Called to Conform

The Obedience of Christ

By Denise M. Kohlmeyer

Called to Conform
An in-depth series on the practical outworkings of Christ-like Conformity

A Messianic Mindset
A Heart Like Jesus
The Obedience of Christ
A Life Poured Out
Conflict and Suffering
Final Thoughts

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me." John 6:38
From the cradle to the cross, Jesus' entire life was spent in doing the will of His Father. He came to earth with one mission in mind: that of fulfilling His Father's desire of seeking out and saving the lost, of reconciling them back to God and restoring the relationship that had been broken back in the Garden.

Only once did Jesus waver in His obedience (in one of His most human moments), when He beseeched God to "let this cup pass from Me" (Matthew 26:39). Emotions aside, though, He remained committed, despite the overwhelming cost, to obeying His Father. Even unto death.

Jesus obeyed God, His Father, not out of outward duty, but from inward desire. Out of love. Out of devotion. Out of a desire to please His Parent (John 8:29). Those attitudes manifested themselves in a life of sacrificial obedience. Though fully God and having full authority Himself over all things, Jesus had the humility of mind and heart to voluntarily put Himself under another more powerful Authority and fulfill His sacred service.
The Creator of the universe, who called the galaxies into being by the authority of His voice, illustrates by His own life the need to be under authority. (Don Landis, Answers in Genesis, "Christ's Obedience to the Authority of God").
It is the same for us. Once we come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and are adopted into the Family of God, we automatically come under the authority of a more powerful Authority: God, our Father. Obedience, just like love, becomes one of the distinguishing traits of God's children, and an outward characteristic that lets the unsaved world know that we are His disciples.

Obedience is not a popular word these days, especially given the Greek definition: hupakoé, which means "submissiveness, compliance; submission to what is heard; as a response to someone speaking; refers both to an earthly voice and the Lord's voice."

Given this definition, though, obedience really has a personal and relational aspect. Parent to child. Redeemer to redeemed. Therefore, when our Father speaks to us through His Word, His still small voice, we, His children, should listen, then comply — out of love and a desire to please.

And it is in our obedience, that we most resemble Jesus Christ, when our conformity is clearly evident.

Obedience Is Learned

The curious thing about obedience, though, is that it is something we must learn, and then be intentional about. Obedience is not our natural inclination, even after we are saved. Sometimes, we still want what we want! Obedience, honestly, is something we grow in, over time, through life experiences and personal knowledge. In fact, the word "learn" in Greek (manthanó, "to ascertain") is akin to the word "disciple," (mathetés, "a learner, pupil").

A disciple of Jesus Christ is a pupil of His life and, therefore, His obedience. Interestingly, obedience was something Jesus had to learn too: "although He was a son, learned obedience through what He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).

How much more so for us!

Obedience Through Suffering

But how and why Jesus, who was sinless and perfect while on this earth, did He "learn" obedience? Through what He suffered, Hebrews tells us.

And that is what baffles most people. However, if we give it any thought whatsoever, we know that it is really in the hard, dark times of our lives when we truly learn to obey God, not in the good times.

It was so for Jesus. It will be so for us as well.

Look at the list below of the things Jesus suffered:

Tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11),
• Hated by those who were jealous and suspicious of Him (Matthew 12:14),
• Enduring insults (1 Peter 2:23),
• Grief over the loss of a friend (John 11:35),
• Distress, "troubled in spirit" (John 13:21; Mark 3:5),
• Betrayal (Matthew 26:25, Luke 22:48),
• Denied by a close friend (John 18:15-27),
• Abandonment (Matthew 26:56),
• Unjustly accused (Luke 23:2-3),
• Being beaten (John 19:1-3),
• Mocked/made fun of (John 19:3),
• Public humiliation (John 19:17),
• A criminal's death for the sins of the world (John 19:18).

Through these experiences, Jesus learned patience, perseverance, faithfulness, compassion, not reviling in return, contentment, and, yes, even joy. And many other things. Suffering and learning obedience go hand-in-hand, my dear friends. And it is why, I believe, Jesus is able to sympathize so deeply, so closely, so personally with our own sufferings, struggles and trials; and it is why He is able, as our superior High Priest, to help us obey God through them all (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Obedience brings Blessings

In days of old, full obedience brought untold blessings to the Israelites: fertility of the womb and crops, victory over their enemies, abundance of food, being established as God's holy people and treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6; 28:1-14).

The Israelites enjoyed many blessings from God when they fully obeyed Him. However, the opposite was true too when they disobeyed. Then, they knew His wrath.

Blessings (makários, "happy, to be envied; properly, when God extends His benefits and advantages) are those benefits and advantages that are only available to those who are in Christ, who have confessed their sins and have appropriated God's free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sometimes our blessings are tangible ones, like with the Israelites; other times they are intangible, but just as important: salvation, sanctification, justification, peace, contentment, joy, love, etc.

Some of our blessings are for the here and now (family, jobs, homes, etc.), others await us in the hereafter: the crown of life, the Tree of Life, eternal existence, rewards, banquets, and the most important blessing of all, that of being in God's presence (Revelation 22:14).

Obedience is a state of mind, a desire of the heart. We have to want to obey, not merely for the blessings, or out of compulsion, but out of love, devotion, and a desire to please the One who saved us from our sins and gave us every blessing imaginable and innumerable (Ephesians 1:3).

For more on obedience, please see "Why is obedience to God important?"

Image Credit: WenPhotos; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Jesus-Christ

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Published on 5-15-17