I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

This is our seventh (and perhaps last) look at religious filters that block our full view of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  This is one that I personally was wearing for many years.  That is, obedience and submission to God and others.

Now this filter (as in all filters) at first glance, has the look of legitimacy and correctness about it.  Of course, God does want us to obey Him and submit to leaders and all others in the body of Christ.  In the New Testament there are over 58 “one anothers”.  One of those is to submit to one another ( Eph. 5:21).  Mutual submission is a very important aspect of body life that comes to us straight from the Triune God Himself.  But let me begin this expose of this filter by telling you a story of my own experience.

My Own Zeal and Obedience to God

When I was much younger and still a fairly new believer, I was a very enthusiastic, passionate, and even zealous young brother.  I wanted to be a great man of God and I was willing to go anywhere and do anything for my precious Lord.  I was told that obedience was better than sacrifice and all of my sacrifices didn’t really amount to a hill of beans if I didn’t obey God.  So I set my face like a flint towards being a faithful and obedient servant of the Lord.

I read many biographies of men and women of God from days gone by who lived lives completely devoted and set apart to God.  They loved God completely and I wanted to be like that.  Some of them would pray for hours each day on their knees!  Some would leave all and move to another country to preach the gospel to the lost.  Yet others would be severely criticized and persecuted for His name’s sake.  My thought about these folks was that if they could do it, so could I!  All it would take would be a strong resolve, unwavering determination, and strict obedience to God’s word.  Or so I thought.

At the time, I was also attending a church which believed in the “sheparding/discipleship movement’.  This was a movement in the 70’s where authority and submission to “spiritual” leadership was taught to be the way to know God and become a mature believer.  Obedience was the key to everything, we were taught.  If you are obeying your elders, then you are obeying God.  If not, then you were considered a rebellious person who would need chastising by the Lord.  Since I wanted to please the Lord with all of my heart, I believed this teaching and tried my best to obey the leadership in the church.  During this time of my life I would also pray for hours each day and study my bible for hours each day.  I would have to rise very early in the morning to do all of this!

Also during this time I was feeling that I needed to obey God more in the areas of helping the poor and reaching the lost.  So, for a time, I worked every week at an inner city rescue mission, went door-to-door witnessing, and preached the gospel on the streets.  I saw very few results from this work but I continued because I wanted to please God and obey His word.  I believed that if I only could pray harder, believe more, witness more, and serve Him more then I would be pleasing to Him.  Honestly, I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to please and obey God!

Getting Set Free from Obedience

No doubt there are some of you reading this post that will misunderstand the following statement.

I desperately needed to be set free from the tyranny of obedience!

After fifteen years of trying to please and obey God I had a revelation.

I hardly even knew this God I was trying to please by my obedience!

I discovered that eternal life was not based upon my obedience.  That Christ crucified me on the cross including my own obedience!  That I had made my relationship with Him all about law instead of about LIFE.  That I had no reason to boast in my obedience because in me, that is in my flesh (not even the “good” flesh), there was not one good thing.  I was brought to the end of myself and finally realized that apart from Him I CAN DO NOTHING!  That I had become self-righteous and elitist because I actually believed that I was more devoted and passionate and a better “obeyer” than most believers.  That I had become enslaved to an authoritarian hierarchal system of authority and submission that was holding my family in bondage.  That I had become a tyrant in my own home.

I discovered that there really was no way that I could ever please God.  There was only One who could please the Father and that was His only begotten Son (Matt. 3:17).  But that now I was in Him and that I was a new creation who was part of the Son and had the same relationship with the Father.  That there was only One Sonship and I was in Him!

I also discovered that I couldn’t even obey God.  Apart from Him I really could do absolutely nothing!  I discovered that abiding in Him was the key to it all.  That meant living by His indwelling life and not by my own human life.  And that if I would abide in the true Vine I would truly bear the fruit of all of His character and nature.  And that even included the obedience of the Son to the Father!