Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Path To Christian Spiritual Growth Requires Active Obedience - Matthew 28

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Matthew 28:6-8 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you. 8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples."


When it comes to the path to Christian spiritual growth, we undoubtedly need to know God's purpose. In our last post we defined God's purpose as: "God's designated destination". Purpose gives the overall direction to which I am to live my life. Jesus Christ, the Captain of my soul, sets the course. A closely related concept, "vision", is defined as God's preferred future that is clear and compelling in moving God's people towards what He wants them to do. 

We also saw in the last post how Jesus had a purpose for His disciples: "get to the mountain in Galilee, where I will meet with you." When God is wanting to work forth His purposes in our lives, He not only considers the destination, but the process. 

The goal is to attain a greater level of illumination of God's character and identity as revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. The disciples needed to interact with the post-resurrection Jesus. They had known Jesus as He had ministered and as they saw him on the cross. However, the manifestation of Christ physically in the flesh as the post-resurrection Jesus had not yet been experienced by them. Once they reached this intended purpose, they could say like Job in Job 42:1-5 

Then Job answered the Lord and said,

2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You." 

The path of spiritual growth requires our active obedience

So with God's purpose in view, what else is needed for Christian spiritual growth? Active obedience. We turn again to Matthew 28. Why this text? Matthew 28, particularly verses 18-20, comprise what is known as the "Great Commission". Those verses are Jesus' final instructions to His Apostles and ultimately to His church concerning the overall mission that is to be carried forth until the close of this present age with His second coming. 

In order for the Great Commission to be carried forth, the apostles needed to be present and positioned to receive it. Furthermore, they needed to be in the mode of active obedience if they were to carry out the Great Commission and encourage others to do the same. When we consider the nature of the active obedience found in Matthew 28, we can note the following characteristics and cross references....

1. Active obedience must be quick obedience. 

Notice how quick the women were to obey the angel's instructions in Matthew 28:6-7  "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you. 8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples." Or again, Matthew 28:11a "Now while they were on their way....". We have a saying in our home: "slow obedience is no obedience". The active obedience we need for effective Christian growth must be quick. When God called Abraham in Genesis 12 to go to a country that he had never visited, Abraham never hesitated. He left Ur of the Chaldees. Hebrews 11:8 reminds us: "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going." 

Think of the godly king Josiah in 2 Kings 23. As soon as he heard the book of God's law read concerning where the nation ought to be spiritually, he wasted no time. Josiah's reforms and revival was the most dramatic move of God in Israel's history during the reigns of the kings. Or how about the Apostle Paul's testimony in Acts 26:19 to King Agrippa of how he followed through after his encounter with the post-resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. His obedience was quick.

But now notice a second trait of active obedience for growing in the path to spiritual growth, namely, consistency.

2. Active Obedience must be consistent obedience. 

As one compares the disciple's response of active obedience, we find it being consistent. There is no wavering. God's power and presence (the definition of blessing) attends us when we are consistent in our obedience. Notice what God says of Abraham in Genesis 22:18 "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” Sometimes the best way to see a truth in God's Word is to consider its opposite. In Matthew 28:11-15, we find consistency among the enemies of God's people who were being disobedient to God. They followed their leadership to the letter. They emulated the character of those leading them. Their aim of course was completely different, with a contrasting message and opposing heart. But the trait of consistency ran through the plots of the opposing forces conspiring against the disciples. This trait of consistency ought to characterize the obedience of God's people who look to Jesus as their King. 

3. Active obedience must be complete obedience 

We have seen how active obedience is necessary for proceeding forward on the path to spiritual growth. It needs to be quick and consistent. But notice a third truth: it needs to be complete. When the disciples arrived at the mountain Jesus had designated, they "worshiped Him". The whole point of this exercise was to see their Lord and then to worship Him. True obedience to God is only complete when we are worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth. 

Going through the mechanics of church life and the Christian life may look like obedience, but in reality, its mere outward conformity. Only when we have attained a heart of worship will our obedience be complete. I find it interesting that the text doesn't go into detail as to how long they worshiped, whether they sang to Jesus or remained silent or if anything was said by them. The Greek verb translated "worship" speaks of "bowing down". It is a word that is meant to convey a closeness, a proximity to Christ that is tantamount in terms of tenderness and intensity like when a bride and groom kiss for the first time. 

Closing thoughts:

Just as God saved Israel from Egypt to go into the desert to commune with Him in worship at the mountain, so too did Jesus provide salvation and raise from the dead so that His followers could worship Him at the mountain we see in Matthew 28. Active obedience is so crucial to progressing on the path to Christian spiritual growth. Active obedience must be quick, consistent and completed in worship. 

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