OBEDIENCE AND THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN

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[This was a letter I wrote in response to an online conversation of our organic fellowship I am a part of]

Hey Matt & body!
First, I am concerned that those who may not know you as well as I do, may read the below email as if it was written with a spirit of contention.  I know your heart & because I do, I know you wrote it in love.  Anyway, I just wanted to make sure no one was distracted by a misunderstanding. Blessings!!!

Let me start by stating publicly how much I appreciate Matt & Elisa’s heart for the lost AND for Jesus’ body.  Matt, I have always appreciated your lens from which you see Jesus & His body.  You are right on when it comes to “obedience” (daily sanctifying walk) and it is born out of and rises from our new life (finished work of Christ IN us). Both your heart & Dave’s heart regarding truth are desperately needed, because it helps us be a healthier body.

I want to briefly further weigh in on this discussion.  First, it is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ body in action. Only when we share life together do we get the complete picture of HIM.  Both Matt & Dave are right on.  We work OUT that which WAS worked IN!!! Phil. 2:12b-13 says, “…but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  

Our life in Christ is not “positional” nor is it “legal”. It IS what it is. A new life for a dead man.  As this new person, according to Col. 3:1 & Eph. 2:6, I have been raised (past tense-finished work) with Jesus and I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places. I AM forgiven…sanctified…holy…righteous…etc. etc. So…..now what?

Obedience without life (resulting in an intimate loving relationship) is religion and breeds death. In the NT, the phrase “bond servants” is used 12 times after the resurrection. What a glorious picture of our life in Jesus.  You see a bond servant was considered as a true part of the master’s family. His gratitude & love was so strong for his master when he was an indentured servant that he wanted to spend his life in lovingly service to his master.  True obedience IN CHRIST therefore, is a natural by product of the life we DO have as HIS SON’S/DAUGHTERS.  What are we obeying after all?  His voice…His heart…His passion…His desires!!! It is born out of a deeply intimate life with Jesus.

I spent a long time in my walk with Jesus “working hard for Jesus” and to be obedient & was also taught & told to so. This kind of life sent me deeper into a life of addiction and sin. Why? Because the law produces death…period.  Yes obedience should definitely be a part of our lives, because it is the natural by-product of the life we receive.  Hence the beauty of living in community together as His body.  We should be sharing our passions & desires that Jesus has placed in us to encourage and stimulate growth in HIS body.

I think the challenge is somewhat semantical. Obey is a verb; Obedience is a noun.  If you do a search, obey as it is primarily directed to the disciples, is used by Jesus prior to the cross & resurrection…hence under the old covenant. Whereas obedience (what we have in Jesus) is used in the New Covenant.  Jesus was burying those He taught under the burden of the law in order to accomplish the work of the law which is to lead them to their Savior (Himself.) (Also read Gal. 3:24-25.) We need to be careful regarding the preaching of “obeying” that is not born out of life in Jesus (intimacy.) Why? I Cor. 15:56 says, “…and the power of sin is the law.”

As for 1 Jn. 2:6, the logical question is how did Jesus walk? He walked in absolute dependency on His Father as the very sustenance of life.  Remember Jesus said He only spoke & did what Father told Him too. Again, this was born out of that intimate, real life that He experienced with our Father.

Therefore, brother Matt & Dave we must encourage each other to be diligent to DO somethings:

Eph 4:3 = “…to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.”
2 Tim 2:15 = “…to present yourself approved [accepted/pleasing] to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 
[my favorite] Heb. 4:11 = “…to enter that rest [Jesus], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience [like the Jews who did not enter His rest]”
[I believe we should be “striving” and “working” to encourage & stimulate each other to walk in the REST that IS ours IN Jesus]
2 Pet. 1:10 = “to make certain about His calling and choosing you;”
2 Pet 3:14 = to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,”

I am not writing this response as a defense to anything or as an indictment on anyone.  I love the body & long to see us walk in love and harmony in the truth.  We are ALL unique parts of Jesus body (life) and we each provide a glorious balance to each other.  Let us walk in the obedience that is ours & walk in truth and total dependency on Jesus who IS our life.  There is so much more that I would like to write, but I will spare you my beloved family…LOL!

I want to conclude with Peter’s words:
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

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WE ARE ALIVE! AND FREE???

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(This is a great follow-up to my post entitledFeelings……What’s Up With ‘em?”)

As I meet and observe the ecclesia (Church), I’ve come to realize that so many are living in bondage today.  We have become spiritually weak and anemic.  Please here me!  I am not saying this out of condemnation, but from a heavy heart burdened for the body of Christ; for I too lived a life in bondage for almost 20 years.

This is why this message is the cry of my heart to so many brothers and sisters in Christ I meet.  It is a message I believe today’s Church needs to here: we were born for freedom!!!

IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off] Galatians 5:1 (Amplified)

Are you living in bondage?  What is YOUR “flavor” of bondage? Is it a behavior? A substance? Another person?  An attitude? Religion? etc…etc…etc!!!!  Why are so many of us living in bondage and therefore living a life of fruitlessness?

In John chapter 11 there is a story that beautifully illustrates the predicament many believers find themselves.  It is the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  Now, although I know there is much to learn from this chapter, I merely want to paint a picture for you.

Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days (so by this time he had stinkith…lol).  Jesus then “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ ” It is at this point I want to focus.

“The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him,and let him go.” John 11:44

So, when he came forth he had to be hopping, because it says he was BOUND UP still.  Here are the questions I want us to consider (thanks to Dennis Jernigan for these???):

1)      Was Lazarus as alive as he was ever going to be?  YES!!!

The bible says he did come forth.  Can’t you just see him hopping out?  Just picture a mummy hopping all bound up.  He was definitely alive.  So, if you are alive, you can’t get any more alive can you? J

BUT……..(AND HERE IS THE POINT)

2)      Was he as FREE as he was going to be? NO…..NO…..and a resounding NO!!!

He was alive yet still bound up in the grave clothes.  Therefore, he could NOT enjoy the resurrection life Jesus just gave him.  He was restricted by the clothes of death.

There are several points that need to be made that are very liberating.  They are all centered on IDENTITY!

First of all, the grave clothes are symbolic of your flesh.  Please note….they are separate from Lazarus.  For years in my sincerity for righteousness fueled by legalism, I was confused by what I identified as thoughts, actions, desires, etc. and IDENTIFIED myself with them and by them.  Why?  Well, did Lazarus’ grave clothes have the stench of death? Absolutely!  So, just because he stunk like death didn’t mean he was dead.  NO!  So too, because my thoughts, actions, etc. were very real and stinky, I would condemn myself because of them, and would beat myself up.

Like Lazarus, our flesh stinks, is filthy, (please get this) it CAN NOT be cleaned up (changed) and IT….IS….NOT….YOU!!!!  Your “flesh” is not a “sinful nature” as though you have another one.  You do NOT have two natures if you are in Christ.  You have the NATURE OF JESUS!

The Greek word used for flesh is “sarx”.  It is used 126 times in the NT and is ALWAYS used for the body (“flesh and blood”) or the “carnality” of man.  Now hear me, our “flesh” is merely what is left over from our OLD MAN.  It is the “grave clothes” if you will, of your old nature that is now dead.

“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6-7

If you are in Christ “you are a new creation”……period.  This is your new (and only) nature.  Lazarus, who WAS dead, was now a new alive man, but he was not enjoying this new life.   Like Lazarus, many of us are identifying with the flesh because it APPEARS to be real……to be part of us.   But in reality, like the grave wrappings, they are all together separate from you.  They are NOT you!!!  You are not what you do….what you think…or what others say.  You are who Jesus made you to be:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that WE might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

BELIEVE IT!!!

“for we walk by faith, not by sight—“ 2 Cor. 5:7 [nor by feelings]

The story continues.  Lazarus was brought forth to life in order to WALK…..to MOVE…..to function as he was intended.  So, too were you.  But how do we walk free from bondage.

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

If the truth sets you free, what binds you? Lies…..period!!!  Figure out what lies you are believing and substitute them with truth, and my dear friend you WILL walk in freedom.  The grave clothes of bondage will fall free not as you work hard in a 12 step program, or by utilizing psychological strategies, etc.  NO! We live free as we walk in truth.

Finally, Lazarus had a little help did he not?  John 11 says that Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” WOW! What a beautiful picture of the ecclesia (the Church) today!  When we see a brother or sister in bondage, are we supposed to condemn them, talk about them, and shun them?  Absolutely not!!!  If we TRULY understand this message of grace and freedom, we will excitedly and with joy, share the truth of their new identity and of their LIFE in Jesus with them…..all the while encouraging them to simply believe.

As the body of Christ here and now we desperately need each other to help “take off” the each other’s grave clothes.  How?  By walking in truth ourselves and simply and lovingly share that truth.

My dear family Jesus IS “the resurrection and the LIFE,” and if you are truly born again, then you were dead and bound, but now you are alive; alive to walk in freedom.

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29-30

Will you believe today?