The Cross of Christ Declares the Power of Obedience


Follow Your Dreams!

I confess that I have always had a weak spot for those “follow your dreams” kinds of posts and books. I love brainstorming what awesome things I could do, and I love thinking of ways to fulfill my destiny and live up to my potential and make a difference. I want to be courageous and creative and lead a successful enterprise. I want to “Think Different” – what a great slogan! I daydream sometimes about letting my hair go crazy like Einstein just so I will seem more eccentric and out there. I think usually my hair just looks weird, but maybe Apple will put my picture up there some day anyway. I’m an American, a rugged individualist. I have the beating heart of an (unsuccessful) entrepreneur. Right now I am sitting on at least three ideas that I know would be wild successes if I pursued them. My great grandfather was a cattle and oil baron in central Texas, and my mother is always saying that he never worked for another man a single day in his life. This was the great value of the man, the almost mythic power of his life.

Jesus the Follower

Jesus was not really one of these people. I hate to break it to … myself, but Jesus was all about being subordinate. He was about following someone else’s agenda. He was all about obedience. The gospels are full of these kinds of verses:

5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

5:30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

7:16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

8:28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”

John 5:19,30, 7:16-17, 8:28-29 (NASB)

Entering Rest

I have to confess, I have always hated obedience. I hate the idea of commandment. If we’re honest, most of us do. We don’t like someone telling us what to do. Grace is supposed to be all about acceptance and love and forgiveness, and there doesn’t seem to be much place for the ugly idea of commandment and obedience in such a world. However, I was taking a shower the other day (most of my greatest revelations come to me when I’m taking a shower for some reason), and I realized something. Obedience is all about entering your rest (Hebrews 4:3). Obedience relieves me of the distress of being smart enough to create my own vision, developing my own resources, forging my own message, and in general inventing my own successful life. If I am inventing my own successful life, then whenever I am challenged, I have to make sure I have a strong enough plan to answer every objection. However, if I am simply being obedient to another, none of these things are my problem. The plan belongs to another, and they are the one who must answer these objections. I am entrusting my fulfillment and success to someone else, and it is their job to make sure all of these things come together. If I have entrusted my welfare in obedient submission to some wild-eyed fool of a dreamer (for instance, myself), then there remains the very real fear that everything is going to fail. It turns out that everyone I have ever worked for has ended up being a sinner in some way, and it is difficult to submit to their very imperfect leadership. In fact, I myself have turned out to be a bad leader of myself. So where do we turn?

It is a truism to say that we turn to Christ. We don’t turn to Christ. We keep turning to ourselves and screwing things up over and over and over. We do this because we are used to being our own god, our own master. We love ourselves most; we worship ourselves and we don’t want to sacrifice our own agenda and desire to obey another. In our secret mind, God is less than us because we are real and present and God is ethereal and invisible and sometimes He doesn’t answer prayer the way we want. Amazingly, even in this Jesus was perfect. In refusing to submit to bad leadership (Luke 4:1-13), He didn’t turn to Himself. He turned to His Father. He served. He trusted. He obeyed.

Obedience is Death. Thank God!

Obedience involves a death. Obedience says that what someone else wants is all-important, and that what I want must take a back seat. Obedience relinquishes control. Obedience thinks the same (1 Corinthians 2:16). Obedience sacrifices personal agenda and vision for the agenda and vision of another. This would be horrible and terrifying if it weren’t that the vision and agenda that are gained by such sacrifice are much greater than I could have ever conceived or imagined! We are talking about dying to our meager selfish short-sighted ill-advised and improbable agenda to be invited into the world of the agenda of God Almighty, the Creator of the universe! He has vision that lasts into eternity, and He has resources such that He can create vast universes with a word.

The cross of Christ declares this truth with direct and emphatic power. Jesus quite literally trusted the Father enough to obey His agenda in relinquishing heaven and equality with God to the point of death (Philippians 2:5-8), and was rewarded by being resurrected to equality with God with the saved church, His bride, in tow. When we surrender our own selves and our own ridiculous self-justification projects to God, we are given through His blood the open door to enter into the rest of the simplicity and beauty and meaningfulness and even romance of obedience to Him.

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Matthew 26:39 (NASB)

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