articlesqa May 27, 2015 the path of obedience
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of
Obe­di­ence is a state and so you must trav­el there and en­ter. Obe­di­ence is the King­dom of Heav­en. A Chris­t­ian knows she is on the path when she suf­fers from the in­side and the out­side by obey­ing God. He knows he has en­tered when he con­sis­tent­ly choos­es to will only what God wills and feel only what God feels. The pass­port through the gates of obe­di­ence is death. Je­sus learned obe­di­ence by choos­ing the will of God as His Own in time and space even unto the death. He can teach us too.

Obe­di­ence: de­f­i­n­i­tion

It is im­por­tant to de­fine obe­di­ence be­cause “obey” and “obe­di­ence” are not the same things. They are re­lat­ed the way a word is re­lat­ed to a sen­tence. “Obey” is an ac­tion. “Obe­di­ence” is a state of be­ing. If “Obey” is a word then “Obe­di­ence” is the lan­guage it­self in all its beau­ty, nu­ances and in­tri­ca­cies. Acts of obey­ing can be mim­ic­ked and mimed. Be­com­ing flu­ent in a for­eign lan­guage how­ev­er re­quires a com­mit­ment of heart. Obe­di­ence re­quires your per­sis­tent heart over time. It is the dif­fer­ence be­tween trav­el­ling and be­ing a trav­el­er. Every trav­el­er trav­els but not every­one who trav­els is a trav­el­er.

It is in this way that Moses knew the Way of God Psalms 103:7 while Is­rael only knew His Acts. So Je­sus did not only obey God, He lived in the state of Obe­di­ence. To re­peat an anal­o­gy, I have friends who have this strange love of trav­el­ling. I do not have this de­sire at all but these friends of mine just love see­ing dif­fer­ent places. I think God made them this way and gave them this de­sire. Now just hav­ing a de­sire and a ten­den­cy to trav­el doesn’t make them trav­el­ers. It sounds sim­ple but they can­not be­come trav­el­ers un­til they trav­el and con­sis­tent­ly trav­el. They learn to be­come trav­el­ers by trav­el­ling. No mat­ter the ini­tial in­cli­na­tions or de­sire, a state must be learned. You don’t get to the state of New York by just want­i­ng to go to New York. You ac­tu­al­ly have to take time and space to get there.

The same thing with obe­di­ence. Hav­ing a de­sire to obey be­stowed by the Holy Spir­it does not put one into the state of obe­di­ence. It is only af­ter obey­ing and obey­ing so that obey­ing God is the only way I ex­press my will that I can be said to have ar­rived and liv­ing in a state of obe­di­ence. Obe­di­ence then is al­ways learned. I par­rot the words I hear in Span­ish but it takes time to be­come flu­ent in the lan­guage. Let us nev­er con­fuse obey­ing with obe­di­ence. The tongue may speak the Words of God in Eng­lish, Span­ish, French and many oth­er lan­guages but there is only one Holy lan­guage for the ac­tions and that lan­guage is obe­di­ence. Heav­en, by de­f­i­n­i­tion, is the state of con­stant obe­di­ence to God. Or to put it a dif­fer­ent way: Obe­di­ence IS the King­dom of Heav­en.

Through Suf­fer­ing

Since obe­di­ence is a state, the King­dom of God to be sought, then there must be a path that one must trav­el to get there. That path as we said in the last ar­ti­cle is suf­fer­ing. But we hate the suf­fer­ing. I of­ten ask why does obe­di­ence have to trav­el the path of suf­fer­ing. I mean even Je­sus had to learn obe­di­ence through the things He suf­fered He­brews 5:8?

To an­swer this I will bor­row from Kierkegaard’s idea of the dou­ble dan­ger. Every Chris­t­ian ex­pe­ri­ences op­po­si­tion from two di­rec­tions. The world will op­pose you and per­se­cute you for the right things you do and for the stand you take against the wrong be­ing done in the world. This is the first dan­ger. They will push you and beat you and kill you as is be­ing done to all broth­ers and sis­ters all over the world. In the west­ern world (where every­one is “Chris­t­ian”), this dan­ger takes the form of ad­ver­tis­ing, soul killing me­dia and the drudgery of jobs that sap your strength and give no time for God. This is the first dan­ger. The op­po­si­tion, ei­ther pas­sive or ac­tive, from a world that hates God and His com­mand­ments while you a Chris­t­ian pro­claim God as Lord and also pro­claim His com­mand­ments. Now you see that if you are go­ing to be obe­di­ent to God, you will at least suf­fer the first dan­ger. The path of obe­di­ence is suf­fer­ing.

But there is sec­ond and more di­rect dan­ger. This dan­ger doesn’t come from the out­side, but from the in­side. Now the true suf­fer­ing that pro­duces obe­di­ence be­gins. John the Bap­tist says the goal of every Chris­t­ian is to dis­ap­pear while let­ting Christ ap­pear John 3:30. How­ev­er, even John felt the in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion from his flesh. No one wants to be sec­ond place. But the Chris­t­ian doesn’t even have a place. She dis­ap­pears com­plete­ly and yields her place to Je­sus Christ. And yet no one wants to do this and your flesh re­sists you when you try. Again we find suf­fer­ing and in this case even worse be­cause it is self in­flict­ed. Now you can see again, that if you do not suf­fer by war­ring against your­self, you can nev­er be­come obe­di­ent. You will al­ways be your own Lord. The path to obe­di­ence is suf­fer­ing.

So if you think you are on your way to the state of obe­di­ence, to the King­dom of Heav­en where God is your King, but you are not suf­fer­ing or have not suf­fered, then you need to check to make sure you are on the right path. Are you dis­ap­pear­ing as Christ is ap­pear­ing? Are you striv­ing to feel His emo­tions in­stead of your own? Are you think­ing His thoughts in­stead of your own? Are you do­ing His Will in­stead of your own? If you are try­ing to do these things, then you will suf­fer from the in­side and the out­side but you will ar­rive at the state of obe­di­ence, the King­dom of Heav­en. If you do not do this these things, then you will be com­fort­able (un­til God mer­ci­ful­ly and ut­ter­ly de­stroys your king­dom).

Through Death

So lis­ten here sir with who writes these things and things. I’ve been suf­fer­ing and suf­fer­ing for quite a while now by try­ing to be obe­di­ent to God. So now tell me, when will I en­ter the State of Obe­di­ence and how can I be sure that I have en­tered? Well broth­er, sis­ter, per­haps you may have walked the path and are now knock­ing on Heav­en’s doors, the state of Obe­di­ence. If you want to get in, then you need a pass­port. Your pass­port into the state of obe­di­ence is the same as that of Je­sus Christ. Death. Specif­i­cal­ly the death that comes when the will for self is killed and by death trans­formed into a will for God. The death that comes when you choose to have God’s Feel­ings about the things around you in­stead of your own. As we have dis­cussed ear­li­er, Chris­tians die into life. If you want to know if you have en­tered the state of obe­di­ence, ask your­self one ques­tion, “Have I died? Do I think only God’s thoughts? Do I feel only what God feels?”

You can al­ways tell some­one who lives in obe­di­ence from some­one who mere­ly obeys. The one who lives in obe­di­ence is spon­ta­neous the way life is spon­ta­neous. She is al­ways in­vent­ing new ways to obey God like some­one com­mu­ni­cat­ing sen­tences and phras­es in a lan­guage she knows well. Just think about how chil­dren learn to speak. They pick up a few words here and there and soon in spon­tane­ity, they’re telling you about the how the shark ate the moon. Some­one who lives in obe­di­ence per­forms works of po­et­ry. The one who mere­ly obeys can­not be cre­ative in this way. He is al­ways mim­ic­k­ing what he has seen an­oth­er do or try­ing to im­i­tate some­thing he read about.

And yes, we have to be­gin like ba­bies. We have to learn obe­di­ence by im­i­tat­ing acts of obey­ing. But we should not re­main un­der­de­vel­oped chil­dren by con­tin­u­ing to only im­i­tate the words of our par­ents. Ro­mans 12:1-2 tells us the end goal. As we of­fer our bod­ies as a liv­ing sac­ri­fice in obe­di­ence 1 Samuel 15:22, we be­come able to prove/un­der­stand/per­ceive what the will of God is whether it is ex­plic­it or im­plic­it. Just like any lan­guage where some things are said out­right(ex­plic­it) and you pick up oth­er things like nu­ance and tone(im­plic­it) as you be­come flu­ent in the lan­guage. So also, with obe­di­ence, I can obey the ex­plic­it laws but I only learn to know the will of God in all its facets Ro­mans 12:2 by liv­ing in obe­di­ence.

If I come to a point and find that I do not know the way, it may be be­cause of will­ful dis­obe­di­ence that has pre­vent­ed me from learn­ing obe­di­ence and so I am blind. I learned the words and some phras­es but did not prac­tice the lan­guage and so can­not ex­press my­self in a nov­el sit­u­a­tion. If, how­ev­er, I can dis­cern the will of God in every cir­cum­stance then it is be­cause I have learned obe­di­ence through suf­fer­ing. I have en­tered into rest through suf­fer­ing and I have gained life through death.

Sum­ming Up

So to re­cap. To learn obe­di­ence, one has to first have the de­sire and the pow­er to sub­mit to God with­out de­sir­ing a re­ward. This is called hu­mil­i­ty and it is only grant­ed through the dwelling of the Holy Spir­it. We pur­sue this de­sire and ex­press it through obey­ing God from the heart. But this obey­ing caus­es an in­ter­nal con­flict against our­selves and an ex­ter­nal con­flict against the world. This con­flict along with pain and dis­com­fort that comes with it is called suf­fer­ing. It is only through this suf­fer­ing that one learns obe­di­ence. This con­stant de­nial of self and the world is what Je­sus has called dai­ly tak­ing up one’s cross Luke 9:23. It is by this suf­fer­ing that Je­sus learned obe­di­ence.

It is in­evitable that this con­stant, holy suf­fer­ing leads to a holy death. More specif­i­cal­ly, the Chris­t­ian’s will is laid down and sac­ri­ficed. She then takes it up again, like Abra­ham took up Isaac, to will only what God wills Gen­e­sis 22:12. When she has died in this way, she en­ters into a state called obe­di­ence. In the state of obe­di­ence, the Chris­t­ian’s only ex­pres­sion of his will is in obe­di­ence to God. He does not do any­thing he does not see his Fa­ther do­ing John 5:19, 30, 12:49. She makes her food do­ing her Fa­ther’s will John 4:34.

For the Chris­t­ian then, as we said pre­vi­ous­ly, suf­fer­ing be­comes a tool, the key to rest and death be­comes a door, a pass­port into life. Those things that were once avoid­ed as man’s great­est en­e­mies are now sought out. These most bit­ter en­e­mies of man, the Chris­t­ian trans­forms into his or her most beloved friends.

Je­sus Learned Obe­di­ence. Let Him Teach You.

This learn­ing of obe­di­ence oc­curs through the process out­lined above (hu­mil­i­ty, obey­ing, suf­fer­ing, death). There is no skip­ping a step even for Je­sus Matthew 3:15. He learned obe­di­ence through the things He suf­fered. Every­thing man does oc­curs in time and in space and there­fore learn­ing obe­di­ence re­quires time and space. It is for this rea­son that the Bible says obe­di­ence is learned (over time) and in the space of suf­fer­ing. Every crea­ture of time and space learns obe­di­ence to God.

This was the les­son Adam and Eve failed in the gar­den. The first law was a tool for teach­ing obe­di­ence. Since Je­sus is God and Man, He also had to learn like all of us. Since He was suc­cess­ful where we all failed, He be­comes our Teacher and High Priest. As the rest of He­brews 5 says, He is the source of our sal­va­tion and is able to guide us into all right­eous­ness. This is why He has al­ready told us to learn from Him in Matthew 11:29. His yoke is easy and His bur­den light.

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