Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Circumstantial Obedience?

The family-clan leaves Jerusalem to head home after the Passover, and twelve year-old Jesus stays behind. Mary and Joseph eventually find Him in the Temple, amazing the teachers with His understanding. “When they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” (Luke 2:48-51).

God: His Father.
Jesus’ purpose: His Father’s business.
Where He deserves to be: the center the world to the people of the old covenant (Jerusalem), not some backwater nowhere (Nazareth).
Mary (mom) and Joseph (legal father...note how Jesus redirects Mary, reminder her of Who His Father is) didn’t understand Him.

Despite these facts, He completely submits to them in obedience to the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12//Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:1-3).

Christian, obedience is not contingent on circumstances favorable to that obedience. Those who love Him keep His commandments (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10; 7:9; 11:1; 30:16; Joshua 22:5; Nehemiah 1:5; Daniel 9:4; John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 5:3), even when it’s difficult, even when we aren’t where we want to be, even when nobody understands, even when we have a million reasons our friends all support about why we shouldn’t obey this or that particular command.

One of the most grace-filled words in the New Testament is the conjunction “but”:
  • “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16,17).
  • “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).
  • “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’ And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:18-24).

On our lips, sadly, it is a word that usually introduces disobedience. “I know what the Bible says, but...”

God the Holy Spirit will be present with us as we purpose to obey the commandments of God:
  • “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God Who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12,13).
  • “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:1,2).

God the Holy Spirit is present with us through the teaching, preaching, reading, singing, praying, and doing of His Word:
  • Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness(Romans 6:16-18).
  • Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever...this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22,23,25b).

I’m utterly unsurprised when Bible study groups/Sunday School classes who are more concerned with gossipy cliques or social amusements produce a fruit of disobedience to the Word. I’m profoundly underwhelmed when believers who maybe gather with the saints for a few hours a month follow their heart instead of the Lord of their lips. I can hardly raise an eyebrow to those whose counsel in life-challenges and difficulties are all as practical and worldly-minded as they are, producing a community garden of flesh. It’s not shocking. If you’re not gathering in the Word, you’re going to have a life marked by disobedience to that Word.

We are not called to the popular or easy or comfortable. The path of obedience is not one to a guaranteed earthly/fleshly/temporal blessing or ease. Christ, 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. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:7-9). Notice that the root of our obedience-producing faith is a Savior Who, as fully human, “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” No conjunctions-unto-disobedience for Him. Or us.

Gather together in the Word, and may the Spirit produce in you a passion for holy obedience unto Christ-imitating and Father-glorifying righteousness.

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