THE 1ST ESSENTIAL OF DEVOTIONAL OBEDIENCE
>EMBRACE THE FATHER'S WORD<
INTEND THE FATHER'S WILL
INVOKE THE FATHER'S WILLPOWER
ENDEAVOR THE FATHER'S WAY
ENJOY THE FATHER'S REWARD
God's truth is always loving, and His love is always truthful.
The next time you make a new friend, try telling him or her something like this: “You need to understand right up front that I want to be friends with you, but I am not going to listen to very much of anything you have to say. I want a relationship with you as long as that does not include you sharing with me too much about yourself—your thoughts, ideas, or feelings—especially not what you want in and out of this relationship.” See how far that friendship goes from there.
Or imagine a young boy up for adoption saying to his prospective adoptive parents something like this: “I’m glad you want to adopt me and take care of me. But I live by my own rules. All I want from you is to keep me fed, clothed, and sheltered. Otherwise, leave me be to live as I like.” See how far his adoption proceeds from there.
How many people want a friend in Jesus and a Heavenly Father in God without being bothered too much by what He has to say and the rules of His household? I really wonder if they have no sense of the one-sidedness they expect God to be satisfied with in a relationship they want to be so beneficial to them. How far do they think they are really getting with God, living as if He can keep His opinions to Himself? (Unless He is offering them about somebody else, of course.)
I think if you stood in front of all the millions of people in the church today, and asked the question, “How many of you make it your goal to get up every day and disobey God?” no one would raise his or her hand. However, on the other hand, if you asked, “How many of you make it your first priority to go into His Word and listen to what He has to say to you?” whereas every hand should shoot up, only half or less actually would. For those who would not raise their hands to either question, there is a disconnection in their day-to-day thinking between whether they are obeying God and what they are doing with His Word. We can all be assured that in God’s mind those two issues are inseparably welded together into one. He tells us that a relationship with Him and our obedience of Him begin with how we receive His Word.
FROM THE FATHER TO THE SON TO US
44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44–50)
In this passage (no more than any other, of course), Jesus has some pretty important things to say. (Believing in Him means believing in the One who sent Him—the implication obviously being God. Seeing Him means seeing the One who sent Him. Believing in Him means leaving the darkness and coming into His light.) He then makes it clear that hearing and then pushing His words away is tantamount to hearing and then pushing Him away. There can be no delineation between reception of Jesus and reception of His words. According to Him, to receive Him, we must receive what he has to say.
Many people are mistakenly breaking belief away from obedience for their claim to God’s grace in saving them. “How wonderful that in God’s grace I don’t have to obey to be saved—I just have to believe!” They are distorting the “grace and truth [that] came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Jesus makes it clear that belief and obedience are inseparable for salvation, here and in other Scriptures:
27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:27–29)
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (Romans 10:16)
7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:7–8)
17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
Belief does not save the unrepentant rebel—the one who actively or passively, brashly or politely, disobediently and unbelievingly rejects Jesus’ word and, thereby, Him. Jesus equates His words with Himself to the extent that when the time comes for the judgment of the condemned on the last day, He will hold His word up as what ultimately seals their fate. There will be no excuses when the truth has been so clearly and caringly revealed and, yet, so carelessly and callously rejected.
His basis for this claim?—He has spoken what God the Father Himself commanded Him to say and speak for our eternal life. He is the expression of God to the extent that He is called the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) He received what the Father told Him for us to receive from Him in receiving Him, embracing the truth of who He is and what He wants.
WHO LISTENS TO THE TRUTH
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)
Jesus makes two crystal clear and convicting statements here: the first as to why He came from heaven to earth, the second as to who cares enough to listen.
Jesus says that He was born into this world to bring the truth into this world—the truth of what is regarding God and what should be regarding us. Those that want to rail against the idea of absolute truth (yes, even in the church) must face the absolute Jesus. They do not merely face the formless, foggy philosophies of fanciful musings over what is true or not true; they must face the unyielding frame of the flesh-and-blood Jesus, claiming to have brought the truth to us, as His reason for being born…as the embodiment of the truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) According to Him, when He speaks, the truth is speaking and being spoken. The question is, then, who is listening?
Everyone who is of the truth listens to the truth they hear in Jesus’ voice. If you are listening to His voice (the implication here being that you are receiving—embracing—what He is saying, not simply hearing and pondering His words) then you are of the truth—in the truth and belonging to the truth. Liars do not listen to Jesus. Deceivers do not listen to Jesus. And the deceived do not listen to Jesus. People who really want the truth of heaven will hear and listen to the truth of heaven in Jesus’ voice. Regardless of age or intellect, if you really want the truth because you are of the truth, you will know the truth and embrace the truth when you hear the truth from Him.
Obedience is of what you receive, and what you receive begins with what you know, and what you know begins with how you are listening. It amazes me how so many that claim Christ show, with their lack of attention to Him, how they don’t really care about what He is really saying. Perhaps most of them really don’t think He is saying much at all. They have believed in and “accepted” a silent Savior, who offers them eternal life while having little to nothing to say about the life they are living. Such a savior is simply one conceived in their own imaginations, rather than the One conceived and born to us by the Holy Spirit of God. If we are truly devoted to Him, we will be studying and listening to know and embrace the Father’s Word of truth through Him.
THE LOVE OF HIS WORD
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17: 6–8, 20–26)
I hope the idea of embracing the Father’s Word through Jesus is conveying more than mere academic affirmation (not less, because we must intelligently think through everything He says). We are to embrace the Word of God in affectionate acceptance of who He is and what He wants, in response to His loving revelation of Himself. The Word of God to us is the love of God to us. He has truthfully revealed Himself to us so that He can lovingly bind us to Himself and one another. He has informed us of His truth so that He can infill us with Himself. In being born to bring the truth of God to us, Jesus has brought the love of God to us. The life and love between the Father and the Son can now be ours through Him—He came to bring us into them.
To embrace His Word is to embrace Him in His love. For God, the truth of His Word and the touch of His love are inseparable. He cannot love us without telling us the truth, and He cannot tell us the truth without loving us. We have some trouble relating to this, because we separate truth and love all the time. We tend to sentimentally love without telling the truth, or, searingly tell the truth without love. God does not have that problem. His truth is always loving, and His love is always truthful.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR OUR SPIRITS
If we have intelligently received the Father’s Word through Jesus, we have affectionately received Jesus Himself. If we are of the truth, we love the truth, because He has loved us with the truth, sending His love to us through His Son in sending His Word to us through His Son. If we are of the truth, we love and embrace the loving embodiment and expression of God’s truth in our Lord and Savior.
Wake up every morning and embrace His words, enfolding them into your heart so that it beats them through your veins infusing His life into you so that living for Him devotionally comes out of you, and is not mechanically ground out by you. In this first essential of devotional obedience, worship Him in spirit and truth, because He has shown to you the worth of Himself and His will in His Word—love Him, because He has first loved you.