Tag Archives: obedience

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.”

Slavery, Death, and Obedience

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as  obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  Romans 6:16 (NRS)

In the next few weeks we will enter into the Passion Week, which recounts the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as He journeyed to the Cross.  During that week, Jesus was very intentional and direct as He prepared his disciples for the gruesome ending of His physical life.  Jesus was to die for our sins and receive the penalty we deserved.  His substitutional death would fulfill God’s decree formulated before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) yet revealed to man in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15).  In the end, Jesus Christ would declare His obedience in a different garden—The Garden of Gethsemane—to die and release us from the bondage of sin.

Jesus announced His arrival as the promised Messiah in the synagogue at Nazareth—the one anointed to “release the captives and to let the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Jesus accomplished that purpose on Easter Sunday, when He rose from the dead, breaking the power and the penalty of sin in our lives—sins we committed in the past, in the present, and in the future.  When we reach heaven, we will finally be delivered from the presence of sin.  Because of Jesus’ victory over sin, we are free, able to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18), and obediently serve the Lord.

So why are we still acting like slaves?

Paul challenged the young church at Rome to follow in obedience the word of Christ which had been delivered to them.  I guess you could call them “hokey-pokey” Christians in that they had “one foot in the Church and one foot in the world.”  That is the same “obedience challenge” we face daily while still in our earthly flesh.  Until we are delivered from the presence of sin, we must doggedly declare “ourselves dead to sin and alive to God” (Rom. 6:11).  We must exercise our freedom in Christ to leave behind sinful patterns and influences which move us away from God.  We must not take God’s glorious gift of grace for granted and continue in sin through our disobedience.

Paul described the reversal of sin’s slavery in Romans 6:15-18:

“What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slavesyou are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin,  have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,  and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

During this season of Lent, many of us are practicing the discipline of fasting—that is, giving up for a period of time, some habit, practice, or “vice” and replacing it with new activities that draw us closer to Jesus.  This includes more time in prayer, studying the Word, or solitude.  It is a period of denying our “flesh” and of self-reflection, hopefully leading us to greater spiritual maturity and obedience.

But let’s be honest, aren’t there some things we should stop doing beyond Lenten season?  Some sin(s) that are keeping us enslaved to the world and Satan?  Are you choosing to remain “shackled” by sin when Christ has set you free from sin’s power and penalty?

“You are slaves of the one you obey.”  Who are you obedient to?

Obedience Matured

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah saying, “Go at once to Nineveh and cry out against it.  But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:1-3 (NRS)

Last week we opened with this question:  Is obedience the outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished?   The answer is—it is BOTH.  During our faith walk (which will continue until this life ends), our choice to either obey or disobey God will result in “life lessons” that will make us stronger instruments of God.  Through these lessons we “grow” or mature spiritually.

Oswald Chambers shared this thought on obedience and spiritual maturity.

“Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the will of God. Some people mature into an understanding of God’s will more quickly than others because they obey more readily; they more readily sacrifice the life of nature to the will of God.”

Let me detail the correlation between obedience and spiritual maturity with the following illustration.  A toddler, immature physically and mentally, has one basic desire—to satisfy their immediate needs.   They will do just about anything to have their way, disregarding safety or well-being along the way.  This includes climbing up on high counters or grabbing objects that are dangerous to their health, i.e., laundry pods.  Toddlers show little concern for their own safety or well-being as long as the result is physical satisfaction. They are best served and protected by their guardian who will provide for and protect them.  Toddlers must be taught to obey the direction of their guardian who will help them to gain a healthy fear of the world they live in.

Is obedience only for children?

 

Spiritually, this is also true for believers.  Often time, we live in the moment—desiring what will immediately satisfy our needs.  In that moment perhaps the Holy Spirit is directing us to “pray and wait” or to seek godly counsel through others or the Bible.  Many times, we will even fain obedience (fake it) by responding “I’m praying about it” when we already know what God has directed us to do.  Ours is just to obey.

Jonah was reluctant to bring God’s message to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s hated enemy, the Assyrians.  Foolishly, he fled from the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7-10). The Lord however, did not allow him to escape his calling.  Jonah accomplished God’s purpose when the city repented.  Unfortunately, Jonah failed to understand the nature of God and His mercy (Exod. 33:19).  Jonah failed to receive God’s life lesson on obedience and in the process, failed to mature spiritually (Jonah 4:3-4).

God is our heavenly Father who always has our best interest at heart.  Because God is “all-knowing, seeing, and powerful”, He is in the best position to direct our life.  Our response should be complete obedience to His instruction.  Believers, like the rambunctious toddler, are best served by our Heavenly Guardian who both provides for and protects us (Prov. 3:1, 5-6).

Are you running from the presence of the Lord?  Is God asking you to respond obediently to His divine purpose for your life?  Does God’s request appear to be more than you can handle?  Want to understand God’s will for your life?  Begin by quickly obeying His will.  Obey-Go-Grow!

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.

Stay on the Path

“Enter through the narrow gate.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV)

 

A few years ago there is a commercial for financial planning that features a wide green path and arrow to guide the investor along life’s path.  As the investor strolls through the city, they are tempted to step off the path to pursue things that could hinder their ability to accomplish their long-term investment plans. The voice of the financial advisor coaches the investor to “just stay on the path.”  The implication is that as long as the investor “stays on the path” they will realize their financial goals and live happily ever after.

This commercial reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He told His listeners to, “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The King James Version renders “narrow” as “strait.”  Strait (stenos) refers to a narrowness created by obstacles standing close about.   These obstacles could be the world’s view on how we are to enter God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ point in this teaching is that the way to life is through a portal providing controlled access along a narrow way defined by God.  In contrast, the wide highway represents the world’s “substitute” for the way of life.  The end, of course, is death.

As I talk with believers about activities in their local churches, I am disturbed and heartbroken.  The Church, which was created to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13), is choosing to “get off the path.”  Churches across this country have abandoned teaching and preaching the “full counsel” of God for “trendy methods” of ministry.  The “fervent prayers of the righteous” (James 5:16) have been replaced with small group discussions on why the church should practice religious tolerance.  Churches are more concerned with not offending others than with grieving the Holy Spirit.  Peter reminded the early church, that Christ Himself was “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (1 Peter 2:8).

It is extremely difficult to stay on the path of God when the world, especially the Church, is encouraging us to do otherwise. It is critical and life affecting that we stand fast in our faith (1 Peter 5:12).  We must resist being lured to “enter through the wide gate.” Do not be enticed by false teachings with their “faith-by-works, all-roads-lead-to-God” beliefs. Stay on the path until you reach your eternal goal of heaven. Remember, it is a narrow path that leads to life, and only a few find it.

SELAH: One of the inherent gift that is available with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is spiritual discernment. Spiritual discernment is “the ability to see life from God’s perspective”. It helps us to evaluate potential choices, options, and actions we may need to make in our life. Spiritual discernment helps believers to avoid potential “spiritual landmines” that might take us off path.

Read “The Power of a Discerning Spirit” then invite ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your discernment and reveal spiritual landmines currently in your life that might detour you from God’s desired purpose.

The Fear of the Lord, Part 2

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 (NKJ)

In Search of Wisdom

Man has always searched for the best method to assist him in making good decisions, right judgments and sound pronouncements.  In primitive times, groups would cast lots and dices, leaving the outcome to the proverbial “fates” (Lev. 16:8; Joshua 18:8).  In Israel’s early formation, decisions were informed by the High Priest who consulted the Urim and Thummin (Exo. 28:30).  As the nation grew Israel deferred key moral and political decisions to God’s chosen representatives—judges and kings who were often counseled by wise prophets and priests.  While the fear of the Lord offered motivation to seek “God’s face” (Num. 6:25-26), it was the knowledge of the Holy One that established the critical link to God—the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge of the Holy One

The true source of wisdom is identified in the parallel statements found in Proverbs 9:10—the  fear of the LORD  and knowledge of the Holy One.  In general, knowledge (da’ath, DAH-ath) provides insight and discernment based on personal experiences.  It involves the process by which one can recognize, classify, and organize information gained from varied experiences and use them to develop an appropriate response.  This “process of knowing” is illustrated in the story of Moses.

Moses’ early knowledge of God came vicariously through others he knew in Pharaoh’s court.  Moses knew little about God therefore God had no part in his thinking or planning.  Forty years later, Moses experienced God personally at the burning bush (Exod. 3:2).  In seeing that the fire did not consume the bush, Moses recognized God’s power and holiness.  Moses’ response to knowing God was awe and reverence (Exod. 3:5).

After witnessing the ten (10) plagues against Pharaoh and Egypt, Moses’ knowledge was exponentially expanded.  As Moses observed (classified) the different ways God dealt with Pharaoh’s resistance, he knew that God was more powerful than any god worshiped in Egypt and that He was “more than able” to deliver His people (Exod. 3:6-8).  Moses’ response to knowing God was obedience.

Moses’ knowledge of God through his various experiences resulted in the organized deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  Their collective response to God was worship and praise (Exodus 15: 1, 11).   Pharaoh’s disregard of what he knew of God, on the other hand, led to the destruction of his army (Ex. 14:18).  Pharaoh refused to factor in his knowledge of the Holy One.

Knowledge of the Holy One is the revelation of God (Ep. 1: 17-18).  It shapes our reality so that we conform to the will of God and respond appropriately to the events of life.  This knowledge reminds us whose we are (our relationship with God), who we are (our position in Christ), and how we are to live (in obedience and service to God).  It is gained through our personal experiences with Him, through His revealed Word, and through the Holy Spirit.  Knowledge of the Holy One is foundational for all wisdom and righteousness (Prov. 1:7).

SELAH:   What shapes key decisions and choices you make with regard to your family, profession, and relationships—your personal experiences or your knowledge of the Holy One?   Are you a Moses or a Pharaoh?

The Fear of the Lord, Part 1

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 (NKJ)

Jerry Bridges in his book, The Joy of Fearing God, notes “there was a time when committed Christians were known as God-fearing people.  This was a badge of honor.”  So what does “God-fearing” look like in a postmodern age?  Unfortunately the shifting values and norms of the 21st century see little value in fearing God.  This fear, which is biblically connected to wisdom, is unfortunately viewed as obsolete and irrelevant.

The Fear of the Lord

Fear is a complex quality, swirling with emotions and pointing to both real and imagined terrors.  Fear is also a source of human motivation.  It can include fear of other’s opinions or anticipation of what might happen.  For example, there were many who wanted to follow Jesus but feared rejection and persecution by the Jews (John 7:12-13).

The definition of fear is further complicated in Scripture by its use as an attitude toward God.  Fear (yir’ah–YIR-AW’) as found in today’s Proverb generally means to respect and reverence.  No single English word conveys every aspect of the word “fear” in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel.  It has even been defined as “hyper-respect based on a realization of how awesome God is and how insignificant we are in comparison.”

We as believers fear the Lord because of who He is AND in acknowledgement that we live continually in the reality of His power, His purpose, and His presence.

God’s power is expressed in both His goodness and His greatness.  God is omnipotent. He is righteous and holy.  He alone is worthy to reign and rule over mankind (Exo. 15:11; Rev. 5:11-14).

 God’s purpose is demonstrated in His sovereignty and His directive providence.  “According to His good pleasure” God orchestrates the affairs of men and nations, time and eternity, and there is no one or nothing that can “hold back” His hand (Job 38-41).

God’s presence is realized in the fact that He sees and He knows everything we do.  He is omniscient and omnipresent.   We are never out of His presence and His protective reach.  He alone can claim, “I am with you always even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).

Connecting fear and wisdom

Wisdom (chokmah—KHOK-MAW’) speaks to prudent and ethical behavior.  In Paul’s citing of spiritual blessings in Christ, he acknowledges God’s provision of “abundance wisdom and prudence” for those who accept His offer of salvation (Ep. 1:8).

Simply put, wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly.  To fear God means that, as believers, we acknowledge God’s power and authority in our lives.  Those who fear God adopt a godly lifestyle out of respect for Him and make moral choices that reflect the character of God.  We live with the knowledge that the God of Creation is ultimately involved in our every move and every decision we make.   Based on His power and authority we make choices that reflect His wisdom.

 Our Response

Our fear of God is not much different than that of others who initially experienced Him—the Old Testament Patriarchs, the Prophets, and those in the first Church.  Their opening response may have been emotional fear but it quickly changed to admiration and awe.  Ultimately their fear of God gave way to worship and devotion.    Let us daily draw near to God, not out of fear of punishment but to elicit His eternal wisdom.  May our fear of God give way to greater love, deeper faith, and tireless service.

SELAH:  What motivates your behavior?  Fear of God or fear of the world?