1 Feb 2000

Obedience and NT commands?

Submitted by theshovel
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I enjoy reading what you have to say about obedience. I've been waiting for the Lord to show me how to view the many commands in the Bible while resting in the finished work of Christ. The question I always come back to is why are we commanded to do stuff when we are also commanded to rest in what He has done? Your writings are helpful because they always give me a new perspective to consider. B

Hello B.

Thanks for writing, I am glad to have stirred up the thoughts of Christ within you. :) You know, the more I read the letters of the apostles, the less I see all that so-called stuff were commanded to do. We have learned to read it that way because that's the way it's been handed down to us ... and we simply never even considered questioning the basic premise we assumed to be rock-solid. Were talking a 2,000 year distance between us and the original writings, and we've made a gigantic leap from the personal gut-level sense of an intimate communication between real people and turned it into an impersonal document that we find ourselves compelled to MAKE personal.

No, no, I'm not questioning the writings at all, but instead our whole approach to them. Let's face it, the Bible was one huge religious mystery to us until we began to personalize it. Little by little, we created these islands of familiarity wherein we claimed God was giving us special messages. Denominations have been established based on agreement in the groupings and supposed-true meaning behind certain verses, and sometimes based even on the avoidance of certain verses and passages.

So, a question to you is this: what is all this stuff you see as being commanded? And could it possibly have had another sense to it to the original readers (or hearers)?

Something to consider in this. When Jesus gave the twelve "a new command" how was it any different from the old command found in the law:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and your neighbor as yourself? Deuteronomy 6:5

Was it just revised? Have we been duped into thinking we have something different from what was given through Moses? Was Jesus mistaken?

I know, I know, lots of questions, huh? :) Actually, I think that's the best way to teach ... and I've been harshly criticized for that from real teachers who have told me I just don't know how to do it. Hey, a good question can be far more instructive than a million half-hearted answers!! :) By the way, the distinction between the old and new that makes Jesus' "Love one another" a NEW command answers every question you've asked me. Of course, that won't stop me from continuing. :)

Okay. I'm sure that you would agree that the life within every believer is the same Spirit of God as was in Jesus. Since that is true then either we are as obedient as Jesus and keep the will of God as He did or there is something different about the life within the believer and the life within Jesus. B

Yes, yes, very perceptive. Have you ever noticed the difference between the simple cut and dried statements regarding keeping God's word or about those who keep my commands and the hemming and hawing approach most Christian teaching takes to it? Jesus simply said things like, "he who keeps my word" as if it was a NOT a partial reality, whereas we talk about TRYING to do God's will. We have doctrines that help validate the sense of a TEMPORARY walking in Him, but we don't find it written in the Bible that way.

Remember the incident when Jesus' mother and brothers came to take him away while he was addressing a large crowd? I think they assumed he was beside himself and came to rescue him from further embarrassment. Anyway, someone tells Jesus that his mother and brothers want to speak with him, but Jesus says, Who is my mother and who are my brothers?

In all honesty, most of our assumptions would force us to read it this way: My mother and brothers are those who have relative success in doing what my father wants them to do. But Jesus simply said:

For whoever shall DO the will of my father who is in heaven, HE IS my brother and sister and mother! Matthew 12:50

In his first letter, John connects the meaning of the phrase "keeps his word" with one in whom "the love of God is perfected", and then states:

By THIS we know we are in him 1 John 2:5

Once again, we have learned to read this whole letter in a relative sense and play around with formulating how much stuff it takes to be obedient or how much keeping we need in order to be considered a keeper of his word. But there is absolutely NO relativity to it. And this voids most of our silly doctrines of performance.

You are right, we are AS OBEDIENT as Jesus and we KEEP the will of God AS HE DID. No, there is no difference in the life that is in us vs. the life that is in Jesus. Our confusion comes from the fact that most Christian teaching has been based upon the assumption that there IS a difference. And this is the thing that causes us to reject the very words in the Bible that demand such a concrete reality and to insert our own variables.

Jim

Comments

“The question I always come back to is why are we commanded to do stuff when we are also commanded to rest in what He has done?”


In view of the reality that we cannot transgress or die anymore the only obvious thing left to consider is what are we to do in this temporal life of ours, seeing that we have now ceased to be obligated to pursue righteousness? These things are not commandments, but rather encouragements proceeding from the understanding that some things are just not worth our attention. The mind of fleshly man, however, perverts everything it sets its eyes upon, seeking to reaffirm and justify its own wicked framework. So that where we reap life, they reap death, being blinded by the futility that rules over them. For they find an opportunity for the flesh in the very writings that testified to the removal of it; and they seek to enforce the law upon us by the same writings that dismissed it as worthless in bringing about any real change.

theshovel's picture

Hello again, Georgi

The mind of fleshly man, however, perverts everything it sets its eyes upon, seeking to reaffirm and justify its own wicked framework.

This is so true, and we need to remember it when we hear that voice of condemnation that would love to pull us into the confusion of this wicked framework.

Jim :)

This is really good. It took me a while to get past my fleshly mind to see what you are saying to B. Perhaps, in part, but I see much clearer now than the first time I read this. Jim, sometimes you will write with such spontaniety (impulsively) that I need to read your writings over and over again. I would not do this for most but I have learned to see your sincere heart in many of your writings and so its worth the time to contemplate/meditate on your writings.

However, in saying the above :) Ha!, could you comment on "relative sense" in your "... we have learned to read this whole letter in a relative sense..." and "... But there is absolutely NO relativity to it...". Relative?!?!?: I believe you are referring to how we have taken scripture (or as heard from a preacher/teaching) and then we mistakenly search ourselves to personalized verses to how verses relate to ourselves and in doing so we miss the whole meaning of the verses intent. (A great reason to read the letters in content and not just pick out a few catchy verses) What an excellent deceptive trap ... beware of such teaching.

Georgi,
Thank you for such an excellent reply.

theshovel's picture

Actually, it sounds as if you’ve commented on it pretty clearly. Of course, that won’t stop me from adding more. :)

Yes, the relative sense has everything to do with judging ourselves according to a fleshly grading system. We’re afraid to stand upon the reality that the life that is within us keeps the very heart of every commandment given by God to Israel. In Romans 13:10, Paul had written that “love is the fulfillment of the law,” and this reality demands that because we have the love of God poured out within us that we are the only ones who fulfill the law … and it all happens in those who do not have to try to keep it. And this is a total contradiction to the mind of man. Referring to the lottery, it is often said that you can’t win if you don’t play … and yet the only winners in real life are those who’ve been taken out of the game.

Yes, we miss the whole meaning of a letter like 1 John because we’ve saturated it in relativity. We’re afraid to say that we are the ones who truly keep God’s law, and there are two seemingly opposite reasons. First, we don’t feel qualified to make such a statement based upon our lack. We hear others talk about their Christian successes and we shrink away from intimidation. And should we come to realize that we’re not under law, and therefore, not under those commands, we’re afraid that we might sound legalistic if we own up to those law-fulfilling statements.

Both fears, though, come from the same place: the logic of the world. In truth, we are the ones who keep the word of God, and it happens miraculously through us by the power of the life of God that has been put within us. When we cease reading these powerful statements in that relative sense, we discover that we don’t have to justify ourselves one way or the other. It simply is what it is because of the new creation in Christ.

Jim :)

‘Yes, the relative sense has everything to do with judging ourselves according to a fleshly grading system. We’re afraid to stand upon the reality that the life that is within us keeps the very heart of every commandment given by God to Israel.’-Jim

Yet we keep on trying to please the senses by coming up with some sort of proof of this in the outward realm were it can not be recognized. If I am obeying God from the heart, my senses do not indicate this at all. Oh, I may see myself following after some man made command for a time and somehow think it is me ‘obeying God’ but, if I am truly in Him, I would never be satisfied by that assumption. In fact I would be injuring my self in the endeavor.

Having these unseen things be true of me is so foreign to that which I had learned while living in this religious setting from the world and also primarily in the Christian church. The world and it’s preachers made me think I was to track all of this reality in some way through the agency and perception of the fleshly mind. That way I could judge it both in myself and in another by human standards. That made sense to my former fleshly perceptions.

Judgment is perfectly fine for us who are in Him, don’t get me wrong. But that judgment is according to that which is in us from Christ and in nothing else.

Adam

Thank you Adam and Jim. The follow-up replies really help.

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