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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Response to "Why Is Obedience So Hard?"

This is from Rob Cheeley, a medical doctor in China.

Jim,

A quick thought—

I like what you wrote on this, but have been pursuing something beyond what you wrote. By that I mean a more specific answer as to the HOW of obedience. Though I completely agree on what you said, I am finding that people are passing over passages in the Word (or not reading them at all) which would equip them to find the life of Christ within them and satisfaction in Him as the foundations of implementing our freedom unto obedience which you described. I think our words of freedom unto obedience sound empty to them until they can obtain some victory through implementing the promises of God to be their strength in the process. How to utilize His strength is very clearly described in many places in the Bible. The Puritans called such things the “means of grace” or “means unto grace.” I believe we need to return to considering this body of promises in Scripture in order to equip the saints to realize their freedom in Christ to be obedient and the provision of God’s strength which He has already placed within us.

I think Christians sometimes desire obedience but don’t know how to approach it. I find this topic quite helpful as something to offer them. Not a “12 steps to victory” sort of a thing, but rather a deep reliance on Scriptures which state a means of securing the graces of God which produce obedience. Here are my thoughts.

Settling for Sin? Or Satisfied with the Saviour?

Listen to the words of the old hymn “My Jesus I love Thee”:

My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine,
For Thee, all the pleasures of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now.

Do any of you remember that song? Do you remember the words to be different than the way I sang them?

Yes, many years ago, someone, thinking themselves to be more enlightened than the author of the hymn, changed the second line to: "For Thee, all the follies of sin I resign." They didn’t think it correct to say that sin held pleasure. But what they missed was the fact that the line had come directly from Scripture and that the exact point of that portion of Scripture was that someone had renounced the pleasures of sin for something better.

Do any of you know where that verse is found in Scripture? I’ll give you a clue - the person said to have renounced the pleasures of sin was Moses. Hebrews 11 tells us that:

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin;
26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

The point missed by the person who changed the words to that hymn was a very important point.

Sin is often just the thing in which we are satisfied. It does indeed often give us pleasure, but that pleasure is, as the verse I just read says, “fleeting.” The pleasure passes.

Are you being satisfied by sin or stuffed with God’s goodness?

David says in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” David was satisfied; the word means filled up to the point of being unable to take in any more. David says that in rising up in the morning and beholding the face of God, he was satisfied—he was filled, he had no desire of anything else or any more of what he had.

We just got back from furlough and were able to spend some time with our families and enjoy them for a few months. One of the ways in which my father and I enjoy spending time together is hunting pheasants in the rolling wheat fields of North Idaho. We were able to spend several days doing this last fall. The greatest pleasure of the whole thing is being out in such a beautiful place and enjoying each other’s company while enjoying God’s creation at the same time. And in the process we shot a few pheasants.

Now that leads to another shared joy. A roast pheasant dinner shared with your loved ones is perhaps the ultimate in eating satisfaction. We have mashed potatoes and apple pie and green beans from my dad’s garden, to add some peripheral saturation to the delight quotient, but we basically eat to satisfaction on the pheasant. We enjoy each other’s company while enjoying God’s creation in one more way. We become satisfied—filled until we can want no more.

Have you ever had such a meal? Filled until you can want no more?

If you have, then you understand the meaning of satisfied. The meaning of the word here in this verse is no different.

David was satisfied with God’s presence. Do you know this satisfaction?

Is your Spirit being filled to satisfaction with God’s presence? If so, you are enjoying one the greatest graces a saint on earth can experience. There is no room for sin in a soul satisfied with God’s presence.

What are the sins you tend to struggle with? Is it anxiety? Is it lack of faith? Is it anger at the world and the people in it? Is it lust? Is it pride? Whatever it is, it can only be there for you to struggle with when you are not satisfied with God.

Listen to some of the ways this satisfaction is expressed in God’s Word, and the blessings which come from such satisfaction:

“How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near [to Thee] to dwell in Thy courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy temple.” (Psalm 65:4)

“I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the LORD.” (Jer. 31:13b-14)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)

Are you settling for the passing pleasures of sin? Or are you satisfied with God?

What does the passage above say that Moses did to convince his will to reject the passing pleasures of sin in order to find his satisfaction in God? It says that he was looking to the reward, and that he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Then just a bit further we are told how to apply this same approach in our own lives. The beginning of the next chapter says:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1-3)

Moses looked at the grace that was to brought to him in the future. He found his satisfaction in that which was unseen. Vs. 27 says he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Moses looked to the unseen and found his satisfaction. In doing so, he was sustained. He found his sustenance in Him who is unseen. He was satisfied and looked away from the passing pleasures of sin that he might know the satisfaction of promised grace.

We are told that we are enabled to lay aside sin by fixing our eyes on Jesus. We are told here that if we will only spend our time considering Him who is faithful, we will not grow weary and lose heart.

We have a choice to make every day, every hour, every moment. We may be satisfied each moment through looking for the reward of God’s promised graces, or we may settle for sin. That is the choice. Whether you like it or not, you are making this choice every moment of every day.

Are you settling for sin? Do you find anxiety, pride, lust, anger, fear, greed, resentment, bitterness, criticalness, self-gratification, envy or some other sin occupying your mind? Or, as Hudson Taylor used to put it, are you looking off to Jesus?

Satisfy your heart in Him. Delight yourself in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). Obedience to His every wish is surely one of those desires. If so, simply satisfy your heart with his presence.

Is He not gracious, loving, forgiving, comforting, powerful, wise, all-knowing, pure and Holy? Is it not just what your heart desires to dwell in the presence of such a One as He? Is not this the means of satisfying ourselves in Him?

Run the race with endurance, laying aside every sin by considering the riches of the grace which is found by the heart which is satisfied only as David’s heart was satisfied—by looking to the likeness of your Father in Heaven, your Lord who endured the wrath of Heaven out of love for you, that you might enjoy with Him for eternity His glory and His Holiness.

One of my favorite books is On Christian Sanctity, written by Handley Moule a hundred years ago. In this wonderful little book, he placed a poem which I find appropriate to leave you with here:

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.” (Psalm 25:15)

A voice, a call from glory, cries
“Watch, Christian, watch, at eve, at morn,
Lest open violence, or surprise,
Defeat thy soul forlorn.”

My Saviour, Master, it is Thou!
Thy voice awakes me to the strife!
Yes, let me watch—each passing Now,
Each conscious pulse of life.

Yet how can this my human will
At once at every point repel
The fleshly weakness, hounded still
By energies of Hell?

A sinner’s watch against his sin
I keep, with weary sighs, in vain
When fixed on weakness deep within
This aching gaze I strain.

But now a better hope is mine;
Jesus, ‘tis Thou, my life, my own;
Bid through the Word Thy Spirit shine,
And show Thyself alone.

To see the glory of Thy Name,
Eternal Son for sinners given;
Embrace Thy cross, despise the shame,
Thy gift, of peace, of heaven.

To welcome Thy great light at length;
Thy love unknown to trust, to know;
This brings a tenderness, a strength,
Nought else can give below.

Then in my soul each anxious morn,
Each toiling noon, each wearied eve,
The sweet, the blissful thought is borne,
“Christ lives - I do believe.”

By this I know Your glorious power,
Within me felt, yet not of me;
I meet the foes of each new hour,
By looking unto Thee.

- H.C.G. Moule

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