“Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be My people, and I will be your God, that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, LORD.”
(Jeremiah 11:4b-5a ESV)
Ears to hear and a willingness to obey. Those are the “franchise requirements” for the people of God. Was under the Old Covenant. So it is with the New.
Can’t help but read this morning within the context of our class last night. We’ve been wading into what Kevin DeYoung has said “may be the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of”, our union with Christ. To be “in Christ” and for Christ to be “in us” is mind-stretching, awe-inspiring, and worship-invoking. To think of the practical implications of what it means that, because I have been crucified with Christ, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20) is to enter into the contemplation of a God-ordained, Son-enabled, Spirit-empowered venture into living out who I am “in Christ.” And a big part of that is being saved by grace through faith so that I might walk in obedience.
It was the Jeremiah passage which first grabbed my attention, this morning. God’s people are those people who listen to His voice and do all that He commands. Sounds pretty “Old Testament.” But the Old Testament isn’t portraying a different God or different economy for being the people of God than does the New Testament. It actually sets us up for the good news of the power revealed in the New Testament to practically live out being the people of God.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”
(John 1:43 ESV)
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
(James 2:18 ESV)
Jesus says to Philip, “Follow Me!” Listen and obey. To follow Jesus, we know, is to deny yourself and take up your cross (Mt. 16:24).
James says that to follow by faith will manifest itself in a walk characterized by works. Obedience being the fruit of faith. Duty being born out of grace.
And, while we might view grace and duty as in holy tension, not so with Jesus. The Son is “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14), “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). And yet, the Son who is grace in essence, would say, “I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn. 5:30). In the garden He would pray, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). So that as a Son “He learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).
The perfect Man, representing all those who are “in Him”, brings together grace and duty. He brings to all those who have been saved by grace alone through faith alone, the rest found in His finished work (Jn. 19:3) while enabling all those who obey the call to follow Him with the resources to accomplish the good works prepared in advance by God for them to do (Eph. 2:10). This because of our union with Christ.
Grace and obedience. Not an either/or thing, but a both/and thing. As Rankin Wilbourne puts it in his book, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God, “Because of your union with Christ, these songs of ‘Extravagant Grace’ and ‘Radical Discipleship’ can no more be separated in your life than Christ himself can be torn in two.”
“Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be My people, and I will be your God . . .”
Listen and do. Only as we are in Christ.
His ever-patient grace in us. His perfect obedience living through us.
For our good. For God’s glory.