Tag Archives: obedience

What’s Going On?

What's going on?

What’s going on?

One of my favorite songs (past and present) is by American soul singer, songwriter, and producer Marvin Gaye.

It was released on May 21, 1971, by Motown Records.  The narrative established by the songs is told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye’s introspective lyrics explore themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with promoting awareness of ecological issues before the public outcry over them had become prominent (Mercy, Mercy Me).[1]

As I look around our nation and world, I ask the same question. What’s going on?  And I even ask where is God in all this confusion?  And why doesn’t God intervene?  Such was the case with the prophet Habakkuk as he looked upon the nation of Judah.

The consequence of sin

The prophetic book of Habakkuk shares the dialogue between a “gracious God” and an “anxious prophet”.  As is true with both the major and minor prophets, we are given great insight as to how a holy God deals with an unholy and rebellious nation.

Although the nation of Judah was God’s “covenant people” (Deut. 7:7), God was now prepared to meter punishment on them like they had never experienced. The prophet Habakkuk has been chosen for “such a time as this”—a time when time has runout!

Judah was guilty of extraordinary sins.  Habakkuk inquired of God how long He would allow the wickedness of Judah to go unpunished.  They would not go unpunished.  God would use the nation of Babylon as His “chastening rod”.

We often think that our wrong behavior is not being seen by others.  While that may be true for a moment, the fact is, God sees!  What is done in the dark, will always come to light (Luke 8:17).  Many of our ousted elected officials and fallen religious leaders can attest to that truth.  However, there are always consequences for sin and it’s usually not good.

The cost of sin

God lists for Habakkuk the sins of Judah in five (5) “woes”.  God “had” indeed taken notice of Judah’s crimes (Hab. 2:5-20).  They included:

      • greed and aggression (vv. 5-8)
      • exploitation and extortion (vv. 9-11)
      • violence (vv. 12-14)
      • immorality (vv. 15-17)
      • idolatry (vv. 18-20)

We live in a world like Judah.  Look at the woes!  We sin both individually and collectively, as a nation.  God’s standard for righteous living has not changed (Micah 6:8; Mal. 3:6). Does God see what we’re doing?  Of course, He does (Ps. 33:13-14; Ps. 139:8-12).  The question is, are we willing to deal with the consequences of our sins?  Are we willing to accept the cost?

The cost is being realized as we see the immediate impact sin has on our children, our families, and our communities.

    • The hungry. Hunger is a very real issue for 12% or 41 million people in the United States.
    • The homeless. Why are people homeless? Because of “lack”!  Lack of affordable housing, income, employment opportunities, and healthcare.
    • The abused. Domestic violence.  Sexual abuse.  Human trafficking.

But what do these impacts have to do with sin?  Re-read the “five woes” and see how they fit in our 21st century culture.  If we are not guilty by “commission”, perhaps we are culpable by “omission”—by what we don’t do to make life better for others (Prov. 3:27).

The just shall live by faith

Although God’s judgment was hard for Habakkuk to accept, he recognized the only “proper response” in the midst of this dilemma.  He was “to live by faith, not by sight” (Hab. 2:4).

As we look at the world we live in, it is easy to be disillusioned and in despair.  Just like Habakkuk, we may question how long God will tolerate sinful and evil behavior from both individuals and nations.

Regardless of who sits in the White House or State House, we as believers in Christ are to do our part to speak truth and justice.  We are to engage in our world to represent Jesus as He ensures God’s will is accomplished (2 Cor. 5:15).  We are to live by faith.

Like Habakkuk, we have an ordained purpose to accomplish (Eph. 2:10).  We are to pursue our purpose trusting that God sees and is always in control.  He is constantly, through every historic event moving us to His divine plan of salvation for mankind.

Knowing that, our purpose should not focus on our personal agendas.  But instead let us join God in His plan.  Like Habakkuk and Esther and all those who have gone before us, we were created for such a time as this.  Let us not be in despair but let us “go forth” in the strength of the Lord (Ps. 71:16).

[1] Wikipedia

Losing Our Mind

Losing Our Mind

Losing our Mind

In the 90’s there was a commercial that declared “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Its intent was to encourage the pursuit of higher education.

Unfortunately, a politician, hoping to win “kudos” and votes with potential constituents misquoted this saying resulting in the statement, “a mind is a terrible thing to lose.” That politician was not re-elected.

Mind management

In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul gives advice as to the best use of one’s mind. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).  In other words, we are to set aside our way of thinking and replace it with the same type of thinking as Jesus.  And what is the results of doing this? Victorious living.

Victorious according to Webster is defined as having won a victory or characterized by victory. I’m not suggesting that our life will be perfect nor problem free.    Our victory comes in the knowledge that Jesus has already overcome every situation we now face in our life (Heb. 4:15; 1 John 5:5).  In Christ, we have everything we need to overcome the challenges of 21st century living (2 Pet. 1:3-4, RSV).

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion and become partakers of the divine nature.

How do we obtain the mind of Christ?

To have a mind of Christ we must…

Be willing to exchange our position and our plans, for the purpose God has designed for our life. Christ willingly joined God in His plan of salvation for mankind (Eph. 1: 4-6).

Trust in God and believe that all things work together for good to those called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Humble ourselves like Christ.  Our intents and actions should seek “no personal reputation” nor gain (Phil. 2:6-8).  Christ voluntarily set aside His privileges (“being in the form of God”) and accepted a lower status (“took on the form of a bondservant and made in the likeness of man”). Why? For us.  That we might be released from the bonds of sin and have eternal life.

Our victory

Finally, to have the mind of Christ, we must be obedient.   Obedience is the highest form of love. Because of our love for God, we must be willing to sacrifice our thoughts and actions to follow the instructions He has set before us (1 Sam. 15:22). Christ’s obedience was love of the highest caliber.  Jesus was obedient even if it meant death by the worst possible punishment, death on the cross (Phil. 2:8).

Paul shares with the Philippians God’s reward for Jesus Christ’s “mind” (Phil. 2:9-10):

Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Possessing the mind of Christ will empower us to “pull down strongholds and cast down obstacles that hold themselves up above the knowledge of God.  We can do this by bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

A mind may be a terrible thing to lose” unless you replace it with the mind of Christ.  There is an old axiom that states, “You can’t lose what you never had.” Read the Gospel account of the Madman of Gadarenes (Mark 5:1-19) and see how losing your mind can change your life.

Two Boats and a Helicopter

 

Two boats and a helicopter

The choices we make

I’m sure you have heard the story about the man who faced imminent danger as a result of a flood that begun to ravage his community.  The flood waters became higher, forcing him to retreat to the roof of his house.  On two occasions, individuals in boats beckoned him to climb into their boats and save his life.  But he refused and shouted back from his roof, “I’m a Christian! God will save me!”

Finally, the waters rose to the edge of the roof.  Suddenly a helicopter appeared and begged the man to grab the dropped latter and be saved.  Well, you know what happened!  The man refused and ultimately died.  When he entered heaven, he demanded to see God.  “Why did you let me drown?”  Instead of striking him down with a lightening bolt, God calmly replied, “Hey, I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

As we face the challenges and problems in our life, we often fail to watch and follow the leads that God sends us.  Many of these are given to us before we enter our trial.  However, when we’re in that dire situation, so is God!  God is there AND He wants us to use the resources He has provided for us.  Such was the case with Moses as he faced his first hurdle upon leaving Egypt for the Promise Land (Exodus 14).

After Moses and the Israelites left Egypt, Pharoah had “seller remorse”.  God hardened his heart and caused him to regret letting the Israelite slaves leave (S).  He probably felt like he had been duped.  Who would do the work that the Israelites did?  Egypt’s economy would probably suffer, not to mention their quality of life—who would cook, clean, and serve them?   So much for Pharoah right now, let’s return to Moses’ dilemma.

The dilemma

As Pharoah and his army approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?”

The complaints escalated.  Moses tried to reassure the Israelites that everything would be alright.  He tried to coach them to “stand firm” and “be still”.  God would fight for them! (Exod. 14:13-14).  Moses told them that they would see the salvation of the LORD on that day.  But all they could see were Egyptians bringing up the rear fast.  They could not see God!

As I read this passage, I saw myself when facing hard times and challenges.  I tend to see only what I can look at with my physical eyes—loss of health, injustice, change in relationships, economic uncertainty.

It’s even harder for me to “be still”.  I need to fix this situation and now.  I see only me standing before the Red Sea.  But all is not loss—I’ll tell you why in a few.  Back to Moses.

“Any old help will do.”

I’m sure Moses cried to God.  Exactly what he said is not included in the scripture text.  But the Lord used this moment to speak directly to Moses.  Was God going to tell him that help was on the way?  Was He sending two boats and a helicopter?

The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exod. 14:15).

Moses probably thought, “Really?  Red Sea before me and Egyptians behind me.”  Sometimes when we pray, God’s answers don’t always make sense to us at first. But that’s where our faith in God—His greatness and His goodness—reinforces the need to obey His instructions (Heb. 11:1).

God gave Moses an answer he didn’t expect: “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” (Exod. 14:16)  

Moses had the answer to His dilemma “right in his hand” PLUS the power of God.  Moses and his staff would be the conduit God would use to not only deliver the Israelites but also glorify God.  This act of deliverance would spread throughout the countryside including to the potential tribes in the Promise Land whom the Israelites would need to conquer (Exod. 14:18).

When you need help…

From this study, I came to the following conclusions about what to do when I need help.

    1. Assess what I currently have available to address my problem. I will not only inventory what I have with my “physical eyes” (my mind and my intellect) but also with my “spiritual eyes”.  When I read God’s Word, especially His promises and follow that with prayer, I can expect God to show me what to do.  I have learned that God’s ways, methods, and timing are not the same as mine (Is. 55:8-9).  THEY ARE BETTER!
    1. “Lift up to God” the resources He has already provided for my solution. Moses failed to remember that God had told him that He would go with him on the journey to the Promised Land. He had forgotten how God used Moses’ staff in the court of Pharoah (Exod. 4:3).  Sometimes I refuse to move forward until I have “all the information and answers”.  When that happens, it is important for me to call to remembrance (Is. 46:9,10) where God has stepped in to join me in my battles (2 Chron. 20:6-7, 12).
    1. Move forward. I am still learning each day to move forward when directed by God.  I guess it’s part of being human.  I am learning to move “more quickly” when God directs me and learning to trust Him more.

In my moments of prayer and meditation, I ask God to show me those areas of my life where I sin by being prideful or self-reliant.  He uses that time together to gently redirect my attention away from my problems and look to Him.  God is greater than any problem we may face and better equipped to solve them.  Only God can guarantee our success!

When God created us, He not only placed His purpose within us but also placed the ability to complete that purpose (Phil. 1:6).  As God prepares our path, He also prepares us for the path.  It is our responsibility to believe, to trust, and then obey.

Conclusion

The next time you need help, deliverance, or an answer for life’s challenges, don’t always look for a miracle from God.  He doesn’t need to come to our rescue.  God is always with us.  We daily live not in God’s miracles but by His lovingkindness and grace.  He is there to help us see the resources He has already provided for our escape (Eph. 1:17-20).

Prayer:  O Heavenly Father, grow within us the faith we need for the challenges we face.  Train us to look at our problems as opportunities to partner with You in their resolution.  Forgive us when we lean on our own understanding.  Place in our heart an expectation that You are with us and will always act on our behalf.  Lord, finally, help us to “Go forward” in Your name and by Your power.   Amen

What does the Cross mean to Me?

 

What does the Cross mean to Me?

A time for reflection

The week before Easter is designated as Holy Week.  We join Jesus as He journeys to the Cross.  We experience His “human nature”, up close and personal.  The Gospel writers invite us to listen in on the conversations and vicariously join the activities that will ultimately end on Good Friday on a cross.

Hopefully this week, we will engage in activities that expand our understanding of the sacrifice and suffering that Jesus experienced (Is. 53:5).  It is also a time in which we can examine our obedience in following God’s will. Are we willing to sacrifice our life on the cross that lay before us?  What does the Cross mean to me?

The Cross and I

What does the Cross mean to me?  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, some believers are only superficially drawn to the Cross.  We give 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.

At the Cross

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 are established by our knowledge of what Christ accomplished on the Cross (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 8:17).

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 News (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.   

Return to the Cross

Jesus was the decided Victor on Resurrection Sunday.  He disarmed and shamed Satan by His victory over death and over sin (Heb. 2:14-17).  Knowledge of this strengthens our faith and confidence in Him.

As believers in Christ, let us reverence the Cross, not as a material object seen in isolation, but as the instrument of Christ’s triumph and love (Col. 2:13-15).

Return to the Cross and Christ’s life-transforming love.  Re-discover its 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!

Obedience and the Journey to the Cross

Obedience and the Journey to the Cross

Obedience and the Journey

We continue our Lenten season journey to the Cross.  In this study, we discussed the meaning of obedience to God.  Obedience is discerning what God wants and choosing to seek that outcome.  Our response of obedience flows from a heart that hears God’s voice and feels God’s love.  It is a matter of choosing and turning to Him versus the lusts of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ especially as He journeyed to the Cross.  Jesus demonstrated for us “perfected” obedience by His humility, His faithfulness, and His submission to God’s will.

We decided that obedience was both the outcome of our faith walk and the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished.  We “perfect” (bring to fruition) our obedience through the Holy Spirit and practicing spiritual disciplines that conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  We daily accept the “obedience challenge” by exercising our freedom in Christ rather than being disobedient slaves to sin.

Let go of the ego!

As we perfect our obedience, probably the most difficult part of our journey is our willingness to “let go.”  Letting go requires releasing those things that cause us to be independent of God and operate outside the will of God.

Letting go necessitates that we pray often, wait expectantly, and trust unequivocally.   When we “let go and let God”, the results are always more than we can accomplish in our own power (1 Cor. 2:9).  Much of the difficulty in “letting go,” often times, lie in our inability to “let go of our ego.”

What’s with the ego?

Ego, in this case, is not an exaggerated sense of self-importance but the use of “fleshly” knowledge and “human” effort to accomplish God’s purpose. This is often the case when we endeavor to live righteous and holy lives in our own power.  Some of us attempt to do this by “works”:  we visit the sick, feed the hungry, and do all the things we think will please the Lord.

Some of us become “masters of spiritual disciplines”:  we read our Bible every day, fast and pray, and tithe ten percent.  Regardless of our approach, we “miss the mark” using fleshly methods to create spiritual outcomes.  In Philippians 3:4-5, the Apostle Paul, confesses his attempt to live holy by operating out of his flesh.

Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 

Interestingly the pronoun “I”, in the passage above, in Greek is translated “ego.”  Paul’s failure was not due to lack of works or poor self-discipline; nor was it the result of a poor attitude or “stinking thinking.”   Paul attempted to do the work and will of God in his own strength.  What was the best solution for Paul’s dilemma?   He declared his faith and dependence on Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:7-9). Paul “let go his ego” and chose to obediently follow God.

Preparation for Holy Week

As we prepare for Holy Week, let us consider the journey through the lens of obedience.  To help us with this exercise, take time to meditate on Philippians 3:8 (NRSV).

I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. 

When we meditate, we “focus our thoughts” (versus daydreaming).  We invite the Holy Spirit to join us.  There can be no meditation without His presence.   Below are three (3) simple methods of meditation you can try.[1]

Meditation method #1:   Emphasize different words in the text.

Meditation method #2:   Rewrite the text in your own words.

Meditation method #3:   Formulate a principle from the text.  What does it teach?

Don’t rush this exercise.  Spend time re-reading and focusing on each word.  Give attention to the verse, each phrase, and words included in this scripture.  Remember, all Scripture is the inspired word from God (2 Tim. 3:16).  Take time to hear not only what God is saying to Paul but also, what is God saying to you.

Journal what you learn from your meditation—about God, the Gospel, your ego, and yourself.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show how you can practice obedience as you daily journey to the Cross.

[1] Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitley.

Obedience or Slavery?

 

Who are you obedient to?

Preparing for the Passion

Our Lenten season journey will soon close with remembrance of the Passion Week.  This week, prior to Easter, recounts the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as He journeyed to the Cross.  During that week, Jesus was intentional and direct as He prepared his disciples for the gruesome ending of His physical life.  His act represented, not only His extreme love for us but also, His unyielding obedience to the Father.

Jesus’ substitutional death was decreed by God before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).  A sacrifice for sin was needed (Lev. 17:11) and Jesus was that willing, obedient sacrifice.  Jesus was to die for our sins and receive the penalty we deserved.  From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ focus was to release us from the bondage of sin (Matt. 1:21).

Jesus leads the way

Jesus announced His arrival as the promised Messiah in the synagogue at Nazareth.  He was the Anointed One who would “release the captives and 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 (Col. 2:13-15).  This includes sins we have committed in the past, commit in the present, and will commit in the future.  When we reach heaven, we will finally be delivered from the presence of sin.

Jesus’ obedience led to our victory over sin and our freedom to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18).  Why? So that we can obediently serve the Lord and further His kingdom.

So why are we still acting like slaves?

In Romans 6:16-18, the Apostle Paul challenges the young church at Rome to obediently follow Jesus and the Word (the Gospel) that had been delivered to them.  I guess you could call them “hokey-pokey” Christians.  They had “one foot in the Church and one foot in the world”.  Sound familiar?

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?  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.  

This is the same “obedience challenge” we face daily while living 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.

Slaves of righteousness

During this season of Lent, many of us are practicing the discipline of fasting.  We have given up some habit, practice, or vice and have replaced it with new activities that draw us closer to Jesus.  This includes more time in prayer, studying the Word, or solitude.

Lent 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? (Heb. 12:1)

Are we choosing to remain “shackled” by sin when Christ has set us free from sin’s power and penalty?

You are slaves of the one you obey.”  Question for today:  Who are you obedient to?

Perfected Obedience

Perfected Obedience

So, what have we learned about obedience?

According to Webster, obedience is defined as submission to authority.  Operating with that definition, our natural response is to challenge, resist, and even disavow.

On the other hand, obedience from a Christian worldview is more than just following the letter of the law.  It is discerning what God wants and choosing to seek that outcome.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for obey means to hear.

It is described as an attitude and faith-rooted disposition (2 Cor. 2:9; Phil. 2:12).  It is the outward response of the heart that hears God and turns to Him.

Where does obedience come from?

Obedience is evidence of a personal relationship with God.  It is not motivated by guilt or shame but by love (John 14:15).  We agreed last week that mature obedience is both the outcome of our faith walk AND how we can achieve spiritual maturity.  Each time we make a decision or choose a direction, or reply to an action, we are challenged to “response with a heart that hears God”.

Jesus our example

The writer of Hebrews offers us another perspective on obedience—perfected obedience.    

Though He [Jesus] 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)

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 hiding behind excuses.  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).

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 our depravity and brokenness.

Jesus willingly experienced the full range of emotions He had placed in us at Creation (Heb. 4:25).  Jesus was moved with compassion (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34); He cried (Luke 19:41, John 11:35); He withdrew (Matt. 14:13); Jesus condemned (Matt. 23:1-12).

But it is in Jesus’ passion that we see the greatest evidence of humanity.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in excruciating agony, sweating drops of blood (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:36).  Ultimately, Jesus bore the full weight of our sins by hanging on a Cross and dying.  (Matt. 27:50)

Jesus was perfected

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 all mankind.  Jesus became the “all and everything” that was needed to bring salvation to fallen man.

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

Perfected obedience—a new level of love and gratitude

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. 2:9-11). 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.

Understanding perfected 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).

Mature Obedience

 

Mature Obedience

Faith outcome and spiritual maturity

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 we discovered is that obedience 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.

A lesson in obedience

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 if 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, the toddler illustration can also be true for believers.  Oftentimes, 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. Such was the case with Jonah.

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)

Reluctant obedience = disobedience

Jonah was reluctant to bring God’s message to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s hated enemy, Assyria.  Foolishly, he thought he fled from the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7-10).

God was very clear in His instruction to Jonah.  “Go at once” and “Cry out against Nineveh”.  He was without excuse, yet he chose to be disobedient. The Lord did not allow him to escape.

Jonah eventually acquiesced.  God’s purpose was accomplished. Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:10).    But unfortunately, Jonah failed to mature spiritually (Jonah 4:3-4).  He was unsuccessful in understanding the nature of God and His mercy (Exod. 33:19).

Practicing mature obedience

Like Jonah, do we often find ourselves running from the presence of the Lord?  Is God asking us to respond to a divine directive we prefer not to do?  This is a great place to begin practicing mature obedience.

We practice mature obedience by first seeking God’s will through reading and meditating on His Word.  This will then move us naturally into prayer based on what we have read.  We have the assurance of the Holy Spirit to “guide us in all truth and to glorify God” (John 16:13, 14).

Finally, we must quickly respond to what God has instructed us to do. We must obey.  Hesitation is often the result of doubt, which soon leads to disobedience. Mature obedience can be practiced every day.  It begins with a willing heart that is swift to say, “Yes, Lord.”

The Character of Obedience

The Character of Obedience

The nature of obedience

As we defined last week, obedience is submission to authority.  Is obedience an outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which our spiritual maturity is accomplished?

Conversation about obedience seems especially appropriate as we enter the Lenten season.  As believers, we have committed to the lordship and authority of Jesus Christ.  How well are we doing?   Lenten season presents a “space in time” in which we can answer that question.  It is also a time to identify those things that keep us from our obedience to God.

Obedience actualized

Accounts of the apostles and other great propagators of the faith give evidence that obedience plays a major role in our faith walk.

Obedience is a constant theme in the writings of the Apostle Paul. He speaks of many relationships in which we are asked to offer our obedience.  These includes obedience exercised within a family (Eph. 6:1; 1 Cor. 14:34,35), between a master and their servant (Eph. 6:5), or to civil government (Titus 1:1, 3:1).

In his letter to Christians living in the first century, the Apostle John teaches on identifying genuine faith in Christ.  The test is linked to obedience.

“Now by this we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”  (1 John 2:3-5)

The great 17th century English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon had this to say about obedience:

  • Love is the chief jewel in the bracelet of obedience.
  • That obedience which is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looketh at the heart, and if He seeth that we serve Him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering.
  • You and I must be willing to do what God tells us, as God tells us, when God tells us, because God tells us, but only strong faith will be equal to such complete obedience.

Though these views come at varying times in biblical and church history, their message is still the same.  Obedience is an expectation for all believers.  It is not an option.

Jesus the Model of Obedience

The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ especially as He journeyed to the Cross.  Jesus modeled obedience by His humility, in His faithfulness, and in His submission to God’s will.

Jesus humbled Himself as Deity by shedding His blood for our sins.

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.  Phil. 2:5-8

Jesus’ faithfulness is seen in His unflinching commitment to the Cross.

“(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.”  Heb. 5:7-8

Jesus submitted to the will of God.

“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

Let us hear

The Greek word for obedience is 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).

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).  Through obedience, we learn to have the “same mind of Christ”—obedience in our faithfulness, our humility, and our submission to God’s will.

While the world encourages defiance and applauds noncompliance, Christ offers a different model for living.  Through Christ’s 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 worth our love, our devotion, and our obedience.

Remember our opening question: “Is obedience an outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which our spiritual maturity is accomplished?”  The answer is, “it’s both”!

Obedience: An Invitation to Hear

Obedience: An Invitation to Hear

The Believer’s Struggle

In his 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)

Our struggle with this dilemma is demonstrated by the world’s inability to see believers as being different from them.  The world labels Christian beliefs as intolerant and antiquated.  Because of that, we believers are often silent about our faith.  The result?  It is easier to “go along to get along.” The salt is no longer salty.  The light has grown dim (Matt. 5:13-16).

Obedience and the Christian’s worldview

Barna offers several scriptural principles to guide us as we create a biblical worldview for our 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 wants and choosing to seek that outcome.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.  It is a time when we can focus on self-examination and self-denial.  It is also a great time to study this topic of obedience and answer the following questions:

What is obedience?

Why is it important in my faith walk?

How does obedience affect my “worldview”?

WIFM (What’s in it for me)?

What is obedience?

When you read or hear the word obedience, what comes to mind?  If you are like me, you may instantly think of its opposite—disobedience.  According to Webster, obedience is defined as submission to authority.

Operating with that definition, people immediately view obedience as harsh and demanding.  Their response is understandably, resistance.  Resistance is anchored in our human desire to control our destiny.  For the unbeliever (and believer, too) this desire includes living independent of God’s rule in their life.  This response, unfortunately, misses the true intent of godly obedience.  That is why we need a biblical view of obedience.

In the Old Testament, obey is interpreted as 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. (Jer. 29:11).

In the New Testament, obey is not only connected with hearing but also means to convince or to persuade.  Obedience is described as an attitude (2 Cor. 2:9) and a faith-rooted disposition (Phil. 2:12).

We hear, we are persuaded, and in an attitude of faith, we obey.  When we hear God speak to us (through His Spirit), our response should be to obey His instruction.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Obedience flows from the heart

The obedience of Jesus is held as the ultimate example for believers.  Jesus heard God’s instruction and “humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8) His obedience flowed out of His personal relationship with God—He heard and knew the Father.  More  importantly, Jesus’ obedience was connected to and motivated by love.

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 (Ps. 14:2).

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 voice, feels God’s love, and turns to Him.  

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)