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The Contours of (Dis)obedience

Jim Thompson - 3/3/2024


What does it look like to obey after you’ve disobeyed? When we mess up, when we sin, when we do things our own way for the sake of our own puny kingdoms, and it backfires, how do we get back on track? After disobedience, how do we go on in marriage, in parenting, in faith, and in relationships? How do we get back into routines of faithfulness? What should ‘rebuilt integrity’ look like? Sure, the content of the disobedience might be different for different people, but we still have to think about what ongoing faithfulness looks like after we fall short. In God’s hands, we believe that we aren’t defined by the worst thing we’ve done. But what does that look like in the practical? Simply…

  • What does it look like to obey after you’ve disobeyed?

In 2 Samuel 11-12, the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah gives us a glimpse into the answer to this question. Further, the royalty around David’s life echoes the royalty we’re all called to on the very first page of the Bible. We’re called to be God’s image-bearers, to reflect and participate in his loving reign somehow. Thus, this whole conversation about obedience is about how we function in God’s kingdom, in God’s world, that he is making new. Obedience is a kind of engine for the kingdom. And not blind obedience. True obedience is born out of faith, and that’s what we’re seeking to understand. 

  • Disobedience always presumes on grace.
  • True obedience is when God is your primary reference point and standard. Disobedience is when you start to dilute God’s standards and desires with your own standards and desires…
  • Disobedience in the small things leads to disobedience in the big things.
  • Disobedience normalizes and accommodates evil.
  • The rock-solid foundation of our relationship with God is not our performance but his unfailing love and grace.

In God’s family, your achievements and accolades and trophies and good deeds aren’t the most significant thing about you. And conversely, in God’s family, your worst failures and sins and wrongs aren’t the things that most define you. Rather, you are a part of his family by grace and will be sustained by his grace if you’re trusting him alone for real and eternal life. And the fact that you are his is the most important and truest thing about you. And when we remember this grace, it’s not just that past disobedience is wiped clean. This grace is also meant to empower future faithfulness and obedience.

This is why the first line in the entire New Testament is about Jesus as “the Son of David,” because Jesus is the final fulfillment of everything that God promised to David, in spite of David himself. Jesus is all of God’s mercy and forgiveness with skin on – who has come from heaven to earth to pour out endless grace for those who are thirsty. And guess how Paul talks about this in Philippians? He says, “Jesus humbled himself by becoming OBEDIENT to the point of death – even death on a cross.” This means, Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father even though it cost him his life. He was willingly buried under the entire avalanche of sin and death. And in that very act of perfect obedience at the cross, he took all of our disobedience into himself. He took all of our sin and death and, in exchange, gave us life. 

And here’s the wildest thing about this grace: Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience in the place of our disobedience, God the Father can now look at us as though we’ve obeyed perfectly. If we believe in Jesus for salvation, there is a very real way in which the Father sees us under the banner of his son’s perfect faithfulness. And that’s now our right standing before God. But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to now obey in practice how we stand in position before the Father. Now we can live out of Jesus’ perfect obedience, and this is living in “the grace upon grace” of the gospel. And this rewrites the whole plot…

Because of Jesus, we can flip the script. Real Obedience, doesn’t presume but rather cherishes grace. Real obedience has the gospel as its ultimate standard. Now, obedience in the small things leads to obedience in the big things. Real obedience doesn’t justify or accommodate sin; it normalizes faithfulness. And it is Jesus alone who reverses the curse of all this. Opposite of David, Jesus saw sin, and took it to himself at the tree to set us free. And this changes everything.

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.