by Dave Miller
We are always looking for something guaranteed. The mutual fund with 12%+ growth, the business plan with 30% return on investment, a foolproof marriage, a parenting technique that will make sure my kid isn’t “one of those kids,” a friend who will always be loyal, the list goes on and on. But we must all face one crucial reality, we cannot, nor will we ever, control outcomes. Sure, we can ask all the right questions, run all the numbers three times, pray diligently, or seek wisdom from a multitude of sources, but the results are out of our hands.
Does this thought scare you or does it free you? I believe this understanding frees us, for good reason. God is sovereign and in control of all things. God is good and can be trusted. God has promised to restore this world. God is always with us. Take away any of these truths and we live in fear of the unknown or we convince ourselves that we really can make “it” happen. Yet, reality is always there, reminding us outcomes are beyond our control. So we partner with the Holy Spirit who alone can guide us into the unknown, use us in His desired outcomes, and forge our character into the image of Christ.
Here is how I functioned for years.
Hear the Word > Learn the Word > Understand the Word > Obey the Word
There is monumental flaw with this process:
I am taking God’s place as authority in my life.
Let me explain.
I love the Word of God. I enjoy the study of and learning about the scriptures, theology, church history, languages, church and all things Bible. I can talk for hours into the wee hours of the morning about passages while learning and teaching. I have a master’s degree and doctorate in the Bible. I love the Bible. I was a master at making my love for the Word the most spiritual sounding idolatry.
I would take a Bible passage, study and exegete until I felt like I understood the meaning, history, application, implication, and purpose. Once I was confident in my understanding then I would obey. My obedience hinged on my trust in my ability to understand the passage. Let’s just be frank, I trusted me.
This is spiritual maturity rubbish wrapped around, Genesis 3 “Did God actually say?” I turned God’s Word into really authoritative advice subjected to my ability to understand and explain. The ironic truth, I never understood those parts I didn’t like obeying.
But let’s pause for just a moment and look at how Jesus orders our obedience and understanding on more time from John 14:15-26. Watch the order closely:
“If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.”
Love > Commands > Obedience > Spirit of truth.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Love > Commands > Obedience > Spirit manifests God
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Love > Commands > Obedience > Spirit reveals God’s love and makes God at home.
“But the Helper the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
The Spirit teaches truth and brings to rememberance truth.
My Old Model
Hear -> Learn -> Understand -> Obey
Hear -> Obey (Empowered by Holy Spirit) -> Learn -> Understand
My Old Model: I am the Authority
Jesus Model: Jesus is the Authority
Jesus takes his rightful place precisely because I must walk in faith to obey something I might not completely understand. I do because he said so. Yet that is exactly what he is calling us to do when he says, “Follow Me.”
Some may call this a blind faith. But that assumes knowledge is sight. There is no way this is blind faith because the veil has been removed and I clearly see Jesus the Christ, trustworthy and true, whose word in my life will never fail. This isn’t blind faith, this is the just walking by faith. Believing is seeing. I don't walk in spite of doctrine, I follow living doctrine, Jesus.
Why Risk it?
Why take this true journey of faith? Because a step in obedience to Christ and his commands is a step in the kingdom of God and the Spirit will show up with all power and in full harvest mode when the kingdom of God is at stake.
He will never. Please hear me. HE WILL NEVER show up to empower your kingdom. You may choose to disobey Jesus and blame it on your inability to know exactly what the Word says, but the Holy Spirit never disobeys the will of the Father, and he is not interested one bit in your kingdom built on the sand ready to be washed away by the next storm.
The Holy Spirit will never empower your disobedience.
So what does this really mean for us? Let me take a moment to be gut wrenchingly honest. When you refuse to walk in obedience, you quench the Spirit and tell God you can do life on your own.
Where has all the Acts gone?
Has your walk with Christ seemed to be a burden to great to bear? A necessary nuisance? Dry? Boring? Nothing like the book of Acts or anything you see in the New Testament?
It is because your are walking in the flesh and not in the Spirit. The sower cannot make the harvest grow. He takes care of the controllables and the leaves the rest to God. The Spirit empowers the moment we obey. And what a Helper He is! The dead come to life through the power of the Holy Spirit when the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ comes through the voice of one preparing the way of the Lord.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his disciple just before ascending to heaven:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The mission thrust, the calling, the purpose of their discipleship all depended on the Holy Spirit. Luke, the author of Acts, also tells us in his Gospel, that Jesus told the disciples to “stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.” So what would have happened had the disciples not obeyed Jesus command to wait? They would have failed miserably. Clearly the Holy Spirit is the power behind the mission. Without the Spirit there is no mission. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be used in His desired outcomes, that the world may worship Jesus Christ.
That is why we must say with Robert Coleman:
Until we have such people imbued with his Spirit and committed to his plan, none of our methods will work. This is the new evangelism we need. It is not better methods, but better men and women who know their Redeemer from personal experience— men and women who see his vision and feel his passion for the world— men and women who are willing to be nothing so that he might be everything— men and women who want only for Christ to produce his life in and through them according to his own good pleasure. This finally is the way the Master planned for his objective to be realized on the earth, and where it is carried through by his strategy, the gates of hell cannot prevail against the evangelization of the world.
Up Next: Free to Fail
Until there's #NoPlaceLeft...
Coleman, Robert E. (2006-04-01). The Master Plan of Evangelism (p. 110). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Sentergy: When Jesus, People, Practice and Theology Collide
Chapter 1: The Glory of God
Chapter 2: The Glory of God in Jesus
Chapter 3: The Glory of God in the Gospel
Chapter 4: The Glory of God in Disciple Making
Chapter 5: If You Love Me You Will Obey What I Command
Chapter 6: Monday Morning Disciple Making
Chapter 7: Monday Morning Disciple Making Part 2
Interlude: The Father's Heart
Conclusion: The Lump In Your Throat