That Flows from God’s Love
I thrived in school. I gained head knowledge, wrote the test, and frequently aced the test… For me, it was about knowing the answer.
Can I share my discovery? This hasn’t served me well as a disciple of Jesus. Increasing knowledge without application increases pride. Cognition without action equals…. hypocrisy. Yikes, I said it! Studying Scripture is important. I must know what it says before I can live in agreement with it. Studying it without the intention of obedience? Bad idea.
Jesus’ last commandment in Matthew 28:18-20 reads:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Jesus instructs his followers to obey.
Before we go further, let’s clarify what obedience is NOT. We, humans, love to strive, earn, and claw our way into the presence of God through our good deeds and performances. From the fall, when Adam and Eve hid from God, to the Pharisees ascending some manmade ladder of perfection through acts of holiness; our fallen nature favours self-righteous, self-sanctification to justify ourselves before God. This is NOT the obedience I’m talking about. Nor is this an obligatory response of submission to a God who is scrupulous in tracking failures. To act like it is, is to deny the Cross.
It’s not obedience that clears the way to receive God’s love, it’s obedience that flows from God’s love.
The apostle John was referred to as “the one Jesus loved.” John’s obedience flowed from his confidence in Christ’s love for him, and his love for Christ.
In John’s gospel we read:
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Now that we’ve settled what obedience is and is not, let’s continue.
Until recently, Western society saw teaching as knowledge transfer from one person to others. Learning was treated as a process of getting knowledge into our head, moving it to our heart, and finally changing our behaviour – our hands. Jesus didn’t teach this way. Jesus invited others into his life. They discovered lessons within the lived experience. Jesus started with hands, which led to heart and then became understanding. This is illustrated as the disciples participated in Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming the Good News, and miraculous healings (obedience) while still not grasping the point of His mission. From their questions throughout the gospels, we discover the disciples were obeying Jesus prior to understanding. As they journeyed, they had the opportunity to obey in all things. Through their lived-out obedience their hearts were changed, and eventually understanding was gained.
Obedience is a spiritual discipline that opens us up to changed perspectives and changed understanding.
Peter’s life exemplifies this. Peter (Simon), was rough around the edges when Jesus called him next to the Sea of Galilee. He’s notorious for getting the answer right one moment and being told he’s taking direction from Satan the next. Before Jesus’ crucifixion he chops a guy’s ear off! After declaring his unwavering devotion to Jesus, he denies Christ three times. Eventually, rough, impulsive Peter becomes so gentle and faithful that he feeds Jesus’ sheep. Instead of a sword, Peter chooses death.
Luke’s Gospel captures a significant part of Peter’s story.
While early in the book of Luke, this encounter between Jesus and Peter wasn’t their first. Peter would have been tracking with Jesus from a distance for some time. Peter is a fisherman. Jesus? He’s a tekton – a builder. As Bob Rognlien points out, Jesus was more likely a stonemason than a carpenter. So Jesus, a land-dwelling, builder gets into a boat with Peter, the lifelong fisherman.
[Jesus] said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Jesus, who builds with rocks, tells Peter, the expert fisherman, to put his nets down in the middle of the day. That’s the worst fishing advice Jesus could give. What does Jesus know about fishing? Peter’s fished all night; the best time for fishing and caught nothing. Then Peter says, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Peter obeys a crazy request. And what happens? He receives an abundant blessing. It’s so big, others are invited to help gather it. Obedience leads to supernatural blessing, that blesses others.
When we take the courageous step of obeying God, he changes us. Then He blesses others through us… so they too can be transformed as they obey the One who loves them.
Now, instead of studying the Word to get it right, I ask the Holy Spirit to show me just one thing I can do to align my life more fully with His truth. This obedience has led me on an adventure I could never have dreamed of.