Friday, November 21, 2014

Obedience and Approval

image used under Creative Commons license,
photo by Abhi Sharma, from Flickr
“At the end of the day, obedience is far more important than knowledge.” -- Larry Osborne

We already did one post on the subject Pastor Osborne spoke on, at Exponential West 2014.  But this statement is one I keep coming back to.  Maybe because it touches on thoughts God has put on my heart often, over the years.

There's truth and wisdom and there's knowledge.  The difference is whether we have mental comprehension or our understanding has undergone personalization.  It's the difference between knowing a subject and knowing a person.  Take a look.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)   Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Just about every Christian has heard that verse talked about, preached on, taught.  And, if we're not careful, we end up living in the literal interpretation, headed in a very wrong direction.  Even our starting quote could do much the same, out of context.  And that's not something we want to do.

Think about the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, all of whom felt Jesus wrath at one time or another.  Israel had asked God for a set of laws that they could obey to show their love of God.  He gave them ten commandments.  Ten!  What could be simpler?  But all the spiritual leadership, over centuries, took ten commandments and turned them into some 640 laws.  They covered every possible nuance, interpretation, and situation.  What normal human being can remember 640 laws?

What we saw were people to create laws, others to interpret them, and another group to teach about them.  In order to do that, they all studied.  They thought they and their study was approved of God. They expected no shame from their deeds and study because they were putting The Law in their hearts.  And they completely missed the boat.

Whether we choose Larry Osborne's "obedience" or 2 Timothy 2:15's "approved", it's obedience to God and approved of God that's the goal.  Allow anything else to control your obedience and it's what we become approved of.  It doesn't matter if ego is driving the train or we  are deceived by the devil, what we do is no longer one of God's favorite things.  The heart behind it is wrong.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes were all extremely sure of their righteousness.  Yet, in reality, one or more of those groups was the earthly founder of Judeo-Christian legalism.  And the others supported it.  They were certain their thinking and behavior were what would get them to heaven.  It was all them and not God.  And it left no room for a savior.

My favorite verse, Matthew 6:33, puts that in perspective.  The "kingdom of God" or the "kingdom of Heaven" speaks of having God's presence.  This and similar verses highlight that His presence is possible before we leave this life.  The first part says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;".  That's a combination.  How can you usher in God's presence without leaving room for His righteousness.  What directs our thinking and our actions must be God and His righteousness.  Not our interpretation of that, not anything other than that.

When we "study to show ourselves approved", we're looking to have our heartbeat match God's.  It's the flesh, usually prodded by Satan, that compares itself to others and to our own past.  As often as possible, those comparisons are intended to get us to focus on ourselves or at least on anything but God.  The usual result is we gain a view of ourselves unfiltered by God's love.  And that's unflattering, to say the least.

In order to be properly obedient and really approved of God, we need to have God fully "in our headlights", not our rear view mirror.  Our comparison starts with what God has done and is doing in our lives.  Not our own actions and ideas, not others, not some standard based on works.  Our goal is to know God, not know about Him.  That personal relationship changes everything.  For the better.

How's your relationship with God, today?  Is it based on our works or who He is and what He's done?  Are we really obedient and approved or are we putting on a show for ourselves and others? If you don't like the answers, that can be changed.  Are you excited about gaining God's righteousness and His presence?

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