Discovering a Process of Obedience
Posted on April 10, 2013
Matthew 28:18-20 states, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Powerful words that are easily misunderstood. Notice, the passage does not say, making them obey. It says teaching them to obey. The word teach means an impartation of instruction. The truth is, we are teaching people an internal reality not merely an external observance. But the real question I have is how did Jesus teach people to obey?
If we were to reproduce a process in people’s lives, it would be wise to pay attention not only to Jesus words but His process of replication as seen in the gospels. I want to highlight just a few passages in Matthew that I believe lay the ground work for teaching people to obey God. Often we focus on the ‘obey’ part and miss the fact that the way to develop obedience as a lifestyle is through teaching people a process that is simple, intuitive, and in-line with our nature. The following thoughts are a beginning point of discussion, and are not intended to be the final conclusion on the subject.
I’ll begin by looking at Matthew 4:17. Notice the first thing Jesus says when He begins His public ministry. Verse 17 states, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It’s important to remember the word repent (metanoia in the greek) simply means a radical change of mind. Another way of saying that is thinking differently or having a new perspective. So, what’s step one in teaching people to obey? Begin by having a new thought or paradigm of what God is like. Jesus is saying the kingdom is near, it’s not far off or in the future, therefore you need to start thinking and believing something different from what you’ve been told.
Later on in Matthew 7:24 Jesus says, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Step two? Practice. As God begins to give you a new paradigm of thinking, ask Him for some specific actions to practice establishing that new paradigm. I like to tell people that practicing doesn’t make you someone godly, it increases your confidence that you already are someone godly. It may be in an infant stage, but it’s there!
From there in Matthew 10:7-8 Jesus says, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven in near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” A few things are going on in this passage. First, He reminds them of their starting point, which is the new paradigm (read – way of thinking) of the kingdom is near, rather than far off. Then he unpacks what is possible because of that reality, and finishes it off with an important reminder. He reminds them that everything they have, they received, and they received it for free. In other words, there was no performance in this process, everything was a gift.
That’s important because when we realize we didn’t earn what we carry, then we give it away as a gift rather than sell it as a product. He closes with the two-word phrase, freely give. This is the next step of teaching them to obey. He is teaching them to give away what was received, so others benefit from the superior nature of the kingdom, and begin to inquire about the King of this kingdom. Let’s review. Jesus taught his disciples to obey by: telling them to change the way they think, instructing them to practice life from this new paradigm, and finally reminding them there is no performance in the process so give it away to others, free of charge.
It’s my growing conviction that when we can help people understand the process of obedience the word takes on a fresh relevance and no longer creates a sense bondage, but awakens true liberty. Finally, remember obedience is not the process of becoming, it is the process of awakening to who you really are in Christ. Practicing your new nature creates depth in your understanding of who lives in you, and allows you to demonstrate Jesus and His Kingdom effortlessly. This is really good news!