the path of obe­di­ence

Obedience is a state and so you must travel there and enter. Obedience is the Kingdom of Heaven. A Christian knows she is on the path when she suffers from the inside and the outside by obeying God. He knows he has entered when he consistently chooses to will only what God wills and feel only what God feels. The passport through the gates of obedience is death. Jesus learned obedience by choosing the will of God as His Own in time and space even unto the death. He can teach us too.

Obedience: definition

It is important to define obedience because “obey” and “obedience” are not the same things. They are related the way a word is related to a sentence. “Obey” is an action. “Obedience” is a state of being. If “Obey” is a word then “Obedience” is the language itself in all its beauty, nuances and intricacies. Acts of obeying can be mimicked and mimed. Becoming fluent in a foreign language however requires a commitment of heart. Obedience requires your persistent heart over time. It is the difference between travelling and being a traveler. Every traveler travels but not everyone who travels is a traveler.

It is in this way that Moses knew the Way of God Psalms 103:7 while Israel only knew His Acts. So Jesus did not only obey God, He lived in the state of Obedience. To repeat an analogy, I have friends who have this strange love of travelling. I do not have this desire at all but these friends of mine just love seeing different places. I think God made them this way and gave them this desire. Now just having a desire and a tendency to travel doesn’t make them travelers. It sounds simple but they cannot become travelers until they travel and consistently travel. They learn to become travelers by travelling. No matter the initial inclinations or desire, a state must be learned. You don’t get to the state of New York by just wanting to go to New York. You actually have to take time and space to get there.

The same thing with obedience. Having a desire to obey bestowed by the Holy Spirit does not put one into the state of obedience. It is only after obeying and obeying so that obeying God is the only way I express my will that I can be said to have arrived and living in a state of obedience. Obedience then is always learned. I parrot the words I hear in Spanish but it takes time to become fluent in the language. Let us never confuse obeying with obedience. The tongue may speak the Words of God in English, Spanish, French and many other languages but there is only one Holy language for the actions and that language is obedience. Heaven, by definition, is the state of constant obedience to God. Or to put it a different way: Obedience IS the Kingdom of Heaven.

Through Suffering

Since obedience is a state, the Kingdom of God to be sought, then there must be a path that one must travel to get there. That path as we said in the last article is suffering. But we hate the suffering. I often ask why does obedience have to travel the path of suffering. I mean even Jesus had to learn obedience through the things He suffered Hebrews 5:8?

To answer this I will borrow from Kierkegaard’s idea of the double danger. Every Christian experiences opposition from two directions. The world will oppose you and persecute you for the right things you do and for the stand you take against the wrong being done in the world. This is the first danger. They will push you and beat you and kill you as is being done to all brothers and sisters all over the world. In the western world (where everyone is “Christian”), this danger takes the form of advertising, soul killing media and the drudgery of jobs that sap your strength and give no time for God. This is the first danger. The opposition, either passive or active, from a world that hates God and His commandments while you a Christian proclaim God as Lord and also proclaim His commandments. Now you see that if you are going to be obedient to God, you will at least suffer the first danger. The path of obedience is suffering.

But there is second and more direct danger. This danger doesn’t come from the outside, but from the inside. Now the true suffering that produces obedience begins. John the Baptist says the goal of every Christian is to disappear while letting Christ appear John 3:30. However, even John felt the internal opposition from his flesh. No one wants to be second place. But the Christian doesn’t even have a place. She disappears completely and yields her place to Jesus Christ. And yet no one wants to do this and your flesh resists you when you try. Again we find suffering and in this case even worse because it is self inflicted. Now you can see again, that if you do not suffer by warring against yourself, you can never become obedient. You will always be your own Lord. The path to obedience is suffering.

So if you think you are on your way to the state of obedience, to the Kingdom of Heaven where God is your King, but you are not suffering or have not suffered, then you need to check to make sure you are on the right path. Are you disappearing as Christ is appearing? Are you striving to feel His emotions instead of your own? Are you thinking His thoughts instead of your own? Are you doing His Will instead of your own? If you are trying to do these things, then you will suffer from the inside and the outside but you will arrive at the state of obedience, the Kingdom of Heaven. If you do not do this these things, then you will be comfortable (until God mercifully and utterly destroys your kingdom).

Through Death

So listen here sir with who writes these things and things. I’ve been suffering and suffering for quite a while now by trying to be obedient to God. So now tell me, when will I enter the State of Obedience and how can I be sure that I have entered? Well brother, sister, perhaps you may have walked the path and are now knocking on Heaven’s doors, the state of Obedience. If you want to get in, then you need a passport. Your passport into the state of obedience is the same as that of Jesus Christ. Death. Specifically the death that comes when the will for self is killed and by death transformed into a will for God. The death that comes when you choose to have God’s Feelings about the things around you instead of your own. As we have discussed earlier, Christians die into life. If you want to know if you have entered the state of obedience, ask yourself one question, “Have I died? Do I think only God’s thoughts? Do I feel only what God feels?”

You can always tell someone who lives in obedience from someone who merely obeys. The one who lives in obedience is spontaneous the way life is spontaneous. She is always inventing new ways to obey God like someone communicating sentences and phrases in a language she knows well. Just think about how children learn to speak. They pick up a few words here and there and soon in spontaneity, they’re telling you about the how the shark ate the moon. Someone who lives in obedience performs works of poetry. The one who merely obeys cannot be creative in this way. He is always mimicking what he has seen another do or trying to imitate something he read about.

And yes, we have to begin like babies. We have to learn obedience by imitating acts of obeying. But we should not remain underdeveloped children by continuing to only imitate the words of our parents. Romans 12:1-2 tells us the end goal. As we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice in obedience 1 Samuel 15:22, we become able to prove/understand/perceive what the will of God is whether it is explicit or implicit. Just like any language where some things are said outright(explicit) and you pick up other things like nuance and tone(implicit) as you become fluent in the language. So also, with obedience, I can obey the explicit laws but I only learn to know the will of God in all its facets Romans 12:2 by living in obedience.

If I come to a point and find that I do not know the way, it may be because of willful disobedience that has prevented me from learning obedience and so I am blind. I learned the words and some phrases but did not practice the language and so cannot express myself in a novel situation. If, however, I can discern the will of God in every circumstance then it is because I have learned obedience through suffering. I have entered into rest through suffering and I have gained life through death.

Summing Up

So to recap. To learn obedience, one has to first have the desire and the power to submit to God without desiring a reward. This is called humility and it is only granted through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. We pursue this desire and express it through obeying God from the heart. But this obeying causes an internal conflict against ourselves and an external conflict against the world. This conflict along with pain and discomfort that comes with it is called suffering. It is only through this suffering that one learns obedience. This constant denial of self and the world is what Jesus has called daily taking up one’s cross Luke 9:23. It is by this suffering that Jesus learned obedience.

It is inevitable that this constant, holy suffering leads to a holy death. More specifically, the Christian’s will is laid down and sacrificed. She then takes it up again, like Abraham took up Isaac, to will only what God wills Genesis 22:12. When she has died in this way, she enters into a state called obedience. In the state of obedience, the Christian’s only expression of his will is in obedience to God. He does not do anything he does not see his Father doing John 5:19, 30, 12:49. She makes her food doing her Father’s will John 4:34.

For the Christian then, as we said previously, suffering becomes a tool, the key to rest and death becomes a door, a passport into life. Those things that were once avoided as man’s greatest enemies are now sought out. These most bitter enemies of man, the Christian transforms into his or her most beloved friends.

Jesus Learned Obedience. Let Him Teach You.

This learning of obedience occurs through the process outlined above (humility, obeying, suffering, death). There is no skipping a step even for Jesus Matthew 3:15. He learned obedience through the things He suffered. Everything man does occurs in time and in space and therefore learning obedience requires time and space. It is for this reason that the Bible says obedience is learned (over time) and in the space of suffering. Every creature of time and space learns obedience to God.

This was the lesson Adam and Eve failed in the garden. The first law was a tool for teaching obedience. Since Jesus is God and Man, He also had to learn like all of us. Since He was successful where we all failed, He becomes our Teacher and High Priest. As the rest of Hebrews 5 says, He is the source of our salvation and is able to guide us into all righteousness. This is why He has already told us to learn from Him in Matthew 11:29. His yoke is easy and His burden light.

“But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His law he med­i­tates day and night.”
- Psalms 1:2

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.