Monday, March 17, 2014

Better to Obey . . .

“It is to the man who is trying to live, to the man who is obedient to the word of the Master, that the word of the Master unfolds itself.” 

It tasted so good.

The sweet and sour chicken that my brother-in-law picked up for me on Friday night.

My husband was working late -- and here I was, pregnant -- and the sweet and sour chicken just tasted so good. 

But I'm trying to be careful with what I eat -- I was pretty careful all week -- this was a treat -- a salty treat. 

I had eaten about half of it, and I was full. And I felt my conscience, felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me then and telling me that I had eaten enough. 

I was full. I knew that if I ate any more (as I have in the past) I would feel sick and sluggish and my ankles would most likely swell like sausages. 

So I wrapped it up. I put it away. I prided myself on the "good" example that I was setting for my watching daughter and happily placed it in the refrigerator, planning in my mind what I would have later as a healthy dessert. 

A few hours later.

I put my daughter to bed, was feeling tired and discouraged. Somewhat thoughtlessly, I opened the refrigerator and there it was. My half-eaten sweet and sour chicken -- Chinese takeout -- the "opiate of the masses." 

I took it out and ate the rest . . . it didn't even taste that good. 

Later, feeling sick and bloated and frustrated, I asked for forgiveness. 

Rather than taking my weariness and discouragement to the Lord, I had taken it to sweet and sour chicken -- and the only "consolation" that I "got" was that of a sick stomach and a restless night.

It's always better to obey...

The alternative isn't worth it.

And we forfeit peace and joy and holiness and rest for a lukewarm morsel that only makes us sick.

It's always better to obey.

When we sense the Spirit of God speaking to our conscience -- whispering some word to us about self-control or trusting the Lord, or being slow to become angry, etc., it always behooves us to listen.

An idea struck me this week -- when we love the Word, we obey it. 

And our obedience is a testimony to how much we truly love the Word of God. 

The Word is not just a Book -- yes; it is transcribed for us in a book -- the Bible -- but the Word is a Person -- the flesh and blood Person of Jesus Christ.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth --and we beheld His glory . . . 

He speaks to us through His Book and through the Person of the Holy Spirit -- who makes that Book come alive in our hearts as we surrender to Him in obedience. 

A few years ago, my sister introduced me (more in depth) to the writings of George MacDonald. 

His emphasis on being obedient to God in the seemingly "little" things made a deep impression upon me and has helped remind me of how important it is to do a thing that the Lord wants us to do once we become aware of it.

Simple things like laying out our family's clothes for church the night before so that I'm not overwhelmed and running late in the morning--

Things like picking up toys and books as we use them rather than letting them sit and pile up (as much as this is possible with a young child). 

Things like asking for forgiveness quickly when I've wronged someone rather than letting it sit and frustrate and fester.

When we don't sense or "feel" the presence of God at any particular period of our lives, I've learned that the answer doesn't always lie in waiting for Him to give us an epiphany.

The renewal of that sweet sense of His presence often comes through taking the small, difficult steps of obedience that lie before us, even when we don't feel like taking them.

Getting up a little earlier in the morning to spend time in the Word of God when we'd rather sleep--

Truly listening to someone who is speaking to us rather than being distracted by the 100 things on our to-do list--

Exercising self-control and patience and humility and trust in the areas of our life where the Holy Spirit is convicting us, rather than giving ourselves an excuse--

Spending our time in edifying conversation and pursuits that bring health to our souls rather than wasting our lives on things that really won't matter in eternity.

This is how we, how I demonstrate love for the Word of God--for Jesus, the Word--through quiet, simple steps of obedience in the day to day things that happen to me.

When we love the Word, we obey.

Recently, I watched a video clip of Chinese Christians receiving Bibles for the first time.

It brought me to tears when I witnessed how these precious believers pressed the Word to their hearts as they were handed their copy of the Word of God and praised Jesus openly, kissing the Bibles that they held.

So full of joy -- kissing their Bibles because their eyes have been opened to see Jesus as the living Word.

Kissing their Bibles as if they were kissing the Son.

Beauty and truth in their open hands and in their open hearts.

So persecuted, so poor, the refuse of this world, their hearts wide open to receive His truth--


Perhaps because when we come to a place of emptiness, of brokenness, when we have suffered long for righteousness' sake, He is ready to fill us with His presence, with his joy, with his Word--

And of His fullness we have received . . . 

Grace for grace. 

And if we are too "full," too "stuffed," with the things of this world, this life, His fullness cannot fit -- and we are just bloated, worldly-fluff-filled beings who have eaten too much Chinese takeout. 

We don't really care for the things of Christ . . . We  aren't aliens and strangers here; we're friends with this world and all of its pleasures.

Friendship with the world is enmity towards God. 

We have to ask ourselves, do we, do I have that kind of all-encompassing love for Jesus Christ, that I would take His Word and kiss it and press it to my heart?

Is it that precious to me? Do I even hold those kinds of emotions towards Him?

Am I prepared to suffer persecution for His sake, or am I too comfortable in my heated home with my flannel pajamas and the promise of vacations and entertainment and "stuff?"

Am I spiritually empty?

We have to ask ourselves these hard questions, especially when we hear stories of our brothers and sisters suffering persecution and deprivation and hardship in countries like North Korea and China and Belarus.

They care about Jesus -- they've been willing to lay everything down for him--even their very lives--

What am I willing to lay down?

What do I care about?

What does my heart seek?

And he who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake will find it--

He is our Treasure; His Word our hope. Only in obedient surrender do we realize these truths--

And press His Word to our hearts -- as our salvation and glory.

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