Over the last 15 or so years of being a Christian I’ve observed a recurring trend. When I ask someone how I can be praying for them I often hear about a need to be more faithful with spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, etc). In most of these conversations the believer talks like he/she is a soloist. While they know that spiritual laziness is wrong it seems to be mitigated by the appearance of it being contained and ok. While it is not ideal it is not a big deal. Who are we hurting, after all, when we don’t read our pray? Who suffers when my eyes are glued to Netflix and my Bible gathers dust? What’s the big deal about me not coming to Sunday worship? There is a pervasive downplaying of the overall impact of our obedience and our disobedience.
The bottom-line is that your obedience as a Christian is not just for you. And therefore, you disobedience does not simply impact you.
It’s About God
Our lives function as our own statement of our theology. What we do communicates what we believe. When we say that we love the gospel but don’t forgive people or exercise patience we betray our gospel confession. When we don’t pray we communicate a lack of faith in God, a diminished view of his goodness, and an inflated view of ourselves. It is true that our theology determines our lives. But it is also true that our lives communicate our true theology. Therefore, how we order our lives communicates what we believe about God. Is he truly of infinite worth? Is it true that in his presence there is fullness of joy? Do we really believe the hymns and worship songs we sing on Sundays? God’s glory doesn’t go up or down because we honor him. He is not like an iPhone coming off the charger that needs to be recharged. He is infinitely glorious in his person. Theologians call this his intrinsic glory. However, when we respond to God with worshipful obedience we are giving glory to him. That is we are ascribing glory to the One who is infinitely glorious. We are saying that this is true! And to disobey is to say it is false. You can’t blunt the edge off of this. How we live has vertical implications.
It’s About Your Church
There are also horizontal implications. The Christian life is intended to be lived our in community or in the context of other believers. We are to forgive, forebear, exercise patience, love, and care for one another even as we teach, admonish, exhort, and serve one another (cf. Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:1-2; Col. 1:28-29, Col. 3:16; Heb. 3:13; etc). What is the impact of you not reading your Bible, skipping out on the preaching of the Word, dozing off during the Lord’s Table, or neglecting prayer? Your church family will suffer. They need you to be growing in grace and ready to serve them with the Word (Eph. 4:15). Let me give you an example. In our church we recently had a member go home to be with the Lord. He was a younger guy and it was hard for everyone. It was especially hard for those close to him. Over the days ahead I saw dozens of people step up to serve the family. People were speaking the Word of God, bringing gospel encouragement, providing a shoulder to cry upon, crying themselves, cooking food, and opening their homes (just to name a few). Now, here is the question: How did that happen? You don’t just roll out of the rack and say, “I know how to give solid biblical counsel to a grieving brother or sister today.” You don’t get zapped by the Holy Spirit to all of a sudden have Bible verses filled with meaning and importance. You don’t all of sudden have an impulse to pray. God had been working this into peoples lives for days, weeks, months, and in some cases years (Phil 2:12-13). It was the daily discipline of obedience in the life of the Christian, compounded by the interest of time and the Holy Spirit’s work, that brought about the equipping to serve. How dare we shrink-wrap our Christian life to just be about us. Our obedience is not just for us, it is for our church.
It’s About the World Around You
There is another horizontal implication as well. Our obedience is for the world around us. Did you ever notice that the Apostle Paul exhorts the Philippians to obey God’s Word and then tells them that world around them needs to see that obedience?
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12)
Then we read this:
“that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” (Philippians 2:15)
God means to have us obey him even in the context of a fallen world. The world is broken and twisted (out of joint) and we are to shine as lights in the world. I think he is pointing to the lights in the sky or to stars. What did stars do in the ancient world? They did not have a GPS or GoogleMaps to get around so they had to use the stars. Mariners would find their way home from the stars. So too the Christian is shine as a light. Our lives of obedience are to reflect the way home. As we demonstrate and declare the gospel we are to show the way home to the New City prepared by God. Our obedience—that is our growth in the grace of Christ—is to shine. Perhaps the quote by Luther is appropriate, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”
May God forbid that we slouch into a posture of Christianity that accepts lethargy and mediocrity. There should never be any acceptance of slacking off. To the one who has shrunk-wrapped their Christian experience down to themselves, it is not about you! Consider who God is and respond to him. Look around and see your church family. Consider their need of your obedience. And look around at the world that is hungry and hurting. They need to see the way out, the way home.
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