Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What does Godly obedience look like?

There were some interesting comments to my post about obedience to God reflected in my dietary habits. The primary concern was associating such a fleshly (and often times vain) practice to matters of the heart. If approached the wrong way, it could very well become an issue of legalism.

I certainly did not mean to endorse diet and exercise as a means to grow closer to God. If anything, I see my gluttony as one example of how I've been short on discipline my entire life. This is not about my will, but about my heart's sinful intent to indulge when I should be fasting -- in the spirit. It's a metaphor for the reality of my often straying heart, cheating on God with desire for the things of this world. Being overweight by itself doesn't mean anything spiritually.

Brian Colmery responded on his own blog by noting how he would like to establish patterns of discipline in his life at a young age. I wish I had this kind of foresight at 25.

This New Years millions of empty resolutions will be made to better oneself, often in the midst of recovery from a night of hedonistic indulgence. I don't know if this is a statement about the wayward attitudes of America or the fact we have so much of the pleasurable things of the world to entice us.

One thing I know is God does not want our empty promises, nor does He want us to better ourselves in vacuous methods. We can beat our flesh all we want, but if God does not have our hearts it is all vanity. When we try to obtain Godliness on our own will, we are fighting against the singular message of the Gospel: We cannot make the first step towards Godliness on our own.

However, God's commandment to obey did not fade away with Christ's victory over death. It is still better to obey in good conscience, though ultimately only Christ's sacrifice is our sanctification.

It is a paradox that has confounded men for 2000 years. Worse, hyperfocusing on obedience on one side and grace on the other has had the Church out of balance the majority of this Church Age.

When I think of examples of true obedience in the Bible, they span across all generations, and there is one simple theme: A genuine love of God. God calls, His people hear His voice, and they show up. It is simply responding to God's call.

Showing up, as the wisdom of Woody Allen declares, is 88 percent of life. In God's Kingdom, showing up is 100 percent of life. This is pretty much all God requires of us, particularly in this Church Age where we have the revealed Christ and a path of grace to heaven.

When I think of my own disobedience, I think of my daily faults of not showing up: not showing up for prayer, not showing up to read or hear His word, not showing up (with a heart of thankfulness) every time God's providence leads me to His waters, not showing up when God has work for me to do.

I do not think of my disobedience in terms of my fleshly sin, because the sin of my flesh is a merely reflection of what's already going on in my heart. Fleshly sin should come as no surprise to me because my heart has already decided not to show up at the feet of God when I awake in the morning.

But freedom from fleshly sin is easy to come by. The Spirit convicts me and turns my heart repentant. The bigger problem is the closed eyes of my heart, that darkness that has lurked in me since I took my first breath in this world.

So here we begin to see a better picture of my spiritual immaturity, which is an element of taking license with God's grace. Grace is my only path to heaven, but if my heart is not intent on obeying His commands, I am dishonoring Christ's sacrifice.

There is no easy path to Godly obedience, because nothing of God's nature is natural to man. Sometimes we might imitate it, but the kind of obedience God requires comes first from a heart that longs for God's perfect rule in our lives, that daily kneeling at the foot of the throne declaring He is the Lord of our lives. It is the difference between taking what God has given us freely and giving to God because we desire to please Him.

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