Living on Purpose: Knowledge and obedience are not the same

Dr. William Holland

Posted 4/29/24

By Dr. William Holland

It’s wonderful to be positive-minded and appreciate that God is good all the time because He is! It’s common to seek the Lord for His protection and blessings as this usually takes up a majority of our prayer time, and it’s perfectly fine to do so. However, it’s also important to remember we are not just a spectator within the Christian life waiting for manna from heaven. Being a participator is a very real aspect of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ that involves our responsibility to trust and obey Him. Our vow to follow God is the seldom-mentioned covenant promise we make when we call on Him to save us. If we are not passionate about becoming one with Him, it’s likely we do not understand what it means.

Peter is one of the most significant characters in the New Testament and like the other followers of Jesus, we can learn valuable wisdom from them. Yes, they were flawed and had their times of weakness (like us), but we notice that Peter did not give up. I’ve always appreciated his boldness and he reminds me of the guy who is an alpha male that wants to be the leader of the pack. We’ve all known people like that and reminds us that when we are weak God is strong. This was also the case with Peter as he was the first one to declare that nothing or no one in this world could stop him from standing with Jesus and His kingdom. And yet, we see that when Christ was arrested and the heat was turned up he was facing a situation of life and death, he denied Christ three times.

Now, I’m not on the bandwagon to criticize him for being afraid. In fact, I probably would have done the same thing at that stage in my Christian life. It’s easy to brag about how spiritual we are until a sword is placed at our neck. As Jesus was eventually crucified by the Romans who thought they were distinguishing a rebellion, Peter as one of His disciples was very familiar with this brutal torture. The thought of being nailed to a cross paralyzed him with fear. There are many lessons to learn from his life, but the good news is that he finally understood what it meant to be faithful. A disturbing thought is that I’ve been a Christian for many years and wonder if I know what it truly means. Foxes Book of Martyrs is a sobering resource that reveals what going all the way for Christ is all about.

After Peter’s early failures, we see him preaching at Pentecost as he continued to progress into a spiritual powerhouse, and eventually was given another chance to stand with or deny Jesus. This time he did not hesitate. According to historical writers in the second century, his execution was ordered by Emperor Nero, who blamed the Christians for a devastating fire that had ravaged Rome. They record that Peter requested to be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. By this time it was clear that his love for Jesus went far beyond being a security guard for the Messiah’s earthly kingdom. He knew Christ was the Son of God who created all things and was the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty Master and Judge of all. He was no longer afraid of what man could do, he was only focused on the one whose grace was immeasurable and whose mercy endures forever.

You see, the average Christian has read and heard Bible verses which is wonderful. What we try to avoid is explaining why they mean nothing to us. Excuse me? Of course, we embrace all the promises of chocolate cake, but when it comes to us demonstrating our obedience to His sacrificial demands we try to change the subject. The problem is not the lack of Bible knowledge, it’s believing it enough to live by it. Understanding information and exercising it are two different things. The modernized gospel message is presented as a simple and painless invitation to accept eternal life in heaven. Yes, the church attendance numbers are larger but is God pleased with everyone who declares they are religious? Remember the Pharisee’s? The Lord would rather have someone understand one command and be committed to living it than for the whole world to memorize the Bible and live however they want.

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