A New Kind of Obedience

discipleship steve norris May 10, 2022
A New Kind of Obedience | Dr. Steve Norris

When you walk into a church, very quickly you discover there are Rule Followers and those who have never met a rule they liked. 

Most of the time, their intent is good. But the long-term effect is disastrous. The Rule Followers grind through life with a huge rule book while others celebrate life basking in their personal freedom of God’s grace. Both the Grinders and the Freedom Fighters think the other has missed the mark. It sounds a lot like the Pharisees and Sadducees during Jesus’ day. The Pharisees had a huge rule book. The Sadducees celebrated their open-mindedness. Each group didn’t like Jesus. He was a threat to both. They were pedaling religion, man’s effort to please God, while Jesus was pointing to a new kind of relationship with God.

Lists or No Lists

It’s funny, but sad too. I have been with Christians that welcome an occasional “colorful” word. It’s almost a badge they wear proudly. Then other churchgoers almost condemn one to hell if he uses even a Christian version of a curse word. Remember when “Oh, my gosh” was already considered taking God’s name in vain? Christians are funny with their lists or non-lists. Lists or no lists misses the whole point. 

The Rule Followers have a skewed view of God’s holiness. Is God holy? Absolutely. Is God love? You bet. (Sorry, according to the rule keepers, Christians aren’t supposed to bet.)  So, what’s the problem? It boils down to a person’s intent.  Everybody has his/her own top ten ways to gain favor with God and others. While others focus on God’s love as the “Get Out of Jail Free” card to never change anything in their life. One is trying to earn God’s favor while the other is using God’s love to lie on their spiritual couch of ease. 

Jesus’ Expectations 

Did Jesus have expectations for the disciples? YES! When you read the Gospels, wrapped up in His calling to follow Him was an expectation that life would never be the same. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus said to His disciples, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Later in the chapter, He raises the bar even higher. He concluded, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” WOW! I thought our man-made lists were difficult. I would have thrown in the towel after Jesus said that. But Jesus was saying something different to His disciples. 

We Can’t, But He Did

So what was Jesus’ point? It’s simple. No matter how religious you are, it's not enough to stand in the presence of a Perfect God. It might seem like bad news, but the rest of Jesus’ story is the good news. We can’t do it, but HE did it for us. Because our status with God isn't reliant on what we do, the good news is even more beautiful. It’s all on Jesus. It’s like having LeBron James on your Jr. High basketball team. The four players sit back and watch LeBron do it all. 

So what does this mean for you and me today? Jesus’ disciples learned that obedience is the essence of being a Christ-follower. At times, the outward behavior may look the same as our present-day Pharisees. The difference is in the starting point. Jesus’ disciples were drawn to Jesus because He invited them to live a life of gratitude for what God had done for them. 

Grace Calls Us 

Grace opens the door to the presence of God. Grace also calls us further to be like Him, not in order to gain favor, but out of love. Someone once said, “Who you hang around, you become like.” When you hang around Jesus, you’ll become more like Him. We have been brought into the presence of a holy and loving God through Jesus. We can’t help but become more like Him the more time we spend with Him.  Be a Disciple-Maker. Be like Jesus, the Greatest Disciple-Maker, and begin to change the world.

Confident Relationship 

The relationship we have with Jesus is a sure thing. I love the way Jesus summed it up, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29). The idea is “no one can never ever snatch them out of His hand. Now, the benefit is that I don’t have to worry about what others think about my behavior because I live for the audience of one—God. 

Obedience Out of Gratitude

Have you ever been in a conditional relationship? You’re careful with every action and word for fear of rejection. If you are fortunate enough to be in an unconditional relationship, there is confidence. Out of love and respect, you want to build on the relationship to go deeper still. There is no better feeling. It’s the same way with God. We have confidence because of what Jesus did. So, out of love and gratitude, we can respond in a way that builds a deeper walk with him. The course, Discipleship: As You Go Out Your Door Each Day, Change The World, is about living a new kind of obedience.  It’s obedience out of a confident relationship with God because of what Jesus did. 

With Jesus, it is not just about keeping the rules. The essence of being a follower of Christ is in our obedience. Respond to His Love and go deeper in your intimacy with Him. Be a Disciple-Maker and change the world as you go out your door each day. Enroll in our Discipleship Certificate Course at Grace On Demand and learn to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, the greatest disciple-maker.

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