Tag Archives: Lent

The Character of Obedience

“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Heb. 5:9 (NKJ)

Obedience—is it an outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished?

A discussion of obedience seems most appropriate for the Lenten Season.  As I read the accounts of the apostles and other great propagators of the faith, it is evident that obedience played a major role in their faith walk. The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ is the perfect model as we too journey to the Cross.

The Apostle Paul uses the Greek word for obedience, hupekoos.  Hupo mean “under” and akous means “to hear”.  Christ was under the direction and conviction of God.  He was obedient to the law of God that stated that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22).

We see the character of obedience displayed through the humility of Christ.Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”  Philippians 2:5-8

In this text, the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word hupekoos.  Hupo mean “under” and akous means “to hear”.  Christ was under the direction and conviction of God.  He was obedient to the law of God that stated that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22).   He humbled Himself as Deity and as a man, shed His blood for our sins.

We see the character of obedience displayed through the submission of Christ.  “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18-19

Here obedience is the Greek word hupakoe which means “attentive harkening, compliance or submission”.  It usually refers to obedience to God’s will in a “special sense”—of willing subjection.  Unlike the animals used in previous sacrifices, Christ came willingly to the Cross.  He expressed His submission to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane as He repeated “not My will but Your will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:32-36).     

We see the character of obedience displayed through the suffering of Christ.  “(Jesus) who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Hebrews 5:7-8

Hupakoe is still the translation of obedience here.  Through His suffering, Christ met the need for a human who could fit God’s righteous requirement (Matt. 5:13) and prove to be the perfect sacrifice to take the place of sinners (1 Pet. 3:18).  He “learned” obedience to confirm His humanity and to experience humanities’ suffering to the fullest (Luke 2:52).

“And having been perfected, He (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).  To obey or hupakova is the manifestation of faith as revealed in the humble acceptance of the Gospel message.  This is our opportunity to display obedience.  Acceptance of the Gospel requires acceptance of Christ as not only Savior but also as Lord of our lives.  We no longer live for ourselves but for Him (Gal. 2:20; 1 Peter 4:2).  In obedience, we learn to have the “same mind of Christ”—obedient in humility, submission, and in suffering.

In a world where defiance and noncompliance is encouraged and revered, Christ offers a different model for living.   Just think, through His obedience two-thousand years earlier, He changed the “eternal outcome” to “all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).  Once destined to an eternity in hell, we now are partakers of eternal life (John 3:16).  That’s something to shout about!

Obedience: An Invitation to Hear

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.  Psalm 119:66-67 (NIV)

In book, “Think Like Jesus,” pollster George Barna tackles a formidable topic, “How do Christians develop a “biblical worldview” in a fallen world?  But more than that, why is it important to do so?  How is it possible to be “in this world but not of this world”?  (John 17:14-15)

Believer’s struggle with this dilemma is evidenced by the world’s inability to distinguish believers from itself.  In a world that labels Christian beliefs as intolerant and antiquated, believers find it easier to “go along to get along.” The salt is no longer salty and the light is growing dim (Matt. 5:13-16).

Barna offers several scriptural principles to guide believers as they create a biblical worldview for their life—one of these principles is the importance of obedience to God.  “Obedience is more than just following the letter of the law; it is discerning what God would want – His will for us – and choosing to seek that outcome.”

Lenten season with its focus on self-examination and self-denial is a good time to study this topic of obedience and how it impacts our personal relationship with God.  What is it and why is it important?  And much like Barna’s study, how does obedience to God (of lack of it) affect our “worldview”, our relationships, and our belief systems.

When you read or hear the word obedience, what comes to mind?  lf you are like me, you may instantly  think of its opposite—disobedience and the consequences that go with it.  According to Webster, obedience is defined as submission to authority.  Operating with that definition, people view obedience as harsh and demanding.  Their response is generally one of resistance that is anchored in the human desire to control their own destiny and live independent of God’s rule in their life.  This, unfortunately, misses the true intent of godly obedience.  That is why a biblical view of obedience is needed.

In the Old Testament, obey means to hear.  It stresses not only hearing but also understanding. As God spoke through His revelation (His ways and works), His people were able to hear and understand His desire for them—“plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).

In the New Testament, obey was not only connected with hearing but also means to convince or to persuade.  A person who is persuaded to obey a demand obeys it (James 3:3). Obedience is spoken of as an attitude (2 Cor. 2:9) and most particularly as a faith-rooted disposition (Phil. 2:12).

Jesus’ teaching of obedience flows out of a personal relationship with God and is motivated only by love.  The obedience of Jesus is held as the ultimate example for believers as we strive to adopt a Christ-like attitude in our daily walk. “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:8) Obedience is the outward response of a heart that loves God.

God’s call for obedience is a loving invitation to experience His best. Man’s response to God’s invitation is a heart that hears and turns to Him.  Obedience, properly understood, is never a cold or impersonal command that arouses resentment. Our response of obedience should flow from a heart that hears God’s Word, feels God’s love and turns to Him.

Freedom In Christ: What does the Cross Mean…

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18 1:13 (NKJ)

Our Lenten 2018 devotional writings have explored “The Journey of the Cross”.   The intent of this series was to help us as believers understand and emulate the sacrifice and obedient behavior Christ demonstrated on His journey “to” the Cross.  We have done this through both reading and personal response—reflective Bible reading and prayer, journaling, and practicing acts of contemplation (solitude and reflection).  It is now time to evaluate if we have been successful in our attempt as we end our series with this question, “What does the Cross mean to you?”

What does the Cross mean to you?  Is it an object on which Christ was crucified? Or is it a piece of jewelry that you wear? Our view of the Cross is critical in that it establishes the basis of our Christian belief and personal walk of faith.  In the routine of daily living, we often forget Christ’s work of grace on the Cross.  Unfortunately, most believers are only superficially drawn to the Cross giving attention to it only during the sacrament of communion or at Easter.  It is critical that we clearly define the Cross’ significance so that we might re-engage its purpose and power in our life.

Christian doctrine is founded on “the Cross.”  Our belief about sin and salvation begin and end at the Cross (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  Our identity as children and heirs of God (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:17) are established by our knowledge of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

To Jesus Christ, the Cross signified lordship and commitment to Him.  He told those who would follow Him that unless they were willing to bear His cross, they could not be His disciple (Luke 14:27). Christ has not altered His requirement for discipleship in the twenty-first century. The Cross demands commitment.

To Paul and other New Testament writers, the Cross represented the Good New (Gospel) of Jesus Christ.  This gospel was to be clearly articulated to those identified in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20)—Jesus Christ died for sin, He rose from the dead, and “whosoever believeth in Him” shall have everlasting life.  The gospel message remains the same in the twenty-first century.  The Cross is salvation.     

To Christians, the Cross recounts God’s extraordinary act of love.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  George Matherson penned in his hymn these words:

O Love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

God’s plan of salvation did not come as an “after thought” but was formed in eternity (Eph. 1:4-7).  Before the Fall, God set in motion His plan of salvation to return beloved man to Himself.  The Cross reveals the very heart of God (2 Cor. 4:6).

The Cross strengthens Christian’s confidence in the power of God.  Jesus was the decided Victor on Resurrection Sunday.  God disarmed and shamed Satan by His victory at the Cross.  Believers therefore reverence the Cross, not as a material object seen in isolation, but as the instrument of Christ’s triumph (Col. 2:13-15).  The Cross witnesses God’s goodness and greatness.  

Return to the Cross and Christ’s life-transforming love.  Return to the Cross and re-discover power that will never pass away.

Jesus keep me near the cross

There’s a precious fountain

Free to all a healing stream

Flows from Calvary’s mountain

In the Cross,

In the Cross,

Be my glory ever,

‘Til my raptured soul shall find

Rest beyond the river.

Have a blessed Easter.  Hallelujah, He is Risen!

RESPOND:

This week we will complete our “Journey of the Cross” by sharing our answers to last week’s response activity.  You were to choose the one (1) contemplative discipline you felt most comfortable in practicing. As you journal, answer these four (4) reflective questions:

  1. Did you experience God in this discipline? If not, then why not.
  2. What did you learn about God? The Father, the Son, and/or the Holy Ghost specifically.
  3. What did you learn about yourself? Your fears, your faith, your purpose.
  4. How will your life change as a result of experiencing God?

We have created a special group on Facebook for our WordBytes Community to post your responses.  Input “WordBytes Community” into your “search window” and then post your response then share what you have learned on your “Journey of the Cross”.  Thanks for being part of our family.    

Humble Ourselves: The Power of Confession

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.   For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.”  Psalm 51:2-3 (NKJ)

Completing the first part of our Lenten Journey of the Cross, we will now leave our exploration of “Experiencing God” and move to the challenging area of learning to “Humble Ourselves”.  Paul tells us that we are to have a “mind like Christ”, our model for humility, who though He was God, humbled himself and became obedient even unto death (Phil. 2:5-8).  We will look at three (3) areas on this leg of the journey—confession, forgiveness, and obedience.  We begin today with the power of confession.

Confession, these days, is pretty “unusual” behavior. Even the guiltiest of criminals, caught with their proverbial hand in the cookie jar, will stand before the judge and declare themselves, “not guilty.” It has been said that, “confession is good for the soul” but you wouldn’t guess it by the world’s response. Just read the newspaper this week and you’ll find example after example of individuals and institutions, who in the wake of unfailing evidence claim innocence.  One of the opportunities of Lenten season is to examine our hearts and let the light of God’s truth shine into areas in need of His cleansing.  Therein lie the power of confession.

The 51st Psalm is God’s lesson on confession. It was authored by King David after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. The whole incident was not unlike the stories we read in the gossip tabloid or see in the latest “made for television” sequel.  King David, however, gives us a better approach to confession.

First, King David quickly accepted responsibility for his behavior and pleaded guilty to all charges. He immediately called upon God for forgiveness. He offers no excuses but appealed to God to “blot out, wash and cleanse him” from his “transgressions, iniquity, and sin.”

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (vv. 3-4)

Next, King David recounted God’s expectation of him, as a man and as the leader of Israel. Though King David had perpetrated this crime against Uriah, he answered to a Higher Judge, the omniscient God, who see, hears, and knows all things. There are no “hidden sins” in His presence.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (vv. 4-6)

Finally, King David was concerned about his broken relationship with God. He had the unique opportunity of walking closely with the Lord most of his life beginning as a young shepherd boy in the hills of Bethlehem. He longed to be restored to that relationship.

“Create in me a pure heart, 0 God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (vv.10-12)

It is important that we learn to quickly confess our sins. Unconfessed sin results in guilt and shame, spiritual strongholds in our lives, and even worst, a broken relationship with God. There is power in confession. That power comes from the One who is “faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 

RESPONSE:

This week you will have an opportunity to practice journaling as part of your Lenten Season, “Journey of THE CROSS”. 

 Read Psalms 51:1-12.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin you may hold in your spirit.  Then ask Him to give you the courage to confess that sin, knowing that God is “faithful and just to forgive you.”  Remembering David’s approach to confession, now create in your journal a “psalm of repentance”. 

 

Lessons I Learned at the Cross

There was book that was popular many years ago entitled, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  It contained simple nuggets of wisdom that were garnered from watching how children interacted with each other and the world. It’s been said that life is a giant classroom in which we can experience many valuable lessons.

As the close of Lenten season approaches, I have learned three valuable lessons in observing Christ’s journey to and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.  I share these with you.

Lesson  #1.   I must Die to Live.  Believers will never be able to live victoriously until we die to ourselves and surrender to the Lord.  In His final days with His disciples, Jesus used an example from farming to illustrate this point.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. .The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26)

Lesson  #2.  I must Lose to Win. Believers cannot live in the fullness of God apart from the “filling” of the Holy Spirit.  “Filling” means relinquishing control to the Holy Spirit.  Paul stated emphatically on his letter to the church in Philippi.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. .What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7, 8) 

Lesson #3.  I must Surrender for Victory.  Believers must surrender to the King of Kings who is the Sovereign of the universe.  We, as believers, are part of God’s kingdom and we must willingly abdicate to His rule over our lives. Habakkuk, the prophet, understood this relationship when he prayed this prayer. 

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines , though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

We need only a child-like trust in the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, to learn all we need to know about “what really matters.”

SELAH:   What are the things God is teaching you to lose, surrender and/or die to in order to live victoriously in the fullness of God?