Obedience (Is Not a Dirty Word)
The word "Obedience" has always had such a condemning and negative response in me.
So much of that word really applies to the consequences of being Dis-Obedient—in a likeness to your teacher yelling at you, a bullying boss, police brutality, or worst: a slave to master.
Yet more personally for me (and maybe to you): a parent beating their child for doing something wrong when I didn’t even know I did anything wrong; and the guilt-shaming of religious disobedience.
So, your emotional flashbacks to disobeying your parent, teacher, church doctrine, traffic law, or rightful injustice can be terrifying (like mine).
So then, in that religious connotation (spread into our own earthly reality), we want to give new understanding and interpretation to how the Lord views it—not with condemnation, nor with punishment, but with Love.
Thus, we can look specifically at Obedience… starting with Jesus’s ministry.
So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
So, this is strange… why does it seem as though suffering is what brings about obedience?
And why did Jesus, who was already perfect, need to learn obedience?
Well, it’s more specifically: that Jesus learned the full nature of what it means to be obedient to the Father, even when it entailed suffering (even when faced with suffering—suffering because His obedience led Him into situations where He would face conflict, persecution, frustration, anger, sadness, depression, and physical pain).
Here’s the thing: Jesus was perfect in every way. In no way did He sin, make a mistake, or not do what He saw the Father do. He did everything perfectly—yet, it did not mean suffering didn’t come His way.
No matter how hard you try to be perfect (that’s me and my perfectionist nature), you can never be perfect enough to avoid pain from others. No matter how I tried to control the situation too, did it come without hurts and pains.
Now this is what I have been discovering: when I am in any given situation and the Lord (Holy Spirit) gives personal advice in that situation, when I listen to Him, He helps me avoid the troubles (and disasters) that would be WORSE if I didn’t adhere to Him. And if I follow-through with what He did and something bad still happens, my conscience is clear from my own self-condemnation of not doing as He said.
This is probably the most debilitating reality to me—my own self-condemnation in imperfection. That “if I only did X, Y, or Z, then I would have avoided A, B, & C that resulted in so much pain and suffering (to myself or to others)”.
But remember, your listening and doing as the Lord guides does not mean you still won’t suffer pain (emotionally / mentally / physically)… it just means you aren’t part of the cause. For the Lord (Holy Spirit) speaks to everyone else as well for them to also follow His instruction.
The Lord cannot violate your free-will to make you choose His way; nor violate anyone else’s free-will to make them choose against His way either.
A life imbalance.
I hate and despise imperfection—because it was a “survival instinct” to protect me as a child.
But the Lord is not asking for me to be perfect… He is just asking me to see and hear His guidance… then follow it.
It may be a single word, an image, or verse.
But it is always an opportunity to make a choice—to follow the Spirit or to follow the flesh.
Ugh, that damned flesh!
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
You see the conflict that we live with every day and every moment! You feel it, but sometimes can’t comprehend it. Other times you just want to “peel your flesh off to free the Spirit inside you”.
That tug-of-war is often too much to bear.
This same tug-of-war Jesus dealt with too. He was raised in the same corrupted world with the same imperfect parents he was raised under—like, hello, where did “daddy” Joseph go in his childhood. Last we heard of Joseph was when Jesus was 12 years old.
So, Jesus also had to overcome any iniquities being presented Him in His upbringing.
But moreso, had to take on a responsibility for Salvation that none of us ever have to.
He sweated blood for us and had to resist His flesh’s desire to forgo the Cross. Jesus had tens of thousands of angels ready and waiting to avenge Him before the Cross.
But Jesus maintained the Will of the Father even though every last cell in His body, mind, and soul wanted to avoid (not just the physical crucifixion), but taking upon Himself all the sin and disease of all time for all people everywhere and everywhen.
So, let’s see what Paul concludes regarding the Spirit / flesh struggle:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal (flesh) mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
See how that works… when we do things from out flesh (i.e., doing things not the Lord’s way) we end up in condemnation—not condemned by God, but that we feel condemned because the “thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy”. This thief is your flesh!
Jesus came to give us Life more Abundant. And we can see that manifest in our lives when we do live from the Spirit—even when it goes against everything we think we hold true in ourselves (in our “programming”).
Sometimes, doing the things from the Spirit feels like we would be lying. None of us want to lie (not tell the truth). But because our being believes the lie of the flesh as our “truth”, anything from the Spirit feels like a lie (when in FACT it is the Spiritual TRUTH).
Ever need to tell someone something that builds them up, when you are angry at their actions that you don’t feel deserves them to be built-up? There we go… the Lord builds you up (and them up) from each and every mistake they make. And thus, we must do the same—even when it feels like we are lying.
Obedience when it hurts our own way of thinking, feeling, and un-believing.
Oh look… this is what is being said here about bringing that thinking into alignment with Christ:
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war in the ways of the flesh (flesh fighting flesh). For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (of the flesh), but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Hey, if what I am thinking does not align with the way the Lord does it, I have to find a way to override that fleshly way of thinking. How we think is often how we respond to situation around us.
Look at the thinking and unbelief shown when Israel was freed from Egypt in a spectacular fashion by the Lord.
We read back through it and question how was it that Israel thought that God did all that miraculous work just to drag them out to the desert to kill them Himself?
But then, how often do we feel the same about God in our own life situations?
The Lord told them to immediately go take the Promised Land given to them—but they chose not to. God couldn’t force them to go. God’s timing was for them to go, but Israel’s timing wasn’t. This sorrowed the Lord (as it would you and me). So, “around the mountain they went” for 40 years.
To them, this was a form of suffering—blaming God for their own choice to not take the Promised Land. They felt God was now “testing them”; but it was them testing God:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore, I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
Remember, it wasn’t just in Egypt, but for 40 years the Lord showed His work of promise, restoration, salvation, and survival. They were amply fed, watered, protected, and their clothes and sandals never wore out.
If they were given a “do-over” with the experience of wandering the desert for forty years, do you think they would have said that taking the Promised Land right-away would have been a better choice (even if they might have felt it difficult to actually do)?
This then gets us to that lovely verse:
1 Samuel 15:22b
Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice.
If my disobedience results in disaster in my own personal life, would it not have been more prudent to be obedient instead?
Now the Lord may not tell me the consequences of disobedience (or the outcome of obedience)—but this is our purpose to trust the Lord even when we don’t have all the details or know all the outcomes.
Let’s look at Esau:
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
In that moment Esau came home “starving”, he thought only of the now and the satisfaction his flesh needed right then. So, in that limbic state, he dismissed his birthright for a meal. And in that moment, it was lost (stollen from him by Jacob).
This is to say that if Esau had not “sold his birthright for a meal”, Jacob would not have stollen it. Esau reaped what he sowed (of the flesh).
And thus, when the time came and reality struck that Esau didn’t get his birthright blessing from their dad (Isaac), no matter what Esau tried to do, he could not undo what had been done. No amount of prayer, remorse, repentance, or sacrifice could bring back what had been lost.
I have lived that moment of utter loss—that no matter how hard I tried, prayed, begged, and pleaded in shameful remorse—I could not go back in time to make it not happen.
But look at the life of Jacob and Esau over time. Jacob knew he did wrong and had so much fear for Esau retaliating that he sent hoards of women and blessings to appease Esau. But Esau had already been blessed by the Lord. The Lord didn’t punish Esau, He blessed Esau for who the Lord is, not what Esau did (or didn’t do).
Even when we see a pre-cross blessing as such, how much more will we be blessed because of Christ Jesus!
Our mistakes don’t define us (even when we feel and believe they do).
Your Righteousness is not based on what we do/don’t do… it is based on what Christ Jesus has done for us!
We do not have to fear God!
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel
This is the amazing aspect of Christ Jesus, He already paid the penalty for YOUR mistakes. So, all He is left being able to do is bring about your salvation in the here-and-now. He can only bless you and build you up.
Yes, we may cause ourselves less trouble if we follow His lead, but also know that you can’t be perfect at it. And that in your imperfections is where He meets you to rescue you out of.
From Glory to Glory we go.
Be at peace knowing that all your mistakes He foreknew and planned around.
Christ took them all on the Cross.
And we have the Gifted ability to actually live from the Spirit—it just takes some hard renewing of the mind (getting rid of that unbelief that hinders our ability to live freely from the Spirit).
God Bless (as He always does)!
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