Disciples Only Say, “Yes, Lord”

Continued from here.

Henry Blackaby says in his book, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God , that a disciple’s response to a command from God is always and only “Yes, Lord.” Hear his wise words:

…begin by saying with all your heart, ‘Lord, whatever I know to be Your will, I will do it. Regardless of the cost and regardless of the adjustment, I commit myself ahead of time to follow your will. Lord, no matter what that will looks like, I will do it!’

If you cannot say that when you begin to seek God’s will, you do not mean ‘Thy will be done’ (Matt. 6:10, KJV). Instead, you mean ‘Thy will be done as long as it does not conflict with my will.’ Two words in a Christian’s language cannot go together: ‘No, Lord.’ If you say no to God, He is not your Lord. If He really is your Lord, your answer must always be yes, Lord.”

I was guilty of saying “No, Lord” for most of my Christian life, which means I was not a disciple of Christ for most of my life. God’s way is simple:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” ~ Matt. 16:24

I complicated matters by coming up with multiple reasons not to obey God in my particular circumstances, but it all boiled down to saying, “No, Lord,” and those two words never go together for true disciples. The reason my walk with God – and my life, by extension – radically changed in March 2013 is because I stopped saying, “No, Lord” and started saying yes … yes to forgiving my child abusers … yes to humbling myself in my marriage … yes to obeying laws that I don’t like (such as obeying the speed limit). I did not want to do any of these things, but nowhere in Matthew 16:24 does Jesus say that the disciple has veto power. If I want to be his disciple, the only option is complete and immediate obedience. Any other response reveals that I am not really Jesus’ disciple.

Does this mean I never sin? I’ll discuss that in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

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Complicating Commandments to Get Out of Doing Them

money_flying_awayContinued from here.

I then thought about situations that I have chosen to make complicated. For example, I was in a Bible study years ago through my workplace, and nobody in the Bible study attended the same church. I was astounded to learn that they all tithe, and they were surprised to learn that I did not. Until that moment, I did not believe that anyone actually gives 10% of his or her income to their church. That seemed like a lot of money to me.

I complicated the issue in a manner worthy of a New Testament Pharisee (I do have a law degree, after all!). Am I expected to give 10% of my gross or net income? Doesn’t having to pay income taxes remove this responsibility since the tithe went toward the temple, which served a “governmental” role in some respects? Didn’t this rule “go away” in the New Testament? I’ll never forget the response that drove me to my knees and led me to obey God and tithe. One member of the Bible study, with a big grin on his face, looked me in the eye and said, “Grace, you are making this too complicated. It’s really simple. Everything you have belongs to God.”

The Bible is very clear: it says to tithe. I was not making this command complicated because it was unclear. I put a lot of energy into complicating a simple command because I did not want to obey it. I was looking for a way out of obeying God: to be able to receive the benefits of being a Christian without having to pay the cost – in this case, 10% of my income. If we are honest with ourselves, every time we put energy into complicating any command of God, what we are really doing to seeking a loophole so we can feel good about continuing to disobey God. We don’t get to have it both ways: God is not going to give us the benefits of being a Christian in the areas of our lives in which we are unwilling to submit to His authority.

Disciples of Jesus don’t have the option of complicating God’s commands to look for loopholes so we can get out of having to do what God tells us to do. Either you are obeying God, or you are not. If you are not obeying God, then you are not Jesus’ disciple. It really is that simple … again, not easy, but simple.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying while thinking about her money flying away. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Deciding for Ourselves Whether to Obey God in Each Situation

Continued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I made the observation a long time ago that God’s ways are simple while the World’s ways are complex, but I did not know why this is the case. Knowing this distinction was helpful because I knew whenever my views became complex on a topic, I was probably moving away from God’s view, so I needed to redirect, review what God’s Word has to say on the topic, and return to simplicity. I did not understand why this was the case, only that following this principle helped me stay better aligned with God’s will.

I am reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Discipleship for my upcoming Discipleship class, which provided the “why.” Bonhoeffer pointed to the Garden of Eden, where Satan led Eve to question God’s simple command not to eat the fruit from a particular tree. The original sin causing the Fall of Man was Adam and Eve wanting to decide for themselves whether or not to eat the fruit instead of obeying God, and Satan tempted them to disobey God through complicating a simple instruction: Don’t eat this fruit. This pattern has continued throughout the history of mankind.

Why do we complicate God’s simple instructions? Bonhoeffer said it’s because we want to decide for ourselves whether or not to obey God in each particular situation. As an example, he pointed to the Good Samaritan parable, which began with an expert in the law asking how to inherit eternal life. Jesus directed him to God’s commands: Love God, and love your neighbor. Simple enough. The expert tried to complicate the issue by asking who his neighbor is, and Jesus’ response pointed him back to God’s simple commands.

Why did the expert try to complicate something as simple as “love your neighbor?” Because he didn’t want to obey God by loving everyone. He wanted to decide for himself whether to love each person he encountered rather than simply love because God said to do it. And don’t we do the same thing? If my child abusers are not my neighbors, then I’ve found a loophole around having to obey God by loving them. By adding complication, I seek to remove my responsibility to obey God in situations where I don’t want to do so.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Discipleship. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

From the Complex to the Simple

math_equationsSeveral years ago, I noticed that God’s ways tend to be simple while the World’s ways are complex. For example, God’s position on sex is that it is reserved for marriage, which is simple (not necessarily easy, but simple): If you are married to the person, sex should happen. If you are not married to the person, sex is forbidden. This standard is very simple to keep because a Christian should only have sex with his or her spouse. There’s no ambiguity about sexual relations under God’s command: If you are not married to the person, do not have sex with him or her.

The World’s position on sex is much more complex, stating it’s all relative. For one person, sex is permissible after engagement … for another, when the parties are in love … for another, as long as they are two consenting adults. This leads to many layers of complication, from unplanned pregnancies to sexually transmitted to diseases to walks of shame … single parenthood … sexual harassment accusations … and even rape.

About a year ago, I read a news article about where to draw the line of consensual sex versus rape. A man and woman were engaging in consensual sex when the man became too “rough.” The woman tried to withdraw her consent at this point, which the man did not do, and she sought to file rape charges. The law in that state did not permit a withdrawal of consent that far into an up-until-that-point consensual sexual encounter, and this woman wanted to change the law, stating that what had happened to her was rape. As I read the article, I thought about how following God’s instruction to reserve sex for marriage prevents very complicated situations like this one from arising. While the World might see reserving sex for marriage as restrictive, it actually provides freedom from all of these complications.

While I made this observation about God’s ways being simple and the World’s ways being complex a long time ago, I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on why this is the case. Dietrich Bonhoeffer provided me the answer in his book, Discipleship, which I will share in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace trying to do complicated math. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Dead to Self: Alive in Christ

passionContinued from here.

Sacrificing yourself – your entire life, will, ambition, and everything else – is the key to experiencing God’s joy and peace. We cannot have it both ways: experiencing God’s joy and peace while expending our energy on selfish pursuits. As Floyd McClung said in his article entitled Apostolic Passion from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives),

There are too many over-fed, under-motivated Christians hiding behind the excuse that God has not spoken to them. They are waiting to hear voices or see dreams—all the while living to make money, to provide for their future, to dress well and have fun.”

We must choose who we are going to serve: God or ourselves. If we choose to serve God, this comes with sacrifice, but you’ll experience more joy and peace than you ever imagined! The year 2017 was filled with sacrifice for me, including sacrificing a lucrative job to go where God wanted me, paying literally half the hourly rate I was making. But you know what? I’m having a great time and seeing God’s hand at work. I have already witnessed two miracles in my 2-1/2 months on the job, and God has met all my needs. Nothing about my professional decisions in 2017 make logical sense, but I am exactly where God wants me. I sacrificed my professional ambitions and received so much more than I could have dreamed, even though from a worldly perspective, most people think I have lost my mind!

When I sacrificed my job, I found passion for Christ in a way I had never experienced before. You can experience this passion as well. You don’t have to stay miserable in your profession out of fear for security. God knows what you need and will provide for you. Don’t be afraid to ask where God wants you and to follow Him there. He really does know what he is doing!

McClung encourages us to sacrifice our “gifts, vocations and talents” to God. He then states:

If you have apostolic passion, you are one of the most dangerous people on the planet. The world no longer rules your heart. You are no longer seduced by getting and gaining … You live as a pilgrim, unattached to the cares of this world. You are not afraid of loss… Your Father’s passions have become your passions. You find satisfaction and significance in Him.”

This can be your reality, but it comes with sacrifice. This the natural byproduct of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace being pulled upward into a shower of hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Sacrifice Required to Reap the Harvest

new_year_new_meContinued from here.

As if that one epiphany on sacrifice was not enough, Floyd McClung’s article entitled Apostolic Passion from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives) had even more to teach me. McClung made another astute observation:

Too many people want the fruit of Paul’s ministry without paying the price that Paul paid. He died. He died to everything. He died daily. He was crucified with Christ. This strong-willing, opinionated man knew that he must die to self. He knew that in his flesh, he couldn’t generate the revelation of Jesus; he couldn’t sustain the heart of Christ. So he died. He abandoned his life. He abandoned himself.”

Reading this convicted me and profoundly changed my outlook. I deeply desire to do God’s will and accomplish all he has planned for me to do. However, I didn’t want to sacrifice to do it … at least not during my most vulnerable time of the year when I had been ailing for a month, and nobody seemed to notice or care how much I was sacrificing. Notice all of the “I’s” and “my’s” in that last sentence. I realized that I was not dying to self as long as I was focused on myself, and that was the reason for my lack of joy. So, I boldly prayed the prayer that McClung encouraged me to pray, which he promised God would answer quickly:

Lord, be ruthless with me in revealing my selfish ambition and my lack of willingness to die to myself.”

One of my struggles with God is that His timetable typically runs much slower than mine. However, McClung with right. Within an hour, I was restored to the joy that had eluded me for a month. Death to self is the key to joy in God!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “New Year – New Me!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Passion for Christ Requires Sacrifice of Comfort

Continued from here.

My next class in earning my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry is on global missions. One of the textbooks is Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives), which is a compilation of numerous articles with varying perspectives on global missions. I was particularly drawn to an article entitled Apostolic Passion by Floyd McClung, who has these wise words to say about passion:

Passion means whatever a person is willing to suffer for…It is what you hunger for so intensely that you will sacrifice anything to have it…If you will not suffer and sacrifice for something, you are not passionate about it.”

Take a minute to process this truth and then ask yourself some tough questions: Are you passionate about Christ? What are you willing to sacrifice for Christ? Are you willing to sacrifice your money? Your time? Your comfort? Are you willing to say yes to a ministry opportunity that falls outside your comfort zone? Or are you only willing to follow where God leads as long as you are comfortable doing so?

When I read this article, I was feeling sorry for myself. I had been physically ill for a month and had made many sacrifices during that month as I pushed through my illness to work, take care of my family, and do 90% of the work needed to make the holiday celebrations happen for my extended. From my self-centered perspective, I had not received much in return, and I was angry about it.

This article hit me right between the eyes. How much did Jesus sacrifice for me and for everyone else in the world, knowing that the vast majority would reject his sacrifice? How much of his time did he spend whining about not getting what he wanted? If Jesus, who was God incarnate, asked for and expected nothing as he served sacrificially while he was on this earth, why was I viewing myself as deserving more than my own master received?

I immediately repented of my selfishness and asked God to give me a passion for him, willing to endure any sacrifice. And you know what happened? The joy that had eluded me for most of the month of December returned. By choosing to focus on myself, I was rejecting joy. As soon as I centered my focus on Jesus again, that same joy was almost instantly restored!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives)Courtesy Amazon.]