This Discipleship charge was penned with apprehensiveness. I knew it would ruffle feathers and that by discussing it I would also activate my own spiritual examination. We’re going to talk in the following three blogs about the relationship between Power, Obedience and Truth.
Power, Obedience, and Truth, is the operating ground of the disciple of Christ. Even as most read this, the word “Power” is a foreign concept. Most Christians do not live a life of power. On the contrary, most Christians live a life of defeat. In the arena of individual discipleship and yes, this is the most important part of the disciple’s relationship with Jesus, there is an inseparable link between Power, Obedience and Truth. We are going to take one of the most often quoted verses from the words of Jesus and make clear over the next three talks, what the relationship between these three is. We’ll also discuss what a disciple’s life is meant to resemble according to Jesus, no one else, not your pastor or your favorite radio speaker but Jesus. If you’re ready to stop focusing on the past and why things are bad (and they very well may be) lets instead talk about freedom, and how that happens. This is so important and novel in the postmodern excuse laden church that we are going top start with a prayer to make sure we get it right, as truth isn’t obtained by our reason or understanding but by God’s Spirit.
Holy Spirit guide us in our thoughts and search for your teaching and wisdom in this matter. You tell us you will bring us into the truth. We believe this because you said it Jesus and you said the Holy Spirit will be with us and live within us. (John 14:17-18)
There’s a lot of talk about Truth in our culture, in the church, and how to get it. But actually, few books written directly on point on the subject. Jesus said there’s a specific way truth develops for us,
“If you hold onto my teaching then you will be my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set us free” John 8:31-32.
Every time I hear John 8:32 quoted “You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free” separate from verse proceeding I cringe. And I hear it a lot, not only from well-meaning seekers of Jesus but from Christian leaders as well. If we are going to start talking about this issue of individuality in discipleship, we must be absolutely clear in what is being said here. Thankfully, Jesus said some of his most important things rather simply some we would understand it. Note in this statement Jesus is talking to people who had believed in Him. They knew he was credible and who he was claiming to be. But that didn’t make them disciples. What’s clear John 8 is Jesus talking about what makes a disciple a disciple…don’t miss that, it’s not hidden. Jesus disciples hold fast to Jesus teachings, not man’s and not their favorite radio host, speaker or author. Holding fast means disciples have impregnated themselves with the commands and teachings of Jesus which activates a Truth unattainable separately from Jesus. Now I realize impregnated is a loaded word for sure. But it’s directly on point to what Jesus is communicating. It connotates a growing life within them. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3 the new life was a “new birth.”
We don’t hold fast to anything of value without it occupying our priorities and consuming our attention. We obey the directives of our employer, we hold fast to our wedding vows. Holding fast implies a commitment to “live within” In Jesus word’s it’s the point of living within His truth that produces true freedom. A disciple cannot follow Jesus with a cavalier commitment to his person and identify themselves as a disciple. That’s not this authors opinion, those are the words of Jesus. Anything less is not a disciple.
Jesus statement is supremely confrontational, to the point we may shrink back. Holding fast to Jesus and his teachings means a critically important radically confrontative life choice…
Let’s set aside the childish notion that following Jesus is a contemplation of who He is without the behavior to back it up. Jesus wouldn’t recognize that type of faith; not as a disciple anyway.
I’m sure like most of us, the issues in our life which divert our love from Jesus; the things He is trying to tell us to let go of are coming to mind. Thankfully this alleviates me from the burden of trying to convince you of a spiritual reality. For clarification sake, (as some of us may be thicker than others) we better drive this stake further into the spiritual terrain to not sweep the message under the rug promoting the mediocre spiritual status quo. Jesus, talking to those who were identified as his “disciples” in Luke 6:46 makes a very relevant direct statement “Why do you call me Lord and not do as I say?” There is no escaping the connection with obedience. It’s the same principle Jesus teaches in John 8:31-32. In the Luke passage however, Jesus goes on to describe what people are like who act on (i.e. obeys) his teachings. Jesus illustrates the spiritual reality you build for yourself is not a contemplation or reflection, but obedience while this is a building process obedience directly reflects the type spiritual house we build in this life that transcends into the next life. And just so we don’t miss it, Jesus points out the man who hears his teachings and doesn’t act is building a disastrous structure that will not stand the test of life. Many Christians I’m afraid, bemoan their lack of clarity, their lack of spiritual growth and effectiveness over what is a simple issue of obedience. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10) Have we really gotten to the point in our faith where we think we can disobey Jesus in the little things and somehow represent him as legitimate? Or he’ll entrust to responsibility over others?
Here’s how important obedience is. Not only is it foundational, Jesus ties it together with Truth and Freedom. “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Knowing Truth, at least the type Jesus is talking about is subsequent to the obedience expected and assumed in the teachings and commands of Jesus. Any person professing Jesus who is disobedient and contrary to truth and the life Christ leads is deceiving themselves and others. The relationship to Truth and Freedom can’t be missed in Jesus statement. One of the key developments in a disciple’s life as Christ lives in them is the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the Third part of our concept of the Trinity comes as part of our transformation from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. The Spirit is a restoration of God’s personality and presence with humankind. It is the Holy Spirit who originates power to obey and convey the Truth as disciples live in relationship with Jesus. If you want to know why you can’t relate to the concept of being “Spirit filled” start with an examination of your own obedience. Therefore, a disciple who is obedient according to Jesus, experiences the revelation of Truth through the Spirit which provides a multifaceted freedom. How do we know this? Jesus tells us “But when He the Spirit of truth comes; He will guide you into all the Truth.” Many Christians and those seeking to follow Jesus unfortunately will never experience the truth that comes through the Spirit. The assume some magic illumination takes place and confuse Jesus Truth will facts and communal moral standards. This truth isn’t the freedom Jesus promises. Contrary to experiencing freedom (which comes as part of obedience) They exist in a cloud of haze dogged by perpetual guilt over their prolonged spiritually immaturity. They are identifiable by seeking formulas, experiences, knowledge and quick solutions to a simple problem associated with simple obedience. Those issues that God is telling us to act on, a behavior, and attitude maybe or, putting someone or something before Him; all are issues of obedience. Until we partner with God in breaking our resistance and dismantling spiritual footholds of resistance we will not experience Truth or Freedom. This is again why Jesus could say to yes, his disciples “If the light that is within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt 6:23) There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks they have truth who is deceived and is actually perpetuating spiritual darkness. I’m aware of the “Christian teachings” that Jesus was not saying these things to his disciples as commands but they were more “metaphorical, euphemisms.” These opinions are usually perpetuated by religious people who find obedience inconvenient…or personally intolerable!
We can see the devastating trap of spiritual delusion disobedience creates. No wonder its equated with the “sin of divination” (1st Samuel 15:23). Divination consults a false master for false truths, knowledge outside of the truths provided by God.
God’s actually a lot more diverse than we give Him credit for. We miss this because our disobedience in the things which are small prohibit us from seeing His vision for our lives. This is why calling or intent, or what might be considered spiritual clarity alludes Christians. Our disobedience in the small things, like helping ourselves to work supplies as their “superfluous and no one would miss them” or, continuing to engage in a behavioral patterns or forms of entertainment we know displeases God spiritually disempowers us. There’s a good reason Jesus continuously referred to the relationship between his followers and him as “a marriage.” We forgot, wedding vows aren’t something we acknowledge as “a good idea to consider…” We promise to live by them. That’s obedience. That’s why Jesus used the marriage analogy repeatedly. A follower of Christ who knows what he or she is meant to be and capitulates to the idea they can never become it is a Christian in disobedience. How deep this spiritual illness penetrates into the lives of most Christians is only evidence of how masterful the enemy is at selling it! If you want your life to change, start by obeying in the little things. Your going to be surprised at how this simple act predisposes you not only pray but to want to pray, and spend time with God His Word! In a day and age where most pastors spend 15 minutes in the Bible (Barna, 2009), It’s no wonder the leaders rarely address the issue of obedience. Consider how just how easy it is to create a “beer fellowship” these days verses a Bible fellowship. Not very many pots succeed at calling the kettle black unchallenged! Are we finding truth and experiencing it through the process scripture clearly reveals?
If you made it this far we should close with a individual example to move it from religious speculation to the personal. Now understand we all have bad days, we get the flu, or any number of things can affect our emotional state and attitude. But have you not noticed the following? When we engage in behaviors and attitudes contrary to what we know is Christlike, we experience an “unbalancing” in our spirit. We sense something is not right, we can emotionally and cognitively “feel it” spiritually. If Christ and the quality of our relationship is part of our daily conscience, (for many he’s not even on the radar) we are acutely aware something has slipped in our intimacy with God. We feel the distance. Psalm 51 expresses this meticulously. If we’ve been around the faith long enough we know this is a fragmentation of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Jesus which lives within us. Sin, especially in the saved Christian breaks fellowship and intimacy with God. This is the clear take away from Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:30 which reads “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” which implies the relational nature of how Jesus lives in us. For my part when I have grieved God’s Spirit through disobedience or sin I knew was offensive, my ability to concentrate on His goodness, experience joy, and perceive truth is adversely affected and directly proportional to the sin and my accountability in knowing better. A believer in this state has no power. That’s important for us to contemplate. You don’t have power in a relationship based on intimacy where offense is the status quo. Our experience of God’s joy through the Spirit and its expression of power in our lives is directly related to the quality of my relationship with God and the Spirit of Jesus living in me. Disciples, veteran’s ones anyway, know this all too well.
The lack of development around this issue of obedience is a symptom of an embryonic faith that never developed. Its weak, ineffective, non-transformative and left untended dies off. Worse still, its distasteful to a world looking for something real. We don’t “obey” to justify ourselves, that’s already completed in Christ, Jesus holds our position solid in Himself. We obey so we don’t disempower God’s Spirit within us to the point we become non-transformable, spiritually immature or worse, miserable or destructive to God’s Kingdom work.
We can talk all we want about reliance on the Spirit to initiate and empower us to change or direct us, but until step up to the relational side of the equation that effects our choice or our obedience, we are throwing responsibility on God that He is waiting on us to take hold of.J.P. Grier M.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling
JP Grier is the founder and writer at SentinelforChrist.com – A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.