Friday, July 12, 2013

The Obedience Dilemma

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV)

Actor/comedian Chris Rock examined a well known cultural phenomenon in his HBO documentary Good Hair. Black women spend billions of dollars annually to change the appearance of their hair. They sew, bind, cut, attach, burn, color, twist and even poison their hair to have it conform to a look that it does not come by naturally. These processes aren't designed to promote the health of the hair and scalp nor does the discipline fundamentally, at the root, create more manageable hair. If not relaxed, it will revert.

In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne's love interest, Rachel Dawes, witnesses what appears to be the folly of a billionaire playboy. Tormented by the fact that he can't reveal his identity or purpose, the hero Bruce Wayne pleadingly protests that what she's witnessing is not who he is "inside." Her retort was a cutting, it's not who you are inside, "it's what you do that defines you."

Throughout our lives, we are judged by our performance by often well meaning parents, by teachers, at work and even, perhaps especially in church. We start with our children, don't we? "O be careful little feet where you go...for the Father up above is looking down in love..." But do we really mean to teach them that if their feet go the wrong way that God won't look down in love at them? Isn't the whole point of church to bring our behavior problem to The Lord? If I could fix it myself with self-discipline, assistance or through obedience, why would I attend church? More to the point, why did Jesus have to die?

On the other hand, how effective can a marketing campaign for weight loss be where all of the models, long-time participants in the program, are obese? So, why not then emphasize behavior, outcomes, evidence and fruit? It is a dilemma.

Paul puts an even finer point on the issue: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV)

Don't we invite "cheap grace" if we don't emphasize behavior? Look at Paul's list. If obedience isn't stressed then don't we get attitudes of license? Because of course, those behaviors aren't also prevalent in a church that's known for its admonitions to believers, right? That can't happen in a church that is often conflicted about conflating judgement with salvation, can it?

Let's back up to 2 Timothy 3:5, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Many of us remain uncomfortable with things that aren't tangible; we don't leave things to "chance" if we can help it. Isn't the Good News that we don't have to burn, cut or poison ourselves to create the illusion of Good Hair? God recreates, God transforms and doesn't God even obey?

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 KJV)

Yes, it is crazy sounding and radical, even foolishness to think this way. Maybe not!

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB)

God's power must transform or our belief is nonsense. So, if this is true, aren't we better served to try Jesus, to recommend His merits rather than exhorting outcomes and behaviors that may be confused with a "works righteousness?" Personally, I don't want to do wrong just because through Jesus, yes and even in my mess, I'm declared right! No, His love draws me ever closer.

This is my prayer -

O how deep your holy wisdom! Unimagined, all your ways! To your name be glory, honor! With our lives we worship, praise! We your people stand before you, water-washed and Spirit born. By your grace, our lives we offer. Recreate us; God, transform!

Here's Oleta Adams' version, enjoy!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Brilliant Craig! So encouraging!

  2. Some see righteousness by grace through faith as, at the most, a license to sin while still being saved—a shortcut to salvation. Or, at the very least, they see it as a passive experience.

    On the contrary, righteousness by grace through faith is a dynamic experience. "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son (justification), MUCH MORE, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (sanctification)" - Rom. 5:10.

    God is not just giving us forgiveness, He's also offering restoration. If you enter into salvation, you are entering into life! You cannot get to life without going first through the death of Jesus. Herein lies the paradoxically dynamic relationship between justification and sanctification. But make no mistake, whether righteousness is imputed (justification) or whether it's imparted (sanctification), it's 100% the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

    So stop beating yourself up over how well you confess and repent, and whether you're good enough for God's forgiveness. YOU'RE ALREADY FORGIVEN! Remember, you were forgiven while you were His enemy (Rom. 5:10). Our role in this dynamic experience … FAITH!!!!! (B. Liversidge, "Victory in Jesus," 115, 64 [paraphrased])