That Unattractive ThingObedience.
No one naturally likes
that word. It is unpleasant from infancy onward. Its very
essence seems to imply the presence ofat leasta
peril of disobedience, and the universal natural dislike
of it more than impliesit provesthe presence
of a wish to be free from any obligation or law. Yes,
that primeval revolt, and break from God which was the
beginning of actual sin has entered as the Serpents
poison into the very blood-stream of the entire creation,
and the very mention of obedience stirs a secret dislike,
if not resentment.
It would take too much space to show how, through all time, the one thing which has been Gods supreme obstacle to mans relationship with Himself has been this inherent disobedience as the active expression of unbelief. On the other hand, it would take volumes to show fully how every movement into fellowship with God in His great purposes has been based upon a demanded obedience of faith; a test, a challenge and a conflict issuing in a willing capitulation to the Divine will in some general or particular direction. Here, our only intention is to point out and emphasize the fact that there is no possibility of the slightest true and genuine spiritual progress and growth beyond the point where light received, the Lord showing His mind, has not had a definite response in practical obedience. Time does not change this, and no matter how long we go on or imagine that the matter is passed over, when at length the real question of approval for particular usefulness arises, we shall be brought right back to the hindrance of that reserved obedience. It is like the presence and secret working of some injury in the physical system which flares up when a particular demand is made years after. God does not live in time. All past and future is present with Him.
But there is a realm of obedience which is not law but love, and love transforms the unlovely to delight. Hence the Apostle Paul, in calling for an obedience which would make possible a spiritual enlargement, puts the matter on the basis of love, and then gives the supreme Example of the obedience of love. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who... became obedient (Phil. 2:5). It is those whose love for the Lord leads to swift actions in relation to light received, who make swift progress, and are seen to grow up in beauty before the Lord. On the other hand, those who are careless or rebellious when the Lord has spoken, and tardy in response practical responseare marked by repeated defeats, recurrent bouts of spiritual cloudiness, and inability to meet an emergency demand when it arises. Too often this lack of obedience, or positive disobedience, is due to its origin in SatanPride.
The second thing to be mentioned here is
That Unrecognized ThingAdjustableness.
One of the most common
causes of spiritual stultification is fixedness. It is
peculiarly common in the realm where Christian truth has
been reduced to a fixed form, order, system, and creed.
The doctrines of Christianity are such and such; so many.
The accepted and established ideas of Christian service
and methods are so-and-so. Peter had his fixed position
as to Jews and Gentiles, and, because of it, came
perilously near missing the larger purpose of God, and
presented the Lord with a real battleground in his
Christianity. It has so very largely resolved itself into
a finality of position, which results in a closed door to
fuller revelation as to what God means by His Word. The
fact is, that God only gives us enough light to get us to
take the next step, but when that step has been taken, we
are in the way of being shown that much more was meant by
the Lord than He showed then. The first expectations of
many servants of the Lord in the Bible, expectations
resultant from something said by the Lord to them, were
later seen to have been not all that He really meant, but
there was something more, and perhaps other than they
Can anyone really dispute that full light very often means a shedding of things and ideas that we thought were of God? Is it not true that, as we go on, we find that certain leadings of the Lord were tactical, intended to get us to a certain place where alone we could learn of a greater necessity? There is very much of this kind of thing in relation to both doctrine, practice, and serviceits nature and ways, and while Divine principles will never change to all eternity, the clothing of those principles may vary and change with both dispensations and generations and stages of our own lives.
In all thiswhile Truth remains unalterablethe only way to grow is to be adjustable and not static and fixed. Do your religious traditions bind you in such a way that you are not free to move with God? If He sees this to be so, He may not give you the light necessary to enlargement. But if He sees that, although you may be in a comparatively false position, your heart is really set on His fulness at any cost, He may present you with light which will test your adjustableness severely. See the case of the disciples of John the Baptist transferring their discipleship to Christ. See the case of Peter and what happened in the home of Cornelius. See also the case of Apollos in Acts 18:2428; as also the disciples mentioned earlier in that chapter.
Our third principle of growth is
That Crisic Point Of Committal.
Very often the whole
mounting avalanche of Divine working in our livesan
avalanche built up as silently and slowly as the added
snowflakes in the Alpsjust waits to move with power
and overwhelming for that finalyet all-inclusiveact
of committal. We wait; we think, wrestle, contemplate,
analyze, go round-and-round; we reason and argue; we
recognize that there is nothing else for it, and even say
so; we even come to the point when the matter is settled
in our conviction and acceptance, and we think that we
are over the hedge, but nothing happens, nothing
eventuates. Why is it? The Lord knows more than we do
about the deceitfulness of our hearts. A covenant has two
sides, and in the Old Testament two sacrifices were
connected with a covenant; one representing God, the
other the offerer; both were killed and the two
parties to the covenant were represented as passing
between the two (See Abraham in Gen. 15). There has to be
a slaying of something on our side! In other
words, God is waiting until we have burned our boats
behind us. Though we may have approached the shore of His
will and way for us, there will be nothing from Gods
side while our boats are just left on the shore so that,
if things dont go quite as we expect, we still can
retreat. That boat is an evidence of doubt or
reservation. It must be burned, so thatwhatever the
consequencewe have no alternatives.
The young believer will not grow unless he or she makes a committal in testimony, so letting others know where they stand. The law holds good in every stage of development and progress. If policy governs, or fear, or how such a step will affect our prospects, or any consideration which conflicts with what we know in our deepest hearts is the way indicated for usfor usthose things are boats or bridges representing a false Safety-first policy. As when the bleating lambs were preserved by Saulthe finger of God will point to them and say, What mean those boats? God will wait for the full and final capitulation without a reservation, and to defer is only to be involved in confusion, and either becoming a misfit, having missed Gods first best, or losing out altogether.
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1946, Vol. 24-1.