Who doesn’t want good results?
We all want to see good results – in our lives, in our children, in our churches, in our communities, even in our countries. We all hope to do something great that somebody would notice or that we would be remembered for one day. We all want our children to be known for their good behaviour and character. Same for our church members, if we are the pastor or leader. We all want to live in thriving communities that are kind and gracious, and countries that are safe, prosperous, and led with wisdom and high morals.
And the first lesson we all need to learn is this: preaching about the problem or the results we want will never produce the results.
To put it more plainly, talking about what is wrong will not make things right. Reminding ourselves, our spouses, our children, our congregation about what is needed and how we should behave and live will not get us there.
Though it may prick some sincere and earnest souls to try to do better for a while, such “results” will be short-lived, and will only last until people realise that they can’t keep it up forever, before fizzling out invariably. Nagging and flogging people never changed anyone permanently. Every spouse and parent knows that.
So – what then? To enjoy the fruits, we first need to plant the seed that will grow the tree.
Well, sure, we all know that. We learn it at church – if we want to receive love, sow seeds of love i.e. love others. If we want friendship, sow seeds of friendship, i.e. befriend people. If we want forgiveness, forgive first. A very simple principle of ‘Do to others what we want others to do to us’.
Jesus, in fact, taught this, in the Sermon on the Mount, but interestingly, He also summed this up as “the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Actually, this principle is widely known and taught throughout the world today, in many religions and even by non-religious parents and teachers to children.
What does that tell us? People don’t really need to go to church to learn or know what the Law and Prophets say. Could it be, that in preaching this so heavily in church, we are simply telling people things they already knew before they even stepped in?
But then, on a different mountain, the Mount of Transfiguration, God revealed His actual heart for us today. In Matthew 17:1-8, as Jesus is revealed for a moment in all His full glory to His disciples (Peter, James, and John), Moses and Elijah – representing the Law and the Prophets – also appear, and Peter speaks up out of turn, suggesting to build shelters each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
Then God the Father Himself speaks, silencing Peter with His affirmation for His Son and His instruction to them: “This is My Son, marked by My love, focus of My delight. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5, MSG, emphasis mine)
God made His point very clear in that statement – He doesn’t want us to listen to Jesus plus the Law and the Prophets, He wants us to listen to His Son Jesus and Jesus alone. When the disciples opened their eyes and looked around, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and all they saw was Jesus – only Jesus.
And the first and only words Jesus said to His disciples were: “Arise, and do not be afraid.” The Greek word for “arise” here means to awake or recall the dead to life. Why? Because I (Jesus) have come, the work is finished at the cross, and because of Me you can stand boldly before God without fear in the righteousness I have gifted you and receive life for whatever may be dead in your situation!
That is the truth and essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell – Good News for us because of Him.
Going back to the fruits and the seed, the fruit we all want in ourselves, our family, our church members and our community around us is this: people living Christ-like, full of faith and loving God and others out of God’s love. Not mere human love, but God’s kind of love. That’s holiness, evangelising and witnessing all wrapped up in one.
What, then, would be the seed to sow? Why, if we want people to love with God’s love, then surely we must sow into them the seed of God’s love for them! And the love of God is demonstrated thus, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).
The love of God is never separated from the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. The seed we need to be sowing in churches is the seed of the gospel of Jesus and what He has done for us.
The first 5 occurrences after the Gospels of the Greek word hypakouo, translated as “obey” or “obedient”, all relate to doctrine and the truth of the gospel.
Acts 6:7 says the word of God increased among the people, the church multiplied greatly, and many of the priests were “obedient to the faith” – and as we read from Paul’s epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, “the faith” is always referring to the truth of our justification by faith in Christ.
The next 3 occurrences of this Greek word hypakouo (translated ‘obey’, ‘obedient’) in Romans 6 talks about having “obeyed” from the heart the doctrine that delivered us from sin into righteousness, which is none other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only truth that does this.
And the 5th time this word appears after the church is established, is in Romans 10:16, where Paul writes:
But they have not all obeyed (hypakouo) the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
This is then followed by the verse all Christians are familiar with in Romans 10:17, which says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
What is obeying the gospel? The verse itself tells us – believing His report. The reference is to Isaiah 53, the Messianic chapter which talks of Jesus taking the punishment for our sins and transgressions and also purchasing our healing at the cross. Again, the gospel.
But the following verse – Romans 10:17 – gives us the key to believing, i.e. faith. Believing comes naturally by hearing and continuously hearing the word and gospel of Christ.
Actually, the definition of the word hypakouo itself gives us this key – its first definition is “to hear under, and to listen attentively”; and the secondary definition that follows then is “to hearken or heed a command”.
Hence, as we simply listen attentively to and hear the gospel of Jesus preached, we are already obeying the gospel in God’s eyes. And as we continue to listen, the outworking and outflow that manifests practically in living by faith and loving God and others will follow naturally.
The secret to effortless obedience simply lies in hearing, and continuously hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. All we need to focus on is listening to His Good News, and He will do the rest.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.