read of many who did exactly as they were told and were blessed by God because of their obedience. Noah (Genesis 6, 7), the Israelites when they conquered Jericho (Joshua 6), and Naaman (II Kings 5) are but a few of many examples of true obedience.
Dear listeners, what about you? Are you striving to follow the Lord's commandments in the ways that His word has specified-are you doing your best to be truly obedient-or are you presuming that your way is as good as His? Take heed, for your eternal home depends upon your obedience.