Necessary Weakness

You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.   2 Chronicles 20:17 (NKJ)

I must admit that I have often felt ill-equipped for many of the opportunities I’ve been given.  Although my initial response is usually one of “caution and fear”, I always eventually experience God’s abiding presence and strength in the midst of my challenge.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is my “touchstone” (go to) scripture: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”  I continue to learn daily to totally depend on HIM and the importance of necessary weakness.

In this postmodern society, self-initiative and personal accomplishment is glorified and cheered.  “Tooting your own horn” or “celebrating oneself” masks the prideful tendency of mankind to gloat in his own works with little glory given to God (Jeremiah 9:24).  Individuals tend to compensate for potential weaknesses through their dependency on academic degrees and personal experiences to provide, what they view, as viable solutions to life’s challenges.  As a rule, declaring one’s personal weakness is not well received by the world.

Even “God assignments” entrusted to both laity and clergy are first evaluated through the lens of personal capability and competency versus going first to God for instruction and empowerment.  We even view our spiritual gifts and talents as the only means to sustainable ministry success.  How foolish!  We fail to see the real ingredients for usefulness to God is weakness and inadequacy.

Also read:  Is it OK to be Weak?

Jehoshaphat gets an A+ for his quick recognition of his situation and his inability to handle what threatened the nation of Judah.  He put first things first—he “feared”, he “sought the LORD”, and he     “fasted”.  In their weakness, Jehoshaphat and Judah fixed their eyes on the LORD.  And the LORD responded and told them to “set yourself…stand still…and see salvation” (2 Chron. 20:17).

Imagine what would happen if we as a country, would acknowledge “our fear” concerning our nation’s future and cooperatively fast and pray (2 Chron. 7:14).  Visualize the impact if our churches collectively, regardless of denomination, would “cry out” to God to save our children from Satan’s attack resulting in senseless suicides and killings.   Picture the transformation we would experience in our communities and in our families if we would “stand before God” and declare our total dependence on Him and Him alone.  BUT we have not.  We continue to do what is “right in our own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  Through failed social programs, fractured political platforms, and misappropriated power, we unsuccessfully attempt to “fix ourselves” rather than acknowledge our weakness and need for God.

Let us pray for wisdom and humility to embrace our personal and collective weakness—to realize the spiritual truth that in weakness God’s glorious power is released.  Paul understood the truth of necessary weakness and dependency on the Lord.  May we begin today to do the same!

I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it…even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:6-10, NLT).

 

 

Redeeming the Time: Finding Faith

Then He spoke a parable to them that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.  Luke 18:1 (NKJ)

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”  Luke 18:8

Today we end on conversation on “Redeeming the Time” by examining God expectation for believers and His Church.   The definition I use for redeem means to exchange or convert.  What do we exchange our time for?  How does our use of time convert into something of value—specifically of eternal value to God and for kingdom building?

We have examined to date “redeeming the time” from the perspective of witnessing and the importance of making every moment count for eternity as we “number our days”.  Last week we were reminded by the Psalmist to rejoice in each day “the Lord has made” and not to squander it.  For our close, I’d like to share another viewpoint on redeeming the time from Luke’s account of the parable of the “Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow” (Luke 18:1-18).

Found in Luke 14:25-18:34, Jesus is seen teaching to diverse multitudes through guided lessons and parables.  Jesus uses these moments to also target the Pharisees, who mistakenly believe they are living righteously and above reproach.  As believers we must continually examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) to avoid “secret sins”—hypocrisy, self-righteousness, arrogance and “toxic behaviors”—anger, malice, envy, critical and judgmental attitudes—that cause us to ruin our testimony of faith (Titus 3:3-6).   When the Son of Man returns (The Second Coming) will He find faith?

In the opening verse of our text, Jesus shares the key to faith and what He expects believers and His Church to be engaged in.   Faith is not only a matter of specific activities but also one of attitude. 

Men ought always to pray.    Why?   Because the world will be so absorbed in the things of this life, they will be utterly unprepared for the certain judgment that awaits them when Jesus returns.  Like the time of Lot and Noah, people will be engaged in lawlessness, moral decay, and social mayhem (Luke 17:20-37).  Does that sound like the 21st century we live in?  Checkout the “news-of-the-day” and you will see the erosion of institutions and truths that once guided this nation and this world.  Believers and the Church ought ALWAYS to pray—not just one day in May.  Without prayer, will the Son of Man find faith?

And not lose heart.   Jesus used the parable of the Persistent Widow to illustrate the characteristics He desires of His Church as He prepares to return.  Though the widow dealt with a person she knew was unjust and indifferent, she remained tenacious, unflinching, and determined.  As believers, we live in a world where we will experience persecution and ridicule.  We will be challenged daily because of our faith in Christ and our adherence to God’s Word.  Jesus’ words to His disciples in the 1st century are still true for His disciples in the 21st century:  “In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Let us daily renew our heart and follow the example which Jesus has given us (Heb. 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:16).  If we lose heart, will the Son of Man find faith?

Jesus is on His way back to judge the world (Rev. 19: 15, 20, 21) and to retrieve His Church (John 14:1-4).  He is coming sooner than later!  It is God’s will that none would be lost and that all will come to the saving knowledge of Christ (John 3:17).  Will the world be ready for Jesus’ return?  And will the Son of Man find faith?  Do your part by redeeming the time to make an “eternal” difference!

Redeeming the Time: Don’t Squander the Day

 

“This is the day the LORD has made.” Psalm 118:24 (NKJ)

“Time is free, but it’s priceless.

You can’t own it, but you can use it.

You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.

Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”

Time is something all living creatures share.  It is both illusive yet well within our control.  One writer said that the way we spend our time defines who we are.  Solomon stated that it is “time and chance” that makes the playing field level for all men (Eccl. 9:11-12).  What do you do with your time?  Are you using it to your best advantage or are you a victim caught in time’s swift movement?

As I woke this morning, the Lord gave me this instruction, “Don’t squander the day!” What did God mean by that? I knew He saw my appointments for today and my “things to do” list. I had carefully prioritized them so that nothing would fall through the crack. To squander means to spend or use something wastefully. There are many things I do with my day but I felt squandering was not one of them. After presenting my defense, the Lord patiently began to share His heart with me.

“Don’t squander the day by…”

Rushing to do the routine rather than enjoying the uniqueness of the day. We are so busy planning our next hour or day that we fail to live in the moment—in the very present now. The rich fool spent his time in the routine of planting and it yielded a reward of “plenty”. So he began plans to erect new barns “to store all his crops and goods” not knowing that his soul would be required of him that very night (Luke 12:13-21).  He didn’t live to enjoy the uniqueness of the day. The rich man squandered the day.

Pondering over past hurts and offenses. There is little to be gained in such activities and definitely nothing that can be useful in accomplishing God’s purpose for our lives. The brother of the prodigal son was offended and jealous of the attention his brother received—the attention, he felt, should have been his (Luke 16:25-32). The father expressed love and appreciation for the faithfulness of the son who remained with him but the brother chose to “cling” to his anger. He was offended and “would not come in.” The brother of the prodigal squandered the day.

Instead of “squandering the day”, spend time with Abba Father…

Asking, listening, and reflecting. Think about the possibilities of your life; not rehashing what could or should have been. Playfully create new scenarios for your life with the Creator of the universe versus replaying old tapes. With God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37).

Watching. We spend great efforts attempting to “make things happen” rather than observing the work God is doing around us. He invites us to watch Him at work in the lives of individual believers and the Church to accomplish His purpose through the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4-5).

Squandering the day expresses the failure to see the work of God in this present moment.  It is a failure on our part to see His hand on every person and in every circumstance that He allows in our life.

“Don’t squander the day” is not a flippant directive but acknowledgment that God is present in our circumstances and working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28).   It results in our witness to both the goodness and the greatness of the Lord.  Let us therefore confess and declare our confidence in His love and in His faithfulness. This is the day the LORD has made…DON’T SQUANDER IT!  Redeem it!

Redeeming the Time: Appreciative Living

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

Psalm 90:12 (NRS)

As we formulate principles for “Redeeming the Time”, it is critical that we fully understand the value of appreciative living.  What is that?

Appreciative Living is not about fixing ourselves or our lives, but in finding what works; where we excel; what we love; what makes us come alive.   It is an expression of gratitude for where we are right now.   Many time we don’t redeem the time because we’re fixated  on things outside the will and the purpose of God (Eph. 2:10).

Time is the constant factor throughout every phase of our existence. Too often, however, rather than appreciate time, “the gift of 7X24”, we try to control it like any other resource we either consume or squander. We attempt to gain more of it, spend it more wisely, or endeavor to save it. All these efforts are folly and a waste of time (Eccl. 9:11-12). Instead God’s desire is that we “gain wisdom” as we move through time. And that wisdom begins by appreciating the time and place God has given us.

Psalm 90, the oldest of the psalms, was written by Moses to contrast the frailty of man with the eternal, everlasting nature of God. In light of this sobering difference, Moses petitions God to “teach us to number our days.” It is within God’s teachings that invaluable knowledge is provided as to how we are to live in the time He has allotted each one of us; it is available in God’s Word and through His Spirit who lives within us.

The “numbering of our days” recognizes that each moment of our life counts. No moment is to be wasted (Prov. 24:33-34). To “grow in wisdom” acknowledges the reality of God’s Lordship and results in the believer actively seeking His will. All these actions result in a life lived to the fullest and in the fullness of God (Ep. 3:16-20). This is appreciative living.

What causes us not to fully appreciate the time God gives us? The first is ingratitude. As times marches on, our days may become more routine or mundane. We settle into a rhythm of apathy and indifference not fully aware that an “ingratitude attitude” has moved into our heart (Luke 17:15-18; 2 Tim. 3:2).

The next theft of appreciative living is pride. Pride operates out of the false belief that whatever is accomplished is as a result of one’s own skills and knowledge and perhaps a “little luck”. Time is not a factor in the pride equation accept as a medium in which work is accomplished. It is only appreciated when the individual comes to the end of their life (becoming either old or ill) and are then surprised how, “time flew.” Ingratitude and pride are but two examples of personal behaviors that result in undervaluing time. That’s why Moses advises us even in the 21st century to “number our days”.

What do you do with the time God has gifted you with? Is it spent with your children and family? Do you tithe time to your church or volunteer with a local nonprofit that serves the needs of your local community?  Or do you simply “live within time” with little appreciation for its purpose and potential in your life? While we don’t know how many days or time we have in the future, we do know that ultimately our days will come to an end (Heb. 9:27). Don’t let your last thought be that you wish you had appreciated one of the great gifts from God—TIME!  Redeem the time!

Redeeming the Time: The Challenge

 

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJ)

We begin a new series, Redeeming the Time, with the Apostle Paul’s challenge to the New Testament church at Ephesus.  This challenge is also relevant for 21st century believers who feel the pressure of living in our postmodern society.

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible translates “redeeming the time” to mean making the most of every opportunity. The meaning is further illuminated by Bible interpreters:  “to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good so that zeal and well-doing are as if it were the ‘purchase money’ by which we make the time our own.”  The Apostle Paul uses this phrase on two separate occasions with new churches established in Christ.  He does so to prepare them for the challenges they would face living in a hostile, pagan society.

To the church at Ephesus, Paul reminded believers that they were no longer agents of darkness but were to redeem the time by being “lights in the Lord” (Ep. 5:8).  Their new identity was to be evidenced by their fruit–goodness, righteousness and truth. They were to walk “circumspectly, not as fools”.

Also Read:  Can You Handle the Truth?

There is urgency in Paul’s message to this church because the “days were evil” meaning there was a general disregard for what was right while embracing that which was profoundly immoral, wicked, and depraved.  That evil continues.

Today Paul’s challenge to “redeem the time” draws attention to believer’s solemn responsibility to proclaim and practice Christ-centered principles in their home and in their community.

When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood.  Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15).

While society exchanges moral absolutes for what seems “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6), believers must be “committed to God’s truth in every element of our lives as the separation between light and dark become apparent in the world and in our society.” We are to redeem the time by renouncing world system standards and boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. By redeeming the time, believers accept Paul’s challenge and become “change agents” for Christ until He returns (2 Peter 3:11-12).

Invitation to a Yoking, Part 2

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

What was the audience’s reaction to Christ’s invitation to a yoking? The yoke was a figure of bondage and burden borne by slaves (Ex.5:5-7).  Why would anyone want to wear it?  The incentive to respond “positively” to Christ’s invitation is based on the following.

Who was the provider of the yoke?  “Come unto Me.'” Christ was the Yoke.  God the son was offering Himself to those who were hurting and in need of relief; relief from the hypocrisy and indifference of the religious institutions of that day and relief from social injustice and oppression by the Roman Empire.  Christ came to offer justice and hope where none existed—a holy commission that could only be accomplished by the God of Creation (Jer. 32:17).  Only He could fulfill that which He promised (2 Cor. 1:20).

What was the purpose of the yoke?   “Take my yoke…Learn of Me.” These two actions—take and learn—highlight the role personal responsibility plays in acceptance of Christ’s invitation to salvation.  The yoke of Christ represents His lordship over the life of the believer. Under His yoke, they would learn to live using “kingdom principles” (Col. 3:12-14) versus the ways of a fallen world.  Believers could be fully confident that the Provider of the yoke would accomplish a purpose that would result in their good and God’s glory (Rom.8:28).

What was the privilege of the yoke?  “Rest for your souls.” Christ alone, by His person and work, could accomplish two holy mandates. First, He could reconcile men to God (2 Cor. 5:18).  The intimacy man once experienced with God in the Garden could now be restored at the foot of the Cross.  Secondly, He could offer “rest” by the removal of sin’s guilt and the provision of eternal life (Rom. 6:23).  Therefore, Christ’s yoke was “easy and light”.

Christ’s invitation to yoking is still being extended today. He is patiently waiting for nonbelievers to take His yoke and learn of Him.  Believers, as “true yoke fellows” (Phil. 4:2-3) are to be likeminded in our efforts to share the Gospel at every opportunity (Matt. 28:19-20).  The yoke of Christ offers both “blessing and burden” to those who would wear it.  It is in its wearing that God gives the strength to receive both.

The word “stiff-necked” originated in ancient Israel.  lf the oxen didn’t want to follow the guidance from the farmer, it would stiffen the muscles in its neck. This makes it impossible to guide the ox where it needed to go.  Are you following the Spirit’s “lead” or are you “stiff-necked” like an oxen?

Invitation to a Yoking, Part 1

 

 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

How do you respond when you receive an invitation? What are your criteria for rendering a positive response? Do you first identify the   sender of the invitation? Are they a friend, a casual acquaintance, or part of an exclusive circle you’d like to join? Do you evaluate the event?  Will a similar invitation be offered at a later time or is this a special occasion?  lnvitations, by their very nature, infer a “closed event”, therein requiring a special request for entry. However, when Jesus extended His invitation “to come”, He invited “not the wise, the mighty, or the noble” (1 Cor. 1:25) but to those in greatest need of Him–“they that labor and are heavy laden.” And to what was He inviting those who heard Him that day? His yoke.

The yoke is a powerful symbol in the Bible. The literal references to the yoke speak of a wooden bar or frame used to join animals to enable them to pull a load, a plow, often together so they could work in tandem. When used in the Old Testament, the yoke is often used figuratively of bondage and of the burden borne by slaves (Ex. 6:6-7). The image is used powerfully by the prophets to portray the fate of disobedient generations (ls. 10:27; Jer. 27:11; Ex.34:27).  ln most of the Old Testament references, the yoke is a negative image–something a person would do virtually anything to avoid.

But Jesus turns his paradoxical rhetoric to represent something “good”–subjection to Him: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,  and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30 NIV). Jesus saw the need of the people at that time. He saw a religious system that was demanding yet indifferent to the needs of its people. He saw a social system that was unjust and oppressive. Jesus saw a hurting world in need of a Messiah.    Very much like our world today.   When Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth on Sunday morning, He confidently proclaimed:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:78-21)

Christ’s yoke is very different from the world’s yoke. The world’s yoke presents itself in the form of fear, guilt, and shame.  lt is heavy, demanding, and burdensome.  Christ’s yoke is “easy” and consists of forgiveness, love, and acceptance. Christ’s “burden” is light because He took the full weight of sin on Himself at the Cross.

Was Jesus’ reference to the yoke, a “symbolic invitation” to join Him and find in His strength release from unbearable burdens? Or was it “His call” to people to become His slaves and experience freedom from the crushing weight they experience from the Law and religious activity?  ln either case, the theme and the invitation are central. Jesus still calls, “Come,” and He promises us “rest for our souls.”  Accept His invitation today and let Him “lighten” your load.

Children of the Light, Part 2

“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that l write unto you. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet,                                     the hope of salvation.” l Thessalonians 5:1, 8 (NKJ)

Believers are privileged to enjoy a special relationship with God as a result of Christ’s work of redemption. Being justified (made righteous) by faith, we now have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and are adopted as sons (Gal. 4:5-7)—sons of light and sons of the day.  ln last week’s teaching, we exhorted believers to live each day as if Christ would return at any moment. Believers know that the Day of the Lord is coming. So how are we to live as we wait for Christ’s return?

As children of the light, we are to live soberly. To be sober means “self-controlled and clear-headed.” The literal Greek rendering of sober is “l am well-balanced” and free from the influences of intoxicants.

Intoxicants are anything that impairs a person’s thinking or judgment.  Intoxicants are not limited to alcoholic beverages but can include people, relationships, or habits. To be sober is used metaphorically of “alertness” and “watchfulness.” Believer would be well advised to live self-controlled, well-balance lives while avoiding those things that impair their thinking (1 Pet. 4:7; 5:8).

To help the church at Thessalonica “live soberly” while waiting for Christ’s return, Paul recommends two critical pieces of armor–a breastplate and a helmet. While defensive in nature, they are designed to protect two key areas of the believer–their heart and their mind. Paul uses language reminiscent of Ephesians 6 where he describes the proper attire for waging war against “principalities and powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual host of wickedness.”

A soldier’s breastplate covered him from his neck to his waist and protected most of his vital organs. That is what the breastplate of faith and love does for the believer. Faith, our belief in the Risen Christ, guards our heart from error. Love protects our relationship with God and with others.  lf one loves God, he will also love other people (1 John 4:20-21). Faith and love cannot be separated.

The helmet, representing the hope of salvation, guards the believer’s head from attacks on their thinking. The believer’s hope lies in knowing that they are delivered from any future wrath from God (Rom.5:8-9). “For God hath not appointed us (believers) to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”(1 Thess.5:9). God’s wrath is reserved only for the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6).

As believers wait for Christ’ return, we are to “be sober and adequately armed.” Waiting is not characterized by idle pursuits or wasteful self-indulgence.  Instead our life should reflect an attitude of joyful anticipation as we prepare for the Second Advent of Christ.  Our work of ministry should include passionate evangelizing, expansive outreach, and an outpouring of love to the disenfranchised and brokenhearted. We are to remember both our heritage and our future. We are to live as children of the Light.

Children of the Light, Part 1

“You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 (NKJ)

1st and 2nd Thessalonians are the first letters written to the early churches. These letters, written by the Apostle Paul, were different from his other letters and crafted for a more spiritually mature audience.

The church’s inquiries included questions concerning Christ’s Second Coming and what benefit were gained if Christians died before Christ returned to establish His kingdom. Since Paul couldn’t predict when Christ would return, he instead assured these early Christians that what matter more was how they live each day.  Paul’s words are still relevant today.  We must live each day as if Christ would return at any moment.

Paul begins chapter five by explaining the stark reality concerning the time of Christ’s second return. No one knows when it will occur! Not even the Son of God (Acts 1: 6-7).  Paul describes Christ’s return as a “thief in the night” (v 2); as “sudden destruction” and as “travail upon a woman with child” (v. 3). While many have tried to estimate the time, it remains the business of the Father alone to determine when His Son will return. This is His prerogative as Creator of heaven and earth. Our times are in His hand (Ps. 75:2-5).

Paul uses the literary device of contrast and comparison to emphasis the distinct difference between how believers are to wait for Christ’s return versus nonbelievers. The brilliance and clarity of light and day is contrasted with the ambiguous character of night and darkness. Paul builds on this theme by depicting individuals “of the night” as those “who sleeps and are drunk”; “sons of light and day” are described as those who “watch and are sober” (v. 6), These differences would be easily understood by the readers of
Paul’s letter.

Living in the 21st century, we are consumed by concern of “future things.” Political outcomes, financial predictions, and social posturing occupy too much of our waking hours. Like the church at Thessalonica, we are carefully assessing our options and prioritize our resources (financial and time) based on what “we hope” will give us the greatest return, But is our focus on the “right” future things? Are we showing adequate concern for our spiritual future? Will our current efforts net us the greatest spiritual return for our eternal souls?  ln whose hand are you placing your “future hope”?

Modern technology offers to us “timely” information so that nothing will “catch us by surprise”.  But Christ return will be different. There will be no blog or Facebook post to announce His return. There will be no tweet or unauthorized photo to publicize His arrival.  We will simply have to watch, read “the signs” and wait (Matt 24:L-44; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36).

Next week, we’ll explore how we are to live while we wait for Christ’s return-unless He comes first .  In the meanwhile, when your thoughts become cloudy and anxious because of concern over “future things”, choose to walk in the light. Jesus is the Light.

“We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light! Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright.  Shine all around us by day and by night. Jesus, the Light of the world!” 

Perfecting Obedience

Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  Hebrew 5:8-9 (NKJV)

We close this Lenten Season study on obedience with a quick review as to how to develop a “real time”, biblical view of this critical spiritual discipline.  So what have we learned about obedience?

What is obedience? 

“submission to authority”  Webster

“to hear, to understand, to persuade or convince”  The Bible

Where does obedience come from?

  • Obedience is evidence of a personal relationship with God.
  • Obedience is motivated by love for God.
  • Obedience is the outward response of a heart that hears God and turns to Him.
  • Obedience is the outcome of a faith walk resulting in greater spiritual maturity.

So what is perfected obedience?

Our text gives us a clue into how our obedience becomes “perfected”.  It begins and ends with a clear understanding of Jesus and His walk of perfected obedience.

Firstly, Jesus never sinned. Jesus had no need to become perfect for His work of salvation.  Jesus was perfect in His nature (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15).  Imagine that! Even as a rambunctious child, a growing teenager, and a vibrant young man—Jesus never sinned.  No defiance, no “cutting of the eyes” no hiding behind excuses like “I’m only human” or “A person has to do what a person has to do”.  Yet to fulfill God’s requirement for a “blameless sacrifice for sin” (1 Pet. 1:19), Jesus suffered and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8).  Jesus suffered not for His sins but for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21).

Secondly, Jesus learned.  What did He learn?  Jesus learned what it meant to be human by experiencing all the emotions and sensations that we as frail humans feel.  Why?  So that He could identify with man’s depravity and brokenness.  Jesus willingly experienced the full range of emotions He had placed in man at Creation (Heb. 4:25).  We get glimpses of this in the Gospel accounts.

  • When Jesus saw the masses, He was moved with compassion. (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34)
  • When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He cried. (Luke 19:41)
  • When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s arrest, He withdrew. (Matt14:13)
  • When Jesus saw the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, He condemns them. (Matt. 23:1-12)
  • When Jesus heard of Lazarus’ death, He wept. (John 11:35)
  • When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He sweated blood. (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:36)
  • When Jesus was hung on the Cross, He died! (Matt. 27:50)

Jesus learned about humanity and why His sacrificial death was the only solution for the sin problem.

Finally, Jesus was perfected. The literal translation of perfected is “to bring to an end a proposed goal”.   Jesus accomplished the purpose crafted by God before the foundation of the world—to bring redemption, restoration, and reconciliation to mankind.  Jesus became the “all and everything” that was needed to bring salvation to fallen man.  Jesus became “the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9), the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29), and the “first-begotten from the dead” (Rev. 1:5).

Jesus’ perfecting was accomplished through His obedience.  Jesus’ submission to and love for God resulted in the greatest gift we as believers will ever receive—freedom from sin and eternal life.  To put into words the enormity of God’s plan of salvation is impossible.

Understanding perfecting obedience is captured in the life and love of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus is our model and the example we daily strive to emulate.  Let us endeavor, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed to His image and ultimately transformed into all that God has purposed us to be (Eph. 2:10).

I close with these words from F.B. Meyer on “The Perfecting of Christ”.  May his words move your spirit to new levels of obedience.

“For the long and steep ascent of life, our Father has given us a Companion, a Captain of the march, a Brother, even Jesus our Lord, who passed through the suffering of death, and is now crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9-ll). He has passed along our pathway, and climbed our steep ascents, that He might become our merciful and faithful Friend and Helper.  In this sense He was perfected, and became unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation.  But if we are to walk with Him, and realize His eternal salvation, we must learn to obey.”