Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God's word. (Mk 7:13 GW)
My mother tells a story of someone she spoke with in her years of ministry, a woman seeking a solution to a personal issue. The woman couldn’t get past the words her mama had said to her years ago to make any changes. Whatever “Mama said” had become too fixed in her thinking.
I had an occasion to think of this recently. All men and women are fallible. The only true foundation for our thinking and actions is God’s Word and the life of Christ. When anything else contradicts that, whether it’s Mama or a job or a circumstance, then that thought pattern should be discarded.
Hebrews 12:2 in the Voice Translation says, “Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.”
Focused on Jesus. Not gender or culture or skin color or any other personal heritage. Not where I grew up or because I’m a redhead or I’m a particular denomination. Nothing else is to guide our behavior but Christ. As He acted and reacted, we are to act and react.
Philippians 2 speaks to this clearly.
“Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had, who … humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” (Php 2:5, 8 GW)
Jesus was humble. This doesn’t mean He was weak. He stood up to the church leaders many times. But He also said His words and actions were the Father’s, and He was obedient in that attitude of humbleness. Where God said to go, He went. Who the Father said to touch and heal, He did that. When faced with death on the cross, though His mind stumbled, He obeyed. (Jn 14:7-8; Lk 22:42)
It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him. (Php 2:13 GW)
God is the guide to my behavior, and where I am wrong in it, He can change me to think like Him. But I must commit myself to that change and be willing to set aside whatever is keeping me from living like Christ. I must listen to the Holy Spirit speaking within me and obey Him, and sometimes, that means not doing what you’ve always done.
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In Mark 10, Jesus faced a young man who struggled with this. The young man had inquired how to receive eternal life. Jesus didn’t mention His upcoming death or even prayer. Instead, He spoke of obedience. He said:
“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mk 10:21)
This proved too much, and it says the young man went away sad. He valued his possessions more than following Christ.
We tend to commiserate with the young man, thinking of all he’d be giving up and how hard that would be, but in that, we lose sight of our ourselves. What have we put in place of our obedience? Unforgiveness? Do we hold a long-seated grudge? What is our excuse?
In another parable, Jesus tells the story of men called to a banquet, but they were full of excuses not to attend. My job, my wife, my business ... each had a reason not to go. (Lk 14:16-20) Sound familiar? We must stop making excuses for not doing what God has asked of us. There should be no more “because of” this or that.
God sees our pathway in its entirety. Where we don’t know how to walk, He will guide us. How much longer will the distance take if we drag our feet?
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In the parable of the sower, lack of obedience caused the seeds planted not to produce fruit. It isn’t that the seed is tossed out willy-nilly like Mardi Gras beads, and we get what we get. No, we choose to be fertile soil or not.
“When any one heareth the word of the kingdom …” (Mt 13:19)
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word …” (Mt 13:20)
“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word …” (Mt 13:21)
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word …” (Mt 13:22)
Everyone heard the Word, but only one man took the time to set aside the distractions of life and dedicate his heart to obedience. That obedience is what gave him understanding and enabled the seed to grow and produce one hundredfold.
Nothing that speaks to me outside of the Word of God is worth the price paid for me to listen. Not when God has promised that obedience will make of me a better person, someone kinder and more merciful, someone full of love. Someone fruitful.
He will not leave us destitute and penniless in our obedience. That’s what we’ve thought. The poor young man would live from then on wearing rags and eating beans. But obedience to God is amazing. For in that same chapter, Jesus makes it clear—whatever we must give up, He has promised abundantly more in return.
“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mk 10:29-30)
Did you catch that? I don’t know about you, but that moves me forward, one step at a time, one day at a time, looking toward God in hope and faith, with patience. In obedience. For in Him I live and move. In Him, I exist at all. (Act 17:28 CEV)
“If you have died with Christ to the world’s way of doing things, why do you let others tell you how to live? It’s as though you were still under the world’s influence.” (Col 2:20 GW)
Suzanne D. Williams, Author