Obedience and Acceptance
We all know what we want to see from those we disciple.
Evidence that they are living the victorious life. A life that is bearing much fruit for God.
As spiritual guides, because we are instructed that a good tree will bear good fruit, we often fall into a discipleship trap. Ironically, it is a trap that ends of leading those discipled in this way to trust themselves more than they trust Jesus.
Throughout our churches, we instruct people on what godly behavior looks like, how godly character responds in situations, and what godly disciplines to engage in. So far, so good. Having a picture of an authentic spiritual life is healthy and helpful.
But we stop short. And we leave the picture incomplete.
The people under our care are then left with the impression that a Christ-like life means changing the fruit. Somehow, despite being told by Jesus that it takes a good tree to produce good fruit, we leave our followers to produce good fruit from broken trees.
So we give them steps. Lists of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. Guidance comes in the form of “just stop” this behavior and “do more” of that behavior.
It is extrinsic discipleship. Behavior modification. Change what is outside and visible.
Obedience does not lead to Acceptance by God. That is just the religious manifestation of the false self.
Conviction to godliness cannot occur apart from Christ.
The miracle of Jesus is that He changes the tree. But we have to open our hearts to His efforts. Our brokenness cannot be healed until we allow the light of Christ to shine on our heart. Daily. Moment by moment. Then we can deny our false self and allow God to chip away and restore His image within us.
As a result of this intentional openness to God, we will get the fruit we desire. Because the tree has been changed and made good in Christ. It is impossible to please God any other way.
Acceptance by God in Christ leads to God pleasing Obedience.
For most of us, we were exposed to extrinsic discipleship. Ignore what is inside and make the outside look right. Which makes it impossible to guide others differently. So our spouses, children, students, and friends all learn to conform their behaviors and meet expectations.
It may be time for a time out. To let God change your tree. Begin to address the issues of your heart so that you can stop trying to earn your acceptance. It is a process. Painful and often slow. It may feel like you are not ‘doing’ anything.
And that is true. You are letting Christ carry the burden. You are to rest in the truth of your acceptance in Christ.
What is the platform of your discipleship – obedience or acceptance?