Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grace and Obedience Part 2

"His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3)

Under the covenant of the law of Moses, obedience to God was the forerunner of life. "Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them" (Genesis 18:5).

Under the covenant of grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, obedience to God is the fruit of life. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

The law spoke to Israel from without, demanding the application of fleshly determination and energy to fulfill the will of God. Grace and truth births the Holy Spirit within the heart of believers, calling us to believe that we are "alive unto God," and that the joy of our innermost being is to obey God (Romans 6:11). "I delight in the law of God after the inner man" (Romans 7:22). The commands of the Old Testament were heavy burdens under which Israel continually fell because she had no heart for the doing of them (Deuteronomy 5:29). Conversely, the commands of the New Testament are declared by the Lord Jesus to be an easy burden and light yoke, based upon the truth that they are directed not simply to ourselves, but to ourselves as united with the Spirit of God. "I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Matthew 11:30; Colossians 1:29).

Do we consistently think in these plainly stated Biblical terms? We must, because "to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6). Our spiritual enemies are well aware of this necessity to rightly perceive God, ourselves, and the dynamic wonder of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Accordingly, they fight incessantly to hinder our understanding of the spiritual mechanism of grace and truth. On one hand, the world, the devil, and the flesh prod us to human-centered attempts to obedience based on discipline, determination, and devotion to method rather than the might of God. On the other hand, when such efforts fail, as they always will, our enemies then seek to delude us into a de-emphasis of obedience. "It's all grace and it's all about faith" they whisper or scream, tempting us to forget that obeying God is no less emphasized in the New Testament than in the Old. The Apostle Peter wrote that "sanctification of the Spirit" is "unto obedience," and the Apostle John plainly commanded, "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not" (I John 2:1).

Rather than obey in order to live, born again believers live in order to obey. "To live is Christ... I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me" (Philippians 1:21; 4:13). We humbly acknowledge that we are completely without strength for obedience apart from our Lord - "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). However, we also boldly affirm that we are not apart from our Lord! - "Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). We choose to believe that the very life of God Himself dwells within us by His Spirit, and that regardless of past experience, present sensation, and fear of the future, we are powerfully enabled for the obedience of this moment and this day.

We cannot change yesterday. Tomorrow is not guaranteed or presently accessible. Today is the issue, and more literally, this moment. Is the Spirit of Christ present right now to motivate and enable obedience to God? Is He working in me to do so? Is it the delight of my innermost being, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, to do the will of God regardless of what my flesh may feel or think? These are the questions that must be answered in the context of grace and truth as revealed in the Lord Jesus. We must live, that is, we must walk in the truth of the Life that inhabits our spirits. As we do so, genuine, heart-felt, and most importantly, God-originated and empowered obedience will flow from us as "the rivers of living water" promised by the Lord Jesus to all who "believe on Me" (John 7:38).

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
(I John 4:9)

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