Monday, June 13, 2011

The Conundrum of Obedience

One of the most often used excuses by an unbeliever concerning following the Lord is, “I am just not ready.” If pressed, they usually respond with “I am just not ready for that type of wholesale change.” That response could be elicited because of the way the gospel was presented, for example, they may have taken your invitation to mean they have to completely change their act and then once cleaned up, pray to accept the Lord’s offer of eternal salvation. Another reason may simply be their Biblical worldview has led them to believe that being a Christian means having to give up all the fun things they do in their lives and of course, peer pressure. No more partying, late night bar scenes, habits, etc… After all, what would their friends think?

In the first case we can possibly take some of the responsibility. We must be careful to present Christ as the Author of our salvation and the power behind our new life. He must be exalted as the power (dunamis) that is at work in the life of the believer. In the second case, obedience is at the core of the response. They are at odds with the idea of a life change that would disrupt any type of veering from what they view as normal life. So I would like to take a few moments to discuss obedience, at least from a high level.

What the unbeliever hears us saying

When we talk about obedience to an unbeliever the image they often conjure up is a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. This is most likely the result of what they have been taught at another point in their life, again, something that has incorrectly shaped their world view. Where and when does not really matter, however, what does matter is the truth. That world view must be displaced in order for the subject to truly understand what obedience means in light of the truth found in Scripture.

When I was growing up I would often get frustrated at my parents because the three television stations we were able to tune in were fraught with Sunday Morning Church programming. They would state “turn that stuff (softened) off!” Even my siblings parroted what they heard. I rather enjoyed hearing about Jesus. So I would instead attend church, for the most part, by myself, but never with my parents. They refused to go. That was a beginning to our worldview concerning God. Many unbelievers are still under that type of influence which comes in many flavors. So how can this view dispelled?

Teaching what Christ taught

Although there are many passages we could point out I like what Jesus said in Matthew 11:

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Jesus speaks here in terms of burdens as in an animal carrying our load. His call to all is to come unto Him for rest and to take His yoke upon us because His burden is light. That is not exactly how the unbeliever views things. How can the burden we would bear for Christ be light if it involves this heavy and laborious list of do’s and don’ts? The answer is simple. When we become Christian, He is the one carrying the burden for us. Peter agreed. He said to, “Cast all your cares upon Him, Christ, because He cares for us, 1 Pet. 5:7.

Dispelling the view that all of the burden for becoming Christian should be one of the first things we speak of as we share Christ with the lost. They need to know that it is He alone that supplies salvation and that we are His work not our own, Eph. 2:10. If we cast our cares and burdens upon Him he will surely give us His in return, a burden that is light and loaded with His righteousness ours having been eliminated through the blood of the cross, cp. 1 Cor. 5:21.

Teaching the truth about God’s power

Luke records the following conversation between Jesus and His disciples just before He ascended into heaven:

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me;
5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Acts 1:4-9 (NKJV)

In that awesome passage the disciples were concerned with the coming of the Kingdom of God and it’s restoration to Israel. But Jesus’ comments were pointed not at that point in time but another, the present. He pointedly tells them they would receive the promise of John 14:

16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--
17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18 (NKJV)

After Christ arose He promised power to all believers. Not just a select few, as is taught by some, but to all true believers. This power is present in us when we accept the free offer of eternal salvation that Christ purchased for us. It is exactly that power that drives us to serve and obey God. It is that power that gives us the ability to defeat the works of wickedness that have for so long ruled our lives. It is that power that constrains us to make decisions the world cannot understand. And it is that power that brings peace into our once chaotic lives. His power-His burden is the lot of the believer.

Teaching the reason for obedience

Obedience, in the biblical sense we should view it, simply means to say yes to Jesus. Whether it is in response to His call for salvation or His call for service, both are important. The first is necessary for eternal life in heaven to enjoy our God and His greatness as the Creator of all things, while the second is important for spiritual maturity and growth in our faith, our trust, and our peace.

God desires to work in us and through us while giving us His burden which is peace. Oh how many there are who desire a peaceful and non-chaotic life-- to know all things will be ok no matter what life throws our way. My friend that can only happen through a relationship to the Father – through the Son – made perfect by the Holy Spirit. God desires to give us His favor and His blessing in its fullness. That will never come unless we finally say Yes, Jesus, I will follow, I will trust, I will go, I will do.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars." 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)

May God’s blessings be richly yours this blessed day!
Bro. Mike