Thursday, May 12, 2016
If Jesus Is Lord Then Why Don't We Obey Him?
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?" - Jesus [Luke 6:46]
It's a very good question. Our answers are usually of the "Nobody can do what Jesus commands" variety, but that answer isn't supported by the New Testament.
Instead, we're left with these annoying verses that say that we already have "everything we need for a godly life" if we are in Christ, and that the same grace of God that saves us also "teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives IN THIS PRESENT AGE" and that "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us", and on and on.
So is this all just bad theology mixed with a dash of "I don't feel like it"?
We mix our opinions about "keeping the Law" and our failure to "be perfect" with a side of complacency and wallow in our illusions of powerlessness. Partly because we prefer this reality, and partly because we sort of believe it is the Gospel.
But it's not the Gospel. It's a theology of partial truth marked by a cross, but missing the resurrection power of Christ.
Yes, Paul does stress that we are powerless to keep the Law of Moses. Because of our failure to do so, Jesus came and fulfilled the Law for us and took our sins to the cross.
But is that it? Is that the end of the story?
Not at all!
The end of the Old Covenant - marked by a strict adherence to a Law that brought death - has been overshadowed by a New Covenant that writes God's law on our hearts and empowers us by His indwelling Holy Spirit to fulfill the Law of Christ by loving God and loving others as He has loved us.
That is the complete Gospel message.
We are not powerless anymore. Jesus and the Father have made their home within us if we love Him and if we keep His commands.
That abiding presence is what empowers us to put His words into practice. It's a symbiotic process where His Holy Spirit within us provides the power to love as He loved, and because of this we show our love for Him by obeying His commands which "are not burdensome".
These "commandments" are not the Ten Commandments. Those are now obsolete and vanishing. No, the "commandments" that "are not burdensome" are the commands of Jesus to "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and to "love your neighbor as you love yourself."
How can we do this? Because we are now filled with the transformational agape love of Jesus which is something brand new and miraculous.
Now that the love of Jesus is alive and active within us, we can actually "love one another" as Jesus loved us!
That's good news!
When Jesus said that his "yoke was easy and [his] burden was light", he was contrasting that with the yoke of the Pharisees [which was the Law of Moses and the Old Covenant] which was heavy and impossible to carry.
Why is Jesus' yoke "easy"? In what way is His yoke "light"?
It's because Jesus, unlike the Pharisees who would not lift a finger to help those under the yoke of the Law, actually DOES help us to stand up under His yoke. It's easy and it's light because Jesus is abiding within us and He gives us "all we need" to "surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees".
[See "Effortless and Free" for more on this]
Does this mean we never blow it? Does it mean we are now perfectly capable of always loving everyone at all times? No, and yes: We ARE capable, but we are not always willing to.
This is why Paul admits that he "has not yet attained it" but that he does "this one thing; forgetting the past and pressing on the high calling of Jesus Christ". [See Phil. 3:13-14]
If Jesus is Lord, then we not only must do what He says, we are capable of doing it because He is alive within us.
Abide in Him and He will abide in you.
That's a promise.
FOR FURTHER READING:
*Effortless and Free [The Easy Yoke of Jesus]
*A Difficult Path and An Easy Yoke
*If Jesus Tells Me To Do Something, Do I Have To Do It?
*If I Love Jesus, Can I Ignore What He Says?