For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Nature of Obedience

Studying in Luke chapter 4, I was suddenly hit with a challenging thought. (Yes, I do have actual thoughts from time to time) Jesus is teaching in a synagogue and there “in the synagogue” is a man possessed by a demon. (Is there a comment in there about those in our churches as well? Hmmm…) Jesus commands the demon, “shut up and get out!” OK, actually the ESV says, “Be silent and come out of him” but you get the point. And the demon obeys.

Now here’s what struck me. Isn’t it amazing that a demon would respond more quickly to the authority of the command of Christ than many who claim to serve Him as Lord?

Several years ago I was at a conference in St. Louis (actually St. Peters, MO) and heard one of my favorite preachers, Paul Washer. He was speaking in the context of the vileness of our sin, but the point applies here as well. He said:

God said to the stars, each of which is large enough to consume a dozen of our suns, "You go there, and you will be called this, and you stay there until I tell you otherwise." And the starts obeyed. He said to the planets, "you go there, and will be this color, and will go in this path, and will reflect light in just this way, and you continue to do all that until I tell you otherwise." And they obeyed him.

And He said to the mountains, arise and come forth and they obeyed and rose up out of the ground. And He said to the valleys, "Cast yourself down" and they obeyed Him. He said to the monsters of the deep dance in this way, and they danced in obedience. And then he said to you come follow me, and you said, "No!"

Washer concludes that image of our rebellion by saying: Our sin is so horrible, so vile, such a blight on creation that when you take you first step into hell, all of creation will rejoice because God finally got rid of you!

Again, in context he was speaking of our sin nature in general, but do you see the connection? All of creation obeys God. Man, alone, says “no.” God commands men to repent and believe. And in our sin we say, “No. I don’t want to change. I like things the way they are. I like my carnal pleasures thank you very much.” And even those who obey God’s call, who then call themselves Christians, we’re often not much better.

God commands us, tells us how to live. Be holy as I am Holy, He says. And we say, “No. I trust God for salvation, but that doesn’t mean it should actually affect the way I live. I’m still better than all those pagans out there, so a little this and a little that won’t hurt.”

God commands us to go and tell others about Christ. And we say, “No. That’s the preacher’s job, the Sunday School teachers; job. I don’t want people to think I’m some sort of radical or anything.”

God’s Word tells us how to live among our brothers; considering others as more significant than ourselves; humbly putting self aside. And we say, “No. I’m more important. My wants and my desires come first.”

God’s Word tells us how to worship; in spirit and in truth, with Christ as the central focus; singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to God; And we say, “No. I’d rather do things my way, satisfy myself, make it enjoyable for me.”

God commands us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him. And we say, “No. That’s too hard. I want to be comfortable and safe right where I am.”

How sad that the church is often less obedient to the commands of Christ than even a demon of hell. This is why James warned us not to be hearers of the Word only, but doers.

As J. C. Ryle once said: The man who hears Christian teaching, and never gets beyond hearing, is like “a foolish man who built his house on the sand” [Matt. 7:26]. He satisfies himself with listening and approving, but he goes no further. He flatters himself, perhaps, that all is right with his soul, because he has feelings, convictions, and desires, of a spiritual kind. In these he rests. He never really breaks off from sin, and casts aside the spirit of the world. He never really lays hold of Christ. He never really takes up the cross. He is a hearer of truth, but nothing more.

I pray for myself, that God would give me grace to truly break off sin, cast aside the spirit of the world, truly lay hold of Christ and His commands, live in obedience, take up my cross and follow Him.

And I pray that the church of God would wake up, grow up, get over itself and live in obedience to His Word for His glory in all things.


Petra said...

Amen and amen!

PFH said...

You can be assured, the Church won't, I won't, you won't (on this side of eternity)...

So praise God Christ did, and thank God for the Scott Weldon's of the world who remind us every Sunday of what Christ accomplished for us.

Scott said...

Thanks Dr. H. And you're right. We will never be perfectly obedient in this life. But wouldn't it be nice if a few more folks at least made the attempt now and then?