obeying God

The following isn’t a carefully outlined teaching, just random but extremely important thoughts. Really, it’s just comments on things Watchman Nee said in the book Spiritual Authority.

The greatest of God’s demands on man is not for him to bear the cross, to serve, to make offerings, or deny himself. The greatest demand is for him to obey. (p. 13 [New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc.] 1972, paperback)

As people, descendants of Adam, we like the idea of having our life outlined for us. We want to know what to do. We want to study the Bible, and we want to have a principle to follow for each situation. This is not what God wants, however. “As many as are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God,” says the Scripture (Rom. 8:14). We are to know how to be a spiritual people.

The Bible says that if righteousness came by the Law, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21). Often this is misinterpreted to mean that God doesn’t care about our works at all. Of course he cares about our works. One day he will judge us by our works, and we are told to fear that judgment (2 Cor. 5:10-11; 1 Pet 1:17). Paul described his ministry as going around testifying to us Gentiles that we should repent and do works that befit repentance (Acts 26:20).  He most certainly was not telling us in Gal. 2:21 that our works don’t matter!

Instead, Paul is trying to tell us that the Law will never produce righteousness in us. He says that if the Law could have produced righteousness, then righteousness would have come from the Law (Gal. 3:21). However, because of the sin that is in our flesh, the Law is too weak to produce righteousness in us (Rom. 8:3).

So what will? The answer is that walking by the Spirit can produce righteousness in us (Rom. 8:4). Jesus did not just die for the forgiveness of our sins. He died to give us the Spirit of God. The mark of the new covenant is that everyone from high to low, old to young, and ruler to servant will receive the Spirit (Acts 2:16-21). The Law’s requirements are righteous, but they will be produced by our walking in the Spirit of God, not by our following the old Law nor any new set of rules or principles.

May God give us both revelation so that we can understand this and boldness so that we are willing to carry it out.

This is important. It is possible to give all your possessions to the poor and give your body to be burned, yet not have love and obtain no profit for your great sacrifices (1 Cor. 13:3). It is likely–because the Scriptures say this will happen to many–that you (uh–yes, you; it’s you that are told in 1 Pet. 1:17 to be afraid and you told in 2 Pet. 1:5-11 to learn and grow) will prophesy, work miracles and cast out demons in Jesus’ name, but be denied entrance to the kingdom of God.

The will of God is the absolute thing; the cup (that is, the crucifixion) is not absolute. (p. 14)

This was fascinating. Watchman Nee is very defensive of Jesus in the story of Gethsemane (thank God for men who stand up for Jesus). He says that Jesus’ prayer in the garden was not out of weakness. He prayed that the cup might pass from him, but he did not pray that he could be out from under God’s will. If God’s will could be different, if the cup of the crucifixion did not need to be drunk, then Jesus was asking if it could pass. However, if God’s will could not be different, then there was no question at all. It is always the Father’s will that must be done.

We can feel whatever we feel. We can ask whatever we might ask, but we must be subject to the will of God. The will of God must matter to us as it did to Jesus. He prayed in agony for hours while his apostles fell asleep in order to know the will of God. He did not walk away from the garden wondering. Instead, he got up saying, “Let’s go. The one who betrays me is here” (Matt. 26:46). He got up knowing what was going to happen to him. He had found the will of God; it was the cup, and now he would drink it.

It was a neat picture. May we care as our Lord cared about the will of God.

To serve God we are not called to choose self-denial or sacrifice; rather we are called to fulfill God’s purpose. (p. 15)

Eph. 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” We are not called to do just any works. We are called to do the works God has prepared for us to do. We will  only find those works by the Spirit, not by following rules and being strict disciplinarians.

David Wilkerson wrote a book called The Cross and the Switchblade about going to New York to minister to gangs there. The trip to New York was not just some good idea that he got. He laid it before God, agonized before God in prayer, and put tests before himself to see if this were really the will of God. It was. So God preserved, protected, and empowered him there. Not only did it produce direct fruit in the 1960’s when it happened, but to this day Teen Challenge, which came out of that ministry, is acknowledged even by the U.S. government as the most effective ministry, by far, to drug addicts in America.

This alone is work in obedience to God’s will, that which originates with God. We are not to find work to do, rather we are to be sent to work by God. Once having understood this we shall truly experience the reality of the authority of the kingdom of the heavens. (p. 16)

Do you want to really be effective? Go where God sends you. Do what God calls you to do. Those who prophesied and cast out demons in Matthew 7, but were rejected by God, did not experience the blessing of God, despite the things they did. How could they? They were unknown to the Lord. Even so, there are many today holding great crusades and describing great miracles, but leaving no changed lives and no churches behind. This happens because they are not doing what they are called to do.

Satan laughs when a rebellious person preaches the word, for in that person is dwelling the satanic principle. (pp. 16-17)

Like begets like. Natural gives birth to natural and spiritual to spiritual. Ministers who have chosen their own principles and their own ministry in order to preach the word will give birth to unspiritual disciples who do not know how to follow God. God will not be able to use them. We see this principle working in far too vast of numbers in the United States. So much ministry is ineffective. Churches have no impact on the society around them. On the contrary, society not only influences the churches but eventually overthrows them. There is no power to continue. Older Christians warn zealous new Christians that their zeal will disappear after a few years. Their warnings are usually correct.

Christianity is supposed to be a spiritual religion. Like Adam in the garden we are supposed to be walking with God, not living by our knowledge of good and evil. Let us obey the command to walk by the Spirit, for it is by the Spirit that we will put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:12-13) and only as we are led by the Spirit that we are not under the Law (Gal. 5:18).

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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