Category Archives: Obedience

Serve everyone

Ephesians 6:9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Just as with the preceding verses to this one, people have often used this to justify the notion that the Bible upholds slavery. No! Read it again.

This passage isn’t saying “own slaves.” The fact is that many people during the time period in which this letter was written by Paul found themselves slaves for whatever reasons. It could have been because they had a debt that they couldn’t pay or that they couldn’t afford to take of their child so they sold them into slavery. No matter what the reason, there were people who were the servants of other people.

That’s not the point of Paul’s message, though. He’s not speaking on the right to own a slave or on the reasons for being one. He’s talking about loving and respecting everyone, regardless of your standing of your position. If you’re under someone’s authority (and we all are), obey them and respect them. If you’re over someone in a position of authority, show them respect and care for them, don’t mistreat them.

In the eyes of God, there is no distinction between the master and the servant. He is the Master over all. That means no one is in a position to treat others badly, especially if they call themselves a child of God. Most people don’t have servants or slaves today, but we do have bosses and subordinates. Regardless of which of those we’re dealing with, the command is the same: treat them with the love of God and with respect.

Slave or free, obey

Ephesians 6:5-8  Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

As with so many things in the Bible, people tend to focus on the wrong area of this passage and pull it out of context. It’s been used as an example to make the case that the Bible upholds the notion of slavery, or at least doesn’t speak against it, thus showing that God is not loving. That’s not the truth, and it’s not the point either.

Paul is not pointing out that people should own other people as slaves here, but rather he’s making the point that those who are slaves to others should obey them as a way of pointing to God. One could just as easily say, “employees, obey your employers that they may see God and worship Him.”

Everyone has someone in authority over them. Those who belong to Christ are to obey whomever that may be, as a way of obeying God himself. Children obey their parents, workers obey their boss, government officials obey the voters who elected them (Just kidding, that last one doesn’t happen).

Whether you’re slave or free, you’re called to work as though working for the Lord, as though He himself instilled the power and authority held by others over you. Obey God. He says to honor those over you.

A father’s instruction

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is the primary responsibility of a parent? How about of a father? What about a Christian father? If you said to raise kids who obey the law and treat others kindly, that’s just part of the equation.

Raising moral kids isn’t enough to sustain them through the circumstances of life. Only a strong foundation in the Word of God, in the gospel, can carry them through. It’s the job of a father (and a mother) to parent in light of the gospel.

If our kids comply to everything we instruct them to do, but have no understanding of God’s grace and mercy, have no idea about the sacrifice He was willing to go through for our reconciliation, then it’s wasted effort in parenting. Compliance to rules does not mean a transformed heart.

Fathers, don’t just expect your kids to do what you say. Don’t use your authority to bend their will to yours. Utilize the authority you’ve been given by the Father to raise them up to know Him. They’ll know Him because you show His nature and character to them by the way you treat them.

If you’re not a parent, this notion still applies for you.  There’s someone, somewhere who’s under your authority, however little it may be. The way in which you use that authority, the way in which you instruct and lead will either draw them closer to God or push them away from Him. Lead wisely and be a follower of the Holy Spirit as He guides you.

Honor your father and mother

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Marriage isn’t the only relationship the Bible speaks of, though it may seem that way in books like Ephesians where so much is said to husbands and wives. The relationship between children and their parents is an even more obvious depiction of the relationship between God and His people than marriage is.

Obedience, be it our obedience to God or the obedience of children to parents, is never just about compliance for the sake of compliance. God didn’t give us rules to follow just because He likes having His rules followed any more than our parents did that. There are reasons for the rules of the house; right? I’m always telling my kids that i don’t give them rules because I’m mean; I do it because I care about them and don’t want to see them get hurt. When they don’t obey, the result is often a negative experience. So it is in our disobedience to God.

The Law cannot be fully obeyed perfectly and we’ll never earn our way into heaven by keeping it. That’s not its purpose, though. We can thrive better, and live much more fulfilling lives if we stick to what the Lord has laid before us as right, avoiding what He says is wrong. It’s not about a dictator forcing anything on us. It’s about a loving Father who cares about His kids and wants to see them live well. His plan for us is better than our own plans.

How are you doing at obeying? Do you even see the need to do so?

Love like a man

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Continuing with the idea that marriage is intended to depict an earthly example of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Church, the role of the husband is a heavy one. Men are called to love their brides as Christ loves the people of God.

Many of us gloss this over and simply boil it down to an instruction to “love your wife” without grasping the depth of the statement. Husbands, love your wives, AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER. How far are you willing to go in putting your wife before yourself, men? Have you given your life for her? This isn’t just a literal laying down of one’s physical life for another, it’s also a laying down of one’s own desires for the sake of another. If you’re keeping score at home, that means husbands AND wives are called to submission.

Furthermore, husbands bear the weight of responsibility for their wives’ spiritual state. Just as Christ overlooks the well-being of His bride, that she might be presented without spot or blemish, so too are husbands to look after their wives and assist in any area where they may need to grow. Husbands are to lead their wives in spiritual matters and failure to do so is disobedience.

 

Wives and husbands, Christ and the Church

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Of all passages in the Bible, this one ranks among the top in its controversy quotient. Many read what Paul wrote to the Ephesians and see something sexist or misogynistic, but it’s anything but. We have to read it in its larger context though.

The problem with so much of our biblical interpretation is that we see a verse, pulled out of its context, and we try to interpret it on its own. This always leads to misunderstanding of the real idea. Such is the case in Ephesians.

The main focus of Paul is not that women should submit to men, or that men should rule over women, but that Jesus Christ is head of the Church. Marriage is an earthly picture of a heavenly concept. In it, men and women (in their sinful, broken way) depict the relationship that Jesus has to His bride, the Church. That’s all of us, by the way, the family of God who are called by His name.

Jesus is powerful and has unlimited authority, but He is also submissive to the Father. In a marriage relationship, both authority and submission are supposed to be present to show that relationship between Him and us. Both qualities exist in Christ and neither of them is inferior or superior to the other.

God’s Word points out both here and in other places that it’s not a husband’s role to lord his authority over his wife, nor is woman commanded to submit to all men. Submission doesn’t mean a wife has no opinion or that she is inferior to her husband. On the contrary, submission quite often means the wife (who is her husband’s equal) carries the great responsibility of being his confidant and greatest advisor. Just as a husband should physically protect his wife, a wife’s submission to her husband protects him as well. It’s the completion of a relationship – two halves equaling a whole.

What path will you choose?

Genesis 24:57-58 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.”

Sometimes in life we’re given a choice.  A path is laid out before us and we have the choice either to walk down that path or to take our own path.  Which way we decide to go can change our destiny and affect many others.

We often hear “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” because those men were called by God and given a promise.  But the very same God also called Rebekah to take part in fulfilling the covenant He made.  When Abraham’s servant left Canaan to find a wife for Isaac, he found Rebekah because he had prayed for God to show him which young woman had been chosen.  Yet the choice of whether to go with the servant was left up to Rebekah.  Though her family and the servant believed God’s hand was in all of this, they let her decide.

With three simple words, “I will go,” Rebekah made a choice that would have a profound impact.  It was through Rebekah that Jacob and Esau would be born, two men who were critical to the plans God had.  Her obedience to God was more than she could have even known.

What path has been laid before you?  What way has God called you to follow in obedience?  What might happen if you choose His way over your own?  There’s only one way to find out.

 

This devotional is derived from a sermon message by Matthew J. Cochran.  Listen to the sermon here:

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Want and Need

What we want isn’t always what we need and what we need isn’t always what we want. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons that God teaches us in our lives as we struggle with purpose and meaning, searching for a reason, wondering to ourselves if He is even listening. Sometimes we just, well we have this image in our head of the way things should be or ought to be and it becomes such a prevalent thought that we can’t picture it any other way. Other times it’s that we look around and we can’t seem to understand why it is the way it is when we know it should be different, even if we don’t necessarily know how or why that should be the case.

It’s the question of divine purpose that so often gets to us, that so often weighs us down as we know what we want or how we want it, and yet, as we do, we have a hard time reconciling it to what God knows that we need in our lives. The thing about it is that we’re not even trying to be that terribly difficult, we aren’t trying to make it that much harder, we just want to know why it is the way that it is, we want to know what the plan and the design of it is, and we don’t necessarily get why it has to be the way that it is.

The deepest questions of who we are, and who we need to be, of where we need to be, they aren’t ever questions that come simply or easily. We don’t just become people, we grow into them. Perhaps, along the way or path is changed or altered, it might be that it we are affected, even shaped by the interactions we have with others, sometimes our road is hard, sometimes it is easy, but any way that you look at it, it doesn’t just happen overnight where, one day, we are suddenly who we are at this very moment in our lives. So why would it be any different with a God who knows how we grow, how we evolve as a person, how we learn and we change with time? Why would He make the answers clear to us in a way that He knows would be unclear because it was given without any thought or consideration to who we are and how we became that person?

What God promises us isn’t an easy path, nor a simple one in any way but to our salvation through Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:8) What He does promise is that, through the fires and the floods, through the dangers and the perils, He will be there for us and with us, (Isaiah 43:2) never leaving us or abandoning us. (Joshua 1:5) What He tells us is that what we need, in those times when we question the purpose and the plan of it is all, is trust and patience, because those who trust in the Lord will find His goodness (2 Samuel 7:8) and those who are patient with Him will find their strength and purpose, uplifted in His love. (Isaiah 40:31) This is the wondrous miracle of His hand in our lives even as we find ourselves questioning where He is when we want the most.

Remember, it is not our wanting that exalts us, it is God, our Heavenly Father, and God alone who does that. (Psalm 46:10) It could be, at that moment, we don’t quite get how He is exalting us, but it’s only when we put those feelings behind us, when we let go of them, in the blessings of His hope that He lets us be of one mind with Him, (Romans 15:5) to see as He sees, making more and more apparent the glorious nature of the lessons He is teaching us to become as we need to be as He makes all things possible to us through the power of His grace made perfect in Christ through us. (Philippians 4:13)

Take a moment today, and look at your life, look at what you are struggling with, what is challenging you. Take the time to look at what you have laid at God’s feet, the burdens you still feel weighing on you, and instead of mistaking want for need and putting what you want out there, say to God, “Lord, show me as You will, teach me as You must so I can be as You intend for me to be.” Let go not just of the struggles but of the wants and the desires you have in them, and make it about what the Lord, your blessed Father, intends for you and let Him, in trust, patience and hope, guide you to where you must be.

It is only then that you will find the true path to the peace you are seeking, the only way you will find the true reconciliation of your will with God’s to the glorious ends of the love He has for you as He makes it about you rather than you making it about yourself.

Finding, Being Who We Need to Be

For as hard and as frightening as it may be at times for us to remember, there are times when we have to look at life and consider not just who we are but who we are meant to be, who we want to be and need to be, so we can be more and do more. For as challenging and as difficult as it might end up being, there are times when we have to remember that just because something didn’t work out the way that we had wanted it to, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story or the end of a dream, it’s the start of a new chapter and a new beginning for us. Sometimes, it’s a matter of considering where we are and where we need to be, finding the path we need to be on so we can be more and do more with ourselves.

There’s a lesson from our blessed Savior hat I often think of when I think about this. Having told the Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant (Luke 12:35-40) Jesus would end the story by saying, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” As Peter would press Him a little further He’d dig a little deeper before finally saying “But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

You see, none of us know when the end is coming, none of us know when our time will come. When Christ speaks here He is talking about the end of days that will be ushered in by His inevitable and triumphant return, a time that will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2) Yet, the truth is even without looking and waiting for the end, our time our short and precious, measured in minutes and days, weeks and months, years and decades that can be over in the blink of an eye, that can be over before we have even had the chance to really live. Just as none know the day and time of those final moments except God, (Matthew 24:35) so the same can be said of our lives and our time.

This is what makes the gift of life that much more precious, and why our use of our talents and our abilities, given as a gift from God, are that much more important. It’s why Christ Himself uses the language that He uses in telling us that much is demanded from us, that much will be asked from us. It’s so that we can understand that in our lives, we need to make the best use of our time, we need to make the best use of our gifts to be who God intends for us to be, understanding that there are going to be challenges and difficulties, that there are going to be moments when things don’t work out the way we want them to be, but that in all of these things we are meant to be honed and strengthened to do more and be more.

God, in His promises, and Christ, in lesson, do not guarantee that everything is going to work out the way that you hope. Sometimes it works out the exact opposite, giving you something that you hadn’t been expecting. Maybe when it does, it hurts or it creates a sense of hardship within you as you struggle to find the purpose and the meaning of it all. Perhaps it might even leave you wondering why you even bothered trying in the first place, looking around and thinking to yourself it wasn’t supposed to be this way. What God does offer, and what He does tell us is that, with time, He will let it make sense if we have faith, abiding in hope and trust. (James 1:5-6) What He does promise is that He has a plan for us, even when we can’t necessarily see it, so long as we use our gifts and our abilities accordingly to become the people we are intended to be and need to be.

With that He wants us to know that, in life, we are to use our gifts, our talents and our abilities to take chances, and to take risks, to push ourselves past our comfort zone to become more than we are, and show all that we are capable of. Remember the Parable of the Talents, (Matthew 25:14-30) and how the two servants took what the Master gave them, and invested it. Any time we invest, there is a risk that we are going to perhaps lose, there is a risk that what we have put in may not offer a return or, even worse, give nothing back, not even our original investment. Yet it is better than burying our gifts away, hiding them from the world in a sense of fear and doubt, never willing to do anything with them, because we are too scared. Even if everything is ventured and it seems as nothing is gained we are taught something more about who we are and what we are capable of for the future.

Be strong, and challenge yourself to do more and to be more, to seek out who you want to be and need to be, putting fear and doubt behind you. Know that God has given you what you need to become who you should be. Though the road may be long and wrought with challenges you will get there if you put yourself out there, and you give of yourself, showing that you are willing to make the most of the time that our Heavenly Father has given you.

Let your life be that perpetual challenge to use all that you have been given and everything that you are to show that you will face the world head on. When you do, you will see clearer and your fear and inhibition will melt away, leaving nothing but the strength and the hope, the love and the courage of the Lord giving you the ability to move forward in ways you never thought possible before.

Romans: Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law.  The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders.  What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter?  No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.

Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old.  Instead He gave a new command: to love.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It’s really as simple as that.  You want to obey God? Love.  You want to please Him? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.