Posts Tagged ‘obedience’
It is good to hear this from Kevin DeYoung:
There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God through faith alone, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet.
Too often we hear people speak as if obedience and duty, with reference to God, were dirty words.
If you were to choose one phrase to describe yourself, what would it be? One might argue that, for the apostle Paul, it would be this: “a bondservant of Jesus Christ.” He uses it repeatedly to describe his privileged status as a disciple of Jesus, bound to exclusive, absolute, willing obedience. But there was a time when he would have been the last person on earth to embrace and employ such a title. What made “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” adopt the posture of Christ’s bondservant?
The change occured just outside Damascus. Paul was travelling to the city intent upon doing violence to the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Suddenly a light from heaven shone around him and he fell to the ground. Who knows what went through his mind at that moment? What did he expect? No doubt the persecutor believed that he was doing the will of God; perhaps he even anticipated some divine commendation. Instead a voice spoke to the man lying on the earth: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” What a shudder must have gone through the heart of that proud man. There is already a new humility in his confused question: “Who are you, Lord?” Then these words of staggering reality give the crushing answer: “I am Jesus.” We might wonder how Paul survived the shock: that imposter, the cursed Nazarene, is the Lord of glory. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” He had known and perhaps been bested by Stephen, heard his pointed and powerful sermon and seen his face at his death; he had listened to the believing confessions of tortured followers of the Way; he had studied endlessly the testimonies of the Hebrew Scriptures, his treasured scrolls. And now he is confronted and cast down by the very Messiah that he has been anticipating, the very Messiah that he has been persecuting.
No wonder he was “trembling and astonished.” Stripped of all self-righteousness, all self-confidence, his entire world up-ended by this striking moment of divine revelation, he bows his head and asks a question: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
That question gives us an insight into a humbled heart; it shows us a disciple’s disposition. Certainly there is still much pondering and praying for Paul over the coming hours, but this phrase opens a door by which we can gaze into a bondservant’s soul. Here is the subordination of one’s own will to the will of another. Here is a posture of voluntary humility and ready obedience.
Paul’s response is personal. He is face to face with Christ, and there is no thought of anyone else. His relationship to this Jesus is all that now matters. He is concerned not about what he himself would like to do, what others would have him do, or what others should themselves do. “What do you, Christ Jesus, want me, Saul of Tarsus, to do?” Every other allegiance, legitimate or otherwise, assumes its relative and proper obscurity next to the claims of Christ.
His response is immediate. This may be the most complete and radical change of plan in the history of the world. What the Christ speaks will be the rule of his life from this moment. No other plans or purposes will come into the equation, and nothing will be put off to a more convenient occasion. The risen Lord has declared himself, and instantly this man asks only what is required of him. All Paul’s hopes, schemes and dreams – short, middle and long term – are instantly abandoned, and all he is and has are put at the immediate disposal of the Lord Christ.
His response is unconditional. Paul has no idea what Jesus of Nazareth will ask of him. Who can say what his command will demand? But that is not the issue. The possible answers do not prevent or inhibit the question. The sense of his question implies this: “Anything and everything that you might require I stand ready to give.” This is not some strutting boast, but an unavoidable declaration in the light of who it is that stands before Paul.
His response is voluntary. It is a conscious and willing response. This is a deliberate act of consecration, an offering up of himself with a ready heart. There is no coercion, only felt obligation. This is not an accidental attitude, but a purposeful seeking out of the will of Christ in order to do it.
And so his response is fundamentally active. There is an immediate awareness that this Messiah will require and be entitled to a life lived to the praise of his glory, a life in which everything is given not anaemically but vigorously, not dragged out under duress but poured out exultantly. The living follows the birthing, the doing follows the saving.
And what is the source of this outlook? From where does this disciple’s disposition arise?
It is a believing response to Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Lord and God’s Christ: “I am Jesus.” It is the unparalleled and unparellelable glory of his unalloyed divinity and glorious humanity that has captured Paul’s heart. It is Jesus as the promised Prophet, Priest and King; the Son of David; the one Mediator between God and man; the Redeemer of God’s elect; the Hope of Israel; the Light of nations; the Dayspring from on high; the Lord of lords and King of kings. Paul has opposed him with every fibre of his being, and he has responded with sovereign mercy. When Paul later writes that “he loved me and gave himself for me” he is speaking of this Jesus whom he had persecuted. When the Father sought a Ransomer, a voice like many waters answered, “I will go.” Where angels and men were helpless, the Lord of men and angels gave himself to save his people from their sins. He died for those who were still his enemies. He died for Saul of Tarsus. He died for us.
And the man who sees – even faintly – the person and the work of this Jesus, whom God has made both Lord and Christ, asks this: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
It is a believing sight of Jesus Christ that liberates us from anaemic, self-satisfied, shallow, take-it-or-leave-it religion. Do not say that if only you could see him as Paul saw him, you would have a different attitude. His glory shines on every page of your Bible, and you lack nothing to enable you to truly perceive him. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is no less glorious and no less gracious than he was on the day when he appeared to Paul. The Scriptures sing of his majesty and speak of his excellence, painting him in all the glorious colours that God has intended us to see in the portrait of his Son, lit up with the shining light of the Holy Spirit. If we have been given eyes to see and hearts to believe, all that is required is that we love greatly as those greatly forgiven by our great God and Saviour, and live accordingly.
What does it mean? It is not a call to some extravagant but ultimately empty gesture allegedly made for the sake of the kingdom, or some energetic but perhaps pointless demonstration of wrong-headed zeal. It may or may not demand a radical change of direction. It may or may not be a call to a sacrifice of which you have not before dreamed.
But – whatever else it requires – it will demand a change of attitude and call you to a different spirit. It means that you begin to ask not what you must do for Christ, but what you can do. It means a readiness to serve God wherever and whenever he may call us, whether that is where we are now or somewhere else where he would have us to be. It means that we bow the knee before Jesus, God’s Lord and Christ, and make a personal, immediate, unconditional, voluntary and active response, asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” It means being ready to follow him, whatever the answer, and ready to serve him, whatever the cost. That is a disciple’s disposition.
This article first appeared at Reformation21.
This is the solid foundation of all Christian comforts, that God loves freely. Were his love to us to be measured by our fruitfulness or conduct towards him, each hour and moment might stagger our hope; but he is therefore pleased to have it all of grace, “to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed,” Rom. iv. 16. This comforts us against the guilt of the greatest sins, for love and free grace can pardon what it will. This comforts us against the accusations of Satan drawn from our own unworthiness. True, I am unworthy, and Satan cannot show me to myself more vile than, without his accusations, I will acknowledge myself to be; but that love which gave Christ freely, gives in him more worthiness than there is or can be unworthiness in me. This comforts us in the assured hope of glory, because when he loves he loves to the end, and nothing can separate from his love. This comforts us in all afflictions, that the free love of God, who has predestinated us thereto, will wisely order all things for the good of his servants, Rom. viii. 29-39 ; Heb.xii. 6.
Our duty therefore is, 1. To labour for the assurance of this free love. It will assist us in all duties; it will arm us against all temptations; it will answer all objections that can be made against the soul’s peace; it will sustain us in all conditions, into which the saddest of times may bring us, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Though thousands be against us to hate us, yet none shall be against us to hurt us.
2. If God love us freely, we should love him thankfully, 1 John iv. 19, and let love be the salt to season all our sacrifices. For as no benefit is saving to us which does not proceed from love in him, so no duty is pleasing to him which does not proceed from love in us, 1 John v. 3.
3. Plead this free love and grace in prayer. When we beg pardon, nothing is too great for love to forgive: when we beg grace and holiness, nothing is too good for love to grant. There is not any one thing which faith can manage to more spiritual advantages, than the free grace and love of God in Christ.
4. We must yet so magnify the love of God, as that we turn not free grace into wantonness. There is a corrupt generation of men, who, under pretence of exalting grace, do put disgrace upon the law of God, by taking away the mandatory power thereof from those that are under grace, a doctrine most extremely contrary to the nature of this love. For God’s love to us works love in us to him; and our love to him is this, that we keep his commandments; and to keep a commandment is to confirm and to subject my conscience with willingness and delight to the rule and preceptive power of that commandment. Take away the obligation of the law upon conscience as a rule of life, and you take away from our love to God the very matter about which the obedience thereof should be conversant. It is no diminution to love that a man is bound to obedience, (nay, it cannot be called obedience if I be not bound to it,) but herein the excellency of our love to God is commended, that whereas other men are so bound by the law that they fret at it, and swell against it, and would be glad to be exempted from it, they who love God, and know his love to them, delight to be thus bound, and find infinitely more sweetness in the strict rule of God’s holy law, than any wicked man can do in that presumptuous liberty wherein he allows himself to shake off and break its cords. (An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, 654-655)
So, have you been loved freely by the God of all grace? Are you assured of it? Do you love him thankfully in response? Do you plead this love and grace of God in prayer? Do you magnify his love by finding sweetness in the rule of his holy law?
From A Good Start by C. H. Spurgeon, Chapter 1 (“A Young Man in Christ”).
When I say that a man in Christ is a man, I mean that, if he be truly in Christ, he is therefore manly. There has got abroad a notion, somehow, that if you become a Christian, you must lose your manliness and turn milksop. It is supposed that you allow you liberty to be curtailed by a set of negations which you have not the courage to break through, though you would if you dared. You must not do this, and you must not do the other: you are to take out your backbone and become molluscous; you are to be sweet as honey towards everybody, and every atom of spirit is to be evaporated from you. You are to ask leave of ministers and church authorities to breathe, and to become a sort of living martyr, who lives a wretched life in the hope of dying in the odour of sanctity. I do not believe in such a Christianity at all. The Christian man, it seems to me, is the noblest style of man; the freest, bravest, most heroic, and most fearless of men. If he is what he should be, he is, in the best sense of the word, a man all over, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot.
He is such a man because he has realized his own personal responsibility to God. He knows that to his own Master he stands or falls, – that he shall have to give an account in the day of judgment for his thoughts, his words, his acts, and therefore he does not pin himself to any man’s sleeve, be he priest, or minister, or whatever he may be called. He thinks for himself, takes the Bible and reads for himself, and comes to God in Christ Jesus personally, and on his own account. He is not content to do business with underlings, but goes to the Head of the great firm.
Being accustomed also to endeavour to do that which is right at all times, if he be a man in Christ, he is bold. I have heard a story of a man who was so continually in debt, and was so frequently arrested for it, that one day, catching his sleeve on a palisade, he turned round, and begged to be let alone this time. There are many people who go about the world much in that style. They know that they are doing wrong, and therefore “conscience doth make cowards” of tem. But when the conscience has been quieted, and the heart knows itself to be set upon integrity and established in the right, the Christian man is not afraid to go anywhere.
Moreover, a man in Christ is accustomed to wait upon his Lord and Master to know what he should do, and he recognizes Christ’s law as being his sole rule; and for this reason he is the freest man under heaven, because he does not recognize the slavish rules which make most men tremble lest they should lose caste, or forfeit the favour of the society in which they move. He obeys the laws of his country because Christ has commanded him to do so, and all things that are right and true are happy bonds to him which he does not wish to break; but, as for the foolish customs and frivolous conventionalities which fashion ordains, he delights to put his foot through them and trample them under his feet, for he saith, “I am Thy servant, O Lord: Thou hast loosed my bonds.” When he has anything to say, he looks at it to see whether his Master would approve; and as to whether the world would approve or not, it does not enter into his mind to consider. He has passed beyond that. He knows the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free. When we become the servants of Christ we cease to be the servants of men. When Christ’s yoke is upon you, then are you free to do the right, whoever may forbid. From that time forth you would not speak the thing that is not true to win the acclamation of the nation, nor suppress the truth though the universe itself should frown. A man in Christ bowing the knee before the King Himself, is too high-minded to pay obeisance to error or to sin, though robed in all the pomp of power: he stands up for the right and for the true, and if the heavens should fall he would be found erect.