A Life of Obedience
In studying the life of Jesus for this year's challenge groups my life was impacted as never before in all the years I have studied and taught the gospels. I hope your lives will be forever changed, as Bruce Marchiano has shared, by:
- Meditating on the significance of Christ's Life, and also
- How He exemplified for us the way we should live.
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS
Jesus positioned himself as the dividing point of life --> how we respond to Him will determine our destiny for all eternity. The God who created all the universe took shape within it "The Word became flesh."
- In Jesus, God found a way of relating to His created beings that did not involve FEAR -- this new approach to mankind did not emphasize the vast gulf between God and us -- but , rather Jesus came to span that gulf through His LOVE.
- That took courage for God to lay aside His power and glory to live among human beings who would greet Him with haughtiness, contempt and unbelief. G.K. Chesterton: "Alone Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator." And since God arranged the humble circumstances in which to invade planet earth -- without power or wealth, without rights, without justice -- His preferential choice had great significance. We need to learn the lessons of His choice: His priorities, His values which should be ours!
- It took "restraint" for God to live among the evil and filth of Satan's destructive kingdom. As you study the life of Jesus, you see His incredible pattern of restraint: He did not come "into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him." John 3:17. That "believing in Him we might have eternal life . . . passing out of judgment and death into life." John 5:24.
Jesus reveals the profound difference between God's power and Satan's:
- Satan's power is coercive, destructive, and forcing obedience to him through addiction to sin.
- God's power, in Jesus, is non-coercive, self-giving, and loving -- ultimately the only power capable of conquering our rebellious hearts.
That's how God's love is -- He transforms us gently from the inside out. Not even God, with all His power, can force a human being to love because of His insistence on our freedom of choice -- He limits Himself to our free will.
We see this pattern of "restraint" throughout Jesus' life. He stated the consequences of choice, but let the person make it. He was often "moved with compassion" or "filled with pity". He had inexhaustible patience with his disciples, and was exuberant over their successes. But he had no patience at all with cold-hearted religious legalists and the temple extortionists who defrauded the people and defamed God's reputation, practicing oppression and injustice in the name of Jehovah God. But He did not take over their power-base and remove them.
Jesus had no trouble "getting in touch with His emotions."
- He loved to praise other people.
- He quickly established intimacy with the people He met.
- He drew people out, exposing their deep hunger.
- He was sensitive to women and children.
- He was unabashedly affectionate and caring.
- He did not hide His fears or hesitate to ask for help. Mt. 26:28.
- He didn't keep a tight strategic schedule.
- He let Himself be distracted by any "nobody"
- He kept Himself free -- free for the hurting people.
- You can easily discern that people liked being with Jesus in His daily life -- He was full of JOY. Yet, as fully God, living on a planet full of sinful-filth, and rebellion, Jesus must have felt NOT AT HOME, and had to "restrain" himself from exercising His POWER to bring JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS on the earth He created, and we messed up.
- When Jesus needed a "life support" system that would give Him the strength to continue living "restrained" on this polluted planet, He prayed to His Father. He was always in close touch with His Father:
- I always do the will of my Father.
- I always do the works of my Father.
- I always say the words of my Father
He lived as a man depending on the Holy Spirit moment by moment in a continual love relationship with His Father. That is the way Jesus expects us to live as His disciples:
Walking in the Spirit, depending on Christ in a growing love relationship with Him.
II. JESUS EXEMPLIFIED FOR US HOW TO LIVE
- Jesus proclaimed and lived out the REVOLUTION OF GRACE.
- He moved the emphasis from the Jewish leader's religious exclusiveness, no undesirables allowed, to God's mercy: in God's kingdom there are no undesirables. Normally in this world we are seduced by Satan to look up to the rich, the beautiful, the successful as those who are blessed by God and who we should revere and follow. Jesus however, looked at people through "grace-healed eyes": He made sinners feel comfortable and the self-righteous to feel very uncomfortable.
- What is the clue to living like Jesus did? How can we follow His teachings to receive stranger, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and help the poor?
- This is the clue to Jesus' revolution of Grace:
- Jesus brings to the surface UNacknowledged sin -- the Pharisees left His presence stabbed to the heart, but unrepentant.
- Jesus forgives any freely acknowledged sin. Sinners know they are wrong, and God's forgiveness usually looks very appealing to them. "Those who are forgiven much, love much."
- Which group do we identify with? I think it is easy to think we are blessed by having great knowledge and many achievements. Becoming prideful and arrogant towards God while ignoring or even despising those less fortunate. The early church, under the disciples leadership, took literally Christ's commands, and lived out His life before the watching world. They "turned the world upside down" through God's Grace.
- Jesus lived and taught the TRUTH.
The truth Jesus taught was by far more uncompromising than that taught by the strictest Rabbis of His day. Despite His emphasis on Grace no one could accuse Jesus of watering down the holiness of God
- He broadened murder to include anger.
- Adultery to include lust.
- Jesus' content of TRUTH pointed to Himself. "You have heard it was said . . . but I tell you . . ." was His authoritative claim.
- Fearless, Jesus never backed away from a conflict about God's TRUTH.
- His claims about Himself got Him into constant trouble.
- I and the Father are One.
- I have the power to forgive sins.
- I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
- In Jesus, God gave us a face. He gives us a picture of the heart of God. He taught us the truth of God. He lived out the priorities of God. He exemplified the virtues of God's values.
- Jesus lived "in the world, but not of the world".
- He prayed for us and about us in His high priestly prayer. John 17:11,14,18. "They are in the world . . . the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world", and John tell us in I John 4:17, "as He is, so are we in this world."
- In these two expressions "in the world" and "not of the world" we find the whole secret of His work as Savior, of His glory, and His life as God-in-the-flesh.
- "In the world"
- as a man in fellowship with people, loving them, revealing God and winning them back to Him.
- as a man to be our substitute, dying in our place for our sins making it possible for us to contain God's life and live with Him in glory forever.
- in the struggle with the powers which rule the world to have spiritual victory.
- "Not of the world"
- To live the life of God before the world so they might see it and desire it.
- Founding a "kingdom of heaven within" entirely independent of all that the world holds desirable or necessary, with principles and values the very opposite of those that rule this world.
- Witnessing against the world's sin and departure from God.
- "Not of the world" in order to have the power, plan and love to redeem all who trust in Him and to bring them into His heavenly kingdom.
- "In the world"
- The true disciple of Jesus must live out these two truths in perfect harmony. In each of us there must be seen a heavenly life shining out through our earthly daily life. An eternal life-focus expressly lived out among those in the world to win their hearts through Christ's love -- this must be our mission in life.
- As disciples who cultivate Christ-likeness in the "inner man" we can appropriate His power to be "in the world" and "not of it". We will be "crucified to the world",
- Gal. 6:14, and yet go into it and bless it. We will live with eternity in our hearts and yet walk on earth.
- Jesus lived in God's will -- OBEDIENTLY
- "I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me." John 6:38.
- Andrew Murray in the School of Obedience points out: "The secret of true obedience is a close, personal love relationship with God." Christ lived in a continual, moment by moment vital love relationship with His Father. And in Jesus' teachings He claimed obedience, based on love, from anyone who would be His disciple.
- If you love me you will keep my commandment.
- Whoever has my commands and obeys them he is the one who loves me.
- If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.
- You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:10,14
- These words of Jesus express the centrality of obedience which is only possible under grace, from our response to His loving us unconditionally. There is a divine connection between God's love in Christ and our whole-hearted loving-obedience.
- Obedience is the very starting point of true sanctification.
- Abiding in Christ is the process by which we become conformed to Christ.