Posted on May 7, 2014
#53: Extreme Obedience
Comedian Flip Wilson became well-known for a single line, uttered by his female character Geraldine whenever she got in trouble. Fans knew the line was coming and would roar with laughter when Geraldine screeched, “The devil made me do it!”
Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a broad excuse for our mess-ups? Just cover it all with, “I couldn’t help it. The devil made me do it!” The truth is, the devil can’t make us do anything. He can set up circumstances, he can whisper “logical” reasons to choose sin, he can beg and plead, he can threaten, he can even command (as he did with Jesus in the wilderness)—but he cannot force us to obey him. The choices we make are all our own. And they matter, big-time. In one of His most extreme teachings, Jesus showed how much our choices matter.
Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study through Mark’s gospel. We want to know and learn to be like Jesus. Pick up your Bible and let’s read.
Look at Mark 9:42-50, and a parallel account in Matthew 18:6-9.
Jesus gave a series of strange commands.
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”
“If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.”
“If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”
Was He bidding for a kingdom full of blind amputees? No! But He was making an attention-grabbing statement about the extreme measures we should take to avoid sin and guard our relationship with God.
Note that Jesus was talking to the Twelve, the ones closest to Him. He wasn’t talking to vile “sinners” but to the most faithful, warning them about the critical importance of godliness. Sin was about to cost Him dearly, and it was no joke. The price was extreme. He needed them (and us) to understand the gravity of sinful choices. He called for extreme obedience.
So, practically speaking, what does extreme obedience look like? It causes us to choose ways that make no sense to anyone but a Christ-follower, while trusting God to see and bless our righteous choices. For example,
• a choice to tithe, when simple math says there won’t be enough money left to pay the bills.
• a choice to marry rather than live with a boyfriend, though it will cause the loss of financial benefits given to single women.
• a choice to give up destructive friendships, even though letting go hurts.
• a choice to go to church on Sunday, though it’s the only morning of the week to sleep in and relax.
• a choice to persevere in a struggling marriage, even though being free of the burden seems attractive.
• a choice to change jobs, when the current one is damaging our spiritual life or compromising our values.
Your particular challenge may not be on this list—but I guarantee you have one (or more than one!) because we all do. In each circumstance, we need to “cut off” anything that stands between us and godliness. We do whatever it takes to be His. No excuses, no delays.
Will you take some time this week to consider what may be causing you to sin? What is standing between you and godliness? What immediate steps do you need to take to get rid of the obstacle? No excuses, no delays. Pray, asking God to help you live in extreme obedience.
© Diane McLoud 2014