The Balance of Obedience

“Obedience” is the key word in the current Missions emphasis in our local church … and denomination. It’s not surprising since this theme is central to the Great Commission:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Yet, I remember a grace life teacher stating that obedience is a challenging topic to address in a balanced way: we easily slip into either legalism or license. It may be as difficult as balancing a pencil to stand on its point…

When I read a book that contained “49 General Commands of Christ,” my Bible study class agreed to walk with me through a study of these from a grace perspective … seeking a grace-and-truth balance.[1]

For starters, grace-oriented folks may squirm a bit at the term “commands,” but there it is coming from the lips of the Lord Jesus after the Cross. His commission is to be carried out throughout this age with the assurance of His presence.

Are these commands valid and important for us? Notice the following sayings of Christ given during upper room discourse (reflecting the new covenant relationship believers enjoy today).

  • A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
  • If you love Me, keep My commandments.
  • He that has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me; and he that loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.
  • If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.
  • You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 13:34; 14:15,21; 15:10,14).

So, an inductive study of such passages shows us that Christ’s commands (the ones intended for universal application) are valid and important to those who confess Christ as Savior, Lord, and Life.

Living in harmony with God’s will includes living according to His written Word (2 Tim. 3:16,17) and His inner leading (as discerned properly). “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). A devotional writer recalls,

I’ll never forget my inner battle one morning as I was on my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. It began with a strong impression from the Lord that I should visit a young mother named Carol. So I decided to do it later that day. “But first I must finish this floor,” I said to myself.
Then the inner prompting began to feel more urgent. “As soon as I finish the floor, I’ll go straight over to Carol’s,” I promised the Lord. But deep inside, I knew He meant now, before the floor was finished!
A real battle of the will took place. I admitted that countless opportunities had been lost because of things I wanted to do first. Finally I said, “Okay, Lord, I’ll go now!” When Carol opened her door, she said tearfully, “How did you know I needed you right now?” I didn’t, but God did, and my surrender to Him played a part in Carol’s eventual surrender to Christ as her Savior.[2]

Obedience is an essential responsibility. Which reminds us that “our responsibility is really our Response to God’s Ability.” In part two we will consider how to keep our Lord’s commands through an Abiding Life.

Oh yes, that pencil will stand up on its point … if a finger rests on top.

[1] Here is one listing of the Commands of Christ.

[2] Joanie Yoder, Our Daily Bread, July 20, 1998.

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