The Obedience Problem

The problem with OBEDIENCE

Ever find yourself struggling … wanting to do what you know is right and proper: wanting to be obedient, yet recognizing that you have failed again?  When we start down that road, meditating on our failure, we are headed for the pit of discouragement.  There is nothing more devastating than to feel that we’ve failed when we have tried so hard to succeed.  The problem? 

When OBEDIENCE becomes the major objective of our Christian pursuit, we are in trouble. Nothing can sink our ship any faster than a life lived trying to be obedient. When Obedience is our goal, failure is almost always guaranteed.

I want to address this error in thinking in this paper.  First, I will define the error.  Most simply stated, it is thinking that the Lord desires our obedience above all else. If you are a bible student or a bible teacher, you can cite more than one passage that seems to teach this truth. Let me say unequivocally: obedience is not the Lord’s uppermost concern for you or me..

It is not an exaggeration when I point out that …

There are more deeply committed
believers who fall prey to this
falacious thinking that to any other
devastating error that anyone
can make.

Wherein is the error?
Every biblical aberration that believers encounter can usually be reduced to
a problem involving some aspect of their understanding.  Some erroneous
thinking has obscured the relational aspect of their faith.  Underscore this
last statement in red!!  When our thought processes concerning the
relational aspect of our faith are wrong,  we are in deep mud. 

But let’s tackle the basic question: Are we to be obedient?  Is the Lord’s desire for us to obey His teachings?

Indeed!  We all know the answer to this rhetorical question!  This is a foolish question!  The Word is full of passages that clearly teach this truth.  IF we love Jesus, we will obey His teachings.  BUT!  All such teaching is there for a purpose.  

Jesus wants us to realize that we are completely helpless to be obedient in our own strength.  As believers, we are all struggling souls who are desperate and in continual need of a genuine, dependent relationship with Jesus Christ.  Such a relationship is a must if we are ever to truly enjoy any kind of a consistent life of obedience.  We absolutely cannot generate obedience

Made for a purpose …
So then, where does obedience fit in?  Let’s go back to the beginning.  Our Heavenly Father has created us with a well-documented purpose.  It’s all there from Genesis to Revelation. He wants us to enjoy Him and our relationshsip with Him.  We were made for intimate fellowship.  He sent Jesus Christ to earth to facilitate such a faith-relationship.

There’s no question about it!  Jesus was sent to provide a means for our salvation, BUT THAT WAS NOT HIS ONLY REASON FOR COMING !!!  He came to make it possible for us to enjoy fellowship – spiritual fellowship – with Himself and with the Father.

When we were born again, we became "New Creations".  This new Eternal Being is designed to enjoy a very real, practical, day-to-day relationship with Jesus Christ.  This is the sum and substance of the Gospel.  It is for relationship, that we were RE-created . 

We were made to recognize our neediness and to then discover that our Heavenly Father desires to make known His Magnificent means of meeting that neediness.  All of life is about discovering the overwhelming nature of God’s Love for us.  Every aspect of our daily lives is simply another entrance into the joy of Him as the Source of all life. To facilitate our having an intimate relationship with HIm, our Father sent His Son.  It is Jesus’ teaching concerning our need to abide in Him that opens the door to the full and wonderful life we were designed to experience.  

Only as we learn how to live according to the Designer’s plan, will we be
able to keep from falling. When we lose the infinite resources of His
Abiding Presence
, we fall. Dependence on Him supercedes every
other consideration of life. When we lose our dependence on Jesus,
we lose the joy of intimacy with Him and with our Father.

Unfortunately, we can preach it – teach it – know it in our hearts and still
we lose it. The struggle of our flesh is beyond our ability to understand.
Yet, Jesus has made it clear that without Him we can do nothing.

Our Problem ?
When OBEDIENCE becomes our objective – even a cursory objective,
we fall into the trap of the do-it-
yourself mentality. When this happens,
we again start trying, trying, trying, BUT!
  Trying will never get us
where we want to go. Obedience is always a by-product of our
relationship with Jesus.

Striving for obedience has been an all-consuming error for many believers
down through the ages. The scriptures are filled with accounts that bear
this out. Remember the Galatians epistle? Paul’s objective in this master-
piece was to tackle that very problem – the problem of trying to be
obedient by trying harder. Listen to his strong exhortation to the Galatians:

            Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now
           TRYING to attain your goal by human effort?
Gal 3:3

Like wow! These are ponderous words, But remember! We have been made
totally dependent creatures who need Jesus Christ. When we were born
again, we were RE-BORN. The new birth has enabled us to understand
that we are to be dependent.
Only the Holy Spirit can illumine our minds
to understand that Jesus came to be our Savior and Lord, AND our Best
Friend.

As long as the Lord allows us to sojourn here on earth, we will wrestle with
this problem of striving. Paul’s problem was not pornography or perpetual
lying, or even consistent inner anger. His problem was not unlike ours. He
was a very capable person. His problem was Self.  He often found himself
trying – I mean really TRYING! 

His repeated fall-back to the realm of trying was what he had in mind when
he finally reached chapters 7 and 8 of his epistle to the Romans. This is
why he described himself as a wretched man. (You can read that passage
for yourself.)

NOTHING will more quickly destroy our intimacy with Jesus Christ than the
act of resorting again to the busy-ness of self-effort: the mind-set of
trying
. This approach to living the Christian life is a huge, very effective
tool put forth by the evil one.

Anything that clutters the end objective of our relationship with Jesus
needs to go.  BUT … to rid ourselves of that ever-present menace
demands a constant maintence effort. It is not enough to know this
truth.  We need to LEARN how to live a life of continual repentance.
We need to acknowledge our weaknesses and continue to let the
Lord know that we are – little by little – begining to understand what
He meant by His powerful teaching in John 15:5: ".. APART FROM
ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING. (NIV)

Is genuine growth possible?
Can we grow in the desire to be obedient?  Indeed we can … and should.
That is what sanctification is all about. The Lord wants us to grow spiritually.
But He has to do the growing.  And … He will do it !   BUT!!!  He will only do it
in so far as we learn how to ABIDE in HIM so that He can ABIDE in us. 

All of life is simply a laboratory designed for our learning.  The eternal
course we are taking makes every ounce of earthly learning from Jesus
the only proper effort to pursue. From Jesus’ standpoint, our daily lives
are of extreme worth;  and, our earthly pilgrimages are meant to serve
as laboratories. 

The war of our two natures fights against our winning the battle for
obedience. The old nature wants to strive; the new nature wants to relinquish
control. When it comes to obedience, the new nature (Christ’s Life in us) must
win if we are ever to experience true obediance. This is what Jesus implied
when He said "I AM THE LIFE."  It is ONLY His Life in us that is the essence
of Spiritual Intimacy. 

Nothing supercedes our need to become more Jesus-dependent. He is not
only the Way to a successful faith-life,  He must, must, MUST become our
very life.

But know this. We all need to be encouraged; the fact that we desire to be
obedient is what’s important. 
 The desire is a good thing, a God-thing!
That very nudge of desire is a prompting by the Spirit.  The Lord uses our
recognition of neediness to cause us to return again to Romans 12:1-3. 
He is the only way to an obedient life; and I repeat … HE MUST BECOME
OUR LIFE.
 

Our Father makes no mistakes and uses everything we do, right or wrong,
to sanctify us as we learn how to immediately turn to Jesus the minute we
sense a failure looming before us.  His Loving Ear is always open: it’s
diaglogue that He wants more than anything else at this point.  When we
leave the narrow way, the Holy Spirit does His thing to get our attention.

It doesn’t usually take an earthquake to cause us to sense the absence of
His Presence.  WHEN THE JOY FACTOR DISAPPEARS, WE KNOW WE
HAVE TAKEN THE REINS AGAIN.  In light of that comment, consider how
profound Jesus’ teaching is in John 15:11.  
 

           "I have told you this so that MY JOY may be
               in you
and that your joy may be complete."

Our spiritual pilgrimage is meant to be exciting and rewarding every day.
BUT !!  Most of us are slow LEARNERS.  This writer knows more paradigm
truth … and  has experienced a number of longer periods of intimacy than
most new paradigm believers.  But despite that truth, my struggle to die
to Self … and stay dead … is my constant plight..

If there is a secret to learning a lifestyle of intimacy, it is to focus on Jesus.
As Hebrews 12:2 says, "Fix your eyes on Jesus".  Some contemporary
writers have made this statement,  "There are 3 keys to intimacy.  Write
these in the flyleaf of your bible.  They are RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP,
RELATIONSHIP.    

Please be encouraged.  Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ !!!

Jack

PS
Read Dallas Willard’s encouraging and helpful article. As you read, note his
strong emphasis on learning, or discipleship, as he labels it, along with his
repeated teaching regarding our need to consistently pursue holiness.
These truths will be discussed in future papers. Watch for "new stuff" as we
consider how to develop a life of repentance!! 

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