Father God, we ask You to speak to us today, through Your Word and through one another.
In our study this week, Passover showed us obedience is evidence of faith. James taught us faith without action is dead. And through Joshua, we see what’s needed to prepare for obedient faith.
Read Joshua 3:1-6
What did Joshua call the people to do and why?
Joshua called them to consecrate themselves because God was going to do wonders among them. God’s people had to prepare themselves for His wonders.
The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon defines the Hebrew word translated consecrate as: prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, to be set apart.
Merriam-Webster’s defines consecrate as: dedicated to a sacred purpose. And sacred means: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity.
The Old Testament or Covenant was based on externals. Consecration required physical cleansing and following the letter of the Law. Holiness was based on the outside and on the sacrifice of animals. Leviticus 8 records the law for consecrating Aaron as the first high priest, and his sons as priests.
Open your Bible to Leviticus 8. Skim the chapter, looking for all the external things needed: washing with water, proper clothes, anointing oil, blood of sacrifices, eating a certain food in a certain way, and waiting in a specific place for a specific amount of time. All this to consecrate the first priests.
Jesus, by His suffering, death, and resurrection, completely fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17) and ushered in the New Testament or Covenant. Those who believe in Him and receive Him as Savior, also receive the Holy Spirit who now consecrates us on the inside. We are holy because He is holy, there is nothing we can do to make this spiritual reality happen in us. It happens by faith which is a gift of grace from God (Ephesians 2:8). We are holy unto the Lord, because of Jesus’s work on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 2:9-10).
We cannot be prepared for His wonders or be able to step out in faith until we have readied ourselves to be set apart for His purpose each and every day.
If faith in action begins with self-consecration, what does it look like for Believers in Jesus? How does our preparation move from the external to the internal?
This concept of self-consecration captured my attention as I went through the homework this week, but I wasn’t exactly sure what was significant about it until Stacy and I fleshed it out over lunch yesterday.
I believe my initial step of self-consecration began at my conversion through the choice to surrender. I consciously surrendered my life to Him, telling Him I was now His. I told Him I accepted the Bible as His Word, because He said it was, and would obey it to the best of my understanding, and if I didn’t understand it or had a problem with it, it was my problem not His.
This acceptance of Him and His Word began the preparation I needed to live set apart and pursue holiness.
When she sent me the first draft, something about the wording just didn’t seem or feel right. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to approach it and was somewhat reluctant to talk it out. I was worried we might come to a road block on this issue of consecration. As we discussed the differences in consecration between the Old and New Testament, I kept returning to the idea that surrender is the only step we need to set ourselves apart for His work.
As we two sisters talk, we often come to realize both of our viewpoints are needed in order to put into words what God is teaching. This time was no different, but how the Spirit moved in our conversation reduced me to tears. He made real for me His words…
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.—Proverbs 27:17
When God sets us apart, it is never a solo venture. He calls us to surrender to Him and remain open to the Spirit’s leading. Sometimes a step of faith is building a relationship with others and surrendering to the give and take until something fresh and new emerges. What we’ll share next is the result or our surrender.
One of the problems with living a Spirit-filled life of faith is we still live in the flesh. Even though the Spirit has consecrated us we still have free will to choose His way or our way. If we are going to live out our faith in active obedience, we need to continue to prepare ourselves spiritually, surrender each and every day to be readied to obey Him.
Slow Fade, by Casting Crowns, says:
Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands
As darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray
And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade
Preparing ourselves to live a life of holiness protects us from a slow fade away from faith and readies us to step out into flood stage rivers or obediently trust Him as He leads us toward our own cross or to sacrifice as Abraham or build an ark in the desert or leave a position of power for a life of exile like Moses.
Again, we ask, what does this internal spiritual preparation look like in your life?
- Setting your mind on pleasing God each and every morning.
- Reminding self what’s really important.
- Prayerful reading of His Word.
- Active listening for His voice throughout the day.
- Choosing ahead of time not to compromise.
An active and continual practice of setting apart self prepares us for God’s wonders and to walk in obedience.
Now, before we go on, let’s talk about the faith of obedience for a moment. In this study of faith we have separated out believe, trust, and obey to talk about them more fully. But really, in the Christian walk of faith these three are inseparable, just like God: Father, Son, and Spirit.
Faith, as we have said, begins with a relationship with God the Father, through faith in Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our faith is evidenced by our obedience which leads to the fruit we bear (Luke 6:43-44). We can at times pull out of the relationship and choose to obey a check list again, basically returning to the old covenant.
So, when we talk about obedience in the context of this study, we are talking about a Spirit directed obedience, born out of our belief in God and faith or trust in Jesus.
We are not talking a legalistic obedience. We are talking a direct result of the Trinity working in us.
There is another thing we learn from Joshua, which helps us step out in faith.
Read Joshua 3:7-13
Who was going before the Israelites across the Jordan?
The NASB reads: ”…the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you…” The Lord goes before us in our obedience.
How can remembering this truth encourage us in our steps of faith?
Jesus doesn’t call us to do anything He hasn’t already done. He’s made the way for us to obey unto death and find life. He has crossed over ahead of us.
If we prepare ourselves spiritually and remember He goes before us in obedience, we will be able to obey as Jesus did and face what looks like failure with faith.
I’ve had a few experiences where my obedience led to what appeared to be a bad outcome. And, Wow!, it’s always a struggle.
The first thing I usually do is go back to God with a list of questions: Did I obey? Did I hear You correctly? Was my motive wrong? I struggle with Him and listen to Him.
In two specific incidents where things seemed to go badly, I found peace and assurance in my wrestling. He assured me it wasn’t about me, but the hearts of others involved.
In a third incident, He showed me where I stepped out too far. I obeyed, but then I went farther than He called me to.
In it all, my faith has grown and I’ve found encouragement to take even greater steps of faith.
This week we also learned there are benefits to obedience.
Read John 8:31-32
What are the benefits of living life obedient to Jesus’s teachings?
Knowledge of the truth and freedom.
Sometimes the only way I know I’ve grown in knowledge of the truth is because of the freedom I feel in my life. Continued obedience to His Word can be uncomfortable for my flesh, and truth can convict, but there is no missing the feeling of being set free.
I recently let a truth I’ve learned and know in my heart flow right out of my mouth, without much thought. The response I got surprised me. The one I was speaking to said: I feel judged…
My intention was not to judge, I simply shared a truth I’d learned in order to bring light to their life. After the conversation, I went to God with my questions, as usual… Was I being judgmental? Was what I said true? Why do I even answer these kind of questions?
Now I understand from Jesus’s teaching, they had not yet learned the truth I knew and were still bound up in a lie. Therefore, the truth made them feel judged. My prayer since has been for the truth planted to grow, but also for Him to teach me how to share truth in a way others can readily receive.
We are called to live out what we know, because when we don’t it’s a sin for us (James 4:17). Our spiritual discipline this last week was Just Do It. Would anyone like to share what they did this week? Where you stepped out in faith? How did it feel?
Recently I took a big step of faith and began practicing the discipline of spiritual direction. It is an ancient practice and most information about it is found in the Catholic church. Spiritual direction is help given by one Christian to another to grow in their intimacy with God. Sort of like counseling with a focus on spiritual growth.
One of the things I’ve learned from this discipline is my understanding of obedience is maturing. Months ago I couldn’t quite put it into words, but today I’m going to give it a try…
Stepping out in faith is the beginning of obedience. God whispers actions we should take and as we take each step our faith grows and so does our relationship with Him.
What actions of faith has God called you to recently? How did your obedience effect your faith?
Read James 1:22-25
Find a mirror for a moment. Look at yourself… What do you see?
I never spend a lot of time in front of a mirror. All I see looking back at me are my flaws… a new wrinkle here… too pudgy there. As I brush my teeth and finish spraying my hair for the day, I often take one last look and say, “There! That’s as good as it gets for today!”
Our understanding of obedience is a lot like this at first. We look in the mirror and see wrong actions… messy circumstances… terrible attitudes. Many times we cover them with a good concealer and say to ourselves, “That’s as good as it gets.”
God is teaching me it’s not, and if I’m willing to gaze in the mirror a bit longer and allow Him to reflect back to me what He sees, obedience becomes so much more than a list of right and wrong. It becomes an invitation to a fuller, freer relationship with the one who invites us in.
This is our focus for next week… Obedience: An Invitation.
Have a wonderful week.
Lord Jesus, change our attitude about obedience. May we work alongside You with joy!
Click the link for this week’s homework: Going Deeper – Week 19 – Obedience – An Invitation