Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Obedience of Faith

"...we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the 
obedience of faith, for the sake of His name, among all the nations."
Romans 1:5

Once I was invited to speak at a conference in a large city. While walking downtown on my way to the convention center I stumbled across a rather large LGBT activist parade. Among the floats, costumes, and banners was a group of homosexual men, complete with leather short-shorts, skin-tight tank tops, and painted nails, holding a banner that said "Christian, Gay, & Proud".  

"Are you part of the parade?" one of the men asked.

"No, but I'm curious about your banner" I replied.

The spokesman for the group told me they were from a local church populated mostly by members of the LGBT community. He said that had come to realize that Christianity was all about "self-love" and that only by accepting themselves for who they were could they ever understand God's love.

Then came my question: "But what about all the things the Bible says about homosexuality?"

Another spoke up, "Some things in the Bible are just misunderstood. Some other things are outdated. The important thing is that we love Jesus."

Loving Jesus is an important thing. I agree.

But what does that mean? Is there a way to determine if love is true and genuine? Considering that 50% of marriages end in divorce, all of which started with professions of undying love, isn't it obvious that claiming to love and actually loving are not always the same thing?

In John 14 Jesus defines for us what it means to really love him. Look closely at the language he uses:
  • "if you love me, keep my commandments" (v.15)
  • "whoever has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me" (v.21)
  • "if anyone loves me he will keep my word" (v.23)
  • "whoever does not love me does not keep my word" (v.24)

John, the one who recorded Jesus' words noted above, apparently paid attention. Later in his life he taught the same message to his congregation. In one letter he said "by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3). In another letter he wrote "and this is love, that we walk according to his commandments" (2 John 6). In the book of Revelation John identifies the saints as those "who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 12:16; see 14:12).

Paul is saying something similar in Romans 1:5. Noting that he had been called to preach Christ to the Gentiles (that is, non-Jews), he defines this ministry as bringing about the "obedience of faith". Real faith in Jesus, or perhaps we should also say real love for Jesus, always involves obedience. A believer doesn't pick and choose which sections of Scripture he will obey. The Christian is one who seeks obedience, desires obedience. 

Notably, Jesus didn't command the disciples to 'go forth and evangelize the world', but rather "go forth and make disciples...teaching them to obey all that I have commanded" (Matt 28:19-20). Jesus isn't looking for people who are attracted to various parts of his message or aspects of his way of life. He is not a spiritual buffet where we leave behind what we do not find palatable.

He demands to be Lord, Savior, God, Leader, and Master.

Are you obeying Jesus in regards to how you are speaking about others?
Are you obeying him in regards to your sexuality?
What about your marriage?
Your speech?
Your anger?
Your money?

Believe it or not, to be a genuine follower of Christ requires that we actually follow him.

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