January 18, 2012


God's desire is for us to obey Him. However, to 'obey' does not have the same meaning as one might think. God desires obedience so that we live a life that is without chaos. We often think it is blind obedience we are to have. In so doing, we never believe we can obey nor is He ever pleased with us. God does want obedience, however He does not require it to be blind obedience. We see this in several verses and in particular, Isaiah 1:18.

Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Reason: to argue; causatively to decide, justify or convince:

Obedient: to hear intelligently, understand, consent, consider, be content.

The Hebrew words indicates that God wants us to reason with Him, to argue, to understand and be content with what we are hearing.

I recently had a young man come to me for counsel. We dialoged about the solution to some of his problems. He inquired if he had to follow my counsel. I advised him that if he came for counseling and I gave him a solution to his dilemma, he had an opportunity to argue the merits of the counsel. It was my obligation to explain thoroughly and articulately my remedy. He was required to 'hear' me but my role was to convince him that my solution would work. If he didn't understand or didn't agree, he was not obligated however, once he was convinced and left the session, he was required to follow. The principle is that I am required to convince him that my solution would work. He needed to be content with, understand and convicted with what I advised.

The believer is also required to "'obey' them that have rule over you and submit themselves..." Heb 13:17.

The same principle applies here. The word obey is 'peitho' and the meaning is: to convince (by argument, by analogy to pacify or conciliate (stop someone from being angry or discontent, act as mediator), persuade, trust, yield.

It is incumbent upon those that rule to convince, mediate with and persuade those under their rule. It is abhorrent of them to dictate or require blind obedience.

This is played out in Paul's writing to Timothy when he pens the qualifications for those who rule: "One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how [experientially] to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil". 1 Timothy 3

The principle, again, is that the father must rule his house, wife and children, by the same approach, not requiring blind obedience but rather by an appeal, argument, analogy, conciliating and convincing. If he does not learn and know how to do this with his family, he will not know how to do this with the Believer of whom he is responsible.

Lastly, we see that the wives, children and slaves (involuntarily or voluntarily) are told to 'obey'.

The Greek word for this action is: hupakouō

The meaning of this word is: To hear under, to listen attentively, heed or conform; be reported, understand.

The one in authority, if the husband, parent or master, must have an audience and must give clear instruction and reasoning and reference so that the hearer can understand. The subordinate person is required to listen attentively.

The theme in these Scriptures is not a domineering tyrant but rather a kind leader who 'knows his flock', be it in the assembly of Believers or the home.
He leads by communicating with those under him with conversation and convincing and dialog. I propose that the subordinate is not required to comply by blind obedience but rather by being convinced of an action.

The thought behind obedience is not to do what one is told, without question but with reason and reasoning through a command. I have seen youth whose parents want ultimate control over their lives but don't give them a reason for making them obey. Rather, they say, "because I am your parent" or "because I said so". These children often grow to adults who have to experiment with every evil to learn on their own, the 'why or why not', because they don't have a "file cabinet" in their mind, to help them with decision making. This "file cabinet" of information was what the parent should have helped them build when they were young. This is done by helping them make decisions, not deciding for them. It is done by reasoning with them, not by requiring blind obedience.

God 's desire is for the Believer to "lead a tranquil and quiet life in all Godliness and dignity". 1 Tim 2 This proper response to authority is accomplished through proper training and reasoning.

January 12, 2010

Law of Liberty


James gives a better way than the Law of Moses.

The law of liberty

“So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13

We cannot keep the Law of Moses fully. The Law of Moses cannot set us free from the law of sin and death. But God has given us a law that can set us free.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2

The law of the Spirit of life is the law of liberty. Through the Spirit we can be free from sin in order to fulfill the Law.

“…in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4

This is what Jesus had promised.

“…If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32

The freedom to do good does not come from the Law, but from following Jesus.
This freedom is to be used for others.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

Freedom from sin makes new things possible. We will not be judged by the Law of Moses, but by the law of freedom. (The Greek word translated “free” or freedom” in other places is the same word translated as “liberty” in James.) If we are able to do new things, then we can be judged for what we chose.

We as believers will be judged.

- “…For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Romans 14:10

- “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12

- “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
- II Corinthians 5:10

- “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
Revelation 22:12

But Christ will judge us by His perfect law, the law of liberty. He gave us a new commandment that sums up the law of liberty – Jesus gave us the freedom and power to love, something the law of Moses could not give us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

It is in this commandment that we will be judged, and receive our inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You in prison, and come to You?

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:35-40

Judgment is based on what has been given.

“…And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48


Freedom makes mercy more important than law, for we are responsible for more.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

We should speak and act as those who will need mercy in the day of judgment. Our acts of mercy will speak out against the demand for judgment in that day. If we have shown no mercy in this life, judgment will be also without mercy. We will need mercy.

Compassion and mercy are rewarded.

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

As we look intently at the law of liberty, we do not see rules but responsibility for others.
We will not be judged for sins, but for what we have done. The works of compassion and mercy will stand in the judgment.

“Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.” I Corinthians 3:12-15

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

“… so speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty … mercy triumphs over judgment.”
James 2:12-13

Mercy instead of judgment

When Israel made the golden calf, God told Moses what they had done. He told Moses to let Him alone that He might destroy them. But Moses interceded for them on the mountain. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf, He broke the tablets written by the finger of God. In anger Moses broke the Law; he broke what God gave him. Even though he already knew what they had done, and he held in his hands the Law written by God Himself, Moses threw away the tablets. Moses destroyed the golden calf; he called for Israel to rid themselves of those who had worshiped it. Moses acted in anger, destroying the tablets, the golden calf, and some of those who had worshiped it.

But the next day, he returned to ask God to forgive them. He went back, not only to ask God to forgive, but also to see His glory. God listened to Moses, showing him His glory, and replacing the tablets that Moses had broken in anger. God did not deal with Moses with judgment but with mercy. Moses had mercy on the people; God had mercy on Moses. In the time that the Law of Moses is being given, Moses needed mercy. Mercy triumphed over judgment.

Greg Whitten-James

August 25, 2009


There a paradox. The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; yet it is there that Christ is to dwell by faith. It is out of the heart that man is defiled; yet it is with the heart that man believes. Believers’ hearts can be filled by Satan to lie to the Holy Spirit; yet the word of faith can be found in the heart.

The heart is a garden; it will be what we make of it. If we neglect it, our heart will be filled with weeds that will choke out the word. If we tend it, our heart will produce a harvest far in excess of what was given to it.

The promise of the New Covenant is that He will give us a new heart and a new spirit; He will take out the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh. He does not make our heart perfect; He makes it soft. We can hear His voice speaking to our heart. The word can grow in this heart of flesh.

But we can harden our hearts; we can refuse to listen. We can be hardened by sin. We are the gardeners of our heart.

It is the word that is sown in the heart; we have been born again by this word. But the word implanted in the ground must be received as it sends out roots. The doer of the word receives the word. The word can become rooted in him.

The garden must be watered; even a few days of neglect can kill much of what is growing. We must keep coming to Him and drinking; the heart needs the Holy Spirit.

The garden must be weeded. Weeds choke out the word; the sins and love of this world must be pulled out. Our heart can be cleansed. As we actively confess our sins, He forgives and cleanses us. The sins of our heart keep us from growing.

“…this mystery … which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Colossians 1:27-29

The heart, which will grow only weeds if neglected, can grow Christ when kept. What we do makes a difference in our heart; our heart can be healed.

Gardening is hard work; it takes time every day. Much of it has to be done on our knees.

_Greg Whitten