Through Him [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ… Romans 1:5-6

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 16:25-27

As you can see, the New King James Version (my favorite translation) identifies the second phase of the faith process as “obedience to the faith”. Other translations have “obedience of faith”. In either case, Paul is describing a phase of the faith process distinctly different from our  third and final phase, the work of faith.

Obedience to the faith and the work of faith are closing related – even dependent. However, the relationship and dependency of two things does not make them the same thing; and, while it is easier to consider them the same, we must resist the temptation. Our minds are capable of understanding the important differences and will be better off for the effort.

Faith does not empower obedience; faith demands and requires our obedience. It can also be said that obedience must be given to faith for faith to flourish. This begs three significant questions:

  1. If faith does not empower obedience, then what does?
  2. How does obedience meet the requirements and demands of faith?
  3. How does one give their obedience to the faith?

Romans 1:5 (above) gives us the answer to our first question. Obedience to the faith is empowered by God’s grace and His calling (e.g., to be an apostle). As we’ve discussed previously, God’s grace is appropriated by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

God’s calling naturally comes by His word, as well. And so, we discover that God’s grace and calling originate in the hearing of faith – the first phase of the faith process.

In regards to our second question: Obedience ultimately meets faith’s requirements and demands through the work of faith (the subject of our next article).

Here, we seek to discover the answer to our third question: How does one give their obedience to the faith? Or, said another way, how does someone transition from the hearing of faith to that hearing’s perfection in the work of faith? As you might have guessed by now, we do so through a disciplined life.

The Disciplines for Obedience to the Faith

Obedience to the faith is a bridge between the hearing of faith and the work of faith. It serves to move faith from our heart to our feet, hands, and mouth. For that to happen, our mind and brain must be engaged and disciplined. Consequently, the battle with our carnal mind is most intense in this phase of the process.

Forewarned is forearmed. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Our Captain has given us these disciplines as weaponry for the battle.

Repent – This is most likely not the repent you are thinking about. That repent – sorrowfulness, turning from sin, change in behavior (the proverbial “about face”) – are the result of true repentance. When John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter exhorted the crowds to repent, they were simply saying “change your minds” – the literal meaning of the Greek word metanoeō.

Let me encourage you, with that understanding, to go back to John the Baptist’s cry from the wilderness (Matthew 3:2), Jesus’ proclamation regarding the kingdom (Matthew 4:17), and Peter’s response to the crowd’s conviction (Acts 2:38). How does it change your mind?

All that we know repentance to be begins with a change of our mind. This is true for the initial repentance that leads to salvation and every repentance that follows. The process of faith includes an iterative changing of our minds.

With that in mind (pun intended), I would like to suggest two particular changes of mind that will profit us greatly. First, there is our thinking about time. Perhaps the greatest deception perpetrated on the minds of mortals is our limited view of time. We make the most significant decisions in our lives with little to no consideration for the length of time we will live on the other side of our physical death.

For example, our professional lives are guided by the desire for success so we can best enjoy a relatively small period of time – something we call “retirement”. What standard of living do we want in retirement? How do we best create the wealth we need? What profession and job change will get us there quickest? In the meantime, we failed to even ponder the eternal consequences of these questions, much less our answers to them.

The tragic irony of this makes a sobering point. As we have shifted our attention from eternity, our increasing desire for near-term satisfaction has eroded our discipline to save. A relatively small number of Americans have an emergency fund, much less enough saved away to retire when they had hoped.

We want our pleasure now and we are willing to sacrifice our future to get it. That is not what we think; for we have developed a weird talent for ignoring the important and obvious – a more sobering thought when applied to our eternal security. Indeed, we must discipline ourselves toward the opposite direction.

The second change of mind I am suggesting relates to our relationship with God’s creation. Right there, most have immediately limited “God’s creation” to the physical world. We have lost sight of the supernatural. Oh, we nod our heads when we hear someone say, “we are spiritual beings in physical bodies”, but we don’t really think, nor consequently live, in that way.

One of the reasons Jesus hung around this earth for 33 years was to show us what was possible for a son of man who becomes a son of God. Consider a few of the audacious things He said and did.

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Matthew 5:39

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 14:12

Seriously, it makes one want to ask, “What in the world was He thinking?” Well, He wasn’t thinking in the world; everything was considered from a supernatural perspective. And lest we forget, He has sent us out as the Father sent Him [John 20:21].

The discipline of repentance logically begins with an honest assessment of the way we think. It would do us well to ask God, at the beginning of the day, “Where is the error in my thinking?” At night, we should ask, “Father, please show me where my thinking was wrong today.” Specific to the faith process, the question would be something like, “How have I been thinking wrong about the word You have given me?”

It is impossible to adequately convey the impact this discipline can have on our faith journey. When we actively engage ourselves in true repentance, the cleansing and liberating truth of God comes rushing into our minds with His encouragement to change our behavior and with instructions for doing so.

Reckon – As the truth of God presents itself, we must reckon with it. Translated from the Greek word logizomai, reckon means to account a truth of God to be our truth (like balancing a ledger). Paul encourages us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Logizomai is also translated “consider” (Romans 8:18), “thought” (1Corinthians 13:11), and “meditate” (Philippians 4:8).

The English translations do not communicate the decisiveness of logizomai. To reckon a truth of God is to make it as real for me as it is for Him. How do we do this? Here, the English translations are helpful: we think, consider, and meditate on the truth we have been given. It really is that simple.

So how might one discipline themselves in this regard? Here’s a method that has helped me:

  1. Write, on a 3×5 card, the word God has given you during the hearing of faith phase.
  2. Add two or three additional truths you feel are related, including any Bible verses.
  3. Keep your card in a place where you will encounter it multiple times a day. For example, a man might carry the card in his pants pocket.
  4. Every time you touch or see that card, read and reckon the truths there.

Sharing the truths with people close to you will also help in the reckoning process. Ask them what the truths mean to them; and ask them to pray for your reckoning. You may find one or two who are on the same faith journey as yourself.

Renew – In His wisdom, God decided to give us a new heart, but not a new mind (Ezekiel 36:25-27). We have the mind of Christ (1Corinthians 2:16), but exercising it, by all indications, is difficult at best. Consequently, our minds must be renewed – a significant part of our transformation (Romans 12:2).

Renew (anakainoō) means to cause to grow up, to make new (as in renovation), to be changed into a new kind of life as opposed to the former corrupt state. This definition suggests that our maturity as Christians is dependent on the renewing of our minds. 2Corinthians 4:16, Ephesians 4:23, and Colossians 3:10 are additionally helpful references.

By way of 2Corinthians 3:18, we learn that transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit. This, along with Titus 3:5, indicates that He also takes responsibility for the renewing of our minds. This is a comforting revelation. It also adds a bit of mystery to the process.

How do we participate in the Holy Spirit’s work? What discipline is involved in the renewing of our minds? The best way I know to explain our part: We must let Him. We must submit to His work, inviting Him to do whatever is necessary. We must readily receive what He offers. We must become aggressively passive.

Renewal, similar to repentance, runs deeper – to shake the foundations of our mindset and worldview. Having our foundations challenged can be very discomforting. Consequently, we must preemptively discipline ourselves for perseverance and humility. We must resist the temptations to work around the chaos and trials that the Holy Spirit introduces to shake loose those things that don’t belong.

Submit – As we prepare for the work of faith, the practice of submission becomes important in two additional ways. First, there is manifestation of the fruit of Spirit (Galatians 5:21-23). Our submission begins with a desire to bear the His fruit for the glory of our Father in heaven (John 15:8). This will require our participating in Him in getting some things out of the way (e.g., impatience for patience; judgment for love).

The exercise of 1John 1:9 will be most helpful in this regard. If we confess our sin to the Father, He will forgive and deliver us from all unrighteousness. I have found this to be an iterative process that ultimately puts to death even the most onerous sin.

Secondly, we must submit the Spirit’s gifts (1Corinthians 12:1-11), beginning with a resolution and conviction that we have no preference; that we desire the one(s) He wants to manifest through us. Remembering that the grace and power of God comes with the gift the Holy Spirit offers has been helpful. It is also beneficial to recognize (soberly and fearfully), that our enemies are standing ready to give a false and evil counterfeit should we insist on our favorite.

One of the more obvious and important revelations here is our dependence on the Holy Spirit in the exercise of these disciplines. This explains a lot; for many Christians have grown up with little teaching about the Holy Spirit’s person and work. For those of you that share this history with me, I offer my discoveries on the subject (or, if you prefer, you can read the lesson here). You will be truly amazed at the Holy Spirit’s role and responsibility in our journey of faith.

Conclusion

To this point, we have presented 12 spiritual disciplines; four more will follow. We could have easily included twice that amount. So, how much discipline is enough? How much is too much?

Opinions vary widely. There are extremes – and certainly error – on both ends of the spectrum. Generally speaking, those on the passive end believe God has done it all and there is nothing for us to do as participants in that work. On the aggressive extreme are those living a cloistered life, where every moment of every day is disciplined by rules of the order.

Our God is dynamic in His dealings with us; and we are very complex creatures. We must look to Him for our place on the passive/aggressive continuum. However, it is safe to say that most of us lean toward passivity; and this is likely a ploy of our carnal mind.

Jesus commands us to “strive” to enter through the narrow gate, for many will seek to enter and will not be able (Luke 13:24). Similarly, Peter encourages us to be even more diligent to make our call and election sure (2Peter 1:10).

Most of us would benefit greatly from a bit more striving and diligence. The disciplines provide for both.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

Advertisements