Sunday, 24 August 2008

Obedience training for Christians

This is the third part of an assignment for my Trinity@Night class, Head, Heart and Hands: The Christian Life. For the first installment, read here. The second installment is here.

The topic is: You have been invited to give a talk where you are sure the audience will include Christians who believe what you believe but also people from a wide variety of denominations as well as some non-Christians. The topic that has been assigned to you is this: The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother.

If we stopped at getting to know God, Christianity would be merely an intellectual exercise. However, what we find out about God in the Bible changes the way we behave in our daily lives.

As I mentioned before, Jesus died to become our Saviour. He also rose to life and ascended to heaven as our King, our Lord. Encouraged by the Holy Spirit within, Christians desire to live in ways that please God (Ephesians 5:8-10) and bring Him the glory and fame He deserves because He is our King.

The Bible tells us, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its sinful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24). Christians have several words for this, such as sanctification. Another slightly shorter and more familiar word is obedience. The Bible tells us there are two elements of obedience to God which should be evident in every Christian's daily life.

The first element is one of personal conduct, or character. A Christian's character standards are determined by the character of God. I was "created to be like God" so I strive to grow in godliness, as an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:1). As I mentioned before, I learn about the character of God every time I read the Bible. The character of God has been most fully revealed in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Old Testament laws and New Testament letters also teach us what "true righteousness and holiness" looks like. A short, non-exhaustive list includes character traits such as self-control, self-discipline and diligence; honesty and humility; patience, endurance and perseverance; compassion, kindness and gentleness (eg Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 4:1-5:20, Colossians 3:1-17).

The second element is one of interpersonal conduct, or relationships. As a Christian, my attitudes and actions towards others need to be based upon Jesus' statement that the second most important commandment (after loving God) is to "love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-40). Loving actions toward others put them first, not myself. Loving others means forgiving faults and misdeeds; helping and serving; seeking unity among Christians; and, importantly, telling others about the gospel.

If these descriptions of Christian conduct don't sound like yours, do not despair! We have a gracious God, abounding in mercy towards sinners. Confess your sin to Him and He will make you clean (1 John 1:9). Then move Godward in your daily life, making each decision, each action, one of obedience to Him.

[A little over 380 words, I'm obviously getting more consise as I go on. Any suggestions for other vitally important Christian character traits, or examples of loving actions? Any other comments? I'm not sure I've emphasised enough that this way of life is pursued out of obedience to God, in response to the gospel. Any suggestions on that?
The next, and last, part of this assignment will address "loving God". I've had quite a few conversations with Jeff on that one, but it still feels a bit like my nemesis (a bit nemesitic???), so feel free to leave suggestions in the comments for this post.]


mom24 said...

I certainly don't think that I could add to it - you've been informative and also concise. I am reminded that our obedience to God is a response of gratefulness, rather than duty. Though we can never repay Him, we can seek to obey Him and become more like Him. I feel a sense of joy when I am GRATEFULLY responding instead of just 'doing' out of begrudging submission.
Look forward to "loving God"....

Sharon said...

Yes, that feeling of thanksgiving for all God has done and is is one of the things I will explore in the next installment.
~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

Hi Sharon!
This is my third attempt at composing a comment. For some reason I keep having trouble getting it to go through, and then I see that it didn't "take."

I'm sure my first composition was the best, but I still wanted to share a few things that your essays brought to mind:

Obedience is indeed a response to God's grace in our lives, but I think that "loving God" is so difficult to articulate because it can be so mysterious.

Mysterious because sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between what I am doing and what God is doing to me and in me. In other words, am I displaying more virtues because I'm working harder at it? Or is it just that God is changing me into someone that looks a little more like Jesus?

We advise young believers to work out their faith, which is biblical, and yet at the same time we acknowledge that we aren't even capable of loving God unless He brings that about in us.

I've always felt that it can be confusing to teach children the "fruits" of the Spirit, as if they are capable of becoming loving, joyful, peaceful, patient and the rest on their own effort. Actually, the Fruit of the Spirit is the outcome of the Spirit's work in our life and not something that we can accomplish apart from Him.

So what do you aim for? We love God by presenting ourselves as living sacrifices--giving up the pattern of the world (television, godless thinking), filling it instead with His Word and He transforms our minds. We aim to know God and as we become more and more intimate with the Father we suddenly seem to notice that we are completely changed!

Loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength can be paralleled with worship, Bible study, and ministry service. But setting out to "do" each of these things won't get us there. And that is, I think, part of the mystery of Jesus and His transformational power. The cross is the Power of God to those who believe and foolishness to the rest. Serving Christ and His Kingdom is both hard work and effortless, a contradiction that ultimately makes complete sense.

I look forward to reading the rest of your essays!