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Does God Really Ask Us to Obey Him?

Author // Daniel

I have always related to the requirement to love God, and accept his love - but it seems I have tried to avoid obeying him, or even accepting that he gives commandments. It brings to mind a sort of authoritarian dictator that I don't relate to. I think- well if I do what he says out of obligation, it isn't true relationship. And so if I follow him with this mindset my actions won't be powerful or long lasting or authentic. But I think I have been cheating myself out of a big part of my relationship with God. I have seen him as a friend, as a father, and a lover, but not as a shepherd master: which is how the bible often describes God's relationship to us. And what is a shepherd's main directive? Obey me. I mean I can't deny this in scripture, it's pretty clear: 

"For when I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice. However, I did give them this command: Obey Me, and then I will be your God, and you will be My people. You must follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you" (Jeremiah 7:22-23).

We are dumb animals in need of total obedience to our leader. And the more I look at it the more I realize - I don't need to just obey all the time and see myself only as a sheep - I need to do it in addition to my love of God.  It's not an either or - it's both! And then I look at scripture, and it's biblical! I can't love without obeying, and I can't obey without loving. In fact, they are so intermingled and overlapping in scripture that they can be tough to distinguish as different:

"And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it" (2 John 1:6).

I believe Christians often find themselves leaning on one end of the spectrum more than the other, and it is causing some dangerous side effects. 

If you lean too much towards obedience - then you probably will have some religious, pharisitical tendencies. We have all the do, but do we know why to do it? There is no heart behind it, and we miss the Father's meaning behind the action. Often if we aren't in sync with the Father's heart on something, He would rather us not do it - it might be done in vain- or by wrong motives. He doesn't want our sacrifice out of duty and obligation alone! But he does want it - even if we don't totally feel like it; our obeying pulls us through when our love isn't quite there - but it must still be there! Even if love shows up to the party late and is a little bit puny. 

If you lean too much towards love - you probably have some tendencies towards living on spiritual milk too long and not growing, or abusing grace and writing it off on forgiveness. Basically stunting your sanctification and spiritual maturity. God's going to ask you to do some hard things, and it's going to look more like a general telling you to do something life threatening in battle sometimes than a lover beckoning you to sing them a song of affection. 

And just in case you weren't convinced yet, here is my absolute favorite, smash you over the head, truth searing, and o' so simple verse. 

"If you love me, obey my commandments" - John 14:15

Wow, Jesus, you couldn't have said it better. Thanks for giving us the cliff notes, dumb sheep version of this concept, in a whopping 7 words. If you love me, obey me. And guess what - if you obey him - what is his greatest commandment? Oh shoot - love him. 

Whoa. 

Why should we love God? Because we obey Him. Why should we obey God? Because we love Him.

I hope this provides some breakthrough for someone today!

-Daniel

"I am resolved to obey Your statutes

to the very end" (Psalm 119:112).


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We Need Humble Boldnes

Author // Daniel

I am convinced that if we are to compel this generation to live as no other has, it must be through humble boldness.

In the book of Philemon, we see Paul ask his friend Philemon to forgive and free his slave, Onesimus, who now had become a Christ follower - so that he could partner with Paul in his ministry. Onesimus was most likely a runaway slave, which meant in that time that he had given up the few rights he had as a slave and could lawfully be executed or beaten for punishment. 

Paul’s request of Philemon to have Onesimus freed would have been revolutionary in their era. Not only was he asking that Philemon not punish his slave, but furthermore that he might be freed - all due to Paul’s testimony of his conversion. Paul has an impossible task before him that goes totally against the current of the age, and yet it is clearly the heart of God. Wilberforce and Lincoln probably felt the same overwhelmed way as they fought an ubiquitous slavery era. And yet this is how he responds:

"Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for loves sake I prefer to appeal to/(encourage) you” - Philemon 1:8-9

He has the boldness, but chooses to infuse humility. The result is a sweet balance between passivity and aggression. Between justice and peace. Between boldness and humility. It is loving assertion. 

This is truly heaven’s path, to compel those around us through love. To let love compel them, even though we carry the authority and would be just in forcing it, we let them choose. Paul does it, Jesus does it in His first coming. It’s the right way.

This is no weak-back passive plea for change. And yet neither is it an iron clinched fist of forceful aggression. It is a passionate, boldly beseeching, tough love, wade through the muddy waters with them call to action. 

The rarest, yet most effective Christians are ones who are both humble, and bold. I have seen lots of one or the other. But it is time for the peace and justice keepers to marry. 

We have a generation to change. We have a higher vision for humanity than they can see for themselves, or can see anywhere around them. This can be frustrating. Those of us who are passive will tend to give up and settle for what exists. Those of us who are aggressive will push hard, forcing those around us to make an outward behavior that is not inwardly genuine, effectively pressure washing the outside of the tombs of their life, and then getting angry and perhaps giving up when we see the dead body, bad fruit of their life pop up again. 

Our response to the revolutionary task ahead of us must be that of Paul’s: to boldly and humbly challenge them, lovingly inspire them to live according to a different standard, dare them to move upstream "that  (their) goodness might not be by compulsion, but of (their) own accord” Philemon 1:14.

To practice humble boldness.

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