Permissiveness prevails in the church today. Obedience is mostly viewed spiritually, rarely physically manifesting itself.
It’s almost a foreign concept today that walking with Jesus would mean be tied to physical obedience. We’ve cheapened a relationship with Jesus down to the point where we aren’t really asking new followers of Jesus to do anything more than raise their hand or bow their head. If we are honest with ourselves, most of our churches expect little more of congregants than to show up and write checks to fund the church.
We want to prosper but we don’t want to sacrifice.
Maybe, just maybe, a walk with Jesus is supposed to be as physical as it is spiritual? In other words, we lie to people by reshaping the Gospel around what Jesus can do for them. More importantly, we lie to ourselves when we walk with Jesus safely and justify our safe-walk with Jesus with cultural answers to Scriptural truths.
Allow me to show you three examples of extreme physical obedience to God.
#1 Give it all away – Acts 2
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
I hear Christians say all the time, “If we could just go back to the way it was in Acts 2, the church would grow.” I agree. Let’s start by selling all your property and possessions and lets live together in a community where we share it all.
“Well, well, well… that’s too extreme. This is the modern age. We couldn’t just do that anymore.” If it’s so extreme why did the Holy Spirit inspire Luke to write it down in Acts?
Lesson #1 – Physical obedience to God may be risky to your possessions.
#2 Move somewhere unsafe – Nehemiah 2
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:17-20
There’s nothing wrong with living in the suburbs. But if God has called you to the city you are going to have to deal with city realities. You are probably going to have to send your kids to “those schools” and live in “that neighborhood” and you might have to deal with “those people.” If God called you to it, than He has declared to you that those schools are His schools, that neighborhood is His neighborhood and those people are His people.
“But, it’s my responsibility to make sure my family is safe and my kids get the best education they can.” Actually, that is crappy practical theology. There is no where safer for your family than in obedience to His will. And there is no better education you can offer your kids than your obedience.
Lesson #2 – Physical obedience to God redefines what it means to be safe.
#3 Cut it off – Genesis 17
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14
Let’s be blunt here. As a pastor, I had a hard time getting people to show up for Spring clean-up. How do you think it’d go if I stood up on Sunday after my message and said, “If you are ready to walk with Jesus in obedience to what you just heard, and you are a male, please stay after the service today. We are going to cut off some skin from your penis as a symbol of your commitment. Doing this won’t save you, but it will show God that you are serious. Not the whole thing, just a little bit of skin.”
Done. Empty church. No need to vote, I’d be fired! There are news trucks in front of my house by the time I get back from Applebees. The byline of the story would probably call me the perverted penis pastor or something like that. There would be talk shows on CNN accusing me of being a cult leader. Congregants would line up to talk to Katie Couric, “He’s a nice guy and we love him as our pastor. He was always trying to get us to be dedicated to walking with Jesus, but it was just too far to make it some sort of physical thing.”
And yet, this is exactly what God told Abraham to do. You want to be God’s people? Let’s seal the deal by making it personal. Line up every male and prove you are serious about this covenant. We’re not talking about taking off a digit of your pinky. We’re talking about cutting part of your penis off! As a Bible college student we were studying this passage and I raised my hand to ask a question. “I’m not trying to be smart. But do you think God gave Abraham some sort of instruction manual with this? I mean, how did he know if he cut enough off? And… who do you think went first?”
I have a feeling Abraham went first. He was a leader… so he lead the men somewhere they were unwilling to go on their own.
Lesson #3 – Physical obedience to God is a personal, willful sacrifice.
- Gut check. All excuses aside, how are you doing at physical obedience to Jesus?
- What does Scripture reveal to me about what I need to do to physically live out the Gospel in my life?
- What are some first steps of obedience?
- What does this have to do with living in community?