The Limitations of Obedience (Pt 2)
September 26, 2010
The Limitations of Obedience (Pt 2)
The title of this newsletter is a little inflammatory, in light of the emphasis on obedience in scripture. Please hear this with grace. One person’s insight from Part 1 last week was:
“Wow. I have not heard this put this clearly. I realize I have developed a ‘poverty mindset’ over the years and I was cloaking it under the guise of obedience.”
Servants obey with no concept of carrying God’s initiatives in their hearts. Friends own the direction internal to their own hearts. “Obedience” doesn’t describe creativity. Truly creative artists or innovative entrepreneurs are not just following the directions on the package of life. They have something in their own hearts that is producing new and exciting concepts and progress in the Kingdom. They are free to express that level of initiative, and feel the full backing of the Holy Spirit to do it in the sense of working together with God. That “level” of heart engagement is what moves us from poverty to fruitfulness in the Kingdom.
Management – During one decade of my 30 year stint as an engineer, I was asked to manage a strategic planning group in a company of about 5000 people. They had assembled a dozen of the brightest chemical engineers in the company to evaluate the corporate direction. I wondered if I was qualified to lead them; their engineering skills and intelligence seemed beyond my own. To my surprise, this group of self-starters didn’t require much leadership. Their initiative was so high and they enjoyed their work so much, that they came up with a steady stream of new ideas and new ways to accomplish our goals. They owned the vision for our group themselves. They didn’t wait for me to spell out exactly what to do on a daily basis. They were not “dependent.” They just needed to know which mountain we were climbing and they would start making progress. I just had to set the course, define our deliverables, and occasionally tweak the progress.
I did have some experience working with “plodding” employees who required lots of direction, didn’t really enjoy their work, and wished they were doing something else. They required lots of time and direction, and seldom got it right on the first try. “Obedience” for them was external to their hearts, and progress was always painful. The strategic planning group was totally different. No matter how difficult the task or how big a problem or setback we encountered, it was always a pleasure to work with them. I believe the Lord allowed me to see that contrast to get a glimpse of “Kings.”
I saw the same thing as a pastor. Some embraced their vision and ran with it. Others had to be courted and cajoled and counseled and catered to… and still wouldn’t take a step on their own.
Laborers together – Kings work with the Father, not just for Him. Their hearts and God’s heart share the same desires. Their communion with the Holy Spirit is much closer than that of a servant. Kings own the vision and they will take responsibility to initiate actions to build the Kingdom. The actions that spring up out of God’s heart and our heart are the same.
For we are God’s fellow workers… 1 Cor 3:9 NASU
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 Cor 6:1-2 NIV
How do I get there – Jesus’ invitation to “friend,” the inside scoop on the Father’s plan, the honor of being “chosen,” and the authority to ask “whatever” is the realm of Kings. .
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15:15-17 NIV
Although it sounds instantaneous, listen to the way the Lord changes our hearts from servant to King.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezek 11:19-20 NIV
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezek 36:26-28 NIV (see also Heb 8:10 and 10:16)
This process can take some years and this is approximately how it goes.
1. When we first get saved, we have no clue what God expects from us. We read His word and cultivate our ability to hear His voice, and gradually get better at obedience with the help of pastors, teachers and mentors. It is delightful to hear and obey God.
2. We usually step out in some level of initiative we thought God led us into, experience a failure, and label it presumption. The brokenness and wounding from these setbacks reel us back into “obedience only.” Some never survive this experience, and remain at the servant level for life. They hide their hearts behind service, faithfulness, obedience, and humility. The pricetag is religious poverty and drudgery; a life that is bland, boring, introverted, unimaginative, lackluster, and unfulfilling. They are forever afraid of presumption, and refuse to dream or take initiative. They are fearful that the future will go badly and fearful of success at the same time.
3. Kings realize that mid-course corrections to our and God’s plan are normal, and don’t count them as permanent failures – more like routine opportunities for resurrections. Kings view themselves as stewards, responsible before God for their personal dream. They learn to move from “glory to glory,” and their hearts become increasingly engaged and excited about the Kingdom with each new initiative. They expect the future to “work out.”
How I view my own heart – My view of my own heart determines whether I can get from servant to King and make the transition from Step 2 to Step 3. “Human depravity” is a theological heritage for nearly all of us. Many of us view our hearts as “desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). We say to ourselves “His ways are not our ways” (Isa 55:8-9). And we say that all our righteousness are as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). These verses, and others like them, describe a specific person or group at a specific time in history. The doctrinal mistake we make is that we take these verses out of context and ascribe them to everyone, everywhere, all the time. It’s not true! Read the context for yourself – it’s easy to see when you look for it. You can read much more on the specifics of this topic in chapter 8 of Releasing Kings or Precious in His Sight by Harold Eberle.
Bottom line – If my self-concept is “fallen sinner” then I will always see presumption in the rear view mirror. If my self-concept is saint, I will see a pattern for good in every circumstance (Rom 8:28).
Although we have all sinned and will continue to make some mistakes in the future (sin), we are best described as created in God’s image as vessels who carry His Spirit, His power, His glory, and accomplish his purposes. Our goal has to be higher than obedient servant. We are Kings who share the heart of Jesus and do exploits that bless the heart of God, bless the nations, and build the Kingdom. Life is not following directions as much as an invitation to dance. You have to hear the music and join the party. It’s fun, it’s natural, and it’s amazingly fruitful in birthing ministry and wealth. God values our our personal dreams and visions and our initiative to make them reality! That’s how the Kingdom is built.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Prov 25:2 NIV
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:20-21 NIV
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17 NIV
Thought question #1 – If I see other people as inherently sinful and prone to presumption, what style of leadership will I gravitate toward in relating to them?… “Controlling, condescending, valuing dependence, and emphasizing obedience.”
If I see people created in God’s image, I will value them as an equipper, encourager their unique talents and dream, and release their hearts to function as Kings in the Kingdom.
Thought #2 – If God is sovereign (in the sense of controlling everything in the future) and I am inherently sinful, then “presumption” is the logical label for everything that goes wrong. I’m always the problem, and obedience to God’s voice is always the solution.
If the future is open (God intervenes on some things but leaves many things for us to “steward”) and I am created in His image, then I can accept that setbacks might be from accidents, other people, the enemy, or my own shortcomings. I simply make the mid-course corrections and prevail – I take responsibility for inheriting my land and my destiny. We are more than conquerors and we manage life to overcome in every area. We know that God is working with us and empowering us beyond our own abilities to succeed because our hearts are on the same page and because He multiplies our efforts. We’re working with God and He’s working with us.
Thought #3 – Kings can, and do, operate in the revelation-obedience dynamic. What is different, and much more balanced, is that they can also operate in wisdom and initiative – something God expects. Read proverbs. We don’t have to play obedience against wisdom as a basis for action. We need both.
…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Eph 1:17 NIV
PS: You may also enjoy the video version of this newsletter.
John and Sue
Newsletter – If your newsletter comes incomplete (filtered), you can always catch the latest version in our archive along with nearly 200 others. 1400 people from around the world get Kingly encouragement from our weekly newsletter. Invite a friend to subscribe – they will be blessed.
How to Start a Small Group – Kings are increasingly getting involved in Bible study or mentoring groups to facilitate their “Release.” Here are some helpful suggestions www.Releasing-Kings.com/Starting-a-Group.html. We’ve also updated our Vision Brochure with graphics show how to become a King and how your can help Release Kings.
French Translation – Releasing Kings is now available in French thanks to the efforts of Cees Bakker and Support Ministries in the Netherlands. In France, copies can be obtained from Editions Menor or Librairie Chretienne CLC. The Title in French is “Libération des Rois pour le ministère dans le monde du travail”. Cees is also the guy who made the Dutch translation possible – available through his website. He can be contacted for Releasing Kings conferences in France and throughout Europe.
Facebook – I’m starting to post more information on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/john.garfield1
PS: I want to recommend some follow-up reading.
Who is God by Harold Eberle provides the best explanation of the open view of God. It’s must reading that connects our perception of God with everyday life.
Releasing Kings for Ministry in the Marketplace takes that foundation into marketplace ministry and the entrepreneurial nature of Kings. Fruit in the marketplace naturally springs out of sound doctrine.
Desire to Destiny – Takes the foundation and marketplace ministry and puts them in the context of seven practical keys or stages of growth you can apply in your own life.
You’re invited into the vision to release Kings; communicate the message, make the money, and do the mission.
1.The Message – Our first goal is to get the Releasing Kings message into the hands of the messengers that will carry it… do it, preach it, teach it, example it.
2.The Money – The second goal is to help Kings break out of poverty by networking them with practical opportunities to prosper. We want to introduce them to the right people, the right opportunity, and the right financial approach.
3.The Mission – Network Kings with opportunities to mix business and missions. Accomplish the great commission through the marketplace and occupy the Seven mountains of: business, media, arts & entertainment, education, family and government in addition to the church.
You can get your copy of Releasing Kings for Ministry in the Marketplace or Desire to Destiny at