Category Archives: Obedience to Christ

Walking in Obedience

How we walk in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ seems to be a matter of great confusion among Christians today. I just had another encounter with a Christian leader of a small group Bible study who made a statement which I have often heard in one form or another from many Christians and this prompted me to record my thoughts for my own clarification and edification and for sharing with others in the future.

 The statement was along the lines of “I don’t do anything (such as launching a Bible study or seeking to expand a ministry) unless the Lord tells me to.” This is good-sounding doctrine and seems to be a good practice and very spiritual, but in fact is not good sound doctrine. One reason it sounds so good is that it sounds a lot like what Jesus himself said. The problem, and why it is not sound doctrine, is that it is not what Jesus said, just similar, and Jesus said things that promote just the opposite.

What Jesus said was “I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 5: 19) and “whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12: 50), not “I only do what the Father tells me to do”. What Jesus is saying in the first instance, as Henry Blackaby teaches in Experiencing God, is that He was looking for where the Father was working and where He found the Father working, He joined the Father in that work.

That becomes clearer as you look at His statement in the larger context leading up to the statement as I did several years ago when reading the Gospel of John. In John 3, I noticed Jesus having a detailed conversation about the gospel with Nicodemus. From the midst of this conversation comes what is probably the most well-known verse in all the Bible, John 3: 16. We see in later scriptures that Nicodemus apparently believed and became a follower of Christ, though not necessarily following Him publicly.

In John 4, we find Jesus taking an uncommon route through Samaria and ignoring Jewish custom by talking with a Samaritan woman at the well outside the city. And not only talking with her, but again engaging in an in-depth conversation about her salvation, offering her life-giving water despite her sinfulness. Upon believing, she returns to the city, invites everyone to come meet Jesus and brings a crowd out to see Him. Naturally, He shares the gospel with them and many respond in faith.

In John 5, Jesus returns to Jerusalem and goes to the pool of Bethsaida, where He sees a crippled man lying next to the pool seeking to be healed by getting into the pool first when its waters are stirred by an angel. When Jesus asks if he wants to be healed, the man indicates that He does, so Jesus tells him to take up His pallet and walk. Therefore the man did just that, taking up his pallet and leaving. Later, upon seeing the man again in the temple, Jesus tells him to “Go and sin no more”. So again, he goes.

As I read these three stories together, I began to wonder why did Jesus take care to share the gospel with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the people of her city but said nothing to the crippled man about his salvation. Shortly after healing the crippled man, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders about healing on the sabbath. When they asked Him why He was healing on the sabbath, His answer to them answered my question also … “I only do what I see the Father doing.”

With Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the people in her city, he saw that there was spiritual interest, which only comes from the Father (John 6: 44), indicating that God was working. How did Jesus look for and see this spiritual interest … by making statements and asking questions that gave people the opportunity to respond in a way that would tell Him whether God was working here or not.

With Nicodemus, his indication that He wanted to know more when Jesus said “You must be born again” told Jesus that God was working in Nicodemus. Nicodemus could have thought that this was just nonsense and started to walk away, which would have told Jesus that God was not working in His life and would have let the conversation die there.

With the woman at the well, Jesus made some outlandish claims about living water and never thirsting again that really caused her to thirst for more. Jesus noted her interest and continued to pursue the conversation, even pointing out her sin in a kind way. Again, she could have just laughed and walked away, but her response instead told Jesus that God was working here and He naturally joined Him in that work.

The willingness of the people to respond to the testimony of this woman who was an outcast and to come with her out of the city to meet Jesus told Him that God was also working in their lives, so He shared the good news with them also. Note that in none of these encounters are there any indicators from what is said or what is recorded that God told Jesus to go talk to these specific people. He took the initiative in only one of these situations (with the woman), but interacted with people in ways that would show Him whether God was working.

The same is true with the crippled man. To me, it is sort of a dumb question to ask the man if he wanted to be healed. He even performed a miracle and healed the man, who was not curious enough (spiritually interested) to even ask Jesus who he was or where He got this power. He simply walked away and Jesus did not pursue him. Given a second chance later in the temple, Jesus told him to not sin. I would have been asking (and think anyone with spiritual sensitivity / interest would ask) “How can I not sin … that seems like an impossibility.”). I believe that Jesus concluded that God is not working here, therefore there is no reason for me to pursue him.

Not seeing God obviously working somewhere did not keep Jesus from doing things to reveal whether God was working, such as making those outlandish statements or asking outlandish questions that beg for a revealing response.

The thing that Jesus said that I believe promotes an opposite way of thinking (opposite to doing only what Jesus tells me) is found in the parable of the talents (Matt 5: 14-30). The outstanding statement in this parable is the commendation “Well done, good and faithful servant.” This commendation is given to two servants, not for obedience to what they were told to do (they weren’t really told to do anything other than manage the talents (money) they were given by the master). They were commended for their initiative in knowing the master’s desires that his talents be reproduced and taking steps to make it happen. The servant who was afraid and hid his talents (waiting for the master to tell him what to do with it?) was rebuked and had his talents taken from him and distributed to the others.

This parable certainly was not told simply to convey that Christians are to seek to multiply whatever money God blesses them with, but rather to multiply the gifts and ministry skills that He has given us and advance His kingdom and, in my opinion, to do so without waiting to be told when, where, and how. We certainly need to be listening for God to direct in our ministry activities, but like the mighty ship that is turned by a tiny rudder which has to be moving for the rudder to turn it, so should we be taking the initiative, moving forward in advancing the kingdom, and letting God redirect by adjusting the rudder.

I welcome your input and perspective.

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Summary of Leadership Training – 18 Jul 2011

This is a summary of the training for Crossroads leaders earlier this week.

The Wheel – Christ the Center / The Obedient Christian

Review of general principles for discipling others: 

1. Tell them what – define / describe the spiritual character or discipline desired

2. Show them how – show how it can be done

3. Do it with them – beyond just demonstrating how it’s done, do it together

4. Give them an assignment – people most often will do what they know someone is going to check up on

 

Additional principles for discipling others:

Two key things to teach

1. Why … what is the Biblical motivation for the spiritual discipline?

2. How … what is a good methodology for doing it?

 

Christ the Center

1. Confirm their personal relationship with Christ

– according to George Barna surveys, 60-70% of people attending church in America are not Christians

– we can’t assume because someone has gone to church for a long time or has volunteered to lead a small group that they actually have a personal relationship with Christ

– how to confirm:

a. ask them to share their testimony (not in a challenging, confrontational way; just ask them to share their story of how they became a Christian)

b. have them read My Heart – Christ’s Home and discuss their response

c. Study and discuss Lessons on Assurance  … studies and scripture memory on Assurance of Salvation, Answered Prayer, Victory, Forgiveness, and Guidance

2. Why would we want to make Christ the Center of our lives?

– John 15: 7 – abiding in Christ leads to answered prayer

– John 15: 8 – abiding in Christ leads to bearing fruit which glorifies God

3. How do we make Christ the Center?

– Time in prayer and the Word are key

– Teach them to have a quiet time of fellowship with Christ

7 Minutes With God is a good starting point

 

Obedience to Christ

1. Why is obedience important?

– Jeremiah 29: 11 – the Lord wants and knows what is best for me; His plans (commands) are for my good

– John 14: 21 – it proves or demonstrates our love for Him

– Isaiah 1: 19; Deut 28: 1-14 – to be blessed

– Joshua 1: 8 – it brings prosperity and success

– Psalm 119: 100 – to gain understanding beyond our years

2. Resources for Obedience

– Philippians 4: 13 – we can do all things through Christ; He gives us the strength to obey

– 1 Corinthians 10: 13 – God always provides a way of escape when we are confronted with temptation

– Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 – faithful Christians will lift us up; a cord of 3 strands is not easily torn apart

– Proverbs 29: 18 – where there is no vision, the people perish; envision yourself obeying; plan how you will react when tempted

– Proverbs 3: 5,6 – pray for guidance; acknowledge Him in all our ways; ask yourself ‘What would Jesus do?’

 

Next Training Session: The Word and Prayer

 

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Obedience to Christ

One thing that needs to be clearly understood by followers of Christ is that obedience to Christ does nothing to earn our salvation. Salvation comes by faith alone without any help from works (Ephesians 2: 8,9), but it is still expected that we practice good works (Ephesians 2: 10), which is what obeying Christ is all about … that is what we are created in Christ Jesus for.

Jesus showed how closely faith (knowing Him) and obedience are tied together in Matthew 7: 21-23 …

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

First He says that calling Him Lord is not enough, that true Lordship is demonstrated by doing His will. Then He says that doing things commonly regarded as good works, or obeying Him, (even doing it ‘in His name’) does not necessarily mean that we know Him (or that He knows us).

It is a challenge to find the proper balance between faith and works. We should all recognize that faith without works is dead (James 2: 20) and that works without faith is equally useless (Matthew 7: 22,23; Philippians 3: 4-9). Our obedience to Him should be an expression of our love, not an attempt to earn His love.

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What Would Jesus Do?

In 1897, Charles Sheldon wrote a Christian classic titled ‘In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?’. It is the primary source of the question sometimes heard in Christian circles of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ or seen in its abbreviated form: WWJD. Unfortunately, far too often it is regarded as a worn-out cliche and not as a very important question that every Christ-follower should be seriously asking several times a day.

In this practical novel, the pastor of a small local church is practically forced into challenging his congregation to asking themselves this question before making any decisions for a whole year. The majority  of the book is the story of those who accepted the challenge and the impact of those decisions on their lives and their community.

Asking such a question and responding accordingly seems to me to be at the very heart of making Christ the center of one’s life. In fact, I wonder how anyone could make a serious claim that Christ is the center of their life if they are not regularly asking this or a similar question.

As you seek to walk with Christ and serve Him as His disciple, ask this question often, walk in obedience to the answer, and watch your life be transformed!

If you care to read In His Steps, it is still available in book form and also online in its entirety at Kansas Collection Books.

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