Thursday, March 15, 2018

Who Do You Obey?

Mike Hosey, An Elder

All people are obedient. Burglars, rapists, murderers, thieves, drug dealers, drug addicts, cops, preachers, cookie baking grandmas and Sunday school teachers are all obedient.  All of them.  We like to think of ourselves as rebels – either with a cause or without one. But that self-image isn’t entirely accurate.  You will inevitably obey something. And if you are obeying something, then you are submitted to that thing, and therefore not a rebel in regards to the thing that you obey.

In fact, Paul teaches this very idea.  In Romans 6:16-18, he persuasively argues that you are either a slave to sin, or you are a slave to righteousness.  And a slave obeys. 

If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, you know this truth firsthand. The cigarette calls your name at work, and you obey its call. The bottle calls you into the club or bar, and you obey its call. The caffeine calls your name, and you dutifully amble over to the coffee pot. The sugary pastry calls your name, and you obey that call over and over again.  This is the case with all sin to which one has submitted oneself. And it also is the case with your larger sin nature – the nature that tells you to resist God’s calls or commands. To obey your sin nature puts you in rebellion against God.  To obey God, puts you in rebellion against your sin nature. 

God has set up the universe in such a way that both of these rebellions have consequence. Consider, for instance, Isaiah 1:18-20, where the prophet tells Israel that if they are willing and obedient they will prosper, but if they resist and rebel then they will be consumed by violence. His statement is made within the context of describing their sin. God is telling his people that even though they have sins that are scarlet, he can wash them away if only they will obey his way. Not to obey, however, is to resign themselves to a world that will devour them. That Old Testament prophecy holds true for today’s Christians even more so than it did for those ancient Heberews. The spiritual connection is much more pronounced. To rebel against God is to step into a world where Satan is looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Such a consequence is hellishly undesirable. It will touch every life domain. However, to obey the gospel, and therefore rebel against your sin nature and a world that hates God is to set yourself free from the chains of sin and death. Every life domain will be freed (Psalm 107:10-14).  For if the son has set you free, then you are free indeed (John 8:34-36). 

What chains are holding you in slavery?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Two Sides of Disobedience

Mike Hosey, An Elder

Disobedience comes in two forms.  In one form God tells us things not to do, and we disobey when we do them. For instance, God tells us not to lie, and then we lie to save ourselves from some discomfort.  Or, God tells us not to covet our neighbors stuff, and we spend a great deal of effort trying to acquire things like our neighbor has. On the other hand, there are things that God tells us to do, and when we refuse to do them, we are in sin and disobedience (James 4:17). For instance, God tells you to be part of a faith community (Hebrews 10:24-25), but some prefer to avoid gathering with spiritual brothers and sisters.   Most people I know don’t have a problem understanding the things they’re not supposed to do.  And most of those people do a fair job of avoiding the big things that God has told us to avoid.  It seems we are programmed to know that we shouldn’t entertain lust, or that we shouldn’t steal, or that we shouldn’t kill, or that we shouldn’t lie.  But it seems harder, sometimes, for us to recognize the programming that tells us to do certain things.  

One rather disturbing story in the Bible that illustrates how there are consequences for not doing what we are told to do is found in the character of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:1-8).  King David calls for the Ark of the Covenant to be delivered from the House of Abinadab. Abinadab’s two sons, Uzzah and Ahio, set out to do just that.  They place the Ark on a cart drawn by oxen.  At some point, the Oxen stumble, and Uzzah stretches out his hand presumably to steady the Ark. This seems like a good deed, but God strikes Uzzah dead.  The problem is that Uzzah had violated a couple of dos, and at least one don’t. God had prescribed for the Ark to be carried with poles by men (Exodus 25:12-14). Certain Levites – the sons of Kohath -- were to be the ones who carried it (Numbers 4:15).  It should not have been on a cart. And of course Uzzah should never have touched it (Numbers 4:15). Interestingly, if Uzzah and Ahio had done what God told them to do, they would not have been in a position to do what he had told them not to do – which was touch the Ark. 

If you are busy doing what God tells you to do, like worshiping with other believers, engaging in study of his word, attending to prayer, stirring others up to good deeds, or loving God with everything, then you won’t be in a position to do those things he has told you not to do.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Evil in Good Intentions

Mike Hosey, An Elder

Your good intentions can be quite evil.  Too often, they motivate poor choices. Most people grasp that truth well, but they still use their good intentions to rationalize their poor choices. What I hear most often is the statement, “God knows my heart.” The rationalization is that God knows you’re trying to do something good, so he’ll overlook it even though you’re doing something he has declared wrong. There may be some comfort in that rationalization.  And there might even be a smidgen of truth somewhere in it given some limited, specific circumstances. But Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is wicked and deceitful – which should give one pause regarding what God knows about one’s heart. It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Some have said that hell itself is roofed, walled and furnished with them, too. Because we are woefully flawed, some paths seem right to us, but in the end they lead to death (Proverbs 14:12).

Paul, before he knew Jesus, was a fine example of this. He tormented Christians and pursued them ruthlessly, thinking he was doing a Godly thing (Acts 26:9-11). But his behavior was sin. Some of the worst evils are done with fully good intentions (John 16:2). 

Those are drastic examples, of course, but the truths they illustrate are not limited to extremes. If you are living outside of God’s will, and God’s way, regardless of your intentions, then you are in disobedience, and disobedience has consequences. 

I won’t burden you with a long list of what God thinks is wrong. If you truly belong to God’s family, then you probably already have an idea as to whether or not you’re doing something that displeases God. And you probably already have a good idea as to whether or not you’ve employed the “good intentions” excuse.  That’s the way his Holy Spirit works. The bible speaks to every domain of human life. If you study it, you will find that God speaks to you through his living word, and that he can help you to figure it out much better than I can with my 400 words or less. Couple that with a committed life in a loving Christian community, and the wisdom of your leaders, and you'll likely find the right path to follow.

Even more amazing, God's word can set you free from disobedience, flaws, and failures, and give you strength to win the battles that the world, Satan, and your own flesh will send your way. That way, instead of just having good intentions, you can do actual good.