Friday, January 19, 2018

Our choice, but he backs us up

14 Obey God because you are his children; don’t slip back into your old ways—doing evil because you knew no better. 15 But be holy now in everything you do, just as the Lord is holy, who invited you to be his child. 16 He himself has said, “You must be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:14-16 TLB)

If I were to ask you to describe what the word 'obey' means to you, I'd probably get mixed answers on this one. If you grew up in a home where phrases such as, "Children are best seen and not heard", or "You will eat that because there are starving children in Africa", you probably have a view of obedience to your parents as being very cautious of ever 'crossing the line' with their rules. Others of us may have pushed that line a little in our lifetimes, finding ourselves clearly on the other side of that parent's anger or disappointment when we did. We can see obedience as a 'do it right the first time' kind of thing, while others could see it as a 'do your best, no matter what' kind of thing. Obedience has come to be such a hard thing for so many in society, even to the point of striking that 'love, honor, and obey' phrase from wedding vows because the thought of 'obeying' was just too much! Obedience in the terms of how God sees it is restoration and then moving away from what caused us to require that restoration in the first place!

Restoration brought us back to the place where obedience is even possible. Restoration's work begins the process of placing us on a path where obedience is more than just 'doing it right the first time' because we 'have to', but because we actually want to. We feel a different desire to not engage in those acts of disobedience any longer - even though they still present us with a little bit of temptation or struggle. Maybe we get down on ourselves now and again because we feel these desires, or struggle with the 'potential' of pursuing some course of action we clearly should avoid. We chastise ourselves, believing even the thought of such actions is suggestive we are not being 'obedient'. The truth of the matter is that sometimes those desires will still create a little 'tension' in our lives for a while - because we haven't fully stopped desiring them yet - we still want our own way a little bit. 

Sometimes obedience is two steps in the right direction and one backward step in the 'not so right direction'. Despite that step backward, we are still on the pathway to 'perfect obedience' - we aren't there yet, but we are clearly on a different course in life and that is what matters! Restoration changes the course of our lives, but it doesn't always mean we don't deal with some of the original 'framework' that has been established in our lives. God isn't the 'heavenly parent' who 'demands' obedience of us like the 'sit there until you clean your plate' kind of obedience like an earthly parent may have required. He presents us with the right course and knows we have a free-will to choose to walk in it. He shows us how much he desires us to follow it, not because he insists on us walking no other course, but because he knows of the safety he has provided for us within that course! Obedience is an acknowledgement of his 'knowing best' what we need, how our desires can be met in the best possible way, and what it is that will draw us further away from what can bring us harm in life.

Obedience is not 'giving up' - it is 'letting in'. We let God's Spirit and presence into our lives and we begin to sense things differently as a result. We have both paths before us - one clearly leading in a direction we shouldn't travel, while the other may not be fully known, but which has been specifically prepared to keep us safe in the journey. God's Spirit is often the voice of reason seeking our 'obedience' to choose the latter. It is a choice - we make it - he backs it up! Just sayin!