“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8
I am a sheep. I have gone astray; turning to my own way (Isaiah 53:6). Thankfully, it doesn’t end there. I am on a journey, as are many of you, following the Shepherd.
Jesus, through whom “all things were made…, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3), became obedient to His Father (this is how His humility was demonstrated). But not obedient because He was already going to do that or because it was convenient. No. He choose to be obedient to the point of death – yea, death on a cross!
Obedience is defined in Webster’s as: “an act or instance of obeying.” Where is the heart in this modern definition? We know that God looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Any act or instance can appear to be obedience, but remember, Jesus’ obedience came from a heart of humility toward His Father and that first stemmed from His choice to be so (Philippians 2:5f).
An operational definition of obedience is: “Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authority.” It starts in the mind, for freedom is a choice (2 Corinthians 10:5). Obedience is the opposite of willfulness. There is freedom in obedience (Galatians 5:1, 13), but not to serve our flesh and sin.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has this definition of obedience:
“Compliance with a command, prohibition or known law and rule of duty prescribed; the performance of what is required or enjoined by authority, or the abstaining from what is prohibited, in compliance with the command or prohibition. To constitute obedience the act or forbearance to act must be in submission to authority; the command must be known to the person, and his compliance must be in consequence of it, or it is not obedience; obedience is not synonymous with obsequiousness; the latter often implying meanness or servility, and obedience being merely a proper submission to authority. That which duty requires implies dignity of conduct rather than servility, obedience may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary obedience alone can be acceptable to God.”
This is a rich definition. Read it again slowly, one phrase at a time. Then notice the inclusion of the heart in this definition. Obedience “must be in submission to authority.” Next, notice the blessing of humility and love: “That which duty requires implies dignity of conduct rather than servility.” It is good to obey. Obedience has dignity and is lovely. Disobedience is never dignified or lovely.
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying,
‘My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'” Matthew 26:39
Is this the mind we have in us (Philippians 2:5)? Have we done all we can do to humbly obey God and our God-appointed authorities?
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted
to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:4
“Finally, we cannot depend on emotions to direct righteous behavior. There will be times we don’t feel like doing right, just as there are times a child does not feel like going to bed when his parents know he must. There will be days we will need to stand against our very selves in order to follow Him — just as He taught us at Gethsemane, when He denied His own will for that of the Father. It is an opportunity for us to express our resolve to steadfastly follow Him. …Truly, love eases what mere obligation calls chore.” (Jennifer Lamp, His Chosen Bride, p. 25)
If we say, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Then, we must also say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Do you understand that “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)? Or even, “for me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)? Do we understand what it means to be “bought with a price” or that “to live is Christ”?
Romans 6 gives us insight into obedience. “[Y]ou are slaves of the one whom you obey” (verse 16) and that “…when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (v 17). In other words, when we are slaves to sin, we are free from righteousness. But, “if we have died with Christ” (v 8; see also v 3-4), then “…you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v 11) and the life we live, we live to God (v 10).
Therefore, “How can we who died to sin still live in it” (v 2)? Don’t we believe that God is worthy? Does not He, who created us, desire to bless us with heavenly blessings because He loves us so (see Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 7:11)?
Recall the apostle Paul’s reminder to the Corinthian church:
“You are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being made manifest that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 ASV
We also are an epistle of Christ, being “known and read of all men.” The world is watching. What does our letter say about Christ? No, you and I won’t be without fault or sin in this life, but I want to be able to say with my whole heart, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20 ASV).
Let me leave you with this exhortation: This World Is Not [Our] Home.
On the Journey,