Tag Archives: law

Obedience is More Than Something to Do

A lot of people raised in the church, raised around religious people, grew up with this notion: following Jesus means following all the rules. It means no fun. It means not even thinking about fun. Depending on your age, you remember the blue laws, Sunday drives, boring afternoons.

Why do we teach others that following Jesus can be reduced to following a set of rules? Rules are easier than being in relationships. The Pharisees were experts at this. They had the form of faith, without function. A list of rules to follow allows us to be in control. We choose to follow or not. A list of rules allows us to bargain with God; “Please Lord, allow me into your heaven. I have followed most of the rules, most of the time.”

Whereas, a relationship requires trust, energy, surrender, vulnerability, transparency, self sacrifice, and is, overall harder, but ultimately worth the work. Take a moment, and think about each of those descriptive words in the last sentence. Do any of those words describe your faith journey with Jesus? If yes, how?

Or is your faith journey dominated by: calling on Jesus when life gets difficult, keeping track of your “good” status, counting on it being greater than your “bad” stuff? Maybe your faith journey is marked by Gracism. “I thank you God that I am more deserving of your grace than the person who…hurt me, did this, did that, doesn’t live how I think they should, etc.”

I have the privilege of being on a faith journey with some other men, as we strive to grow more like Jesus. This week we looked at 1 John 5:3-4a “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” To this verse we posed 3 questions:

1. If I am to show my love of God by obedience to Jesus’ commands, how does this not become just a new set of Jewish laws, that ultimately ends in Pharisaic living?
2. If I am to show my love for God by obedience to Jesus’ commands, is obedience up to me?
3. If I am to show my love for God by obedience to Jesus’ commands’ how is it not burdensome?

So here is how I would answer this:

1. Because following Jesus is about our relationship with him, we obey not because the law saves us but because we love & trust Jesus! Jesus, when asked to sum up the greatest commandment in Matthew 22, tells us that we are to love God with all that we are, 100% of the time. Jesus is describing a relationship. Jesus tells us to treat our neighbors as ourselves, again a relationship. Jesus tells us to teach, baptize, remember and make disciples, again all done in the context of relationships. The greatest indictment of the modern era church is that we have reduced disciple making to an assembly line process. Do this, do that, take this class, attend this six week course and we will all be better disciples. However, I believe I have set the ground work for the fact that all that our assembly line discipleship making has achieved is vacuous hollow self justifications, devoid of real, life changing spiritual power. When was the last time you prayed to the Holy Spirit, asking to understand/know/hear from/be guided by/be convicted by/have a stronger relationship with the Spirit of Father and Son? After all, the Godhead, lives in a relationship within Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2. Yes and no, it is up to us! Jesus won’t make the decision for us but; because of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, He is there to encourage, guide, influence, and convict us to choose obedience. How many of us make decisions, devoid of any other relational influence in our lives? We do what we do, and don’t do what we don’t do, to try and please a displeased spouse, an angry boss, garner the attention of a distant parent or a lost child. Our relationships impinge on every aspect of our existence. Why is it, then that so much of Christianity has been striped of it’s relational nature and been replaced with things to do? Is it any wonder that our pews are empty when “leaders” live passionless lives that reflect only themselves rather than the person of Jesus?

And finally,
3. Obedience to Jesus does not become burdensome because of our relationship, for we know he wants only what is best for us. Do not translate “not burdensome” as easy. Obedience will always be a conscious act of our will. However, as our relationship grows stronger with our savior, that relationship begins to influence our thinking and our decision making, and transforms our acts of rebellion into acts of faithfulness.

Here is how some of my dusty brothers chose to answer these questions…

“My love for God is not burdensome because I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me. Nothing is impossible with God. By being obedient to Jesus I am in my Savior’s love…”

“…our obedience is not burdensome because it’s relational. When we care about someone, even hard work has meaning…”

“We love Jesus! Therefore we follow Jesus’ teachings! Therefore we love others.”

So how about you? I would welcome your answer to these three questions and your insights and thoughts. In the comments section below, join us on the journey of growing our relationship with Jesus.

Do vs. Be – Law and Relationships

There is a long term debate running, going back centuries, between religious people and Jesus followers.

If you have been around the “Christian” organism for any length of time you have been exposed to this virus.

The division has many descriptors: works righteousness, saved by faith, law vs. grace, etc.

As I live and journey in faith with my brothers and sisters, I often refer to this debate as “do vs. be.”

The two camps, that represent the two positions, mostly talk past one another. But here is a brief synopsis.

The “do” side; represents law, doing the law, doing good works, obedience, right beliefs, right thinking, with the emphasis upon ‘me’ doing the law. The big idea is simply this: reduce following Jesus to “do this” and “don’t do that.” The dangerous side is this: legalism, self righteousness, a sense of “God owes me” for all my ‘right behavior’ and defining who is in and who is out. Why do so many people end up in this camp? Because it is easier.

The “be” side; represents relationships, growing in the likeness of Jesus, relating to others through the lens of Jesus’ love for them and us. The big idea is: Relationships define our existence – our relationship with Jesus and our relationship with others. The dangerous side is this: a blind eye to truth in the name of maintaining relationships, co-dependency, self reliance and self righteousness. Why do so few people choose this camp? Because it is harder.

Doing the Law is always easier than being in a relationship.

We humans trend toward sloth. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

From the Garden of Eden on down we have chosen to ‘do’ God rather than be in a relationship with God. One of the blogs that I follow is by a guy named Casey Tygrett. You can find the full post here: Casey Tygrett

In one of his more recent posts he wrote this:

    In a culture that prizes law over wisdom – yes, even the Christian culture – we are constantly looking for what we can and cannot do because it makes things easier. It makes it easier to figure out who is with us and who is against us. It makes it easier to rate our day on a scale of 1 to 5 (well, the anger today was in the 2 range, so I’m going to turn off the divine wrath radar for today) and it makes it easier to read sacred texts that challenge our assumptions because then we can simply find the legality and push ourselves to believe it.

    Then, in a stunning reversal, life happens. The law stops short, here and there, leaving cliff-like gaps between belief and action that take the very breath – the very pneuma out of our lungs.
    Law doesn’t keep our relationships together. Law doesn’t save our marriage. Law doesn’t help us know what to do when we feel different when we feel for God.

Powerful words. Poignant. As I said, most trend toward law, because it is easier. The problem is that we humans also trend toward choosing either or, when what really is needed is both.

Many begin a relationship with Jesus, but then it becomes difficult and challenging. Discipleship of Jesus requires becoming less like us and more like Jesus. Next “most” look around and they see their own foils and fables in most other so called Christians, and they seem to not be working on their relationship. Rather they have chosen the path of law. So the newer believer, assumes the mantle of law, because it is easier, and because it looks like the thing that s/he is supposed to do, because most others are ‘doing’ it that way.

A disciple of Jesus; begins with a relationship with Jesus, and never lets go. The law comes in not to define the boundaries of the sandbox, but as a means of faithfulness and love and devotion in light of our relationship with Jesus. We are transformed into a follower whose inclination toward sin is deterred by the thought, “I love Jesus too much, my relationship with Him is too important to me, to abandon it for a temporary thrill.” It is the relationship with Jesus that informs our view of sin, and as the relationship grows, that sin that was once so attractive, has now begun to tarnish.

There is so much more to understanding discipleship and doing vs. be, I will be exploring more in future posts.

I would love to hear from you, your thoughts on your struggle with doing faith vs. being in a relationship with Jesus.

    Consider the following…
    – Where have I chosen “doing” in my faith rather than “being” in a relationship with Jesus?
    – How do I live out a relationship with Jesus that ‘fulfills’ the law but does not value the laws above relationships?