Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 Paul gives us some gold to live by. Simple, concise and a clear definition of what it looks like to follow God’s will. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…….” James Moffatt wrote of these verses, “To comment adequately on these diamond drops would be to outline a history of the Christian experience in its higher levels.” Paul gives us three things we need to do to walk in God’s will:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Give thanks in all circumstances.

Paul will give us a little more in the next few verses, but these three things are simple but difficult to get done.

We are not only to rejoice in happy things, but in sorrows also. A Christ Follower can rejoice always because their joy isn’t based in circumstances, but in God. Circumstances change, but God doesn’t. Spurgeon points out an attitude we need to avoid when it comes to rejoicing: “I am bound to mention among the curiosities of the churches, that I have known many deeply spiritual Christian people who have been afraid to rejoice…. Some take such a view of religion that it is to them a sacred duty to be gloomy.” As a Christ Follower, we shouldn’t live life under a black cloud, but recognize just how much we have to be joyful over. Living a joyful lifestyle is how we ought to be seen by those in our patch.

Spurgeon goes further and makes clear that joy is how we should live. “Turn this book over and see if there be any precept that the Lord has given you in which he has said, ‘Groan in the Lord always, and again I say groan.’ You may groan if you like. You have Christian liberty for that; but, at the same time, do believe that you have larger liberty to rejoice, for so it is put before you.” And God gives us all plenty of things to rejoice in. Paul goes on to say that we need to pray without ceasing. We can’t bow our heads, close our eyes, and fold our hands without ceasing, but those are customs of prayer, not prayer itself. Prayer is communication with God, and we can live each minute of the day in a constant, flowing, conversation with God.

Guzik writes: “There is significant, important value in a time where we shut out all other distractions and focus on God in a time of closet prayer. But there is also room – and great value – in every-moment-of-the-day fellowship with God. There are many valuable implications from this command:

  • The use of the voice is not an essential element in prayer.
  • The posture of prayer is not of primary importance.
  • The place of prayer is not of great importance.
  • The particular time of prayer is not important.
  • A Christian should never be in a place where he could not pray.”

Rejoice, and pray – two simple things we can do to go deeper with God and fulfill His will for our lives as a Christ Follower. How are you doing with that?

Colossians 3:20-21

In Colossians 3:20-21 Paul moves on to his instruction to children. He has just talked with wives and husbands, and now for some wisdom for the kids. It’s pretty direct and simple. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Paul is speaking to children who are still in their parents’ household and under their authority. In that situation, they must not only honor their father and mother, but they must also obey them, and obey them in all things. They can’t pick and choose when to obey. They aren’t able to filter what to obey. The direction is simple and straightforward – in everything.

Once a child is grown and no longer in the household, they are no longer under the same obligation of obedience. That does not, however, release them from the obligation to honor their father and mother. So why obey? Simply put it pleases the Lord. That is the most important reason for obedience. As a child obeys mom and dad, they are showing respect for God’s order of authority in the family which will leak into other areas of life. It is so important for kids to learn obedience because if they don’t learn it as a child, the lessons become much harder as they grow and are extremely difficult as adults.

Guzik explains “This idea of an order of authority and submission to an order of authority are so important to God that they are part of His very being. The First Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Father; the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Son. Inherent in those titles is a relationship of authority and submission to authority.” He continues “The Father exercises authority over the Son, and the Son submits to the Father’s authority – and this is in the very nature and being of God! Our failure to exercise Biblical authority, and our failure to submit to Biblical authority, isn’t just wrong and sad – it sins against the very nature of God.”

There is a parallel teaching for fathers related to this. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Children have a responsibility to obey, but parents (which if Paul’s audience, not just dads) have a responsibility to not provoke their children. Parents can provoke their children by being too harsh, too demanding, too controlling, unforgiving, or just plain angry. This harshness can be expressed through words, through actions, or through non-verbal communication. Remember that we are all called to agape love. Parents usually blame their kids for disobedience or bad behavior. But Paul is reminding us that parental behavior may bring disobedience on. Kids that grow up being provoked will become discouraged and give up. They don’t feel love and support – only consistent condemnation. It leads to frustration. We need to parent with grace!

Colossians 3:17-18

In Colossians 3:17-18 Paul reminds us of one of the most important traits of a Christ Follower – as a new person in Him, we need to live ALL of life for Jesus. There is no compartment Jesus fits in. As a believer, we live 24/7/365 with and for Jesus. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Note that Paul says ‘whatever’ we do – be it words or actions – we need to do it representing Jesus. And as we do, we must never forget that God has given us the greatest gift of all in salvation through Christ’s death, and our life should be filled with gratitude for His love.

Paul then tackles what marriage looks like as a new person in Christ. He begins with an unpopular view in today’s world – a submissive wife. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Submit is a military word that literally means “to be under in rank.” It speaks of the way that an army is organized among levels of rank, with generals and colonels and majors and captains and sergeants and privates. There are levels of rank, and one is obligated to respect those in higher rank. A wife doesn’t necessarily submit to her husband because he deserves it. She submits because he is her husband and in God’s order for the family, that is her role.

The idea of submission doesn’t have anything to do with someone being smarter or better or more talented. It has to do with a God-appointed order. Wiersbe explained that “Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows that ‘rank’ has to do with order and authority, not with value or ability.” Submission means you are part of a team. If the family is a team, then the husband is “captain” of the team. The wife has her place in relation to the “captain,” and the children have their place in relation to the “captain” and the wife. It is not slavery, or being a doormat to your husband. It is literally coming under the protection of the husband – who with the place in God’s plan for leadership – also takes the responsibility.

Vaughan explains “The form of the verb (hypotassesthe, middle voice) shows that the submission is to be voluntary. The wife’s submission is never to be forced on her by a demanding husband; it is the deference that a loving wife, conscious that her home (just as any other institution) must have a head, gladly shows.” The Bible never commands nor recommends a general submission of women unto men, only in the home or in the church. Paul tells us that submission needs to be ‘fitting’. That does not define the extent of a wife’s submission. It does not define the limit of a wife’s submission. It defines the motive of a wife’s submission.

Guzik explains “There are exceptions to this command for a wife to submit to her own husband.

  • When the husband asks the wife to sin, she must not submit.
  • When the husband is medically incapacitated, insane, or under the influence of mind altering substances, the wife may not submit.
  • When the husband is violent and physically threatening, the wife may not submit.
  • When the husband breaks the marriage bond by adultery, they wife does not need to submit to her husband being in an adulterous relationship.”

Colossians 3:6-8

In Colossians 3:6-8 Paul warns that sin brings God’s wrath. We must never forget that God cannot tolerate sin. His nature will not allow it. So sin is our biggest challenge and the enemy of walking well with Christ. “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” It’s why Jesus came to earth as a baby and went to the Cross for us. He took our sin upon Himself and put it away once and for all through the sacrifice of His life on that rugged cross. “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” These sins may mark a world in rebellion against God, but they are in the past tense for the Christian. When we accept Christ, His blood covers all our sin.

Simply put, a Christ Follower should not live in disobedience. A true Christian can not be comfortable in habitual sin. Paul continues and brings another list of sins that we must get rid of. Some look at this list and call them “little” sins that Christians may overlook with little danger. Paul challenges us to put off the old ways in every area of our lives. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” Bruce explained “Put off all those old habits, just as you would discard an outworn suit of clothes which no longer fitted you.” Sin has to go. We can’t continue to live in it and walk with Christ.

Each of the sins Paul lists here are primarily committed by what we say. When Paul calls Christ Followers to deeper obedience, he tells us to bridle our tongue. Barclay wrote Nevertheless, it is also possible to lie to one another without words. “It is easy to distort the truth; an alteration in the tone of voice or an eloquent look will do it; and there are silences which can be as false and misleading as any words.” Many Christ Followers quickly recognize the first list of sins Paul shared a few verses ago as bad and definitely not acceptable. But unfortunately many look at this second list and discount the impact of “less severe” sins and are willing to accept them.

Guzik explains “In this section (Colossians 3:5-9) Paul showed two high priorities in Christian living: sexual morality connected with a right attitude towards material things, and simple getting along in love with one another. It is easy for a Christian community to compromise one for the other, but Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) insisted that they both have a high place in Christian practice.” The reality is that any sin – even just one – is enough to leave us short of hitting God’s requirement for eternity. It’s why no man will ever get there on their own, because not one of us is perfect and righteous in every way. We need to put off sin as much as we can, but realize that every one of us still needs Jesus to get to heaven. It is only by the Blood of the Lamb that our sins will be forgiven and we will receive eternal life!

Colossians 3:1-3

In Colossians 3:1-3 Paul gives us some practical instruction on how to live as a Christ Follower. There is a clear understanding that Christian living is built on the foundation of truth from God’s Word. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Because we know that Jesus has really been raised from the dead, our identification with Him becomes real. It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things which are above. And if we were raised with Him, there are certain things that should be true in our life and how we live. We should seek the things of God, not the world.

Vaughn explains that “the apostle reminds the Colossians that worldly regulations are of no real value in restraining indulgence of the flesh. The only remedy for sinful passions is found in the believers’ experience of union with Christ.” Guzik writes “Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was resurrected.

  • After His resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we – we don’t live there any more.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His disciples. So should we – live our lives to be with and to serve one another.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we – with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus looked forward to heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we – recognizing that our citizenship is in heaven.”

Paul tells us that the best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on heaven. Since Jesus sits on God’s right hand in heaven, our thoughts and hearts need to be connected to heaven also. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Morgan wrote “The believer is to ‘seek the things… above.’ The word ‘seek’ marks aspiration, desire, and passion…. In order to seek these things the mind must be set on them.” How do we make that happen? Clarke explains “Love heavenly things; study them; let your hearts be entirely engrossed by them. Now, that you are converted to God, act in reference to heavenly things as ye did formerly in reference to those of earth.”

As Christ Followers, our place is secure for eternity through Jesus. We have died to self and the things of this earth, and are forever destined to be with Him. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” It doesn’t mean the world around us will recognize or support that destiny. Vaughan explains “‘Earthly things’ are not all evil, but some of them are. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above.” This earth is not our home. We are destined to spend eternity with God the Father and Jesus Christ if we have received His as Savior and Lord. How much better can life be? So we ought live in a way that is pleasing to God through Christ!

Colossians 2:11-12

In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul teaches us about the work of Jesus and how circumcision and baptism work in the life of a believer. Most of the Colossian Christians were Gentiles who had never been physically circumcised. Paul assures them that they were indeed circumcised in a spiritual sense, which is even more important than physical circumcision. “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Apparently, they were being taught that they had to be circumcised to be right with God. Paul makes it clear that they were circumcised, by putting off the sins of the flesh. Vaughn explained that our spiritual circumcision meant the putting off of the old man. “The Greek word for ‘putting off’, a double compound, denotes both stripping off and casting away. The imagery is that of discarding – or being divested of – a piece of filthy clothing.” Peake also says  “This was their conversion, the inward circumcision of the heart, by which they entered on the blessings of the New Covenant.” Their true circumcision is found in their baptism.

Baptism illustrates our identification with the death and resurrection life of Jesus. We were buried with Jesus, and buried under the water. We are also raised with Him, and raised up out of the water. Paul doesn’t say that circumcision and baptism are the same thing, but that circumcision is unnecessary for salvation because we are identified in Jesus and we are baptized to show that. Vaughn explains “The emphasis of the verse, however, is not on the analogy between circumcision and baptism; that concept, though implied, is soon dismissed, and the thought shifts to that of baptism as symbolizing the believer’s participation in the burial and resurrection of Christ.”

Baptism is a public sign of our faith in Christ, but in and of itself it does not lead to salvation. We are raised with Christ through faith and God’s power, not an act of being baptized. It is a signal to the world that we are a Christ Follower, but is not essential to the salvation process. These words demonstrate that Paul understood that the power of regeneration was not in baptism or received by the act of baptism, but received through faith in the working of God. And he puts an exclamation on that by reminding us all that He raised Christ from the dead and defeated the enemy through the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior and Lord.

Philippians 3:15-20

In Philippians 3:15-20 Paul continues teaching us to adopt his attitude as a Christ Follower. Maturity should bring us to a place where we are focused on serving an audience of One, and are focused on our call in Christ. If we aren’t there yet, Paul is trusting that God will reveal to us how important it is. “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Paul wasn’t focused on trying to convince us, he knew God was more than able to deal with His own. He didn’t have the attitude that if he failed to convince them, they would then never be convinced.

Paul would not allow a lack of understanding to excuse anyone from doing what he did know to be the Lord’s will. What we don’t know can never excuse us from failing to fulfill what we do know to do. “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Paul is an example of how we should live as Christ Followers and he is bold in telling the church they should follow his steps. “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Paul is not on an ego trip here, but knew he was a good example. We need concrete examples in our world today of what it means to walk with Jesus.

In contrast to Paul’s good example, he makes clear there are plenty who walk contrary to his teaching. “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” The enemies of the cross were really the opposite of the legalists, who celebrated their supposed liberty in Christ to the indulgence of their flesh. Spurgeon thought that Paul wept for three reasons:

  • First, on account of the guilt of these enemies of the cross of Christ.
  • Second, on account of the ill effects of their conduct.
  • Finally, on account of their doom.

Failing to walk well with Jesus has a serious consequence. “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

We are not citizens of the world for long. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Guzik explains “If we are citizens of heaven, it means that we are resident aliens on earth. Foreigners are distinct in whatever foreign land they go. Christians must be so marked by their heavenly citizenship that they are noticed as different.

  • Aliens should seek to do good works in the land they sojourn in.
  • Aliens should not seek to interfere in the affairs of the land they sojourn in.
  • Aliens have privileges as well as duties; they are not under the same obligations as citizens of the land they sojourn in.
  • Aliens are not eligible for the same rewards and recognitions as the citizens of the land that they sojourn in.
  • Aliens should not focus on building riches in the land they sojourn in.

We also have a certain character as citizens of heaven:

  • As citizens we are under the government of heaven.
  • As citizens we share in heaven’s honors.
  • As citizens we have property rights in heaven.
  • As citizens we enjoy the pleasures of heaven.
  • As citizens of heaven we love heaven and feel attached there.
  • As citizens of heaven we keep in communication with our native home.”

And ultimately, Jesus will transform us for eternity as citizens of heaven. Our earthly body will be replaced with a new heavenly one. And Jesus has already proven able to do that as He did so in His resurrection.

Philippians 2:12-13

In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation. He makes a connection between the obedience Jesus showed in following God’s plan, and what he expected of the Christ Followers at Philippi. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The Philippian believers had a good track record of walking in obedience with God, but Paul reinforces how important it is that they continue.

Guzik explains “We know that Paul did not mean “work so as to earn your own salvation.” Such a statement would contradict the whole of Paul’s gospel. What Paul did mean is to call the Philippians to put forth real effort into their Christian lives. This is not to work their salvation in the sense of accomplishing it, but to work out their salvation – to see it evident in every area of their lives, to activate this salvation God freely gave them. There is a sense in which our salvation is complete, in the sense that Jesus has done a complete work for us. Still there is also a sense in which our salvation is incomplete, in that it is not yet a complete work in us.” Working out our salvation is not about earning it, but making it complete by activating it.

Spurgeon explained Therefore, “These words, as they stand in the New Testament, contain no exhortation to all men, but are directed to the people of God. They are not intended as an exhortation to the unconverted; they are, as we find them in the epistle, beyond all question addressed to those who are already saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s writing here is to the believers only. And Muller further explains “The believer must finish, must carry to conclusion, must apply to its fullest consequences what is already given by God in principle… He must work out what God in His grace has worked in.” Paul tells us that this is personal – our own salvation – and we need to begin by working it out through caring for our own soul.

Paul gives us the reason why Christians must work out their salvation with fear and trembling – because God is working in them. Since God has done and is doing a work in us as Christians, we have a greater responsibility to work diligently with fear and trembling regarding our own salvation and walk with the Lord. God’s work in us increases our responsibility; it doesn’t lessen it in any way. God’s work in us extends to the transformation of our will, as well as changing our actions. And the motive that should drive us to work salvation out is to please God as it gives Him pleasure – it is pleasing to Him when we are walking in obedience and completing the salvation He freely gave us through Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:8

In Philippians 2:8 Paul continues to describe how Jesus demonstrates the way we get to unity in the Body. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Guzik explains “Jesus humbled Himself when He became obedient. This was something that Jesus could only experience by coming down from the throne of heaven and becoming a man. When God sits enthroned in heaven’s glory, there is no one He obeys. Jesus had to leave heaven’s glory and be found in appearance as a man in order to become obedient.”

And part of the outcome of that obedience was suffering, which He had never truly experienced before, so He came to earth to become human so He would understand what all humans endure. He did it humbly in every way. Guzik lists the ways:

  • He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel.
  • He was humble in that He was born into an obscure, oppressed place.
  • He was humble in that He was born into poverty among a despised people.
  • He was humble in that He was born as a child instead of appearing as a man.
  • He was humble in submitting to the obedience appropriate to a child in a household.
  • He was humble in learning and practicing a trade – and a humble trade of a builder.
  • He was humble in the long wait until He launched out into public ministry.
  • He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose.
  • He was humble in the audience He appealed to and the way He taught.
  • He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured.
  • He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured.
  • He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father.
  • He was humble in His submission to the Holy Spirit.
  • He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of the cross.
  • He was humble in the agony of His death.
  • He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
  • He was humble in enduring the spiritual agony of His sacrifice on the cross.”

That’s a pretty long list of humility. And we must never forget that Jesus chose to be obedient and follow God’s plan – He wasn’t forced.

Could Jesus have become human and pay for the sins of the world on the Cross without experiencing all this humiliation? Certainly that would have been possible. Yet He did not avoid humiliation, but took it squarely and provided for our Salvation and began a great work in us. His obedience was complete and extreme as there was no partial obedience. The outcome of His humility ended in death. But it wasn’t just any death. Crucifixion was such a shameful death that it was not permitted for Roman citizens (such as the people of Philippi). A victim of crucifixion was considered by the Jews to be particularly cursed by God.

Robertson called the death of the cross “The bottom rung in the ladder from the Throne of God. Jesus came all the way down to the most despised death of all, a condemned criminal on the accursed cross.” He couldn’t have carried His humility any deeper. All of this was a great display of the power of Jesus. Remember that because of Paul’s past experience among the Philippians, they were tempted to think of God’s power as being expressed only in glory and deliverance and not in terms of obedience to God through humble service and endurance. Paul reminds the Philippians that he too was in a place of humility in a Roman prison, and yet God still could use him through his obedience.

Ephesians 6:10

In Ephesians 6:10 Paul transitions to talk about the reality of life – that we are facing a very real enemy who wants to destroy us as believers. Satan (and his legion) have one mission – to kill, steal and destroy. Paul tells us to be ready. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” But most importantly, he tells us that the battle is not our own. This comes at the end of the letter – a letter in which Paul has carefully established our place in Jesus, and then the basics of the Christian walk. This is his last section dealing with that walk. And he is preparing us for battle.

Guzik writes “For Paul to write finally here means that he speaks in light of all he has previously said.

  • In light of all that God has done for you.
  • In light of the glorious standing you have as a child of God.
  • In light of His great plan of the ages that God has made you part of.
  • In light of the plan for Christian maturity and growth He gives to you.
  • In light of the conduct God calls every believer to live.
  • In light of the filling of the Spirit and our walk in the Spirit.
  • In light of all this, there is a battle to fight in the Christian life.”

The detailed teaching of spiritual warfare in this passage presents two essential components:

  1. First, you must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
  2. Then, you must put on the whole armor of God.

The two components are essential, and much of the teaching on Christian combat neglects the first. If you take a weak man who can barely stand, and put the best armor on him he will still be an ineffective soldier. He will be easily beaten. So equipping for Christian combat must begin with the principle, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. That is the mindset and preparation that gets us ready for battle. Only then should we put on the armor.

Paul also tells us as warriors to ‘be strong….in the strength (power) of His might.

  • Might is inherent power or force. A muscular man’s big muscles display his might, even if he doesn’t use them. It is the reserve of strength. The Lord has unlimited might.
  • Power is the exercise of might. When the muscular man uses his might to bend an iron bar, he uses his power. It means that the reserve of strength is actually in operation.

Guzik explains “God has vast reservoirs of might that can be realized as power in our Christian life. But His might does not work in me as I sit passively. His might works in me as I rely on it, and step out to do the work. I can rely on it and do no work. I can do work without relying on it. But both of these fall short. I must rely on His might and then do the work.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones listed many ways in which he believes Christians waste their strength. It was as if they had received some of the available might of God, but it simply leaked away like water in a bucket that is full of holes. These are some of the things Lloyd-Jones thought sapped the strength of the Christian:

  • Committing to too many spiritual works or things
  • Too much conversation
  • Arguments, debates, wrangling
  • Laziness
  • Too much time in the wrong company
  • Too much foolish talk and joking
  • Love of money and career
  • A desire for respectability and image
  • An unequal yoking with an unbeliever
  • Ungodly entertainment
  • A wrong attitude toward or doubting the Word of God

We have to walk on a knife-edge in these matters; you must not become extreme on one side or the other. But you have to be watchful. And, of course, you can always tell by examining yourself whether your strength is increasing or declining.” (Lloyd-Jones)

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