Thursday, December 21, 2006

Grounds for Obedience

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it is not just a list of groundless dos and don'ts. In other words, it gives reasons for why we should do certain things and not do others. And let's be honest, God is God and he does not have to give us reasons. He has every right to command as he desires and expect perfect obedience. This is the right of the creator. Therefore, when we see that God does indeed give reasons for his commands, specific commendations for obedience, and specific warnings against disobedience, we ought to see that as a sign of grace and we ought to rejoice in who God is.

Consider, for example, Colossians 3:1-17. Verses 5-11 state the "don'ts," verses 12-17 state the "dos," and verses 1-4 state the grounds for both. Here is the passage in its entirety:

[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

[5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [11] Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

When you reflect carefully on verses 1-4, the rest of this passage just makes so much sense. And I think the end effect of solid grounds like these is that they fuel passion for and joy in obedience. Augustine once said something like, "Lord, command what you will, and enable me to do what you command." One main way God enables obedience is by giving grounds for the same. May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and humble hearts that long to stand on that ground!

Soli Deo Gloria

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