Fulfillment Requires Obedience

True and lasting fulfillment requires obedience. True obedience to the Lord is fulfilling. God’s perfect love has provided the pathway to real obedience.

For many, however, the conviction to obey is saturated with a concept of negativity. Why do I say this? Well, far too often when one thinks about obedience, it normally brings about a feeling of completing a task, apart from the actual desire or longing to do it. Meaning, we associate obedience with obligation, rather than what it was intended for: fulfillment. When Jesus walked among us, He demonstrated fulfilling obedience. He carried out what many would see as a very different lifestyle of obedience. The life Jesus lived demonstrated what obedience to our Heavenly Father should look like in each of our lives today.

Obedience to the Lord is about making the choice, it is about purposing to live each day, (a lifestyle) to live a lifestyle of Biblical love and devotion to God, the same God who has fully and completely loved us with an enduring and extravagant, perfect love.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus said: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (vss. 9 & 10) So why then is it so easy for us to miss the heart, the intent of God, when He calls us to pursue true fulfillment through obedience? Jesus demonstrates in John 15 that He purposed to live in such a way that it reflected, and it reciprocated the love He was shown by the Father. He lived His life in obedience to the Lord out of the depth and wealth of relationship He had – never out of simple duty or obligation. Jesus asks: will those who follow me now, do the same?

Another Biblical example we have regarding fulfilling obedience is in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus states the greatest commandment in Luke 10:27“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The heart of God for us incredible, as He does not call us to a lifestyle of obligation, or even undesired sacrifice – rather, He calls us to a way of living each day that enables us to fully reflect and reciprocate the abundance of love that has be demonstrated in Christ and poured out for all the the world. The Lord does not merely set rules before us, rather He has made a relationship with Him the goal. He is after your heart – which comes in total and complete surrender to Him.

Our culture is often marked by its self-seeking, self-satisfying agenda – but, the Lord in His strength and power and wisdom, has set us free from this, enabling us to step outside of the burden of living for ourselves. We have been freed to live for others, by reflecting and reciprocating the perfect love of God when we live out a life of fulfilled obedience to the Lord. Our current way of living is often marked with the weight of pride, but God provides a way of freedom. The Father pours our His unceasing, selfless love which has the power to transform us into His beloved who can abide in the Lord and reflect His heart of truth, love and obedience.

If we purpose to truly obey the Lord, to abide in God’s commandments and to love wholeheartedly, we will experience true satisfaction that is unknown to those around us that are filled with the pursuits of our culture regarding selfishness and pride. We can and we will experience the abundant life promised to us by God if we abide in Him alone, if our identity rests in Him, in what He has revealed in His Holy Word, and when the Lord is our source of approval, and the source of a fulfilled life. 

May we abide in the commands of the Lord, choosing to live a lifestyle of wholehearted love for Him and of others. May we choose to live in obedience to Him, in response to His profound love for us. And as we do, may we discover the power, the purpose, and the radical freedom that comes from serving others with the very love that has been demonstrated through Jesus Christ for us, and them. May we experience fulfillment when we truly obey that which God has commanded His beloved to do.

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Lions, Honey & Lust – Oh My!

If a story was written about you, what would you want it to say? Perhaps you would want it to share a good mixture of different experiences from your life. Or, perhaps you’d want just the highlights to be proudly reported for all to read.

When we look at Scripture, we see many stories shared about different people. From Moses to the Samaritan woman at the well, we see people from different generations of life and from a wide variety of places and circumstances. Sometimes, Scripture gives us but just a glimpse into ones life, and then other times, the Bible goes into great detail.

For example, take David: From a shepherd boy to the King of Israel. Declared by God, as a man after His own heart, when we read his story we see moments of triumphant and moments of tragedy. We see his faithfulness and obedience to the Lord and we learn first hand from his missteps and mistakes as well.

Another amazing story is about a man named Samson. As a young boy, I was captivated by the stories I heard of the strength of this guy – how he lost it all after seeking only what was best for himself, but, how in one final moment, God used Samson as an instrument of Israel’s deliverance where Samson would die in a final act of courage.

Samson’s miraculous birth, exploits, failings, and redemptive death is covered in the book of Judges from chapters 13 to 16. These verses in Scripture share about everything from his mullet-like long hair, to his rated R lifestyle and all of it produces some profound stories for us to learn from.

If one is honest, they probably can see themselves in many of these stories. For even when we believe that God is for us, we can still pursue what we believe to best for us instead.

One experience in the life of Samson has always truly captivated me. In Judges 14, Samson sought to marry a Philistine woman. His family didn’t understand what God was preparing this marriage for. Scripture shares though, that God was using this marriage to create an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time. Verses 5 and 6 share that As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it. “

What a crazy thing to have happen? Right?! Almost out of nowhere, a lion attacks and you rip it apart with your bare hands?! Crazy! This experience would have made Samson a candidate for the TV show “I Was Prey” on Animal Planet. Now, I don’t know about you, but a wild animal attack is not something I am actively preparing for and I am sure that this moment during his travel to pursue a woman he wanted to marry, that it was definitely an unwanted experience as well. But unlike that TV show on Animal Planet that tells the story of surviving an attack, Scripture clearly said that Samson did not tell his parents about what had happened. He didn’t share this experience…yet.

The Nazarite Vow that Samson took came about because before he was even born, his parents made a promise the Lord – dedicating Him to the Lord, and promising that throughout the life of their son, he would fulfill this vow.

This specific vow can be summed up into three basic guidelines: do not consume alcohol, do not touch anything that is deceased, and do not cut your hair. Samson wasn’t suppose to “cuss or chew or hang out with girls who do” but man oh man, did Samson end up breaking all the rules, especially theses core guidelines of the Nazarite Vow.

Samson actively used his God-produced strength to tear apart that attacking lion. After some time had passed from his first trip, Judges 14 goes on to tell us that he would return again to Timnah for the wedding to this Philistine woman, and along that path, he looked for the carcass of the lion he had killed. (Side note: WHY? If I had been attacked by animal, and survived, I doubt I’d want to revisit that spot.) Samson goes and finds the lion, and he sees that bees had made a nest in the animal and were making honey in the carcass of the lion. Verse 9 says: “He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion.”

It appears that without much thought, Samson ignores a key guideline. For the life of me, I cannot imagine doing what he did – it seems pretty disgusting, to dig around in decaying animal and to eat honey found in that animal. However, Samson saw something he wanted and took what he wanted. Making his vow out to be nothing!

We are much like Samson because far too often when we see something we want, then that becomes all that we can think about. Take ice-cream: see it, want it, and then we justify how we will work off those unnecessary calories, perhaps telling ourselves why we deserve a little treat like this, and then…we take what we want, that glorious ice-cream.

In a teaching, Pastor Craig Groeschel said: “Lust makes us think, ‘I want it.’ Entitlement is that love that takes ‘I want it’ and adds ‘…and I deserve it.” And like Samson, we can live our lives with a simple thought pattern: “I see. I want. I need. Heck, I deserve this…” type of mentality.

What God wanted for Samson was clear: do not consume alcohol, do not touch anything that is deceased, and do not cut your hair. But in the heart of Samson was something that pulled him away from God’s best: lust.

What causes you to pursue or even choose your own way over what we say we believe to be God’s best for our lives? It is an all consuming lust that is developed by what we see, and then think we want or need and what we believe that we deserve.

With this story of Samson, and with many stories from his life, we learn what happens when we seek to justify our sin and desires to fit our agenda. But when we do this, we are making a choices to turn our hearts away from what God wants for our lives.

What God wants for your life is actually the very best thing!

The Lord has given you abilities and strengths to make choices within your life – some big, and others small – but to make choices that not conveniently ignore God’s direction and His best for you. But rather, He has given you these abilities and resources so that you can continual turn your heart toward what we know God wants: an abundant life.

Remember where your strength comes from. It comes from your Heavenly Father.

Recall your own less-than-perfect story, and in doing so, begin to identify why you are giving into your own weaknesses, and seek to understand why it is easier for you to sell out your own God–given strengths, purely so that you might gain some kind of acceptance from people who don’t have your best in mind.

Seek to guard your heart. Keep an account of your strengths, of the the unique gifts, talents and abilities God has poured out on you, that He seeks to develop within you. Write them out. Look at the value God has for you. He believes in you. He has equipped you. Don’t give up and remember that the next time you make a commitment to God, that you will not sell out these strengths to anyone or anything. And when you do mess up on your promise to Him, be quick to confess that and repent of it. You must not forget that the Lord loves you and that He longs to forgive and restore you, and that He will help you pursue once again, His best for you.

Stay away from those lions and the girls that cuss too! Seek to make choices each day, in each relationship and within each experience, that push you closer to God while following the guidelines within Scripture. Strive to make each day, a holy and joy filled pursuit of God’s best, growing in His wisdom and strength everyday.