Works, Obedience, and Commitment
“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”
Jesus learned obedience, yet He never sinned, and we are His ambassadors (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). Think about that for a moment. I gotta say, it’s a strange thing representing our Creator, is it not?
Thankfully, we too–like Christ while here in the flesh–learn and grow each day (see Luke 2:52). And like Him, we don’t change, as Christians. We’ve already been changed! We’ve been made brand new! The supernatural fabric of our being is exactly like Jesus’! (See 2 Corinthians 5:17,21, Romans 6:6,7, Galatians 2:20, 1 John 4:17).
So instead of changing, we mature into our real selves. Our actions and attitudes start to line up with our holy spirit who is meshed together with the Holy Spirit (see Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:6, 1 Corinthians 6:17). When I began to understand this truth, I stopped praying, “God, change me!” and I started praying, “God, take me deeper into the knowledge of your grace. Show me more about who I am.”
Just the same as our original ancestors, we can be tempted greatly to shift our focus onto Satan’s knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 3:4,5). Therefore, taking our focus off of our heavenly identity. We think we want to point out right and wrong, but that’s not our job. Our job is to believe and then be. Such a two-part sentence can be a dinner bell for religious demons who call themselves “Discernment.” However, from this natural state of holiness, error is pushed up and out, gently. We put away our meat cleaver of self-righteousness and stop chopping away at our sin, as well as the sin of others. Only by sheathing our sin-knife will heavenly attributes begin sprouting from us without effort (see Galatians 5:22,23, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Philippians 4:8).
When our sin-consciousness graduates to our righteousness-consciousness, wisdom, ripeness, and readiness explode from within.
To be clear, is there a such thing as good and evil? Of course. But rather than attempt to straighten everyone out—or worse, tell them, “I’m your best example!”—we should be concentrating on pointing to Jesus. This is where the sweet spot is found; a lush, green pasture entered through a narrow gate. Jesus is that gate (see John 10:9). Conservatism isn’t, cleaning up our act isn’t, praising a man riding around in a clear, bulletproof car isn’t. Only Jesus is.
If we will blame absolutely everything on the Cross, all of the “Yeah, buts” aren’t too difficult to deal with. By doing so, we can easily dissolve the excuses as to why God is not really that great. He gave His Son for us. I can’t say that most would do the same.
Also, most confrontations will go smoothly (on your part) because there is no pressure on you. None. You really don’t even have anything to defend, but instead, to express. The amazing truth of the gospel is this: pressure does not come from Christ. Easiness does. Organic behavior does. Rest does (see Matthew 11:28-30, 2 Peter 1:5-9, Hebrews 4:11).
For a saint–anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus one time–pressure is a red flag to pause, take a step back, and scan the situation. “Why am I feeling this way? Where is this coming from? Am I trying, or trusting?”
Pressure usually comes from our old ways of thinking and coping which haven’t yet been renewed by the Spirit within us–or demonic forces, or people who struggle with religion, or even the power of sin. But not from Jesus. He is God and self-sufficient, not needing anything from us (see Acts 17:25). We’ve been invited to a house for a pleasant gathering where the owner isn’t handing out aprons. Relax. Enjoy. Be yourself (see Luke 14:13-23, 10:38-42).
When we don’t add anything to the finished work of the Cross and we point to what it has done, all of our great “works,” “obedience,” and “commitment” become authentic. Parentheses surround those three words for a reason, as in, they may or may not be what they seem. It all depends on who we are reflecting in the midst of them.
When we aren’t expressing Jesus, nor fixated on the Cross alone, all of our works, obedience, and commitment are actually repellents. As painful as it may be to our ears, nobody wants to be like us when we act like we’re doing something better than them. Therefore, the mindset of, “I’m focused on the Cross,” will take our ego, slap it on the back of the neck and say, “GET OUT OF HERE! YOU’RE NOT NEEDED!”
Friend, when we aren’t allowing love to come from our roots, where Christ is, this topic about spiritual disciplines can become fighting words. For Christians, the phrase “spiritual disciplines” is an oxymoron. Christ was already disciplined for us–both spiritually and physically. Is God now disciplining us when we read our Bibles, pray, and do good works? No. We aren’t being disciplined in regard to such things. Instead, we are being discipled by these actions–we are being counseled by doing this stuff (see Matthew 28:19, John 14:26).
If you never read your Bible again, pray another word, or do a good thing for the rest of your life, God would not discipline you for this. The discipline which occurred at the Cross was suffice. Sure, you’ll feel like a clogged pipe because you’re denying yourself of expressing your relationship with God, but you won’t be put in the corner nor shamed by Him. Your shame was put on Jesus, all of it. You are enough.
Sadly, many of us have misplaced our identity in works, obedience, and commitment “to” God, rather than just enjoying Him. These are the same mistakes the Israelites made in the first Covenant. We try to make others think they need to do this commandment and that law, so they can be like us. We are measuring people by ourselves. This is a mirage. This is fool’s gold. This is becoming un-focused on the Cross and falling away from the mindset of grace (see Galatians 5:4). Not from grace–because grace won’t allow that–but from the pleasure of basking in it. Paul explains this stumbling block to the Corinthians:
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)
By taking our gaze off of Christ, our “level” (there’s those quotations again) of works, obedience, and commitment is threatened. The next step is to stress out, prove ourselves right, or to become furious while attempting to protect our fake jewels. So let’s break down all three of these topics and button this up.
As for our works, if they aren’t coming by way of grace, they mean nothing. Paul penned this to the Romans:
“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
Do you see the switch there? The flip-flop? I missed this Good News Easter-Egg for so long. Because of being compared to the works of others by others–either blatantly or passive-aggressively–along with me having an ultra-competitive, alpha personality, I wasn’t enjoying the grace within me in order to express organic works. I was being bamboozled by dark forces egging me on to be “better” than other Christians. That’s not possible, we are all the same in God’s eyes (see Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34).
As for obedience? What you are about to read will upset those who battle with the tendency of legalanity, yet obedience-hounders receive the most simple explanation ever from the New Testament. Ready for this? According to the gospel, obedience is believing. Just look at this:
“Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.” (Romans 1:5)
And again, toward the end of Romans:
“but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 16:26)
Gentiles is everyone on this planet who isn’t Jewish. Everyone. But even the Jews had to be re-grafted back into the New Covenant through the obedience of faith alone in Christ as the Messiah. Moses had to go. The temple had to go. Animal sacrifices at the Day of Atonement to get their annual forgiveness of sin from the priests had to go (see Hebrews 10:26). Many of them refused and were not included with Christ as we now are as believers who were formerly Gentiles (see Galatians 3:28). Their Jewish lineage no longer meant anything, all that mattered was new creations in Christ. But they didn’t care because they wanted stuff to do, rather than simply obey by faith.
“Those dirty Gentiles aren’t holy like us! You’re just giving people a license to sin, Paul!”
The truth was, Paul, as a formerly devout Pharisee, fully understood that they were all sinning just fine without a license (see 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Philippians 3:3-9, Romans 7). The Law they believed was making them righteous was doing nothing except exposing the dirt on their faces. The Mosaic Law was like an x-ray machine, not causing broken bones, but pointing them out–not causing sin, but exposing it. He knew they needed a better way, a way which comes only by obedience through faith–a way their very Scriptures foretold about: Jesus (see John 5:39,40).
This continues on today as they wail at a wall, sticking prayer notes into the cracks and begging God for stuff all while ignoring what that wall represented: the need for a Savior. The wailing is over! The Messiah is here! Without faith in Christ alone, apart from the Law–ALL OF IT–they too are without hope, just as the Gentiles were in the Old Covenant (see Hebrews 10:28,29, Romans 11:11-31, Ephesians 2:11-22).
And for the last subject of the title of this devotional, commitment? With all due respect to every person reading this: YOUR COMMITMENT TO GOD IS A JOKE. So is mine. Humanity is the worst promise keepers ever created and that’s why Jesus had to die. Thankfully, thankfully, the New Covenant has nothing to do with our commitment, but instead, God’s commitment to God, and our belief in the need to benefit from that commitment.
God’s commitment to God? Yes! The Father to the Son and the Son to the Father! This commitment, this promise, was made at the Cross! (See John 19:30, Hebrews 6:16-20, Romans 5:1).
So what’s our role? As much angst as this will cause our old mindsets, our only role is to reach out, hands wide open, and say, “Thank you.” We don’t reach out and take it, we receive it by faith, once (see Ephesians 2:8,9, Hebrews 10:10, Romans 6:10).
This is the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was established between God and the people group of Israel–whom Moses just freed from Egypt–at the base of Mount Sinai. 613 contingencies in which the Jews said, “We will do all of it!” (Ten of those 613 were the Ten Commandments). Moses then went back up the mountain, head shaking with eyebrows raised, informing God, “Yep. They said they’ll do it” (see Exodus 19:8). God already knew they agreed before Moses expressed this to Him, but Moses still had to complete this Covenant because he was the Old Covenant’s mediator. Jesus is the mediator for the new one! (See Hebrews 9:15, 1 Timothy 2:5).
Do you see the basis of the Old? They agreed to it, God never forced them. Do you see the basis of the New? Christ agreed to it, the Father never forced Him. So for this Covenant we’ve become the beneficiaries to their promise, by faith, not by being promise keepers of the Law, which required perfection (Matthew 5:48, James 2:10, Galatians 3:10).
What a relief!
It’s the same God, but a new agreement! (See Hebrews 8:6,13). Was there anything wrong with the Old Covenant? No! It was perfect! It is perfect. But it never perfected anyone by obeying it. The fault was found in the Jews’ inability to live up to their end of the bargain–what they agreed to, not God (see Hebrews 8:7, Romans 3:11,20, 7:12, Galatians 2:16).
In His great love and mercy, He took them out of the equation and inserted Himself, and then invited everyone. The good news of the gospel is He will never break a covenant like we do. His commitment to us is too great.
It’s His commitment–not ours–which is the most amazing part of what we enjoy. As His children, even when we think we’ve become faithless, He remains faithful. Why? Because He cannot disown Himself and He doesn’t have the ability to lie (see 2 Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 13:5, John 10:28, Titus 1:2).
So today, my friends, know this: Just enjoy the Cross. Enjoy peace. He is enough and so are you. As a believer, Jesus Christ is infused with your very own spirit. He will produce all good works through you, He will be obedient through you, and He will be committed through you. Your old spirit died and you got a new one which has literally been placed inside of Him. It’s not “all of Jesus and none of you”—oh no. It’s both of you. It’s a relationship. It’s a branch and a vine. So be yourself! Live out who you really are! As you do, you will always enjoy good works, obedience, and commitment, together as a team!
(See John 15:5, Romans 6:6,7, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:22, 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:17,19, Hebrews 10:10,14).
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, today I want to thank you for revealing the truth of your grace to me. Take me even deeper and never stop. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Dad, so many of them are on the brink of just giving up, and that’s okay. When we finally give up on trying to impress you–or to keep what you’ve freely given to us through the Cross–we fall backwards, into the abyss of your grace. This free-fall has no end and it is lined with the most authentic euphoria known to any created being. Pressure, guilt, condemnation, hierarchies, shame, fear–and more–all get smaller and smaller into the distance as we lay back looking up with arms wide open…falling…falling…falling through wave upon wave upon wave of your love. This is what you planned for us all along. Love. Grace. Relationship…We look forward to falling into this chasm, for eternity. Amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Check out my other bestselling books here!