Friday, September 21, 2012

Informed Consent

So, there I was, reading in Colossians, when I came across this little gem.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:9-10).
"So?" Yeah, sounds pretty simple. In fact, it's so simple that it's part of Paul's greeting to the Colossian church. But it struck me as not quite as simple as it sounds. Or perhaps just as simple as it sounds, but we've missed it.

If you ask or think about how it is that we please God, the typical response is "obey". We are fed concepts like "obedience" and "duty" and all that as pleasing to God. We are encouraged to "do" even when we're not fully convinced. "Act like a Christian." Indeed, it is biblical language. "Do not grow weary in doing good" (2 Thess 3:13). And that's all well and good. But I notice that Paul has a slightly different slant on it here, and perhaps it would benefit us to learn from it.

Paul wants the believers in Colossae to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord", to be "fully pleasing to Him", to be "bearing fruit in every good work", to be "increasing in the knowledge of God" -- all those things that we associate with pleasing God. And they do. But Paul doesn't tell them to do all this in a vacuum. He bases it on something prior to obedience. Paul indicates that the way they can do all this is not simply to knuckle under and do, but by being "filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Now that's not what we often hear when we're being told to "act like a Christian."

Paul is telling his readers that genuine believers walk in a manner worthy of the Lord based on a growing knowledge of His will informed by spiritual wisdom and understanding. Pleasing God is accomplished rationally, with proper information, good understanding, and a deepening wisdom. It isn't a shallow obedience. It is an informed obedience. Christ's followers are not supposed to be blind followers, but trained, knowledgeable, understanding, wise followers. We are not asked to simply know what to do, but how and why to do it. That's a bit more than the normal instruction we're given to obey God. Perhaps we ought to get to work on that.

2 comments:

Jeremy D. Troxler said...

Stan,

Interesting that you point out this nuance (or perhaps blatantly obvious truth we don't see because of our inherent character flaws) that my children and I just discussed in family devotions a few days ago. It also ties in quite nicely with the discussion earlier this week regarding God's sovereignty.

We are enabled by the Holy Spirit God chooses to shine the light of Truth into our hearts to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, strength - to know for the first time what it is to live for the purpose of worshipping a Holy and Righteous Lord and Savior in all we think, do and say so as to be pleasing in His sight. In other words, God gives the ability and the desire that compels us to honor Him in all our lives, in which case the doing of things is a byproduct of the now existing compulsion not the means to achieve the recognition from God. Amazing if I could actually live that way every second of every day...but then again that is my desire, failing as I continue to be.

May the power of the Holy Spirit working in me, give me the ability in a greater and greater measure to fulfill the desire of my heart that was placed there when He brought me to know the Truth, that I could be faithful in glorifying Him in all my life and in so doing live in accordance with the purpose for which I was created. Such, I believe is the only real source of meaning and purpose in human existence.

Thanks for another great avenue of thought and right doctrine. Blessings.

Stan said...

Many in the world and even among Christians want to tell us that godly living is mere duty and not thoughtful or reasoned. Genuine godliness, they will tell us, comes from a sense, a feel, a "moving of the Spirit". Paul disagrees.