So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death. We aren’t saved from sin’s grasp by knowing the commandments of God because we can’t and don’t keep them, but God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours—except that ours are sinful—and destroyed sin’s control over us by giving himself as a sacrifice for our sins. So now we can obey God’s laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us. (Romans 8:1-4)
Obedience is never by our own effort, but we are told to 'follow after' certain things. There are things we need to leave alone, while there are others we need to fully engage in. What do we 'leave alone'? Most will say we leave behind things like smoking, chewing, running with those that do, but it is more than just giving up 'bad habits'. We also need to leave alone those tendencies we have to over-indulge the human desires we might have. We are to leave alone the constant fear of the unknown, our mistrust of others or God, and things like following our own lustful thoughts. What are we to engage in? Those things the Holy Spirit leads us into, such as loving one another, looking out for the needs of another, and listening with an open heart.
Obedience begins with belonging - we move into relationship with Jesus. We belong to a new family. It moves on when we realize we have been given a new power to live by - not our own self-will, but the resurrection power of Christ within each of us. We grow in obedience, not just by 'keeping commandments', but by coming into an understanding of the purpose of those commandments and then following the leading of the Holy Spirit to 'keep them'. Obedience is never self-effort - it involves following. What is one key characteristic of a follower? Submission. That is a hard word for some, because they see it as being under the thumb of someone else, always doing whatever they desire and never getting to do what one might desire themselves.
Submission in a spiritual sense if not 'obligatory', or burdensome, for that matter. It is liberating in every sense of the word because we are no longer under the control of a task-master that entices us to do what we know is wrong. We are actually willingly placing our faith (trust) in someone who doesn't leave us feeling 'pressured' to do something, but rather free to enter into the things that will actually liberate our lives. It may be hard to understand that at first, but following Jesus isn't a burden, it is a privilege. The 'control' shifts from us to him. The liberty that comes when the control is shifted is beyond words. Just sayin!
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