We know that we Christians have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ in the future and be judged. This judgment does not decide whether or not we shall be saved for eternity. It decides whether or not we can enter into the kingdom and what will be our place in the kingdom. This judgment by the Lord concerns our daily living and work which we have after we are saved. Whether or not we shall receive praise from God in the future depends on whether or not we have obeyed the will of God today. Aside from His will, God is pleased with nothing else. Whether or not we receive a reward is a small matter, but whether or not the Lord’s heart is pleased and satisfied is a big question. I believe that every saved person has a common desire to please the Lord, though the degree of the earnestness of this desire might differ.
Among many believers who want to "gain Christ," some often carelessly say that this is the will of God or that is the will of God; or I feel that this is God’s leading or that is God’s leading. Beloved, do you know that these things have to go through the judgment of God in the future? It is not what we say that counts, nor what we feel that counts. It is not what we consider or believe that counts; rather, it is a matter of whether or not our work is really out of the will of God. First Corinthians 3 tells us the way we will be judged in the future: "The work of each will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it is revealed by fire, and the fire itself will prove each one’s work, of what sort it is." (v. 13). What is this fire? We know the function of fire. Sometimes it is used to burn, but often it is used to illuminate. For the work of wood, hay, and stubble, the fire is for burning. But for the work of gold, silver, and precious stones, the fire is for illuminating. If we put this verse together with Revelation 1:14, which describes how the eyes of the Lord of judgment are like a flame of fire, we can understand more the meaning of this fire. When we are judged in the future, the Lord will use His fire to test our work, to manifest our work. This fire is His eyes which are like flaming fire. This means that the Lord will judge through His light and according to His view all the work we have done after we were saved. His light will reveal what is according to His will and what is not.
Let us be assured that before God there is only one right or wrong, and there is only one standard of right and wrong. This standard is absolute, perfect, unchangeable, and unmovable. We will be judged in the future according to this standard. No matter what we say, how we feel, what we believe, or what we think, if our walk is not really of the will of God today, then in that day we will surely suffer loss. In the light of God, not only will it be impossible for anything to be hidden, but it will also be impossible for anything to be wrong. Today if we do not have the light of God to reveal our real condition and to tell us whether or not a matter fits His will, then in that day when God will judge through His light and according to His will, we will surely be unable to stand. If we have the shining of God in every aspect and we know His will (whether it is towards ourselves, towards others, or towards a certain thing) while we live on this earth, then in that day our work will surely receive a reward. Let us be assured that the light of God we receive for work today will be the light which God will use to judge us in the future. Therefore, if we want to know whether or not our work can stand in the light of God in that day, then we must ask whether or not our work today is done according to the light of God. Let me tell you, the light of God never changes. Whatever the light of God condemns and considers as contrary to His will today, the light of God will surely condemn and consider contrary to His will in the future. Whatever the light of God approves and considers in agreement with His will today, the light of God will also approve and consider in agreement with His will in the future. We should never risk the danger of walking contrary to the light of God, neglecting the will of God, and ignoring the view of God, while wishing to receive a reward at the day of the revelation of God’s light.
What we daily live by now is the light of God. When we say that we are now walking according to the light of God, we mean that we are walking according to the judgment of God and that we have a clear vision of how God will judge our daily walk in the future. Since we are so clear concerning the situation at the coming judgment seat, we should be compelled before God, through this knowledge, to do that which will receive praise from Him, rather than that which will be condemned by Him at that day. The light of God is the light before the judgment seat. If we know ourselves through the light of God and walk according to the knowledge of His will through the light of God, then we know ourselves through the light before the judgment seat and walk according to the knowledge of His will through the light before the judgment seat. We ought to thank and praise God because we do not have to wait until that day to see the light of God and know how He will judge us. Today we already have the possibility of seeing the light. Today we already may know what He will condemn in the future and what He will approve in the future. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart to reveal the light of God; therefore, our responsibility is inexcusable.
Paul considered the future judgment of God to be according to the light of God. He told us that the things done according to our feelings were worthless. Therefore he said: "For I am conscious of nothing against myself; but I am not justified in this, but He who examines me is the Lord. So then do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then there will be praise to each from God" (1 Cor. 4:4-5). This portion of the Bible cannot be more clear. Brothers, if the feeling of a man such as Paul was unreliable, who knew of no wrong in himself and still did not regard himself as justified, how about you and me? He said that unless God shines upon us with light in that day, there are many hidden things and thoughts which can influence our actions and cause us to walk our own ways. In that day when God shines on us, then we will know how much we were influenced by that which was hidden. Therefore, he told us in the previous verses that besides being faithful, he had nothing. If we set ourselves to be faithful, willing to pay any price to obey the will of God, then God will surely tell us His will so that we will know what to do. The Lord Jesus said, "If anyone resolves to do His will, he will know" (John 7:17).
Therefore, brothers, if we seek the light of God now on earth, when we see this light manifested in the future, we will not be condemned, but rather we will receive a reward of full satisfaction.
We know how important it is to obey the will of God. But if we want to know His will, we must have a heart before God that is willing to do His will. Our heart must be weaned from everything. We must have only one desire before God, that is, to know the desire of His heart. No matter what God reveals, we are willing to receive it. In this kind of condition and with this kind of tender and obedient heart, God will surely tell us His will. "The intimate counsel of Jehovah belongs to those who fear him; / And His covenant He will make known to them" (Psa. 25:14).
Many times we do not know our heart. We do not know how treacherous, how crooked, and how rebellious our heart is. We think that we are willing to obey, that we really desire the will of God, but we do not realize that in the deepest part of our heart there are hidden motives and self-will. Therefore, we must cry as David cried before God, "Examine me, O Jehovah, and try me; / Test my inward parts and my heart" (Psa. 26:2). "Search me, O God, and know my heart: / try me, and know my thoughts: / and see if there be any wicked way in me, / and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa. 139:23-24). Only when God searches us and knows our heart will we know our heart. Only when God tries us and knows our thoughts will we know our thoughts. When we pass through this kind of searching and trying by God, we will be able to see if there is any wicked way in us—any wicked intentions, so that we may deal with them and be led of God to walk the way of eternal life. Many believers want to understand the will of God. They ask God to tell them His will. Yet they have not received it. There is no reason other than they have wicked ways in their hearts, which makes it impossible for God to lead them. They do not know themselves. They do not know how much inclination, how much opinion, how much fear, and how much lust are in their own hearts. These make it impossible for God to reveal His will. If before God they would ask Him to shine upon them, grant them self-knowledge, and then remove their obstacles, God would surely lead them. Although self-knowledge cannot immediately make known the will of God, self-knowledge can make known what is hidden in us that frustrates the understanding of God’s will. Therefore, self-knowledge is indispensable in understanding the will of God. Without the light of God, who can know himself? Therefore, is it not the time for us now to pray the same way as David prayed?
(Self-Knowledge and God's Light, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)