Saturday, February 19, 2011

Obedient in the obvious things

I've been preparing to preach this weekend, reading and rereading Acts 10. I love this story, the tale of Cornelius and Peter. Cornelius becomes the first Gentile convert to Christianity. When the story starts, he already has a deep faith in God. Acts says that he is devout, fears God with all his household, gives generously to the poor, and prays constantly.

No wonder it's easy for God to work in Cornelius. He is obedient in the obvious things. In other words, when God makes clear that something is important -- prayer, for example -- Cornelius just does it.

All this obedience creates space in Cornelius' life for God to work. God has access to Cornelius; he doesn't have to fight to get into his life. So when God puts the pieces in place to help Cornelius come to know Jesus, it's not too tough.

Are you obedient in the obvious things? So often we wish we knew what God's will is, like it was some mystery that we'd be glad to obey if only God would show us what his will is. Hogwash. God has made his will obvious, and most of us are dismally disobedient in the obvious things. This might be why our spiritual lives are frustrating and disappointing.

Here's a list of a few of the obvious areas where God has made his will clear. How are you doing in the obedience department?

1. Scripture. Immerse yourself in the Bible. Read it. Read it daily. Study it. Learn it. Memorize it. Talk about it with others.

2. Worship. Make worship a weekly habit. Gather with God's people. Prepare your mind and heart before attending, and meditate on what you've experienced after the fact. Be actively involved in worship, not passively seeking to be "fed" or entertained.

3. Prayer. Spend time in prayer each day. Set aside time just to connect with God. In addition, seek opportunities to talk to God throughout the day about the details. Praise him, confess your faults and seek forgiveness, thank him, and pray for others and their needs.

4. Giving. Give ten percent of your income to your church. Find some other Jesus-focused organizations or missionaries to support in addition to this. Grind your way through the challenges of giving this much money away. Let it fly in the face of your self-centeredness and your greed.

5. Serving. Find a way to invest some time each week in serving others. Yes, you should serve your family members but this goes beyond that. Teach a kids' class. Volunteer in the church nursery. Hand out food at your local food shelf. Show up early to church tomorrow morning to shovel the walks without being asked. Shovel your neighbor's walks. Adopt a class at your local school and ask a teacher how you can serve.

6. Evangelize. Invite someone to attend worship with you. Find a community event sponsored by your church and bring someone along. Start a conversation with someone you don't know and see where God takes it. Become a Confirmation leader or youth leader at your church and give your faith away to some teenagers.

7. Ask for forgiveness. Look at the relationships in your life. Have you hurt any of these people and left a barrier up in the relationship? Seek them out and apologize. Give them the opportunity either to express their anger or to share their forgiveness. Graciously accept either one.

We'll stop there for the moment, though God has made his will clear in lots more areas. How you doing with these seven? These are the obvious things, the obvious areas God has asked us to obey. If you want to do the will of God, these are great places to start. I guarantee you, if you work to be obedient in these areas, God will bless that and will open up new places in your life to his Spirit. You'll experience his presence and his power in new ways.

God's will is not some mysterious thing. It's fairly obvious.

John Ortberg said, "Obedience is the means by which we experience (not earn) God's grace." Amen!

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