Gather those sisters, your Bible, journal, and pen. It’s time for a little faith talk, again.
Lord, open our hearts and minds to You.
We’re making a progression from Trust to Obey. In one sense the two go hand in hand, which is why we begin Obey with Trust and Obey. We reveal our trust in God through obedience.
The spiritual discipline for Trust and Obey was Don’t Speed! For the week we asked you to come under authority and follow the speed limit.
If you practiced this discipline, how did it go?
How are you at coming under authority? Did you learn anything about yourself?
Authority and obedience are important parts of faith.
Read Luke 7:1-9
What did the centurion understand?
On what grounds did the centurion identify with Jesus?
What did Jesus say about the centurion?
Authority. The centurion saw that he and Jesus were both under authority and had authority. And those who are under authority obey. The centurion was sure his soldiers and slaves would obey him when he commanded. He was also certain Jesus obeyed the authority He was under and whatever He commanded would happen. There was not a doubt in this man’s mind. According to Jesus, this man had great faith.
What about you? Do you have great faith as seen through your trust in and obedience to Jesus? Explain.
Jesus came to show us what it looks like to live under the Father’s authority and to use the blessing of free will to obey. Sometimes, we confuse free will with independence.
Obedience begins with a willingness to come under authority. Or more accurately, an acceptance of the truth: we are under authority.
Read Romans 6:13-23
What does this verse tell us about people in general?
We are slaves.
Who are we slaves to?
We are slaves either to sin which leads to death OR slaves to righteousness which leads to eternal life.
We are not free people. We have free will. But our will either enslaves us to sin or enslaves us to God. The irony is, choosing to be enslaved to God is freedom, and choosing what the world calls freedom is bondage.
The death from choosing a life of sin is called “wages.” When we sin, we earn death. The enslavement to God through Jesus is called a “free gift.” The benefits of the free gift — what we can’t earn — are sanctification and eternal life.
We are always obeying someone whether we realize it or not. Our choices reveal not only who we are enslaved to, but who we trust.
The first step in obedience is to realize you are enslaved to someone no matter what you choose. And you are obeying one of two choices: sin or righteousness. Each choice moving you toward one of two ends: death or eternal life.
How do you feel about being a slave? Does it make you more or less willing to choose to obey God?
It is a wonder to consider how many choose sin rather than righteousness, even within the church. And maybe perhaps many are deluded as to the truth of the situation: we are all slaves.
Read Mark 10:17-27
What was the man looking for?
Jesus told him he already knew what to do to inherit eternal life. Follow the commandments. The man tells Jesus he’s kept all those things from his youth on, but clearly he wasn’t confident of his salvation or he wouldn’t have asked the question.
Love wells up in Jesus for this man. Why do you think?
Jesus loves the lost and the blind. Those who are needy and searching. The man’s response regarding the commandments reveals his blindness, because no one can keep the law perfectly except Jesus. His need is revealed in his seeking out Jesus with his question, in the first place.
Jesus challenges the man further by telling him what he lacks. No animosity or condemnation is included in this instruction. This is loving counsel from a Good Teacher.
How does the man respond?
These instructions made the man sad! This was not what he wanted to hear and he walked away from Jesus because he was wealthy. The man called Jesus: “Good Teacher.” But he would rather walk away than obey His instruction.
What are you holding onto that keeps you from trusting and obeying Jesus?
As I thought about my current struggle with trust and ultimately obedience, I must admit my lack of trust comes from believing I have a better way for things to work out, that I know best. Which is absolutely ridiculous!
My vision of a situation is limited, and what I realized, it’s actually my POVERTY which keeps me from trusting Jesus. I can’t wrap my mind around what He could possibly be doing. I’m limited in my scope and understanding of eternity and what that means NOW.
I’m truly pathetic.
What did Jesus tell the man he would gain and be able to do if he sold his possessions and gave them to the poor?
Jesus said he would gain treasure in heaven and an invitation to come and follow Him. The man could not wrap his mind around the thought of selling his belongings and choose to follow Jesus because of his blindness. He could not see his true poverty.
The truth is he was unwilling to give up his poverty and brokenness for the treasure of heaven and the privilege of following Jesus in trusting obedience, because he had no imagination for what he was being offered. The same is true for us.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.
—CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory
If Jesus had just said, “Come, follow Me?” without the stipulation of liquidating and donating all his possessions, what do you think the man would’ve done?
Isn’t that the way most of us follow Him now? one foot in the world and one on the road?
Keeping a hold of our “worldly wealth,” whether it’s financial, material, relational, emotional, etc., will always hinder us from fully following Jesus.
We must recognize the wealth of the world is really “mud pies in the slum” — we are poverty stricken.
Only by losing our lives (Matthew 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33), hating our families (Luke 14:26), letting go of all we have (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, John 12:25), are we truly equipped to follow Jesus in trusting obedience.
I was reminded recently of a scene I experienced a year or so ago. I visited a friend in Hospice. He was dying from cancer which effected his colon and stomach.
At this point, he was allowed to eat whatever he wanted. Previously, during his treatments, his diet was restricted. However, whatever he ate during his final days did not enter his gastrointestinal tract, it came straight out a tube bypassing the organs which draw nourishment into the body.
What God revealed through this remembrance is the futility… emptiness… in feeding the flesh. This man was wasting away. But spiritually he was vibrant and strong. The “wealth” of this world craved by the flesh is of absolutely no value apart from Him. It all leads to death.
Only by surrendering everything to Him, do we have any sort of riches.
Obedience begins with trusting God has something so much better in mind than we could ever imagine.
Consider these verses in light of this truth:
Which of these verses most inspires you to trust and obey?
Knowing there is a spiritual reality beyond what we see, feel, and understand helps us to trust and obey.
What we know begins in the mind, which is where we go next, The Battlefield of Obedience, our thought life.
Let’s return to the Scripture of the rich young ruler. Mark 10:23-26
Jesus used this experience to teach the disciples something about obedience. How does Jesus describe the difficulty of the rich entering the kingdom?
I always thought this verse sounded hopeless. I mean everyone knows there is no way a camel can fit through the tiny eye of a sewing needle. After some research, I came to realize many have tried to figure out this teaching. What Jesus was saying.
Some say the eye of the needle was a reference to a small doorway in the city wall travelers used to get into a city after the gates were closed. A man could walk through pretty easily, but a camel was another story. First the camel would have to be unloaded and then get down on its knees. Only then could the animal pass through the opening and into the city.
Another source says the Aramaic word gamla means camel, rope, and beam. It was understood within the context of the entire sentence. In this case, a rope or beam would never fit through the eye of a needle used for sewing.
No matter how I look at it, there is one thing for sure. Moving through the eye of the needle leaves no room for stuff. Not my material possessions or carrying past hurts or hang-ups. I can’t even carry my family through the small opening. And this is where the battle begins.
The rich man held tightly to his wealth and material possessions. Name something you are holding on to tightly.
Now consider Jesus speaking to you, asking you to lay it down.
What happens in your mind at this point? What questions do you have? What anxieties rise?
Obedience begins in our minds. Learning to take every thought captive to Jesus is the next step in obedience.
This is our focus for next week… The Battlefield of Obedience… our thought life.
Let’s not leave this section of Scripture without taking hold of the promise Jesus makes to the disciples and to us.
Read Mark 10:27-30
Jesus reminds the disciples, “Nothing is impossible with God.” He also promises blessing one hundred times those things we surrender for His sake.
Have a great week.
Father God, bless us with faith and the spirit of revelation to help us obey.
Click here for the PDF of the homework for The Battlefield of Obedience: going-deeper-week-17-the-battlefield-of-obedience