Where Has Simple Obedience Gone? – Part 4

Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Today’s response to such a challenging message would be, “That was a good sermon, brother”.
In fact, we go to church to listen to a good sermon, sing along both joyful and melancholic songs at the same time with an average music band, and drop some poor coins in the collection bag. Forget about putting into practice what you have just heard.

Jas 1:23-24 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.

Hearing + Doing = Blessing
Hearing – Doing = the opposite of blessing

Jesus says in Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law and set forth his laws and commands for us to keep up. Jesus pointed out the lack in the young rich man, who kept all the commandments to be good. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The rich young man was satisfied being good; perfection did not fit his budget. Disobedience blocked the rich young man from becoming perfect, as Jesus wanted him to be.

Jesus taught much about being and doing and we care much about hearing. Jesus brought forth a new way of life to this world. He said, “I am the way” and those who followed him were known as, ‘those who belong to The Way’. They followed him; they actually changed the old ways of living to a new lifestyle, in all the aspects of life – sex, money, power and Church – where relationship with God and one another is practiced.

The question is, do we belong to The Way in these four aspects of our lives or are we not much different from the world.

In the area of sex, for example: Mt 5:31-32 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
What is so difficult here to understand? Why so many divorces and remarriages happen among those who profess to be following Jesus just like it happens among those who do not follow Jesus? Why do we continue disobeying Jesus in this aspect of life?

In the area of money, for example: Ac 4:32-35 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. All those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Note the plural form in ‘lands’ and ‘houses’; it talks about the excess that is in our bank accounts, businesses and companies. This means you do not have to remain a Christian millionaire if you follow Jesus. How different are we now from the world here? Has the salt lost its saltiness?

In the area of power, for example: Mk 10:42-45 Jesus called them (the 12 disciples) together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Lording over and exercising authority over people comes in various colors and faces among the followers of Jesus! There is so much abuse on those who want to serve and be servants. Then there are those who lust for control, power and rule. They would do anything to be in those positions and once they are there, they do not ever want to empty the throne for the next in line. Do you know such lording over rulers? Not so with you, Jesus says. Why? So that you will live differently than the world. When the world looks at you, they should see the Kingdom within you and not a reflection of them – the world.

In the area of relationship with God and one another, (what Church is about), are we doing what Jesus modeled and told his disciples to do? In Acts 2 we see a church that is described doing four things: 1) dedicate themselves to the Apostles’ (not Pastors…) teaching (which turns all of us into Goers, not Church-comers); 2) Demonstrate radical koinonia, which practically means to be a big family and share in common what they have and therefore eliminate need; 3) eat together, and demonstrate how rich and poor can regularly share a table, a completely unheard of thing in those days; and finally, 4) praying.

Today, we avoid Apostles like the plague, demonstrate radical individualism, grab something to eat alone or eat with folks of our kind once in a while, and yes, pray a bit, …2 minutes a day?

There is the story of a “friendly atheist” called Matt Casper. He once asked Jim Henderson, a pastor of 25 years, after having visited a long list of churches in the United States: “Is this what Jesus really told you guys to do?” Not only do we not do what Jesus told us to do; not only do we do what he did not tell us to do; we even go and export our self-invented religion and bring this kind of churches to other parts of the world! Now we have a First Presbyterian Church in some village in Africa and a Second Baptist Church in Sri Lanka and a Reformed Church in Indonesia! Is this what Jesus told us to do? If he did not, why do we keep doing what he never told us to do? Let’s give an honest answer here before Jesus would ask us one day, Lk 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? This is disobedient love towards God and we continue loving our disobedience.

Jesus, please spare me from being one of the many! Mt 7:22-23 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew obeyed to get up and follow Jesus. Do we?

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2 comments

  1. Iv’e been away from mainline church culture for a long time and missed a lot of what appears to have happened since the mid 70’s. I recently got into social media to get my finger on the pulse of the church, if that’s possible, and am increasingly frustrated.
    here are a few things that dont add up, and which I think should be challenged publicly.
    1. If God is using Apostles to raise up lots of new churches, or re organize christians into various organic groups, how is that these apostles dont have the rest of the apostolic gifts to train and teach them to obey simple fundamentals?
    Im not a scholar, so this question might be naive, but it seems to me that of the many apostles in scripture, only a few raised up churches. I think the main gift of an apostle is fatherliness.
    God compared church life to a home and family when referring to His people, Fathers are responsible and equipped to wisely and relentlessly teach and gently but firmly train obedience to their children. That is, I think, what an apostles chief skill is, as fathers and mothers among the brethren. I see very little of this.
    2. Because churches are patterned after schools and businesses, and not family, the gift of teaching is heavily reduced to a cerebral exercise and didactic ism, rather than instructing, mentoring and daily one anothering, as happens within a healthy family.
    And speaking of family, the nuclear family is antithetical to family life because it omits the involvement of elderly parents, grand parents and extended relatives. I think the way families subcontract the care for elders and children out to hirelings is the model of modern church as well.
    Seems to me that if anyone is going to teach anything to these new converts and re converts, it should be to obey in gathering together daily or as often as possible and in any way possible, to one another into maturity and usefulness to God.
    In kingdom terms, we christians today remind me of Israel in Jesus day. Supposedly waiting for the Christ to come (return) but so out of touch with God that John the Baptist must first come and teach us to obey in repentance and good works, so that we all wont kill His Son when He does come.
    If God is truly raising up leaders to lead us to Christ, then there should be prophets and apostles working together to teach Gods people to obey in the first principles. God certainly is doing something remarkable among us, but He’s done this before and they misunderstood His kingdom and purpose. We cant let that happen this time.

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