… and one of the best ways to grow in faith is to practice obedience.
Really, what are we saying when we choose to obey someone else? We are submitting. We are saying either, “I believe that you have more knowledge/wisdom than I” or, “I believe you to have more power than I – so that you can punish my disobedience”.
When we choose to obey and our obedience produces a positive result, we grow in our faith. When we disobey and our disobedience produces a negative result, we also grow in our faith. As our faith grows, it becomes more and more easy to obey – even in areas that seem to make little sense to the outside observer, to one who has not had it proven that the object of our faith is more knowledgeable/powerful than we are.
We can see this expressed in parenting. I’m of the jiu-jitsu school of parenting teenagers. My son is more than old enough to make himself breakfast and lunch before going to school. He spent most of last semester choosing not to do so, trying to get another twenty minutes of sleep after he was up and dressed. His choice. Also, his consequences – it’s produced a much more tired 15yo, which affects his schoolwork and workouts.
And so this week he hasn’t had a choice – he eats because I say so, and he’s noticing that he has more energy. What has this experiment produced? This has produced an increase in his trust in me, that he really *does* need to eat breakfast/lunch – and that Mom is generally not going to lead him astray.
Why would I do it like this, instead of just sitting on him? Because he’s almost an adult. In a few more years, he’ll be old enough to live on his own. I don’t want to make decisions *for* him, I want to teach him to make the right decisions for himself. I want to teach him to obey my rules when they are no longer rules. (Of course not all arenas are open to this sort of experimentation.)
I think of this when I come to the verses about the Law, in Galatians.
Galatians 3: 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
How do we related to the commands of God? How do we differentiate between Torah (OT) and the exhortations of the NT (which are largely impossible outside of the power of the Holy Spirit). Do we look at what they are trying to teach us about the nature of holiness? Do we look at what they are trying to teach us about right relations with God and our fellow man? Are we fools, who toss them into the trash?
How do we differentiate our own convictions and the traditions of our communities from the commands of God?
Example: I am not tempted by alcohol, purely because most of it makes me ill. Once in a blue moon I’ll make myself a drink. So, should I push my near-teetotalism on you? You whose stomach isn’t upset by alcohol? Or perhaps someone who is tempted severely by drunkenness … they can’t have the stuff in the house. Should I obey their restrictions?
I can see *why* my sibling in Christ who is tempted by alcohol allows none of it in their house, and I agree that this is a good restriction. For them. But for me, how do I choose? I must return to two things: 1) Scripture (which condemns drunkenness, but not drinking) and 2) the conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit.
Accepting a rule that is extra-Biblical opens me to Phariseeism. And I am certainly tempted in *that* vein. I like to have other people think that I’m perfect. Make up some rules that I can follow, so you can see how awesome I am! That sounds great!
People fall into this trap very commonly. The Bible talks about this – the epistles (and the letters from Christ to the seven churches, found in the book of Revelation) are chock full of admonitions to the early church. It’s a people thing. We look at God’s law and find it too hard, too much a mirror, and we run to the rules that people make up. We can understand those, we can “win” by those rules. We don’t have to depend on the Holy Spirit to continually transform us into something we are not, we don’t have to look at our hourly failures to love…
James 1: 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
This is why I am Sola Scriptura. It’s just a people thing. We cannot trust our eternity to other mortals. We need to constantly return to the Word because we constantly fall into error. The Church started falling into error five minutes after the apostles left town, and even the apostles weren’t infallible – see Paul correcting Peter. The only way to stay on the straight and narrow is to spend time in prayer, spend time with God, earnestly seek after His will, and spend time in His Word. The Word is the check against our emotions, and what we “think” we hear God saying when our desire is actually doing the talking. Guidance from our elders is a good thing, but all men are mortal, and all mortals are fallible. We must *must* check things for ourselves, we must be Berean about our walks of faith.
And that’s why I think CS Lewis was on to something in Mere Christianity when he said that most sincere Christians are closer together in heart even if farther apart in practice than any group of lukewarm Christians. I can almost taste the love of some of my sibs in Christ have for God. I don’t like arguing about their practice, unless I see them falling into clear sin.
If I can inspire one of my sibs to a greater love for God, or to take a step of faith, that is enough – and that is my goal, to share my joy in the love of the Lord. Exhortation, not argumentation. We can debate a bit, sharpen one another up, but in the end – it is our obedience to God that matters. Do you judge me disobedient? Do me the favor of telling me so, for I earnestly wish to please my Master.
My faith is not in people, however wise or good… my faith is in God. I trust the Word He has given us, because He is the Word.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
Faith in God, shown through obedience to Christ.