In the next few weeks, Lianna will be taking Of Larks through a series on coming into rest in Christ. Today's post is the first in a four-part series.
Lately, I have observed a hidden obedience in myself. It comes when I have a good desire, a God-honoring desire for something to be accomplished in an area of ministry. Yet, I begin obeying that desire instead of God. I keep checking-in with it—what am I doing to further the ministry, and how can I pray for it to be established? I feed the desire with my obedience, thinking this to be right. But really, no desire—even a God-honoring one—merits itself my obedience. So instead, the desire grows, fed by the nourishment of my obedience, to become menacing.
Soon, my fidelity to establishing this good desire for ministry becomes the basis upon which I glorify God or not, according to my heart. A reality that confronts me as I make the furtherance of a ministry my basis of obedience to the Lord is that I am not sovereign over the establishment of that ministry; faithfulness to seeing a goal accomplished instead of faithfulness to the Lord means my (supposed) ability to glorify Him is limited by circumstances outside of my control that He might never ultimately bring. Obedience to what is unsure never works well for the heart and is certainly never restful.
Returning to Obedience of Gratitude
I noticed this particular unrest in my heart after reading the book of Galatians. The Christians Paul addressed started adding requirements of the law to their faith (Gal. 3:10; 4:21). In response, Paul posed: “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). Paul yearned for the Galatians’ faith to mature in them (Gal. 4:19), yet they were adding outside requirements to their faith.
God’s salvation is about the work of the Son—powerful because of the Person and powerful in me because I am one of His children, among and above whom He will be honored:
“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
This is what God will do—He will be glorified through my life—because this has been predestined. He will be honored above me, demonstrating His great redemption through me. His sacrifice, His foreknowledge, and His predestining me to this salvation of glory—and my faith resting on these—spur grateful obedience.
It’s Not Menacing; It’s Love
Christians are new creations; we get to function according to a new mindset. Obedience comes through having faith in exactly the kind of Savior we have; that faith produces love, which then produces joyful actions. That’s why Paul said that what counts is “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6), or as he later expressed, “a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).
Through this gospel-originating love, I am able to serve others in faith (Gal. 5:13). In fidelity to Christ I can serve, rather than in obedience to my desire for a ministry to be furthered. And when I am checking-in with Him constantly as my basis, the work is not menacing at all; it’s love.
It wasn’t long ago that I heard my heart voicing concerns for more rest. Jesus makes no exceptions. The burden that He came to give us is one of ease (Matt. 11:29) because it rests on Him, His work, and His sure plans to be glorified in us (Matt. 11:30). He is my basis, and He is really good—why would I ever want to change the source of my obedience away from Christ and His truth? One of the most important questions I am learning to ask myself is, “what am I obeying?” Or as Paul wrote, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Gal. 5:7).
Boast and Faith
Paul writes that his only boast was in the cross of Christ: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). I thought I was on-track for living by this too—not boasting except for in the cross of Christ—because I have wanted to honor Him with this ministry desire, and still believe that if it were to be established it truly would honor Him. Even still, I have been deceived, and need to return my obedience to its rightful Source and Recipient.
I am learning to ask: Is my obedience, my will, boasting in Christ alone? Am I following His leading in faith, while seeing the establishment of ministry as His, who is all-wise and only-sovereign? Am I yielding my will to only Him—not to earthly goals—because I am crucified to the world? Will I stay in faith-filled, joyful personal accountability to Him through the restful truth of His astoundingly finished work on the cross for me—not accountability, ultimately, to others or to my self-determined standards?
If I have faith in Jesus Christ, and believe in His cross, and in His plans for this world, then I know that obedience to anything else, any desire—no matter how good or well-founded—is empty and vain. By believing in His cross, in His finished work, I know that I need not seek to please Him through any other means than what flows through the gift of faith. By believing in His plans for this world, I know that He is sovereign and good to establish any and every God-honoring ministry that He desires to exist for His glory. This faith—how restful. In faith, Lord, let me follow and obey.