Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Measuring Obedience

You know the routine: a new year begins and there's a big hoorah about your church's plans for the year. You hear moving testimony, an inspiring lesson, likely about Peter walking on water, and a time for confession and personal revival. On that last point, you might even take a "survey" to "take your spiritual temperature". Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10, how did you do last year in: evangelism, giving, serving, prayer, Bible study? And how would you rate your personal battle against sin: anger, language, lust, pride, selfishness?

But we can't quantify such things. Of sin, we know that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The illustration goes that if you try and jump the Grand Canyon, even if you fall short by only a foot, you meet the same fate as one who only jumped a foot. But on the spiritual disciplines, we also know that we cannot meet all of the Law. That's why we needed a perfect sacrifice to make up for our own imperfections. "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)

So it's not a matter of some scale, some metric, some quantification of holiness. But that doesn't stop us from trying: how long was your quiet time, how much do you give weekly, how many visitors have you had out to church, how many different ways are you involved? We might even have some checklist to mark off the things we do that we believe we should. But because holiness cannot be quantified, we cannot rely on some to-do list. Our motives need to be from the heart.

We need to remind ourselves of the anointing of David: "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b) Consider the example of the early church in Acts 2 and compare with your own checklist.

I read my Bible every day

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching..." (v 42)

I go to church every Sunday

"...to the fellowship" (v 42)

I pray every day

"...and to prayer" (v 42)

I spend time with other believers... sometimes

"All the believers were together..." (v 44)

I tithe

"...and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." (v 44-45)

Did I mention I go to church every Sunday. Sometimes even Wednesdays!

"Every day they continued to meet together" (v 46)

I door knock at least one Saturday a month

"And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

It all starts with that one word at the beginning- being "devoted". That's from the heart. So obedience isn't about what or how much we do as much as how and why we do it.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved... For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:4-5,10)


R. Holloway said...

Great Post. Two other verses come to min:

. . . and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. . . Isaiah 64:6.

. . . I desire mercy not sacrifice . . . Matthew 9:13

Peter P said...

"So obedience isn't about what or how much we do as much as how and why we do it."

That sums it up nicely!

Thanks for joining in with a great post, Frank!

katdish said...

"It all starts with that one word at the beginning- being "devoted". That's from the heart. So obedience isn't about what or how much we do as much as how and why we do it."

Yes. I concur. And Acts 2:42 is among my favorite verses in the bible.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks everyone for your feedback! And thanks again, Peter, for the great Carinval. I guess that makes me a Carney?

Billy Coffey said...

I really enjoyed this, Frank. You're a wise man!

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks Billy. But I can't take all the credit. The part at the end comparing our measures to the Church in Acts 2 came from our youth minister a couple Sunday's back. Now he's a wise man. I've been tempted to share his notes verbatum when he gets the chance to preach Sundays. Good stuff.