Last fall I found myself wrestling with some fairly significant life decisions. Well, I thought that I was wrestling with the decisions. I was only wrestling with myself. I shared my overflowing thoughts with my supervisor and, when she asked how she could pray for me, I fumbled out some answer about “clarity.” She heard all of my thoughts, all of my concerns, and responded with, “I am going to pray for your obedience.”
In other words, “Doug, you know what you are supposed to do. Do it!”
Obedience should not be hard, but we have a tendency to make it so. We make it difficult in our minds, but, when we bring it down to our heart, it is really quite simple. Proverbs cautions us again and again to not argue with fools. The only fool I was arguing with was myself.
This is not to suggest that obedience, and therefore purity, is easy. If it were so, we would not feel as if we are in the midst of a war. It is the very purity of our heart that the enemy seeks to destroy. The battle, the fight, is difficult. Brutal. You will incur wounds, blood loss, flesh wounds, and ultimately sacrifice your entire body to the fight. But the solution to your struggle is simple -obedience of the heart.
When my supervisor used the word “obedience” rather than my word of “clarity,” it changed my perspective. When Jesus stood on the water and told Peter to “Come,” there was no question as to what the directive was. The only question left to answer was Peter’s obedience.
We are called to be pure. Holy. Set apart. You have been adopted into God’s family, and that comes with a new standard. It’s not a standard that you can keep on your own, but by the help of the Spirit, you can.
Have you ever thought, “I sure wish I had been born with the obedience gene?” Or, “Why doesn’t God just make me obey him? That would be easier!” The main character in the book The Shack asked a question like that. The question, at its core, boils down to a question of free will. If God wants us to love him, why doesn’t he just make us?
Think about someone who loves you, or someone whom you love. Did you want the love to be an act of rote obedience, or would you prefer that it is a selfless act? Doesn’t love hold more value when one chooses to give it? If I do not have to love you, but I give my life in devotion to you, isn’t that the whole point of love?
Gideon, I believe, was found in obedience when an angel of The Lord approached him. Gideon was threshing wheat. It was a necessary task, and he was in obedience. When Gideon gave of himself, prepared a meal for the angel, he made a sacrifice. That model of obedience + sacrifice not only allowed Gideon to see that it was truly The Lord before him, but it also allowed him to understand God’s bigger purpose.
Jesus, throughout his life, offered himself in love and in obedience. To believe that Jesus was fully human is to believe that he was given the capacity of free will. Jesus had to wrestle with the same struggles of the heart that you and I do. But Jesus did not need clarity. He needed obedience. He made the sacrifice to give himself completely over the will of God out of love. He obeyed. And in giving himself to the will of his Father, he gave himself to you. It was obedience to his heart and the heart of God that allowed for his life to be pure.
How about you? Are you wrestling with a fool, and are you that fool? Yes, there are times when we need clarity. We seek out the will of God, the heart of God, and his desires for us in different situations. But when it comes to purity, you do not need clarity. You need obedience. Have you engaged in an activity that falls outside of the realm of obedience? Have you engaged in a relationship with a person that does not fall within the will of God?
You are surrounded by choices; I have no doubt about that. But what will you choose? Are you waiting for God to make you obey? Do you want him to step in and thump you over the head? Or, in your heart, do you know what it is that you are called to do? More importantly, do you know who it is that you are called to love?
God is a jealous God. He longs for your love to be placed in him. He desires that you would be set apart, made holy and special, unto him. But the choice is yours. Will you, out of love, obey those words of God to remain pure? Will you, through acts of obedience, give your love?
I am certain that your ability to remain pure in love for another person is directly impacted and connected by your ability to remain pure in love with God. You cannot separate them.
When I realized the wisdom of my supervisor, I changed how I viewed my actions. There was no question about whether or not I should step out of the boat. The only question left was whether or not I would. I did. I left a full-time position, leaving only a part-time position in chaplaincy as my income. And God used my sacrifice completely. And he revealed a bigger plan. Just as he did for Gideon, God gave me the clarity of my call to ministry. Now I know that anything other than that would only pollute the pure direction he has placed within me.
And the pattern must repeat.
Obey. Sacrifice. Revelation of purpose. Obey. Sacrifice.
As you consider purity, understand that purity is not a choice. But your obedience is. What will you choose?