Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

Am I finally getting it? Every promise of God is possible because of grace. If my inheritance depended on my ability to obey the law, all would be lost. There is no sinless life and I am no different.

Romans 4:16a
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring . . .

Why does it all feel so difficult then? Why can’t I enjoy the full freedom that grace affords? Certainly I’m doing better in this aspect, but I still battle with the traditional culture of “shoulds” and “should haves” and “shouldn’t haves.” You know, you “shouldn’t” read that kind of book, you “should have” gone to church today, you “shouldn’t have” wine with dinner. But the court room cannot be in my own head or my perceptions of what “others” think. There is only one Judge that matters.

My historic difficulties have been wrapped around trying too hard: trying to be a “concept” Christian. I have tried to live the “idea” of being a Christian by doing “this” but not “that,” by embracing the unspoken rules of Christian behavior, by wearing a “believer’s” mask.

My focus this year must be on confession. Freedom and grace come through acts of confession. Authenticity of the heart begins with a transparent relationship with God. I long for true fellowship with other people of faith (koinonia), but I cannot expect to achieve this if I shutter myself from God, much less my family, friends, acquaintances, and fellow believers.

True obedience to the “law” comes from the heart and the heart is only prepared to obey when it is clear and whole. This holiness (wholeness) comes forth through the gate of confession.

Can I extend my understanding of grace to other people? Can I shed my tendency to judge others by pouring out the same oil of grace upon them that God is pouring out on me? Do I have the courage to invite them to remove their masks with the promise that I will not turn away? And what about the people who have grown tired of wearing a mask, who no longer have the energy to put one on anymore, who appear to be content in their darkness, can I be the light of grace for them?

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John 15:20a
“Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master….”

For anyone out there who hasn’t seen the flexible wristbands, t-shirts, or bumper stickers, and other “Jesus Junk,” WWJD stands for “What Would Jesus Do.” (In actuality, this phrase was birthed in an old book entitled In His Steps by Charles Monroe Sheldon back in 1896.

The idea behind the phrase is a sort of “imitation of Christ,” and the challenge is to ask (and answer) this question before taking any action or making any decision. In my view, if people could do this, there would be a lot more saints by now. There are only a few ways that anyone could begin to answer this question authoritatively…

  • Know the scriptures, particularly the words of Jesus thoroughly.
  • Know the culture and historical context of Jesus’s time period.
  • Lay the groundwork for actions by establishing his norms: poverty, self-sacrifice, love, inclusion (for example)

If we can’t do these things, then it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll have much luck with the WWJD mentality.

Instead, I’m thinking I’ll go for a more general guideline, like WWJFD (what would Jesus’s family do)…

In ancient times, when kings and wealthy householders died, they often buried the household with them. The idea was clear, what’s good for the master is good for the family and servants. This is good enough for me.

And so I envision myself in his circle of friends and family. If we could just work together on this process, we would all get further along. Jesus promised that we have the potential to do the works that he did and get the rewards. Jesus also promised that we have the potential to suffer as he did. Jesus recommended we do this as a community.

Answering the WWJD question as an individual will rarely work. Let’s get together.

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John 15:15
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

So which is it? Friend or servant?

Jesus is talking to his disciples, summarily on the same night that he just washed their feet. This section of the book of John is part of a very long record of Jesus’s final teachings to the disciples.

He pronounces them friends because he has shared everything he received from the Father. There is only one proviso: obey his commands. And two verses later, he brings it down to the same singular command: Love each other.

Friends love each other. Servants do not… necessarily. A friend of Jesus follows in the way. A friend of Jesus bears the fruit. A friend of Jesus can ask for whatever … because he/she is in the way of Jesus. The foundation is there before the asking. The love is there before the asking. So many folks wonder why they don’t get their prayers answered… well, answered the way they want them answered. My guess, the problem is that the relationship is not a friend relationship, it’s a servant one.

I want to be a friend to Jesus and others. Make it so Lord Jesus.

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John 15:10
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

Want to get someone’s hackles up? Just tell them to obey. This is a word/idea that is no longer popular in today’s culture, particularly in the West. Too bad, I think we’re missing the point.

Why do we balk? What does it take to obey? First of all, it takes a certain humility. To obey a person, we must have respect for that person. We must believe in that person’s authority to command. We must trust in the commander to command wisely.

In a family, we expect children to obey their parents… these elements would still apply: respect, authority, and trust. Once any one of these elements is missing, natural obedience breaks down. Then parents try to demand obedience. But what do we get: obedience from fear. It’s a type of obedience but it is layered with rebellion. In other words, there will be hedging whenever possible.

In fact, hedging is counter to obedience. Whether we want to hear this or not, obedience is pretty much black or white. We complain about our kids, but truthfully, we adults are doing this all the time… we break the speed limit, we make photocopies at work, we cheat (just a little) on our taxes, we abuse our bodies with too much food, drink, you name it, we tell only part of the story, and we listen to only part of the command. Basically, we analyze the commands in relation to what we personally want to do or not do.

In the end, obedience is a choice. Here’s the sad part of this story: the primary command that Jesus is laying out here is to “love others as he loved us.” Why are we still hedging on that one? We have to be commanded to love? Think about it.

I’m guessing, if we were to obey this one foundational command, a lot of other things (relationships, needs, desires, for example) would just fall into place. In the next sentence Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” It’s a command with a promise. I could use a little joy today. I can love today. I can choose to love.

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John 14:6, 8a
“…You know the way to the place where I am going…. I am the way and the truth and the life…”

For many years, whenever I thought of Jesus as the way, I always assumed it meant “accepting Jesus as Lord of my life.” I thought of Jesus leading the way, beckoning me to follow Him along a very narrow path. He was, then, more of a guide, than anything else. He was the leader.

And I think He is all of these things. But I think there is more. The way of Jesus is a process. We are not just to follow Jesus but to be like Jesus. We are to interact with the world the way he interacted. We are to see, feel, and touch others, the way He did. It’s the same kind of understanding that Paul had as he wrote in Philippians 1:21, “…to live is Christ…” The way of Jesus is a lifestyle.

But the challenge today is that so many people, particularly Christians, have already determined what the “Jesus lifestyle” is, often due to many long held traditions as well interpretations of the scriptures themselves. Every denomination is a description of the way of Jesus. Every Christian book is a description of the way of Jesus.

Woe to the young believer who is trying to find his/her way.

And yet, Jesus told the disciples that they knew the way. They did not and would not necessarily know the destination. They had to trust that Jesus would have that part covered. They just had to operate in the way. This is a paradox for western culture. We are told over and over and over again that we must have a goal, a vision, a result. How else will we know we have achieved or arrived?

But apparently, this is not the way of Jesus. Every day, every moment that we are in the way of Jesus, we have arrived at our destination. It’s now. We can choose today to act, to react, to speak, to touch, to love, to accept, to bless… and we are in the way of Jesus. The way is moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day. Today, we can know the way and live it.

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