Discerning the will of God can be tough. Yes, there are clear “do this” and “avoid this” parts of the Bible (i.e. The Ten Commandments), and we like these. They are simple and easy to remember. When faced with an internal struggle to love my neighbor or not, the answer is clear! Love! Thank you God for giving us rules! Our hearts cry out, GIVE ME THE LAW OF LIFE! We just want to know which way to go. But what about the commands to exercise wisdom and discernment? Those make us a little uneasy. Just tell me which job to take, which man to marry, which ministry to pursue.
Our desire for commands, for “black and white” can be seen in the way we interpret Scripture. When we read Genesis 3, we read that God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…and they disobeyed. Which is an accurate summary of what happened. However, how did the temptation occur? If it was as simple as obeying the command or not obeying the command, wouldn’t the serpent have merely said “Go eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”? Wouldn’t that have been enough?
Instead, God’s very character came under attack. It came down to belief and trust. Underneath the serpent’s questions lie greater realities that were being challenged. Does He know what’s best for you? Does he want to rule over you with an iron first? Is God believable?
In the same way, in John’s gospel, he repeats the same idea over and over: belief is primary. Belief underlies obedience. Belief, receiving of Jesus is the gospel. Belief leads to obedience, but obedience is not primary.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
John’s gospel is filled with contrasting language to further illustrate his message. This one is clear: belief is the opposite of disobedience. Receiving grace, the person of Jesus Christ, is the opposite of works that oppose him. Obedience is not the opposite of disobedience. Belief is. If you are not under grace, you are under the Law. If your relationship with Jesus is not based on belief, it is based on disobedience.
How does this impact the way you view your Christian walk? Are you trying to be obedient, or are you fighting for belief? When you see your sin, do you construct walls to protect yourself from sinning again, or better methods to simply believe? Do you cry out with the father of the sick child, “I believe, help my unbelief!”? When you catch yourself coveting another’s life stage: be it marriage, pregnancy or retirement, do you fix your eyes on Jesus once again, believing that He is wise, He is good, He only gives good gifts to His children? Or do you get off Facebook (darn status updates) and avoid all of your engaged or pregnant friends? Do you see your unbelief underneath your disobedience?
As you are faced with disobedience, fix your eyes on Jesus, who He is, what He has done and what He has promised. Don’t fight for obedience, fight for belief.