There are many in this world that are sincere when they say they want to serve God. They have counted the cost, and are willing to forsake all for Him. But the forsaking is what they define, not what God defines. This is a subtle error, but it is a very great error. Both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to God, but God did not accept the sacrifice of Cain. Cain brought what he thought would be good, but it was not the sacrifice that God had commanded. This is still the error of many today.
"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:19,29). We were purchased at a great price for God. That is very different from our doing something for God. We can do acts for God with a sincere heart, while never yielding ourselves up to God as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Many will say on the judgment day that they have done great works for God in Jesus' name, and the answer will be, "I never knew you, depart from Me..." (Matthew 6:21-23). Deeds done in the name of the Lord with good intentions, apart from knowing God by the Spirit, have no meaning to God. God wants us to know Him. That is the only place we can begin, and that is the place we must remain.
Often, when we begin to get serious with God, we look around and see great needs in this world. Then we look at our own resources. We connect these two, and then decide how we can serve God. I may try to be an athlete for God, or a pilot in missionary work or a secretary for my church. Because I have these abilities and because there is a need, I conclude that I can serve God. But, brother or sister in Christ, may I lovingly but strongly say that we do not serve God in this way. This was the error of Cain. Our intentions may be good, but we are woefully ignorant of God and His ways.
God is not interested in what we can do for Him. Rather, He is interested in us. He is interested in dwelling in our hearts by His Holy Spirit, and in sanctifying us (setting us apart) for Himself. This is an entirely different matter. He wants to make us a witness unto Him, one who is giving forth a living testimony of who He is. Our lives should bear witness of His life. For this to happen, we must allow God to touch our whole hearts, that is, our whole inner man.
The cost of knowing God is not great heroic deeds and great discipline, human effort and sacrifice. The cost is giving up the right to ourselves, our lives and what we want to do, and yielding in submission to God as a vessel for living His life. This is where most men fail. As long as they can dictate what they will do for God, they are willing, but to yield up their lives and let God live through them is another matter. But right here is where we must transact business with God, if we want to know Him.
Someone may feel that what is being said ignores a need for evangelism, and that we are unconcerned for lost souls. God is far more concerned about lost souls than we are, but until God can get our hearts and we can find a place of rest in knowing Him, we are of no value in God's hands to lost souls. We cannot save men. Only God can do that. Our efforts only hinder. Only as we are set aside for God, knowing Him in fellowship and communion, can we even see what God is doing or how He is doing it.
God is working by His Spirit, not by means of human effort or natural abilities. The weapons of our warfare are all spiritual. For us to be of use to God, we must be channels of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). If we are truly knowing God, God will send us out as He sees fit, but unless we are in that abiding place, God cannot send us. We must be knowing Him.