by Lauren Martin | #NPLOKC Cross Cultural Summer Intern
During this week of battling disobedience in reading Scripture, the Lord continued to graciously draw me closer by leading me to Acts, the Psalms, John 15, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The first idea he revealed to me is the exclusive power of Christ for salvation. In Romans 1, Paul writes of his boldness in sharing the gospel, for “in it is the power of God to salvation for all those who believe, to the Jew first and then to the Greek.” When led to read Acts, I see that the Word clearly portrays Paul’s commitment to preaching the Gospel of Christ in chapters 13 and 14. Unlike myself, only a creature, Jesus is the God-man who “did not see corruption” (13:38) and, therefore, is the power of God to salvation. It is the Gospel alone that has the power to redeem all people of all nations—to open “a door of faith to the Gentiles” (14:27).
However, Jesus makes it clear that he redeems his people to fulfill his vision that all will come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). When sharing the Gospel in Antioch in Pisidia, Paul preaches that Jesus “appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people” (Acts 13:31). As Israel was a light to the nations and Christ was the light of the world, so we too are called by God to be witnesses. Psalm 103 repeats God’s vision: “let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” He also desires “to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord.” God’s plan is to redeem and restore a destitute people to dwell in his presence, even those not yet created. David sings “bless the Lord, O my soul. . .bless his holy name,” and his plan for those not yet created is that they will praise him. Blessing and praise are not silent actions, but acts of proclamation and declaration of the Word of truth.
Therefore, obedience is at the heart of any ministry or movement. In my failure to remain in the Word, the enemy entered in and stifled my influence. We can see in Acts 13 that the disciples were obedient to guidance by the Spirit and obedient to preach the Word with boldness. Acts 14:19-23 portrays Paul’s obedience to many commands given by Christ throughout the Scripture including making disciples, raising up leaders, praying, and fasting. It is in remaining close to the Word that Christ’s commands are presented and responses given by his people. Likewise, it is only in the active obedience that the disciples make disciples and the Word of God spread to all people.
To avoid appearing legalistic and solely works-based, the Word reveals the relationship between faith and works. While the grace of God is what empowers believers to obey, the writer of Hebrews exhorts the believer to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (6:1) to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:11). I think it is in the active and thoughtful obedience to the commands of Christ in response to his great grace toward us that we move from milk, claiming his salvation with faith, to meat, imitating Christ.
I think it is in the active and thoughtful obedience to the commands of Christ in response to his great grace toward us that we move from milk, claiming his salvation with faith, to meat, imitating Christ.
It’s impossible to fall into what any define as legalism when you study John 15. Jesus clearly claims that “apart from him, you can do nothing.” Unless we abide in his love, remembering his grace toward us and our inability to produce fruit without him, our efforts will fail every time. On the other hand, we must obey his commandments to abide in his love. To put such a deep concept simply, Christ is Lord and is deserving of our obedience. Because of his presence and power in our lives, our desire should be to see his kingdom come by following the commands he has both given to us and modeled for us.
Because of his presence and power in our lives, our desire should be to see his kingdom come by following the commands he has both given to us and modeled for us.
To finish off this week of difficult lessons, the Lord led me to 1 and 2 Thessalonians and he made the truth of suffering as a disciple of Christ stand out to me. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians that “we are destined” to suffer (3:3). Before Paul is obedient to many of Christ’s commands in Acts 14, he is stoned and thought to be dead. However, by the power of God, he survives and continues to proclaim the Gospel. The example Christ gives to his people is obedience to God even unto death. His love is sacrificial. He gave his life, and if he is God, making him deserving of all glory, and man, making him our example for how to live, then our response should be to give our lives for his kingdom to come.
So when I ask myself how I can apply the Word to my life, I am reminded of the passage from James about the man who is only a hearer and not a doer of the word: “he looks at himself [in the mirror] and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (1:24). To even know how to be a doer of the Word, I must know the Word. Therefore, a life seeking to see the kingdom of God on earth will be one saturated with Scripture, not to check off a command of Christ, but because in knowing God is the fullness of purpose, joy, and life. His desire is that I will conform to the image of Christ.
Therefore, I desire to obey the commands of Christ, so that I will bear fruit and his name will be glorified by generations to come.