Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Long Obedience

On Thursdays, I’ve been sharing a little bit of what I have been learning as I read through 1 John. 

John has been writing to the believers in Asia Minor, where he served at one time.  He has talked about the message that he proclaimed to them.  He has presented two camps that a person can choose to walk in—darkness apart from God or light with God.  He has talked about sin and forgiveness that comes from Christ, and the way Jesus is our advocate before the Father.

He now begins to talk about love:

“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.   Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”  1 John 2:3-6 TNIV
It is helpful to understand the meaning of the word “know” in this passage. 

In Greek, the word is ginōskō. 

It means “to be taking in knowledge, to come to understand completely.”  On a deeper level it signifies “a relation between the person knowing and the object known.”  That which is known is valued.  It is also used to convey the idea of connection between a husband and wife (VINES).

When you see "know" here, think relationship and intimacy.

So, if we have a relationship with God, one of value or intimate connection, “we keep his commands.”  And those who say they know him, “but do not do what he commands are liars and the truth is not in them” (v.4).

Does this sound familiar to you?  It does to me. 

Take a look back at John’s language in 1 John 1:5-7.  It is very similar, isn’t it? 

The language contrasts truth and lies.  Here, it does the same. 

The one whose actions match what he says tells the truth.  The one whose actions are inconsistent with what he says is a liar.

If we know God, we keep His commands. 

It sounds so simple.  

Too often, I don’t.  Yet, this is the goal.

I want to live consistent.  I want to live truthful.  I want to live obedient, because it is living in this way that “love for God is truly made complete” in us (v.5).

When I first read this verse, it kept rattling around in my head for days.  It made me consider what obedience looked like moment by moment.  It also kept me praying that God would make His love complete in me.  There was an awareness that what I did mattered.  The choices I made mattered.  They mattered, because they said something about who I was and where my allegiance really was.

There is a post of Shaun Groves’ I read awhile back that quoted from Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  The title of the book captured my attention. 

A long obedience in the same direction, isn’t that what we are called to? 

Isn’t that what John is describing here?

And isn’t this what Jesus did?  He kept God’s commands.  He lived obedient.  He lived a long obedience in the same direction.

Is it any wonder, then, that John would point to Christ as our example?  “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (v. 6).

Not only is Jesus, God.  He lived, on earth, as man showing us how to live in relationship with God.

He lived obedient. 

And when we live obedient, love for God is truly made complete in us. 

Isn’t that something?  Love is made complete through obedience. 

Yet, let’s be honest, obedience can be difficult. 

It is hard to choose the right thing when what you really want is something different.  Yet, when we’re authentic about how we’re feeling, I think that we can trust that God is doing something in us when we do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it.

In Shaun Groves’ post, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, he shares this Eugene Peterson quote:

 We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting.”
This life of discipleship takes diligent discipline.

As we persevere we can trust that in our obedience “God’s love is truly taking root and filling us” (1 John 2:5, my adaptation of the Voice). 

And for that we can give thanks. 

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we live obedient to His commands, whether they be from the words of the Bible or the ones from the Holy Spirit.  May we trust that in living obedient His love is taking root in us and filling us to overflowing.  May we discover that we follow in the steps of Jesus becoming more like him each day as we live a long obedience in the same direction.

Jessica :)

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