1 Jan 2002

Obedience and obeying?

Submitted by theshovel
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Are you saying that, for the Christian, obedience isn’t obeying? It seems that you are saying that we obey by simply breathing and living. Is our simple existence obedience? C

Hello C,

Let’s take a look at that first question where you want to know if I am saying that, for the Christian, obedience isn’t obeying. No, I am not. There is no trickery in the different forms of the word “obey”, instead the confusion lies in the concept of obedience as we have come to accept it. Obedience has nothing to do with a fulfillment in form. By this, I’m referring to the mere performance of an assignment or a task. In reality, obedience is a matter of the heart being in FULL conformity with the will of God. Now, I know most will agree it’s a matter of the heart, but I’ll bet I raised an eyebrow with that full conformity statement, didn’t I?

See, we’re used to the idea of entering into an intense struggle of wills wherein one eventually gives in to the other. We learned it as children as we came into conflict with our parents and other authority figures over the years. Some of us may even be in a battle of wills with our own children … or possibly even our grandchildren. Now, such conflicts are pretty much inevitable in physical relationships, and may even promote maturity in a person. But is our relationship with the father patterned after the end result of such a heart struggle? I’m well aware that most Christian teaching says it is, but I challenge that supposition.

I find the story of the two sons apropos relating to this. Keep in mind, this was told to the chief priests and the elders after they had refused to answer a simple question about John the Baptist because it would have revealed the evil intentions they had despite all their godly sounding words.

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, ‘The first’. Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.” Matthew 21:28-32

Having posed the question as to which son did the will of his father, the men answered “the first”. I don’t think they expected to lose control of the conversation so quickly, but I do have a feeling they sensed the set-up. The fact is that even they could not help but make the obvious assessment that the son who told his dad “I will not” was the one who actually DID his father’s will. Even they understood that a son who says the right words to his father cannot change the fact that he did not do what he said he would do. They didn’t say something like, “Well, IN A WAY the first son did his father’s will.”, nor did they try to argue the point by suggesting that his original words negated the deed in ANY way. I’m making a point of this because it’s so easy to overlook the real doing of God’s will based on our expectations of what it has to look like.

The second son is obviously meant to represent the heart of the religious who were good at giving lip service but had no real intentions on performing the boasted deeds. Jesus made the connection between the first son and the tax collectors (read that, blood-sucking traitors) and prostitutes - who he said would enter the kingdom before the good religious men.

We’re told that the first son afterward regretted it and went. What did he regret? It seems he regretted telling those hurtful words to his father, when in fact, his heart’s desire was to do what the father asked. But this is the guy who would be viewed by the religious heart as a sinner, and would never be considered one who does the will of the father. Somehow the religious mind keeps playing the game of TALKING about obedience when it has NO INTENTION WHATEVER of doing it, but only working hard at making the appearance by its words and actions that it is serious about doing it.

When we refer to an obedience that may or may not happen we are speaking of a hypothetical thing that fits within the reasonings of that mindset that makes a lot of noise about its own obeying. For the believer it sounds like this:

So then, my beloved, just 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 is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

(Read more on IN FEAR AND TREMBLING )

Now, if you were to rate YOUR obedience would you be so 100% sure that you had always obeyed? Was Paul suggesting that they never screwed up anywhere along the way? In other words, what could Paul have considered to cause him to state it in such a clear-cut that these believers ALWAYS OBEYED? I mean, if they ALWAYS OBEYED, why would he have even addressed it? Don’t most sermons or articles on obedience address a specific area of disobedience and make it seem as if it is hanging in the balances and therefore needs to be preached so that Christians will stop being disobedient and start being obedient? Was Paul afraid they were not going to obey … or was he possibly reminding them of the miraculous reality of WHY it is true in and among them? for it is GOD who is at work IN you, both TO WILL and TO WORK for his good pleasure. Just because something is already true and certain in us does not mean that it would unnecessary to refer to it.

It seems that you are saying that we obey by simply breathing and living. Is our simple existence obedience?

Yes … isn’t it wonderfully amazing?! Of course, I realize that your questions may very well be objections to what I’ve written, and if so, I’m sure the very idea sounds ridiculous and even scary. But as you have always obeyed continue in your salvation in Christ KNOWING that it is God who is the one who is not only doing the willing within you, but also the work!!

Thoughts? :)

If what you say is true then a Christian can never be disobedient (because of the way you’ve redefined obedience). Is that what you are saying? What about Ananias and Sapphira? How does grace (and God’s withholding judgment) relate to them? I understand your point (I think). If I am the righteousness of God–not just in some legal sense but actually, really and truthfully–then how can I at the same be disobedient … Got it. But when I flip off that guy in traffic on I-40 am I not being disobedient? What about when I mess up at work and lie to my supervisor about it to cover myself? Is that not disobedience? If it isn’t then WHAT is it? Obedience? Inconsequential? Is this how we are to understand the verses in Scripture that talk about how we no longer walk in sin and the light having no fellowship with the darkness? C

Hello again, C Good questions. :)

If what you say is true then a Christian can never be disobedient (because of the way you’ve redefined obedience). Is that what you are saying?

Of course, many will assume that I am the one redefining obedience, but what if it only seems so because the world (religious or otherwise) has forced a false meaning to conform to its own hypocrisy? Why are we so willing to accept the deceitful attempts of the natural mind to validate its own insincerity?

You know, as far as disobedience goes we sure can play the part pretty well, can’t we? At one time we were acting in harmony with what was on the inside of us, but having been made new in Christ we now act against our very own beings when we try to live as the someone we no longer are.

This is crucial to understand!! This is how Paul was able to address the Corinthians about the INSANITY that was going on among them, but then make the incredible statement,

And such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Notice that he did not write, “… but you changed, but you reformed, but you stopped, but you turned over a new leaf …” No, no, no, he made it clear that what made the difference in them was found in another place altogether: the reality of Christ.

You see, this is why Paul made so many questions to them beginning with, Do you not KNOW … ? For as soon as our eyes are taken off the ONLY reality that is SANE - because it is actually in harmony with the truth that is TRUE about us and in us - we will begin judging ourselves and each other according to the INSANITY of the world that changes the very meaning of all that is true in order to fit its own fleshly perceptions.

For sure, we can ACT disobedient, but the reality is that this is what we USED TO BE. Do you realize that it is as HYPOCRITICAL for the living to act in a disobedient manner and claim it is “just the way I am” as it is for the dead to act in a obedient manner and claim that it is true to their nature? That’s a switch, huh?

Now, as far as Ananias and Sapphira are concerned I think it is an assumption to consider them as being alive in Christ. Is there some kind of axiom that demands that those who are part of a group must be saved? Ananias and Sapphira were attempting to appear spiritual by mimicking the behavior of those made alive in Christ. They took center stage and let on that they were giving every bit of the money from the sale of their property for the the cause of Christ. In actuality they had sold it for much more, kept back an agreed on sum, and then presented their offering as if it was the whole thing. They did it for show. You see, the hypocrisy of their insincerity was made obvious to the whole church in Jerusalem. The problem was not how much of a gift they gave, for Peter made it clear that they could have given whatever they had wanted to give. Their lie was the PRETENSE they made to the group (that’s how they lied to the Spirit) in order to APPEAR to be something they were NOT.

But when I flip off that guy in traffic on I-40 am I not being disobedient?

You know, this could change my whole view of you!! hahaha! NOT!

Is this how we are to understand the verses in Scripture that talk about how we no longer walk in sin and the light having no fellowship with the darkness?

Yup! :)

Jim Minker

I found another response to this post by Dave A on Friday, January 11, 2002

Could you help me understand what you meant here? …… “For sure, we can ACT disobedient, but the reality is that this is what we USED TO BE. Do you realize that it is as HYPOCRITICAL for the living to act in a disobedient manner and claim it is “just the way I am” as it is for the dead to act in a obedient manner and claim that it is true to their nature? That’s a switch, huh?”

Dave A.
Okeedokee, I would be glad to make sense of my gibberish!

We misunderstand the meaning of “hypocritical” simply because we use it in such a selective sense. In other words, we have used it to point our fingers at those “other guys” instead of recognizing how all of us grew up in the same world and learned how to cover our inadequacies by professing to be or to do something we were not.

Without Christ, people are empty of any true life and goodness, meaning that every boast of moralistic superiority is merely an empty claim. Not only are such statements bogus, but it is the sense of emptiness that causes the empty one to make the claims in the first place. Therefore, it is hypocritical for those who don’t have true life to “act” or to pretend as if they do. If the “empty one” was to be honest he would instead be making constant claims that there has been no honesty or truthfulness to anything in his life. This is the reason we are so moved by those events or stories where someone breaks down and humbly admits to such failure. Of course, most of the “apologies” we’ve seen are only “shadows” in that they are very selective and/or very carefully staged.

Now, consider the ramifications of having the life of God actually come into an empty one and become the life of that one. You’re going to get a combination of total wonderment and total confusion. Imagine, the life of Him who is true life and goodness becoming the life of the formerly empty one!! Miraculous things would take place. But then, the “enlightened” religious teachers take such a one “under their wing” for the purpose of “discipling” which consists of moralistic principles - “Christian” ones, of course - and duties to perform. The miracle of life that came into being is explained away by either a direct denial of the reality or simply having it’s perception reduced to an intellectual wisdom or fleshly standards of performance.

But the fact remains that the one who has been made alive in Christ is no longer what he used to be. However it happened, we have learned a million ways to redefine the miraculous reality of Christ in us so that we find ourselves thinking and living and talking as something that we are not, but instead as the empty thing we used to be. This makes a mockery of our real life because it has us viewing ourselves and performing as something we are no longer. It is “hypocritical” because it is not true to who we really are.

Does that help … or confuse the matter more?

THAT HELPED ME A GREAT DEAL, JIM!

I want to reread what you said so it will sink deep within.

I’m understanding more now, this conflict of our old and new selves. And understanding what Paul means when he talks about it not being him that does the stupid, crappy things.That is not really him. That’s his old self. The real him is the new creature, the new man, who is really CHRIST in him!

I’m also realizing… Ya know what’s really dumb of us new creatures?… Denying this new Life! For so long I’ve allowed my circumstances to determine my stand with God! He has been working to change that in me for a couple of years… as I have finally allowed His truth to get to me. Our conversations here have really helped me more to understand that it’s not about us but it’s all about Him!

Thank you, my friend.
Dave

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