Godly Obedience

It’s July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut. Reformation preacher Jonathan Edwards turns the hearts of hundreds of listeners as he explains that their disobedience to God’s commandments [to honor Him and love people] has put them in a precarious position:

Your  Wickedness  makes  you  as  it  were  heavy  as  Lead, and to tend downwards with great Weight and Pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend & plunge into the bottomless Gulf, and your healthy Constitution, and your own Care and Prudence, and best Contrivance, and all your Righteousness, would have no more Influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a Spider’s Web would have to stop a falling Rock.

Don’t worry—this week’s article isn’t fire-and-brimstone teaching; however, there’s certainly great value in simple instruction about the consequences of obedience or disobedience to God’s commandments. But what are the commandments? Do we really need to do them?

Jesus reiterated two overarching commands from the Torah (the first few books of the Old Testament): Honor God with all we are and have, and love people (cf., Matthew 22:34-40). He stated that everything taught about God’s ways can be wrapped up in those two commands. He went on to say that:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24)

Seems simple—right? Not really. If it were, we wouldn’t continually mess up, treat people horribly, and speed down that highway to hell so-to-speak. Here are a few abbreviated tips I pulled from the Bible that may help you obey, stay in the relationship with Father and Son, and inherit the Kingdom of God:

  • they love is pointless and deadly (James 2:14-26). So, help others; feed the hungry; be slow to speak and quick to listen; be slow to respond as you give reconciliation a chance (Matthew 5:39).

What about next week? Well, I think I’ll tell you about the short guy (not me!) who stands tall in the Kingdom of God: Wacky Zaccy!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven

“Hey, Ron – I just need to say that I believe in Jesus to go to Heaven, right?” Not exactly. Neither God our heavenly Father nor Son we call Jesus need or want our affirmation. They seek willing partners to introduce other people to the Kingdom of Heaven now and to join them in the age to come (2Corinthians 5:17-20, for instance). So, a better question might be: “Hey Ron – how do I become God’s partner?” Great question!

Anyone wishing to enter God’s Kingdom must be regenerated from above (a better rendering of the born again we find in John 3:1-15) through the Living Water Jesus offers and the Holy Spirit the Father gives in return for our devotion. Citizenship in God’s Kingdom begins with receiving the Living Water of Jesus by believing that He truly is the Son of God and then responding with complete dedication of self and resources. This is what ‘Jesus is Lord’ means. Devotion isn’t making God responsible for our choices or actions—it’s an offering to the King of Heaven of all we are and have. We are to put away our selfish nature—die to self (Luke 9:23-24; 1Corinthians 15:31). That requires obedience.

Obedience to what? In quoting the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:34-40), Jesus said that we must honor the Father with all we are and have. He continued by demanding that we love others as we love ourselves (see my earlier post on love). If we love Him, we’ll obey those commandments (John 15:12 & 14:15; 1John 3:14). Everything the Old Testament teaches about what God desires, including about how to treat others, could be done just by putting others first and treating them like we wish to be treated as we live as servants and yet partners with the King.

To sum up, so far, applying for citizenship in God’s Kingdom requires belief, complete devotion, and loving action. When we do this and engage in the things of God through study, discipleship, and prayer, we are changed—transformed. The path of citizenship may seem challenging, if not impossible. But we have help! The Spirit in the born-again conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus is the Spirit of God. He teaches and comforts us and is our partner in devotion to the Father and loving others.  He also helps us change from the inside out, from mind to behavior. The Spirit also makes it possible for us to remain—abide— as a citizen of Heaven (see John 15:1-10, for example).

Believe. Devote. Receive the Spirit of God and move where He leads you! Have you already done and are doing that? Then, welcome, citizen of Heaven! Next week, we’ll continue to consider God’s desires as we delve further into Godly Obedience.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Playing With Fire!

God has always demanded allegiance and obedience. There’s no middle ground, no room for ‘fudging’ things, and no gray area. He commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of a particular tree. They disobeyed, and we lost our access to the Tree of Life (but only until God returns creation to the perfection it once enjoyed!). Lot’s wife played with fire and lost her life for taking one last peek at her old lifestyle (Genesis 19). There are many other examples in the Bible of people who ‘pushed the envelope,’ testing God’s commandments. We do the same today.

God tells us to stay away from interaction with the spirits of the dead, but we engage mediums and psychics (Deuteronomy 18:10-13). We indulge in astrology, relying on created things to determine our fate instead of trusting the Creator. And testing God’s commands where sexuality is concerned is a vast area where many Christians play with fire (literally and figuratively)!

God is clear about the destination of those who practice sexual rebellion, such as adultery and homosexuality (1Corinthians 6:9-10). We are also warned to carefully choose what we listen to and observe (Matthew 6:22-23; Job 31:1; Philippians 4:8). Here’s an interesting fact: people wanting to become Christians in the first couple of centuries couldn’t if they, at the same time, participated in the theater because of the sensuality and immoralities it often portrayed (just like today!). Why must we take care of what we watch? Because the input helps map the pathways in our brain and can cause us to ‘boil the frog’ as we slowly allow or condone or ignore—become desensitized to—the things God hates. This is where watching pornography comes in.

Pornography (Greek porneia and graphe) is a compound ‘catch-all’ word representing all kinds of sexual immoralities. Indulging in anything sexually immoral, even just visually, tests God’s commands and His desires for our conduct; it won’t end well. Here’s a shortlist of other ways Christians play with fire where God is concerned:

  • We must tell the truth—especially where the welfare of others is concerned (Exodus 20:16). But lying has become pervasive.
  • We must not idolize (covet) things, but we do it all the time (stuff, sports, people, multimedia—anything but God’s ways) (Exodus 20:17; 1 John 2:15-17).
  • We are commanded to rest one day each week (for many reasons, including physical, spiritual, and mental health) (Exodus 20:10; Mark 2:27-28); however, few do this religiously.

Just because the proverbial lightning hasn’t struck us down as we rebel against God doesn’t mean that our playing with fire won’t result in judgment and destruction. So, if you’re playing with fire by doing anything God is against, please stop and change direction—fast! Next week, we’ll continue to consider God’s desires as I outline the requirements for Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley