Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Grace and Obedience" Part 1

"His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3).
Recently I mentioned the different responses many believers have to the words "grace" and "obedience." Mention of the former often elicits relief, thanksgiving, and a sense of restful peace in the heart. Conversely, the latter may seem heavy, burdensome, and stressful as we remember failures of the past and trepidation concerning the present and the future.
Surely our Heavenly Father would not have us to think or feel this way about obeying His will. Regarding disobedience of the past, God's views the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ as far more than adequate to provide forgiveness, cleansing, and the potential to walk with Him in this present moment (and in all future present moments) with a clean conscience and the gracious favor of being "accepted in the Beloved" (Hebrews 10:22; Ephesians 1:6). As we agree with Him concerning the power of our Savior's death for our sins and His ongoing heavenly intercession for us, the obedience of this present moment is not hindered or overlooked by the failures of the past. Certainly we may have to deal with consequences of yesterday's disobedience, but our Heavenly Father is able to weave even our misstitched threads into the fabric of His purposes in our lives. Indeed, the only moment of obedience to God that exists for us is this moment. Recognition of such gracious truth fosters peace and a powerful sense of the Holy Spirit's present enabling.
We are also much tempted to ignore or overlook "the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20). The Apostle Paul declared the presence and dynamic working of God in us to be "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think." Do we believe this, both in the overall sense, and in the context of this present moment? Is the Spirit of Christ that present, that dynamic, that enabling, and that motivating? Is He, as Paul plainly stated, "working is us both to will and to do of His good pleasure?" (Philippians 2:13). Does the Lord Jesus not only dwell within us by His Spirit, but does He also walk in us? (II Corinthians 6:16). The concept of obedience to God becomes a different matter altogether when we learn and embrace the reality that the Christ who lived a perfect lifetime of obedience dwells within us in both dynamic presence and activity. "I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29).
If the thought or mention of obedience to God does not fill our heart with a song, and adorn our face with a smile, we can be sure that our need is for greater understanding of the grace that not only provides forgiveness and assurance of eternal life. Grace provides the living Christ to dwell and walk in us by His Spirit, and to enable us to "live through Him" in consistent faith and obedience. Regardless of what happened yesterday, or this morning, or five minutes ago, this is truth and reality for every believer. The thought and mention of obedience should elicit thought and joyful affirmation of the Lord Jesus and His obedient heart dwelling within us by the presence and agency of the Holy Spirit. We can "do all things through Christ," all things that glorify God and fulfill His will (Philippians 4:13). Yes, grace and obedience walk hand and hand in the loving purposes of God in our lives, and the thought of both should fill our hearts with rest and peace.
"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)
"I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart."
(Psalm 40:8)

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