What About Disobedience?

I am having a blessed time moving through the heartland this week. I was in Kansas City over the weekend with a broad smattering of different believers talking about this journey. I met some incredible people and hope I was helpful in encouraging others on this journey of living more deeply in the life of God every day. He has provided us an incredible life in him and we often trade that way for simply keeping religious rituals and trying meet the expectations of others who think that being a good Christian means that we keep certain rules instead of knowing God intimately.

Catching up on some email today, I got a great question from someone in Japan that I get asked a lot:

I don’t *think* God wants us to live under the favor line, but where does “obedience” fall into a favor-line-free relationship? In the Bible, God is shown as one who punishes disobedience among His people, Ananias and Sapphira is a New Testament image, and in Deuteronomy He certainly seems to warn His people that He’ll destroy them if they don’t obey Him in certain areas like shunning idolatry. Although He loves us, He still *seems* to be a Father who punishes disobedience. Can you shed some light here? I’d appreciate it.

I think my response to him might also be helpful for many others who struggle with this same issue. Here’s what I wrote: As to your question, I don’t know that I can do it justice in an email. Unfortunately this is a poor medium for sorting out such theological intricacies. Suffice it to say that Romans 8:15 makes clear that the God who in the Old Testament demanded our obedience under threat of punishment, has now in Christ sought to win our obedience through engaging us by his love and affection. God has not changed, but his ability to deal with our sin at the cross changes the way he relates to us. Now he is not our terrifying judge, but our loving Abba… And when I learn to live in that love I will find myself following him freely—the righteousness that trust produces—far more than fear would ever take me.

Read Hebrews 3 and 4 carefully and you will see that the problem in the Old Testament was never disobedience, it was the unbelief that caused the disobedience. Disobedience was only the symptom; unbelief was the disease. As Father wins us to himself through is love, our trust in him as our Father will grow. As our trust in Father grows, our sin gets displaced and we find ourselves truly living in the righteousness that comes from faith. People who live this way risk far greater obediences than those who are just afraid of being punished.

Does God punish us today? Not in the way most people think of it. Hebrews says he disciplines us, which means to train us to follow his ways. This training can be hard at times and even painful, but its purpose is not to punish us for doing wrong, but to help us learn how to live in the world as Jesus did, free from the tyranny self so that we could do what Father wants instead of being seduced by our own indulgences.

I guess the best way to say it is that the New Testament doesn’t change the goal of bringing us into God’s holiness, but it certainly changes the process. He always knew that his love being made real in us through the work of the cross, would change us far more deeply and far more completely than the law and its punishments ever could.

I know that may sound impossible for someone who has never tasted of this incredible process. The rules look far safer, but they are not. God has superseded them with a much better way to actually lead us into his life and our transformation from the bondage of sin…

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14 Comments
  1. Diane April 25, 2007 at 6:10 am

    “God has not changed, but his ability to deal with our sin at the cross changes the way he relates to us.”

    Based on what’s said in Hebrews about unbelief being the problem, I think unbelief is the sin that God deals with through the cross and resurrection. That revelation of his love and how he overcomes evil changes our mind about him punishing us and gives us the ability to better understand his discipline, which changes our relationship with him.
    Diane

  2. Diane April 25, 2007 at 9:10 am

    “God has not changed, but his ability to deal with our sin at the cross changes the way he relates to us.”

    Based on what’s said in Hebrews about unbelief being the problem, I think unbelief is the sin that God deals with through the cross and resurrection. That revelation of his love and how he overcomes evil changes our mind about him punishing us and gives us the ability to better understand his discipline, which changes our relationship with him.
    Diane

  3. SILAS April 25, 2007 at 9:38 am

    You are right Wayne! Bottom line is it’s really all about love. Something that cannot be found in the law.

  4. Stephen April 25, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Your excellent post begs the question for a different topic…

    “What about unbelief?”

    You said, “As our trust in Father grows, our sin gets displaced and we find ourselves truly living in the righteousness that comes from faith.” I agree with every word, but you’ve just drawn from the top of a well that runs much deeper. (There’s a death a little deeper down that people on the “journey” don’t seem to mention much, and a resurrection life a little deeper still that only gets mentioned in passing when we try to bring it to the surface. It’s not about a changed life, it’s about an exchanged life. And that’s serious business. A journey with casualties).

    Perhaps we unwittingly run to obedience because in a strange way obedience is easy (yet impossible), and belief is hard (yet possible only by grace). The older I get the more I see that belief is everything, and yet I also see that we do not give belief its proper place. What I’m about to say in my next sentence may not seem to relate, but it does… I praise God for your sharing with others that there is GOOD NEWS, and the reason we are to “come unto him” is not because it’s the Christian thing to do, but because the GOOD NEWS is simply THAT GOOD. When we get to heaven we will no longer see dimly but clearly that that GOOD NEWS in staggering, mind-blowing abundance was right in front of us the whole time in ways we never imagined because we were to busy walking by sight.

    And yet each day it’s this very GOOD NEWS, which I understand in my head better than most, that, when it comes right down to it, I fail to believe. That doesn’t mean I have thoughts of unbelief. It means somewhere deeper down I betray what I “believe”. If I truly believed that the Father loves me like I “know” he does, there would be no occassion to turn and seek my own way. Which at some level I do every day. My trust that He has me completely goes far, but only so far.

    Believe it or not I don’t mean to paint a grim picture here. Man’s wisdom will never convey the solution, and that’s ok. The passage that says “Lord, help my unbelief” contains a great mystery. It all makes the term “believer”, the way we carelessly toss it about, sometimes seem very strange in my eyes. We speak of faith as though it were a smorgasboard, while our Lord describes it as a mustard seed.

    As an aside in closing, I noticed today that the ShackBook site now as a short description of the author’s journey, the last of which hit me as profound:

    “For me, everything in my life that matters, is perfect!”

    Wow, can’t wait to read the book.

  5. SILAS April 25, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    You are right Wayne! Bottom line is it’s really all about love. Something that cannot be found in the law.

  6. Stephen April 25, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Your excellent post begs the question for a different topic…

    “What about unbelief?”

    You said, “As our trust in Father grows, our sin gets displaced and we find ourselves truly living in the righteousness that comes from faith.” I agree with every word, but you’ve just drawn from the top of a well that runs much deeper. (There’s a death a little deeper down that people on the “journey” don’t seem to mention much, and a resurrection life a little deeper still that only gets mentioned in passing when we try to bring it to the surface. It’s not about a changed life, it’s about an exchanged life. And that’s serious business. A journey with casualties).

    Perhaps we unwittingly run to obedience because in a strange way obedience is easy (yet impossible), and belief is hard (yet possible only by grace). The older I get the more I see that belief is everything, and yet I also see that we do not give belief its proper place. What I’m about to say in my next sentence may not seem to relate, but it does… I praise God for your sharing with others that there is GOOD NEWS, and the reason we are to “come unto him” is not because it’s the Christian thing to do, but because the GOOD NEWS is simply THAT GOOD. When we get to heaven we will no longer see dimly but clearly that that GOOD NEWS in staggering, mind-blowing abundance was right in front of us the whole time in ways we never imagined because we were to busy walking by sight.

    And yet each day it’s this very GOOD NEWS, which I understand in my head better than most, that, when it comes right down to it, I fail to believe. That doesn’t mean I have thoughts of unbelief. It means somewhere deeper down I betray what I “believe”. If I truly believed that the Father loves me like I “know” he does, there would be no occassion to turn and seek my own way. Which at some level I do every day. My trust that He has me completely goes far, but only so far.

    Believe it or not I don’t mean to paint a grim picture here. Man’s wisdom will never convey the solution, and that’s ok. The passage that says “Lord, help my unbelief” contains a great mystery. It all makes the term “believer”, the way we carelessly toss it about, sometimes seem very strange in my eyes. We speak of faith as though it were a smorgasboard, while our Lord describes it as a mustard seed.

    As an aside in closing, I noticed today that the ShackBook site now as a short description of the author’s journey, the last of which hit me as profound:

    “For me, everything in my life that matters, is perfect!”

    Wow, can’t wait to read the book.

  7. Andy April 26, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Now I’m curious about who in Japan. I know a few people here who it could be, but it would be great to connect with others.

  8. Andy April 26, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Now I’m curious about who in Japan. I know a few people here who it could be, but it would be great to connect with others.

  9. Rick April 26, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks Wayne for writing about this because it is something that I have struggled with in the past as well. And though God has helped me to see things differently, the term ‘obedience’ still conjures up the image of my own father, who had my obedience out of fear, but he never had my heart. In fact I prayed on many occasions that God would take me from that home (which never happened … except in the natural course of time). So I think you are right when you say that obedience should be a fruit of the relationship, rather than a requirement.

  10. Rick April 26, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks Wayne for writing about this because it is something that I have struggled with in the past as well. And though God has helped me to see things differently, the term ‘obedience’ still conjures up the image of my own father, who had my obedience out of fear, but he never had my heart. In fact I prayed on many occasions that God would take me from that home (which never happened … except in the natural course of time). So I think you are right when you say that obedience should be a fruit of the relationship, rather than a requirement.

  11. Mike Rea May 2, 2007 at 7:07 am

    Wayne,
    This is such a great and timely word. Thanks. As I have listened to many people quote OT prophets about things going on today I have often said we have to take those words in light of the cross. Our relationship with God has changed drastically and we can really miss it if we don’t look at those prophetic words thru the lens of the cross.

    Even as I have said that I often times recognize that I don’t really understand what it is I am trying to communicate. What you have written here really nails it for me. Your words begin to bring some light to what has been stirring in me.

    I need to go soak my head in this email for a while.

    Thanks again.

  12. Mike Rea May 2, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Wayne,
    This is such a great and timely word. Thanks. As I have listened to many people quote OT prophets about things going on today I have often said we have to take those words in light of the cross. Our relationship with God has changed drastically and we can really miss it if we don’t look at those prophetic words thru the lens of the cross.

    Even as I have said that I often times recognize that I don’t really understand what it is I am trying to communicate. What you have written here really nails it for me. Your words begin to bring some light to what has been stirring in me.

    I need to go soak my head in this email for a while.

    Thanks again.

  13. glen tschirgi May 8, 2007 at 5:04 am

    Getting to the party a little late here, it seems, but your post is timely for me (too).

    In an attempt to obey a “nudge” from the Father that I should accompany my wife to the local “semi-mega” church here in Maryland, i heard a guest pastor give a message that really weighed my heart down for a day or two. And this is someone whom I have listened to in the past who I really have liked and appreciated in my pre-Red Pill days. He spoke about the verses in Ephesians 5:25-33, focusing on a husband’s responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves the church. What struck me was the way he phrased these verses as “commandments.” As I understand it, the only “commandment” laid down in the new testament is Jesus’ command that we love one another as Christ has loved us. But for this paster (and i am sure most of the audience), the NT is chock full of commandments that we have to sweat and fret about obeying. And we need to be sure that we confess any area where we are not toeing the line so that we can stay in fellowship with God. Your post, Wayne, is a timely reminder that the entire OT system of obedience to commandments in exchange for favor from the Sovereign Lord has been replaced by a loving Father who will grow our obedience as he teaches us to trust him more each day.

  14. glen tschirgi May 8, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Getting to the party a little late here, it seems, but your post is timely for me (too).

    In an attempt to obey a “nudge” from the Father that I should accompany my wife to the local “semi-mega” church here in Maryland, i heard a guest pastor give a message that really weighed my heart down for a day or two. And this is someone whom I have listened to in the past who I really have liked and appreciated in my pre-Red Pill days. He spoke about the verses in Ephesians 5:25-33, focusing on a husband’s responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves the church. What struck me was the way he phrased these verses as “commandments.” As I understand it, the only “commandment” laid down in the new testament is Jesus’ command that we love one another as Christ has loved us. But for this paster (and i am sure most of the audience), the NT is chock full of commandments that we have to sweat and fret about obeying. And we need to be sure that we confess any area where we are not toeing the line so that we can stay in fellowship with God. Your post, Wayne, is a timely reminder that the entire OT system of obedience to commandments in exchange for favor from the Sovereign Lord has been replaced by a loving Father who will grow our obedience as he teaches us to trust him more each day.

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