doing and being is not a “versus” relationship

Posted: October 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

We had a great message in church yesterday.  It was part of a series on “Abundant Life;” this one boiled down to the theme, “We’ll only find freedom when we actually do something with what we hear from God’s word.”  Marking off church attendance will not bring freedom.  Showing up to hear the message and feel convicted will not bring freedom.  Believing what God says will not bring freedom.  The freedom comes from following what He says – in other words, that pesky word many of us love to hate:  obey.

This morning, like every morning, G and I read from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His HIghest.

The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ today is the idea of practical work that has no basis in the New Testament but comes from the systems of the world. This work insists upon endless energy and activities, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong thing. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation….For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). It is a hidden, obscure thing. An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life.

We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live. In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master. The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others.

So which is it?  Is what I DO the important thing, or is my personal RELATIONSHIP with Him the important thing?  We can tie ourselves in knots, trying to sort it out.

Really, though, the two ideas above are not in opposition to one another.

Our pastor was talking about living and walking in freedom.  We get that all mixed up.  When a pastor stands up and tells us what we should be doing, we tend to think they mean we should be doing it to earn our way to heaven, to avoid hell, or to prove to ourselves and others that we are “real Christians,” all while a disapproving God glares down at us, waiting for us to work hard enough to finally make Him relent and smile.

She was talking about freedom and growth – about the simple truth that our actions have consequences.  The choices we make are huge in determining whether we will know freedom, joy, simplicity, and growth…or whether we will struggle with bondage, misery, and perpetual complication that works to keep us too confused to escape the trap, and too “stuck” to grow at all.  Freedom and growth come from obedience.

It’s important to note that obedience is not just about what we DON”T do.  It’s not just an “avoiding sin” kind of deal.  In fact, it’s my own personal opinion (and I’m not calling it the gospel – just my opinion) that when we focus primarily on avoiding sin, we live small, miserable, selfish lives and we turn into judgmental jerks that no one wants to know.  It’s like the old way of dieting, where you ate miserable, tiny portions of non-wonderful food and walked around starving all day.  On the other hand, if we press into the fullness of all the GOOD things He commands of us, our lives and hearts are so full that we aren’t nearly as likely to struggle with the don’ts.  This is more like the new way of dieting, which isn’t dieting at all, but just filling your plate so full of stuff that’s amazingly good for you (and delicious) that you’re not really tempted to eat the crap that makes you fat and unhealthy.  For instance, I’m supposed to get 10 servings of certain vegetables in per day, and also drink half my body weight in ounces of water.  If I follow those two uber-healthy directives, I don’t have ROOM for garbage (and since I’m not doing 10 servings of celery sticks and iceberg lettuce, I’m enjoying foods I actually look forward to eating.)  It’s kind of the same principal, I think.

When I choose to walk out my life exhibiting the love of Christ by giving, serving, and forgiving (all of which are forms of obedience), I walk in freedom, and I continually grow.  When I choose the opposite, I live in bondage, and any growth is severely stunted.  That’s the powerful truth of the value of obedience.

Oswald Chambers (or Ozzie, as I prefer to call him) wasn’t speaking in opposition to the truth that our choices form us.  He was pointing to the core, the center, the reason and motivation for those choices.  All the obeying in the world won’t help, if our obedience comes from the belief that we are earning His approval, or from the thought that He’s waiting for us to *do* enough to bring us up from unacceptable to okay.  Following Christ must necessarily come from knowing Him, from trusting Him, from hearts so filled with gratitude that we DESIRE to walk in His ways.  Our obedience is a gift of love to Him, and reflection of our right understanding of who He is and who we are, and a deep trust that He wants what is best for us, and thus His commands are clearly the optimal path for us.

We’re never going to find that well of love and trust by running around frantically doing, doing, doing, without first knowing Him.

And when we really know Him, everything in us is compelled to give Him all that we are and all that we have – which ends up looking like:  obedience.

See? Though there is a tension there, the two messages are not in opposition.  We need both sides of the coin.  One without the other is a lesser place to live.

We’re not created to settle for those lesser places.


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