It’s been a while. Miss me?
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to the church on obedience…..ick.
If I could have picked any other topic I would have. I mean, Grace? Love? Peace? Those sound nice. Obedience, however….it just doesn’t give me that same warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Yet, it was pretty evident that obedience was a topic I needed to delve deeper into because it was the only word flashing in the darkness of my mind like some tacky, neon sign.
There were 3 points on obedience that we covered, and I’m just going to break ’em down for you a bit here.
1. It’s a Learned Process.
Even Jesus had to learn obedience. In Luke 2:45-52 we see Jesus as a child learning not only from the elders of the church, but also learning to obey his parents….even the Messiah needed a curfew! 😉
Although obedience in it’s most practical form is learned, the desire is innate.
This kind of sounds like a tough pill to swallow, right? We are prone to selfishness. We raise children and need to teach them things like manners and how to share. With these naturally selfish tendencies I had assumed our most innate desires were toward rebellion. But, even though the first instincts of my flesh may scream “ANARCHY!”, the core desire of my spirit declares something on the contrary.
There was this psychologist names Stanley Milgram and he set out to uncover any sort of logical explanation for the deplorable things being done to people within concentration camps in WWII. You can Google it and read up on the experiment yourself, but it involved a fake electric shock generator. The person ‘receiving’ the shock was in on the experiment. The person administering the ‘shocks’ was not. Then there was the experiment conductor who served as the authoritative figure. Despite the person’s agonizing screams and claims of heart conditions, the conductor assured the shock administrator that the experiment must go on. They had hypothesized that only 1-3% of people would continue to administer the shocks, but they discovered that 65% continued. Here is what they concluded, “We now believe that it has to do with our almost innate behavior that we should do as told, especially from authority persons”.
Aristotle said, “Wicked men obey from fear; good men from love”.
Our motives may vary… perhaps it’s fear, incentives, lack of direction… But, as followers of Christ, what should motivate us to pursue obedience?
Essentially what I am saying is that although somewhere deep within us we want to obey, we daily need to learn the meaning of dying to self. We hear, and perhaps have experienced, testimonies of how people didn’t realize there was this insatiable void in their lives until they had discovered Christ. The very fiber of our DNA yearns to know and to please our Creator because somehow we know that His ways are far better than the exhaustion of our own.
2. Requires Risk
Unfortunately for most, we have not had the luxury of a burning bush, or a booming, audible voice and often we are forced to make decisions based not on immediate revelation.
In 2 Samuel 10:12-13, Joab is put in a position where he needs to make a quick decision. In his book, ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’, John Piper describes Joab’s decision making technique in that moment as using ‘sanctified wisdom’. He did not know the outcome of the strategic move he needed to make midst a battle, and yet he still believed that God would make good of the decisions he was making. As we are submitting our lives daily to God and seeking His will, we grow in wisdom. We have this tremendously generous gift of free will because God actually trusts that we can learn to make wise choices.
Esther made an obedient decision that could have resulted in death, and yet that was a risk she was willing to take for the sake of many people. It says that she was called for “such a time as this”, but what does that mean? Each moment is that time. We are all living out times of service, preparation, patience, risk- all of which are developing a lifestyle of obedient worship.
A.W. Tozer said, “Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about His dying.”
Sit on that one for a while…
It’s easy to leave the risk taking for others, no?
Sometimes the risks we need to take are in small things. Like, just remaining where you are. I was working in a coffee shop and for the longest time, EVERY time I walked down this one hallway, I would contemplate my purpose. Whether or not I was doing enough or measuring up. My risks seemed few and so I dubbed it the ‘Hallway of Purpose’. But in retrospect, I see how staying was imperative for that time and for the relationships being established. If we can be faithful in the most mundane of things, bigger things will come.
3. Bi-Product of Love
I did some browsing through the Thesaurus and found that synonymous to obedience is reverence, and synonymous with reverence is adoration. So, there it is, out of adoration we serve.
Although, let it be known that just because we are learning obedience and serving Him as a natural bi-product of love, this does not ensure emotional highs and surges of joy. Even Jesus pleaded with God before His crucifixion. His spirit was in such turmoil within Him knowing what was to come, and yet out of love He chose the Father’s will.
Even though we tend to miss the mark on this obedience stuff, Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.
There ya have it! We are learning, and risking, and facing trial and error all in the name of love and yet still there is no condemnation. We are still welcomed into this relationship and asked to be unashamed and bold.
Ok, I tried to summarize the message as much as I possibly could, and I hope it all made sense. I’ve had to take a lot of costly risks lately for the sake of being obedient to what I know is right. And although the defeats and the hurts seem to outweigh the victories right now, I know that there is purpose and I know that God is faithful.
So, get to it! 🙂
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