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Devotions > Understanding or Obedience

18 Nov 2013

How highly do you value understanding?    Understanding is clearly helpful in many situations.  We live however in a society which may actually overvalue understanding.  Perhaps some context for this assumption would be helpful.   

God in His wisdom decreed to give mankind freedom of choice but inseparably connected with our choices are God decreed consequences.   We get to choose but God always prescribes the results.   In some places perhaps there are more choices than in others, but everyplace in this world each individual has some choices.  

The perspective of potentially overvaluing understanding comes from this point of view.   In our great country we significantly value our freedoms.   We believe that we should be free to do, make our desired choices, as we please.   This highly valued freedom leads us in the direction of personal independence.    We generally believe independence is magnificent.

As believers we also seem to have a thirst for understanding.   From our cocoon of assumed independence we seem to constantly seek understanding.   Yet our simply seeking understanding can subtlety soothe and supplant our real obligation to obey.   In our search for knowledge do we sincerely believe that learning necessitates obedience?    Let’s look at Jesus’ perspective.

John 14:21 (AMP)
21 The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]

God speaking through Samuel provides this reminder:

1 Samuel 15:22 (AMP)
22 Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Jesus taught and modeled for His disciples an obedience based walk, but in our more modern walk we seem to primarily emphasize knowledge.   Is it fair to say that our Christian experience is based more on knowledge than obedience?    Jesus through His intimate relationship with His disciples was able to determine the growth of their faith and obedience on a daily basis.   Of course knowledge was important but it was clearly not the end, but simply a means to the end.

Today rather than walking like Jesus with our disciples we typically hold a class that meets weekly for a few weeks after which time we declare that those who completed the class are now disciples.   Our accountability if it exists at all is simply asking those who took this class to repeat back to the instructor the knowledge that was covered in the class.    We provide knowledge and when we test we test for knowledge.   This is knowledge based instruction.    While this is comfortable it is not very effective at moving individuals toward faith resulting in obedience.

The Church has long accepted Jesus’ command was to each of us to make disciples, who would also make disciples.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB95)
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

When Jesus instructs His disciples to make disciples and to teach them to observe all that He commanded them, this also included making disciples.   Jesus’ plan to reach the world was multiplication via obedience.  His plan requires an obedience based mind set.   While knowledge and  understanding are  important they  must not be the end, they should rather be the foundational  for our faith and obedience.

Knowledge based learning tends to puff up ourselves while at the same time it tends to  pull God down from His rightful place on High.     Obedience based living conversely tends to keep us in a state of continually humbly seeking the power from God we desperately need to obey.

How then does an obedience based perspective impact our praying?     First, perhaps from a knowledge based perspective we spend too much time asking for what we think we need.  In other words we pray based on our knowledge.   While this may not be a fatal error it can lead us into the danger of pursuing our own agendas and not setting aside sufficient time to draw near to God carefully seeking and  listening for His desires.

The core of the instruction regarding how to pray from Jesus’ pattern of prayer for His disciples is “ Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”    Obedience when exercised yields the fruit of a deeper understanding of the will of God communicated by His Spirit when our motivation is purely to obey.   We see then that understanding is really very good if its motivation is to seek to accurately obey, conversely if it becomes a substitute supplanting obedience; it is of very little value.

An overriding desire to obey and serve our Lord reflects in our walk and in our prayers.   We can examine our heart each time we meet with God; whether it be in our private time of prayer or when we gather with other saints in corporate worship.   To examine our hearts we can simply ask if we are primarily seeking to know about God, His plans, or His will, or do we authentically desire to obey?   Are we seeking our perspective or do we authentically desire God’s will and His perspective.    Do we really desire above all His will?   Are we at any time substituting a pursuit of knowledge in place of active obedience?

James instructs us to pray for wisdom if we lack it.   One part of his instruction is no doubt valid for any prayer.    That is we must pray in faith, without doubting.   God is looking for men and women who pray in faith, completely convinced that His will is superior to our own.   In truth we always lack wisdom and we have been given the opportunity to trust in and lean on a completely reliable God who never fails to come through on those things that He promises!   Will we trust Him and demonstrate our authentic faith by our obedience?    The choice is ours and the consequences are completely in the hands of our God.

Jeff Williams