What is True Obedience? {Meditating on Scripture Part 7: Obedience vs. Hypocrisy}

I am continually amazed by how much I learn about what it means to be a child of God by being a parent. Take obedience, for instance.

Before I was a parent, I thought of obedience as doing what God told me to do.

Period.

Sounds good, right?

Well, now that I am a parent, I realize I don’t really accept right behavior with a wrong heart.

We don’t really call it “obedience” if our kids do what we ask late… or half-heartedly… or while grumbling… or after they angrily storm out of the room. We don’t even really consider it “obedience” if our kids just happen to do what we asked because they were about to do it anyway.

Obedience is more what happens when our kids are confronted with a choice to do what we want or what they want and they choose to do what we want right away, all the way, the cheerful way, and say “okay!”

As a matter of fact, we recite that little mantra quite often in our house. Even our three-year old knows we define obedience as doing what we ask “right away, all the way, the cheerful way, and say, ‘okay!'”

And because we love our children, we discipline them if they fail on any one of those points. You see, while I want my children to exhibit behaviors that follow my instructions, I don’t want to cultivate a habit of external actions that do not match their internal reality. Put another way, I want their hearts obeying as much as their hands.

In a way, I would rather they refuse to do anything at all than choose to act without a good attitude, because at least they are acting honestly and consistently with the position and condition of their hearts.

It is easier, but very dangerous, to simply require changes in behavior. But I don’t want to cultivate right behavior. I desire to cultivate right hearts, from which right behavior will flow. Right behavior is the byproduct, not the goal of obedience.

And I think God desires the same thing from me.

True Obedience

God wants my heart set on his will, not hiding rebellion behind a facade of legalism.

Scripture is not just clear that knowing what is right, and doing something different is sin (James 4:17). Scripture is also full of instructions and warnings for those who honor God with their lips, who do the “right things,” without a heart set on honoring God (Isaiah 29:13-14; Matthew 15:1-11; Matthew 6:24; John 4:24).

The thing is, I cannot get to the place where I say “not my will, but yours” (Luke 22:42) and have victory over that inner battle between what I want to do, but don’t and don’t want to do, but do (Romans 7:15-20), if I do not meditate on scripture.

And meditating on scripture should change not only my attitude, but also my actions. At some point, we actually have to do the right we know we ought to do, God really does want us to do it with a heart submitted to him.

God did not accept the Israelites physically traveling in the desert as obedience… when they were grumbling (Numbers 11:1, Numbers 14:27-30; 1 Corinthians 10:5, 1 Corinthians 10: 10-12; Exodus 5, Exodus 14, Exodus 15, Exodus 17…).

God did not accept the Jewish leaders’ attempts at obedience… when they merely followed rules and traditions (Matthew 15).

God did not accept the rich young ruler’s sacrifices as obedience… when he harbored love for his “stuff” over love of God (Matthew 19:16-26).

God did not accept the Pharisee’s self-righteous, external actions as obedience… when he compared his actions to men rather than being humbled by the holiness and grace of God. (Matthew 18:10-14).

Jesus says if we love him, we will obey him (John 14:15; John 14:23).

The only way we can obey him right away, all the way, the cheerful way, and say “Not my will, but yours” is if we know his commands.

The only way to know his commands is to read his Word, to meditate on it, to saturate our hearts with his will.

And, knowing his commands, we need to get busy about doing them.

Francis Chan sums this up well in this 1-minute video on obedience.

The question for us becomes, will we honor God with our hearts, or hide behind a facade?

Move Over Monster – We Need Underbed Space for Welcome Guests!

We all know children who are convinced a monster lives under the bed. Monsters are definitely unwelcome guests! What if we commandeer the monster’s living quarters to make space for welcome guests?

In a child’s room, it’s awfully handy to have an extra mattress slipped under the bed for sleepovers (where you anticipate actual sleep going on – lol). There is usually enough room, depending upon the height of the bed, for extra sheets and towels to sit on top of the mattress, too. When you need to make the bed for company, all the supplies are together. Unless you use them a lot, I would suggest you do like we do with out-of-season bedding, and wrap the extra sheets/towels in an old pillowcase to protect them from dust.

Sorry monster, there’s no more room for you! Under this bed is space for welcome guests.

In a parent’s room, an extra mattress can be nice, too. For one thing, it’s a space where kids can sleep when they are sick that doesn’t involve elbows in your ribs. It can also be hauled out and taken to another room for overnight guests to have a comfortable space to sleep in a kid’s room or other room with a little more privacy. If you have a queen- or king-size bed, a twin mattress can easily fit beneath it, with room to store other items as well (like suitcases and out-of-season bedding).

If you have a guest room, a mattress under the bed is usually a welcome addition, too. Sometimes when a family travels, little ones prefer to stay close to the parents instead of mixing in with the other kids in the house. Or, if you welcome a steady stream of college students, an extra mattress won’t go unused!

Other things we like to store under the queen-size guest bed in our house include:

An extra porta-crib, with it’s sheets.

A plastic bin full of the sheets and blankets to make up the guest bed. We also keep a small bag of chocolates in this bin so we can leave a “kiss” on the pillow when we make the bed.

A plastic bin with extra towels, travel sized toiletries (we collect these from hotels when we travel), disposable razors, inexpensive combs, tissues, a spare hair dryer, etc.

A plastic bin with air mattresses, pumps, and the sheets that fit the air mattresses.

A plastic bin of extra quilts, blankets, and pillows.

Oh – and if you don’t use these items a whole lot, it doesn’t hurt to put a cedar block or a bar of soap in the bin with linens to keep them smelling nice and fresh. You can always pull out the soap for the guest bathroom when you are getting the room ready for guests.

Jesus Took Our Guilt and Bore Our Shame {Meditating on Scripture Part 6: Guilt vs. Shame}

Last week I wrote about meditating on scripture so we could know the difference between condemnation and conviction. As I was writing that post, I heard a great sermon (yes, it was my husband preaching, but seriously, it was objectively a great sermon!) about the difference between “guilt” and “shame.” While both are covered in the blood of Christ, the antidote to each is unique. Jesus is the Great Physician, and he came to heal. His word provides all we need for training and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), but it takes wisdom to know which part of his word, which aspect of his sacrificial death, applies to guilt, or shame, or anything else that Satan wants to use to bind us once we’ve been set free.

The distinction between guilt and shame is important because their antidotes from scripture are equally distinct. I think quite often we meet shame by meditating on verses related to guilt – and it doesn’t quite relieve the symptoms of shame. Likewise, if we apply the balm of scripture talking about shame to the gaping wound of guilt, it does not quite heal.

They are related, to be sure, which is why it can be so challenging to diagnose the difference and meet the particular wound with the right hope found in scripture. Thankfully scripture promises if we ask God for wisdom, he will lavish it upon us (James 1:5).

So, what is the difference between guilt and shame?

Well, guilt has to do with our conduct. Guilt is a fact or statement of wrongdoing. It’s a state of being. Guilt implies one has committed an offense, violated a law, or are convicted of doing something wrong. Guilt is being responsible for having done something wrong. Guilt may include feelings of remorse for having acted incorrectly – sort of a heartfelt wish you had done something different or were not responsible for the actions or consequences of those actions. Guilt tempts us to shift blame. Guilt requires repayment, restitution.

Shame, however, is a painful feeling of being dirty, tainted, humiliated, somehow less worthy because of your guilt or the guilt of someone else. Shame is that feeling of being exposed, really seen with all the wrongness clinging to you. It carries a sense of being dishonorable, unacceptable, disgraceful, foolish, unlovable, and unworthy. Shame tempts us to hide. Shame requires cleansing, removal of the stain.

Let’s put it this way – in the garden, Adam and Eve were guilty of violating God’s instruction, and deserved the penalty of death because of their guilt. Then Adam blamed Eve and God (“the woman” – blaming her, “you gave me” – blaming God) to avoid responsibility for his guilt. Eve blamed the serpent (“the serpent deceived me” – blame shifting).

When God entered the garden on the day they committed their offense, they hid because they were ashamed. Before they were guilty, they were naked and unashamed, and there was no need to hide.

And on that day God declared their guilt, clarified their death sentence, and promised a Savior who would settle their guilt-debt (Genesis 3:14-15). He also provided covering for their shame (Genesis 3:21).

Guilt vs. Shame

So often we focus on how Jesus took our guilt without remembering he also bore our shame.

To the heart burdened with guilt, the promise of absolution, justification, and restoration to a state of declared innocent is the ointment that comforts. But, to the heart burdened with shame, the promise of his cleansing, his love, and his unconditional acceptance is the balm that heals. God, in scripture, addresses both needs.

This is why meditating on scripture is so important. Spending time in God’s word allows us to hear his whole counsel. It trains our hearts in wisdom that we might sow peace and harvest righteousness (James 3:17-18). Digging into God’s word to really understand the richness of what he offers leads us to pools of cleansing for our shame. We read of His love that would sacrifice to cover our shame, in spite of the stain of sin we bear from birth. He tells us we are adopted, loved, accepted, and seen, through Christ, as a spotless bride. And we can rest in the covering God provides for our disgrace – the removal of anything that taints us – cleansed from our sin.

Spending time meditating on our justification – the declaration of our righteousness, the promise we do not have to live under the sentence of death, the certainty our guilt-debt has been paid in full, frees us to live righteously, to similarly forgive others, to own our guilt, but not be owned by our guilt.

And as we grow to understand the debt paid by Jesus’ blood, and the great cleansing and covering of Jesus’ blood, our hearts swell with worship that impacts how we do life, moment by moment, and how we live in grace with others, moment by moment.

Quick and Easy Storage for Out-of-Season Bedding

Spring really is coming (Friday!!!) – and at our house that means quilts and comforters come off the beds. With nine beds, I’m sure you can imagine the pile of out-of-season bedding gets a bit large. Our storage cupboards and closets are already bursting at the seams!

Once again I look under the beds for quick and easy storage for out-of-season bedding.

We wash and dry each of the blankets/quilts/comforters we want to store. Maybe it’s just a throw back to pioneer days and spring cleaning, but it feels good to get them all washed!

Once they are completely dry, we fold up quilts and blankets by person and stash them in a pillowcase. Each person has their own pillowcase (or pillowcases) of bedding.

Since my husband and I share a king bed, we actually have room under our bed for all the bedding packages AND the suitcases we talked about last week. And that is exactly where we put it – under the bed. (And our bed still has room for more!)

Another option, if you don’t have room under the bed in the master bedroom for everyone, is to put the bedding packets under each person’s bed. That keeps them handy for when they are needed. It also takes up space under the bed that might otherwise be used for dirty clothes, toys, and all the little scraps of paper kids collect. 🙂

Come fall weather and cooler temperatures, as individuals decide they are ready for their warm bed things, we can pull out individual pillowcases. Everything is fresh and clean and ready to use – and the pillow cases, which have collected all the dust, are easy to wash. They are environmentally friendly, too. (No plastic bags to discard!)

When the bedding goes out, you just found room to store something else for the winter!

Living Condemned {Meditating on Scripture Part 5: Condemnation vs. Conviction}

I love Romans 8:1. Having Romans 8:1  memorized regularly helps me combat condemnation.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Yet, if we believe this is true, why are so many of us living condemned?

Have you ever stopped to look at where Romans 8:1 sits?  It sits, interestingly enough, between Romans 7:25 and Romans 8:2. 🙂

Romans 7:25 is the tail end of the section Paul wrote about not understanding his own actions… about not doing the good he wants to do, but instead doing the evil he does not want to do (Romans 7:7-25).

Then, before he turns to the section beginning in Romans 8:2 which helps us recognize life controlled by the Spirit (life which is pleasing to God), he pauses at Romans 8:1 to remind us  that we are no longer condemned.

Why?

Why did Paul think (and, by inference, since the Bible was written by holy men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, why did God think) we needed to hear this right then?

I think (and I am neither God nor a Holy Man inspired by God to write infallible scripture) God knew the potential exists for us to come to Romans 8:9, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” and question whether or not we belong to him. I think he knew we might experience the struggle of Romans 7:7-25 and despair. I think he knew that our hearts, awakened by His Spirit, would want to please him and we might see our continuing struggle, read Romans 8:8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God,” and begin to doubt our ability to please him… to doubt his indwelling presence in our hearts.

I need to know I am not condemned.

I need to know His Spirit convicts me of my sin to draw me to the righteousness He enables… to guide me into truth and obedience (John 16:4-15). I need to know the conviction that draws me to repentance and fellowship with God, not the condemnation that drives me to despair and away from the presence of God.

Knowing Romans 8:1 frees me to understand the difference between the right conviction of the Holy Spirit and the wrong condemnation of the devil.

The Holy Spirit convicts me for the purpose of restoration. Satan condemns me for the purpose of destruction.

God wants us brought back into fellowship with him, using our gifts for His glory and to build up his bride, the church. Satan wants us divided from God, ineffective for the Kingdom, tearing down our brothers and sisters within the church.

Conviction is delivered with hope in Christ. Condemnation arrives with despair in our failure.

Conviction hinges on truth. Condemnation swings on feelings.

Conviction reminds us our debt has been paid by Christ and our victory is based in the power of the Spirit. Condemnation accuses us of failing to repay and our value is based on our ability to perform in our own strength.

Conviction speaks truth: Our sin is heinously wrong and injures God above all (Psalm 51:4). Our sin does deserve death, but God has given us life through Christ (Romans 6:23) and our sin no longer separates us from Him (Romans 8:38-39).  Condemnation lies: Satan would have us believe our sin can separate us from God in an irreparable way.

Conviction is specific and clearly prompts us to repent, offering hope and promising increasing victory in this life and ultimate victory in the life to come. Condemnation is vague and leads us to a general feeling of guilt, failure, and unending despair.

Today you can stop living condemned.

Take some time to meditate on Romans 8:1 today. Where are you living condemned? Repent of your unbelief and cling to the promises of Christ. Speak this truth into your heart today any time you are overwhelmed by the weight of your guilt:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1