Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. – John 5:19 (NIV)
The last few weeks, I have had to make some decisions that have been difficult. I have realized that I took far too much control over some things in my life, not trusting that God would just be God and take care of me if I would be fully obedient to Him. I was in disobedience, and I knew it. I felt God’s favor drift away from me like a shady cloud on a hot day. I had to, as the expression goes, drop back and punt, even though it meant loss of investments and the embarrassment of admitting defeat.
I have become convinced that the Kingdom of Heaven can be summed up in this one idea: radical and complete obedience to the Father. As I look more and more at the life of Jesus, it seems that he always comes back to this point in both his daily activities and his teachings. While many of his teachings have different topics, they all stem from the same root of obedience. In other words, he constantly showed that if we would just make up our minds and hearts to completely surrender to the will of God, everything else falls into place (see Matt.6:33). Consider:
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. – John 5:30
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. – John 6:38
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. – John 8:28
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. – John 12:49
I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” – John 12:50
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. – John 14:10
And that is all just from the Gospel of John, which means Jesus probably started feeling like a broken record at some point. I can just imagine the Son of God, in all his loving but righteous frustration (we see that a few times in the gospels) just wanting to scream out, “Listen!” Seriously, though, it is vital to understand that everything Jesus did had a two-fold purpose. First, he was just being Jesus, the greatest prophet and teacher to ever walk the planet, working miracles and flipping tables long before that New Jersey housewife. But the second part of his mission, and this is where many Christians struggle, was to be the example for the rest of us to follow. His job in those three years was to be a trailblazer for the rest of us, showing us how we could live as children of God in a world without his physical presence. He didn’t just call followers; he created imitators, and even, dare I say, duplicators.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. – Romans 8:14
This passage from Romans (and many other scriptures which I will not enumerate here) reveals how we live truly to be like Christ in our degree of obedience: we are led by the Spirit. You see, the obedience to which I am referring has very little to do with the Ten Commandments or the Mosaic Law. As Paul pointed out so many times, those things are good and useful, but essentially meaningless because there is not necessarily a spiritual obedience with the keeping of the law. The obedience of Christ was to pray, seek the Father, listen, and follow, even when it didn’t make sense or would cost something. It is for this reason we need the Holy Spirit operating in our lives on a daily basis. We need a constant stream of communication between ourselves and the Father, not just a few minutes of daily quiet time before we shut our Bibles and our minds off from God. We must be in a constant state of readiness to hear from the Lord, whether our direction comes from the still, small urging in our spirits or a sudden recollection or “sign” that directs our paths.
Then, and this is the hard part, we have to stop and do. Good intentions are not obedience, and God isn’t good with the excuse of, “It’s the thought that counts.” He has a Kingdom to advance. He wants to use you. And if you aren’t willing, someone else will be. Sadly, that means we miss the blessing of seeing God work miracles and change lives. When we ignore God’s commands on a large-scale, it gets called ‘The Western Church,’ and we all sit around on our hands and wonder why God moves so mightily in places like Africa and Asia.
I am sorry if that hurt. It hurt me, too.
My husband and I were swapping stories today about how God loves people so much that He might ask us to do some seemingly stupid things in order to reach one person. From simply walking in a particular place without knowing why to the extreme circumstances of giving away more than you can afford or saying something that seems absurd, we have no clue how God is working in someone else through those acts of obedience. Most of the time, we will not understand exactly what we are doing or why we are doing it until after the circumstance. God doesn’t need us to understand His motives or see the whole picture, and while that sounds harsh, it really doesn’t matter if we are totally surrendered to Him anyway.
This is what Jesus did. After all, this is the same Jesus who spit in the dirt and smeared the mud on a man’s blind eyes, and who told a disciple to get tax money from the mouth of a fish. I can honestly say that I have never felt led to do something like that.
I have been led to do things that the world might look at as crazy, irrational, or just unnecessary. But think how much different the world might be if Christendom got this: if we stopped being so controlling over our own lives and made the Holy Spirit our guide. What if we let God be truly sovereign?
I have realized that I do not want to be the person about whom others say, “She had a really successful life, nice house, nice car, dressed well, took lots of vacations, blah, blah, blah.” I want them to say that I changed the world for the better, and I can only do that the way Jesus did.