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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Positive Obedience

Having learned how to refrain from disobedience, we are now ready for active, positive obedience. Start out by learning how to recognize positive commandments in the Scriptures. They are almost always expressed in superlatives. For example, Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

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 how to obey, we have to know and accept the commands as they are. The Scriptures do not qualify these commands, and we do not have the freedom to qualify them, either.

There are several wonderful means of obeying 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 second means of obeying 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 (Gal. 5:22-23). Each of the fruits is also commanded in the following passages:
Love: Matthew 5:44
Joy: Philippians 4:4
Peace: Colossians 3:15
Patience: 1 Timothy 6:11
Kindness: Ephesians 4:32
Goodness: Psalm 34:14
Faithfulness: 1 Corinthians 4:2
Gentleness: 2 Timothy 2:25
Self-Control: 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 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.” 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.” The three important words in this passage are as, received, and continue: as you received Christ Jesus as Lord. How did we receive 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 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 was 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.

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