Monday, September 17, 2012

Lovingly Obedient Children to our Heavenly Father

There is an idea in Christianity of imparted obedience by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  This idea is that because we have the imparted righteousness of Jesus Christ, we also have obedience imparted on us as well.  There is some truth to this in a sense that when we stand before God, we are granted eternal life just as though we never sinned and therefore lived in perfect obedience when it comes to the moral part of God's law.  However, this imparted state of obedience in terms of salvation does not mean that we are actually obedient, nor does it take away the importance of obedience for our lives on earth.  The idea that we should never be concerned with obedience to our father ignores not only the teachings of our Lord, but also much of the writings of the other New Testament authors who wrote much on the importance of obedient Christian living.  First let us begin with what Jesus said were the first steps on becoming a disciple.
When He had called the people to [Himself], with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  Mark 8:34 NKJV
One can not say that obedience has no importance in the Christian life when Jesus says that one of the first steps in following Him involves obedience.  First, we deny ourselves.  That takes away the barrier to obedience.  Secondly, we take up our crosses, meaning, we become obedient to God as Jesus was obedient to God.  Then, when we have denied ourselves and made ourselves obedient to God, we can follow Jesus.  This is not a road to salvation, but the road taken after we have made Jesus Lord of our lives.  Jesus expects obedience.  Jesus expects us to follow after Him. 

John expands this idea in his first epistle. 
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.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.  1 John 2:3-6 NKJV
This puts it rather bluntly.  If you truly know Jesus, you will be obedient.  Now this is not to say we will have perfect obedience,  John even says that in his epistles, but we will have that growth and desire towards perfect obedience.  You can not call yourself a Christian while living a completely worldly life with no concern for obedience.  The idea that Christians even have that idea is preposterous as Scripture tells us time and time again the complete opposite.  The Bible never says that the saved will act just as they always acted and just as the world acts.  The Bible always teaches the importance of living as an example and that certain behaviors of the world are reprehensible to the Christian.  The Bible always teaches a distinction between the saved and the unsaved and that a large part of our testimony is who we are in Christ. If all of us took the position that obedience was not even an issue we should consider, then there would be no missionaries, no volunteers, and no ministers.  Furthermore, we would not be showing the world the poison that sin is, but we would be sinning right along with everyone else. 

Let's return to the words of Jesus to tie this idea together.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age." Amen.  Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV
Our calling from God is not to make converts, but to make disciples.  We learned earlier that being a disciple means denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following after Jesus.  This is so much more than just "accepting" Jesus as Lord and Savior.  This is actually making Jesus your Lord and Savior.  We are not just to teach people that Jesus saves, but how to live once Jesus saved you.  Jesus said we are to teach people to "observe all things that I commanded you."  He did not say to teach people that by accepting Jesus they are counted as actually having observed all things, but He told us to teach people to actually do it.  Again, this is not a means to salvation, but the natural result of being saved.  People need to learn to be a Christian, not just that they are one. 

Before I close, I need to address to motivation for obedience.  Some churches teach wrongly that obedience is required to maintain our salvation.  Others wrongly teach that obedience is the way to material blessings.  None of these are true.  We are obedient because we love our Father.  We are obedient because we love our Savior.  We are obedient out of love.  It is not about getting something from God as we already received our salvation, which is all that we will ever need.  While God does chastise disobedience, we are not obedient out of fear of chastisement.  A child who only obeys his father out of fear does not reflect a healthy father/son relationship.  However, a son who loves and trusts that his father knows best and that his father is only concerned for his well-being and out of that the child is obedient, that reflects a very healthy father/son relationship.  Some like to make a big deal out of blessings and curses and some argue whether or not you need to be obedient to receive or not receive them.  For me, that is a moot point. Many people who do not believe in God reach great prosperity in this world.  Many who trust in Jesus with their whole hearts die in poverty.  Many act in disobedience and come into great blessing and many act in dedicated obedience and die in prison or through horrible persecution.  If you premise your obedience on what you have in this life, you will be confused, disillusioned, and disappointed.  When we obey, we obey out of love for what was done for us.  We should want to be obedient.  We should have a desire to grow in the Lord learning to live obediently more and more.

Obedience is an issue that must be handled with care.  Many take obedience to the extreme that denies grace and many others take obedience to the extreme that abuses grace.  To say that we must be obedient to maintain our salvation denies that we are saved by grace through faith.  Those who condemn the idea of even concerning ourselves with obedience denies the Scriptures I brought up today along with many others.  Obedience is our response to God for what He has done for us.  Obedience is a natural effect of our love for our Lord.  It is not something we can do on our own, but only empowered by the Holy Spirit living the hearts of all believers.  It is not something we attain through our efforts, but something that naturally occurs in hearts filled with the Holy Spirit and in love with God.  I will close with the words of our Lord, who I believe summed it up the best.
If you love Me, keep My commandments  John 14:15 NKJV

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