Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Grace and Obedience

When I was a kid, the sage advice I often received from my elders was to do what I was told. That may have been the role I was saddled with for that period in my life, but I didn't like it. It chafed against my willfulness and felt oppressive. No doubt, as an adult I have passed on that counsel to others (namely the five that share my surname and grew up in my house) many times over.

I was 20 when Christ became my Lord: too young to be completely past teen rebellion, too old to be treated like a kid. Yet, the scriptures clearly taught me, in regard to my newly found faith, I had to become as a child. Humility, submissiveness and obedience were to be the watchwords of my new existence. Let me tell you: it is no easier to accept such things from God all grown up than it was to accept them from earthly elders when I was a kid.

Americans, maybe humans in general, don't like those words when they're focused on them. We can see the need for someone else to abide by them, perhaps, but not so much ourselves. We want to make our own decisions, pursue our desires, and control our destiny. Meanwhile, the idealized image of the heavenly "Father" we have fabricated in our minds sits sensitively on the sidelines, cheerleading our drive and affirming our ambitions. Isn't that what it means that "God is for us" in the modern vernacular?

Christians, at least those who catch big air surfing the hypergrace wave, go into gag reflex when someone says that God should be obeyed and is not pleased when he isn't. I've seen the claim that God is just as pleased with a Christian who is not obeying him as he is with one who is! A cursory reading of the Letters to the Churches in the Apocalypse is sufficient to put that notion to rest! Whereas that metric could be applied to the concept of acceptance or salvation, it cannot be applied to the experience of relationship.

Obeying God, treating Jesus as if he actually is the Lord, is essential to a vital and productive relationship with him. That is the approach Jesus modeled for us as humans. He loved his Father and obeyed him, and that is why they had such a close relationship. Jesus asks us, "why do you call me Lord, and do not do the things I say?" When it comes to a dynamic experience of God's presence and fellowship in our lives, when it comes to revival, there's no avoiding the fact that we're just going to have to learn to do what we're told.

Anything less is not grace, it's garbage. 

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