New Covenant Obedience and Man’s Wisdom
I’d like to talk now about some concerns I have for many who are seeking to obey Christ. I am talking about those who are really wanting to please God and follow Him; those that see the call and necessity of holiness and obedience in order to walk with God and be one of His.
The scriptures are read, such as: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-4) These scriptures are received with great seriousness, and rightly so. We must obey God to be saved. If we disobey God then we are sinning and are not in the light but rather walk in darkness. Obedience is a crucial aspect of our right standing with God. This is the very thing that Jesus came to assure—that we may be able to live a life of continuous victory that we may be saved.
But here is a very critical point that must be considered. We must depend wholly upon Him who is able to keep us from falling and upon His power which is able to keep us until that day. As Paul said, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) Paul committed the keeping of his soul into the hands of Another. Paul had learned not to trust himself to keep himself.
You may be thinking, “Yes, I cannot keep myself; that is why I have given myself to obey Jesus. Only as I obey Him will I be a saved person.” This is true, but Paul was relying wholly upon another to teach him and guide him in his obedience. Only the Spirit of God can keep us properly obeying; of ourselves, we cannot. If we are guided by our own judgment in our obedience then we will get off track. We must learn to trust the holy Teacher to “cause us” to walk in His ways. Do you believe this?
I have heard a number of saints say that they want to be on the “safe” side, so that when judgment day comes they are in good standing. This thought is understandable enough to the one that wants to be right with God and live eternally with Him. Yet there is a great danger at this point that must be expressed.
As one reads a particular commandment, the thought comes: “I need to obey Jesus if I am to be saved… but what does Jesus mean, exactly?” So the man thinks and tries to determine what it is exactly that Jesus means, but he is not sure. So he takes the commandment and tries to obey it in a way that he considers extreme, concluding that that is the “safe” side. In essence, he defines “safe” by his “radical” interpretation and sets up his own parameters to keep his soul in good standing with God. This is an extreme danger. Is this man truly being kept by the Spirit of God? Did he find the guidance of the Spirit to interpret the commandment to him and apply it to him? Or is he being guided by his best judgment and then finding security in that?
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe…. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him…. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:9,11)
The greatest figuring of man cannot comprehend the mind of God. “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” We cannot understand the full import of Jesus’ teachings without definite help from the Spirit! The mind of man does not and cannot know the deep things of God—period. We must allow this truth to take root in us. Unless we come to believe these scriptures we will be greatly hindered in our attempts to live for the Lord. Pride will cloak itself in our interpretations and great exertions for God. We must come to detest any work of the flesh to teach itself in the ways of God. God has designed for us to be totally dependent upon Him. It is only in this humble position that we will see the fulfillment of New Covenant obedience through our lives. God has designed it this way so that He can live out His holiness through us and yet get all the glory.
“But aren’t Jesus’ words pretty plain to natural reason?”
Many of His words seem plain enough, but they are more than what they seem to the human mind. His words are spiritual and alive. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) If received in the right way, His words will produce His very life within us. But if this spiritual seed is planted in the soil of human intellect, it will not bring forth the fruit that it was intended to yield. Rather it will be corrupted and it will bring forth some form of the fruit of the flesh.
“Yes,” you may say, “this is exactly why I am taking such a radical stance on Jesus’ teachings; I don’t want to explain them away as so many do with their intellect.”
Beware! Beware! “You” are taking a radical stance according to the best judgment of “your” intellect. You are doing the very same thing as they when you take the commandment in the power of your mind and then zealously apply yourself to “your” interpretation. Your zeal and your radicalness fall far short of God’s, and He is not interested in it. Jesus did not come to earth to forgive you and tell you what to do, and then leave you to observe His teachings with your radical powers, however zealous they may seem. He came to leave us with a far better guide and power than our own human powers. He came to leave us with the very same power that was at work in His human frame while on earth, so that we can have His testimony: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth.” (John 5:19-20) Jesus lived in constant dependence upon the Father to show Him what to do and to work through Him. He never relied upon His own human reason to guide Him in walking with His Father. He perfectly obeyed His Father by the leading of the Spirit within Him. “Christ… through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God.” (Hebrews 9:14)
The very Spirit of God who knows all the deep things of God has been offered to us for this need; why would we rather rely upon our own reason, which cannot comprehend the mind of God? We must not rely upon our natural reason. It will lead us astray. I am not saying that our mind is not used at all. It should be used, but it is not our guiding principle. It is not to be our teacher and interpreter of the deep things of God. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our mind. We must learn to submit the powers of our mind into the hands of the Spirit of God. Our whole being is to be surrendered entirely to Him, and this includes all intellectual capabilities.
“Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6:13) “Present your bodies a living sacrifice…. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
It is only when all of our being—including all of our intellectual and reasoning powers—is surrendered into the hands of God that we will be able to prove the perfect will of God through our lives. Then He has control of our minds and He can use it as a tool as seems good to Him. We no longer rely upon our best reason. We have learned to not trust our best reason and rather trust the Spirit of God. This may feel like a scary place to be because one feels out of control. But this is just the point. We are to be out of control of our soul being kept saved. This is to be entirely entrusted into the keeping of the Spirit of God. This will keep us very humble. Don’t misunderstand me here—we have a part. We have a choice and we must choose to yield ourselves up to God. But we must not rely upon our own powers to manage ourselves or assure ourselves that we are in the will of God. We must rely upon the Spirit for these things.