Friday, July 03, 2009
Gimme More Of That
I have wrestled and struggled with obedience all my life. Well, perhaps not when I was one year old, but let’s ignore that. Besides, everyone obeyed me during that first year or two. Too bad I can’t remember it.
Obey. How does that word make you feel? OBEY! Does it stir warm feelings and happy thoughts? Not for me, it doesn’t.
The command to obedience has provided me with lots of opportunities to navigate or negotiate. I could obey the command on the outside, while screaming with resentment on the inside. I could obey if I thought there was an immediate benefit secured by the act—I win. Or I could obey part-way—make it look as though I were carrying out the command when really I was obeying by a percentage less than 100%.
Is there such a thing as partial obedience?
So when as a new Christian I read how important obedience is to God—it’s a pretty big deal with Him—I set to work on it. I had help. Loads of sermons and books and articles focused me on the need for obedience. Some of my Christian friends and I even pledged that we would live “a life of obedience.” What an intense phrase that is. “A life of obedience.”
Say that three times aloud and I’ll bet you feel guilty.
Here’s what I’ve found: God made me a new creation—an actual son of His. Obedience to Him is now perfectly in keeping with who I have become. It’s natural now. However, my flesh (that part of me that offers a course for living which results in living without the life of God) is anything but new. In continued rebellion against God, it pressures me to keep on negotiating with obedience. In other words, the mind of the flesh suggests I obey God only when I can predetermine a desirable outcome. “That would make sense,” I might think. Obey if it will make my life work better. Obey if I will feel better. Obey if it means more fun. Obey if people will see it and respect me.
But obey if I have no idea what the result will be? Hmm. May I have another choice, please?
Here’s what I’m learning: obedience is best and most true when it is to God Himself, and not to an acceptable or good plan, or an outcome I can imagine. To be clear, I like it when I can expect or imagine a good outcome; pray, and I’ll feel better; read the Bible and I’ll gain knowledge and wisdom, etc. But offering obedience to God when I have no idea if the result will be what I like is quite the adventure. Isn’t it?
So I’m talking and thinking through obedience like this: “Well, Holy Spirit, I am going to obey You. As I go forward into this moment, I am focusing on You, and obedience to You is perfect for me—it’s how I fit with You and in this world. I am resisting the urge to focus on how my obedience to You will work out. That’s a fear I don’t need, and by focusing on You, I am kept free of it. I know that I want You more than anything, and I believe obedience to You will give me more of that. So here we go.”
Does that make sense? There is nothing, nothing better than actually knowing God, and obedience to Him—directly at Him—gives me more of that. That’s the point, and I can do it all through the day. I feel like a happy kid when I’m knowing and resting in Him. He is glorified and I’m delighted with Him.
I love obedience because it gives me more of that.
We’re better off than we think.