Is there an upper limit to obedience in the Christian life? Is there a “danger above and beyond the call of duty”? Can we volunteer beyond the highest command of God? What is the greatest command? Jesus said: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mk. 12:30). Now look at it again and see if by volunteering we can go beyond it. The superlatives are all there. God requires all of each of our faculties to love him.
In Christian churches today it is normal to hear challenges to greater heights than ever before, but less of the commands. Because the commandments of God are way beyond us—ideals that are not very realistic for the present—we make a graded scale and challenge Christians to follow the graded scale one step at a time. This is because we do not believe God provides the power and love and wisdom to obey His superlative commands as they are given. And since He does not provide, we decide we will dispense with the obedience, which is frustrating, and do it our way: challenge-volunteer. If we volunteer for less than the commandment requires, we are disobedient, even if we gain our objective.
There are many Christian works that are using the challenge today to get Christians supposedly to obey God in everything from Bible reading to the Great Commission. They are using it because it seems to work. Christians are proud, too proud to obey. They will go to foreign mission fields because of a challenge presented in a dynamic way describing the lostness of the people, the dangers, and the hardships, whereas they will not go in obedience to a simple command given by Jesus Christ. A challenge is an appeal to the pride, to human ego. The challenge is doubly wrong:
1. It puts people on the foreign field who should be there, but it gets them there with a wrong motive.
2. It puts people there who should not be there.
There are men who have gone to the field in response to a challenge only to find it was obedience that could keep them there.
If we are not to challenge and we are not to volunteer and our only experience of obedience has been reluctant, recalcitrant obedience, how do we get so that we willingly obey? It all has to do with our view of the Commander. Do we worship him, stand in awe of him, love him, fear him, long to be with him? Or are we buddy-buddy with him? Do we think it is a 50-50 relationship? The latter is not love and will never get instant obedience. All of our obedience will be qualified, and therefore disobedience.
“Now the end of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5).
“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Is. 1:19).
*Excerpted from Principles of War. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.