Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Positive Obedience

Having learned how to refrain from disobedience and how to walk in the light, we are now ready for active, positive obedience. We start out by learning how to recognize positive commandments in the Scriptures. They are almost always expressed in superlatives. For example:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

A positive command is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. Because these commands are so complete and all-encompassing, it is easy for the Christian to think of them as “ideals” and not realistic requirements. Before we can consider the how of positive obedience, we have to know and accept the commands as they are. The Scriptures do not qualify these imperatives, and we do not have the freedom to qualify them either.

There are several wonderful means of obedience to these commands. All of them are effortless on our part. The first is the death of Christ. We all know that Jesus died so that we could be forgiven. Few of us realize that He died so we could be obedient. Romans 6 teaches the efficacy of the Cross to accomplish obedience. It does not discuss forgiveness at all. “The Fruit of the Cross,” by Doug Wilson, will give more adequate teaching concerning this means to obedience.

The second means of obedience is the fruit of the Spirit. The qualities necessary for our obedience are given freely to us when we receive Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is given to us (Galatians 5:22, 23). It is also commanded of us in the following passages:
· Love is commanded in Matthew 5:44.
· Joy is commanded in Philippians 4:4.
· Peace is commanded in Colossians 3:15.
· Patience is commanded in 1 Timothy 6:11.
· Kindness is commanded in Ephesians 4:32.
· Goodness is commanded in Psalm 34:14.
· Faithfulness is commanded in 1 Corinthians 4:2.
· Gentleness is commanded in 2 Timothy 2:25.
· Self-control is commanded in 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25.

The third means of obedience is the prayers of others for us. Colossians 1:9, Philippians 1:9 and Ephesians 3:14 are all examples of praying in the will of God for believers so that they will be completely and positively obedient. Wouldn’t you like to wake up in the morning “filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, pleasing God in every way and bearing fruit in every good work,” all because someone prayed this for you?

The fourth means of obedience is by an act of our will, but not by an act of willpower. This is also as effortless as the first three. It is clearly taught in Colossians 1:29:

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (NIV)

Although Paul says that he labors and struggles, he does it with all God’s energy, which powerfully works in him. This labor does not use any of Paul’s energy. Paul also says in Colossians 2:6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (NIV)

The three important words in this passage are as, received and continue: as you received Christ Jesus as Lord. Before we look at how we are to continue to live we must have a clear understanding of how we received Christ Jesus as Lord. Was it by our effort, our goodness or merit, or was it by grace through faith with no effort on our part? If it was by grace through faith and not by trying, then we are to continue to live just like we started. In other words, the continuous, obedient life is like being born again continually. Grace and faith with “no trying” got us into the kingdom, and kingdom living is by grace and faith with “no trying.”

We cannot trust and try at the same time; they are opposites. The book of Galatians is written to people who wanted to try after they had trusted Christ for salvation. Paul calls them foolish. One of the common expressions I hear from Christians after they have fallen is, “But I tried.” That is the reason they fell. They tried.

The positive, obedient Christian life is based on 1) the death of Christ, 2) the fruit of the Spirit, 3) the prayers of others, and 4) our choosing to obey by trusting, not by trying. God’s standards are high, but His provisions to meet those standards are consistent with His standards. His work on the cross, His fruit of the Spirit, and His answers to prayer take the effort out of obedience.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

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