I have been reading through Watchman Nee’s sobering book, Spiritual Authority. It’s probably been 12-15 years since I last read it. I was chatting with Molly about it the other day. I told her it was scary and sobering. To summarize, Nee basically says that there are two things God must deliver us from: sinful desires and rebellion.
He separates the two, by stating that a man may be free from drunkenness and fornication, but be stubborn and insubordinate nonetheless. He then shows that throughout Scripture God is far harsher in his dealings with rebellion than with sinful desires.
King Saul’s sin was not like David’s after him. David lusted after another man’s wife and murdered her husband. That’s pretty bad stuff, right? No doubt. But Saul’s sin was thinking that he could worship and sacrifice to God without submitting to God’s direct and indirect authority in his life.
Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat or rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
Here are a couple of C.S. Lewis quotes I ran across this morning, that seemed to similarly apply:
“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.”
“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”
Jesus’ first declarations in His earthly ministry were: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I find it more than a little troubling that contemporary believers (especially charismatics) seem to focus on secondary and tertiary symptoms of the Kingdom, and largely side-step the call to entire submission and obedience to the King.
Just think about the Great Commission. What was the main objective in the sending and going? “Go into all the world…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…” Today we have an idea of grace that suggests, “Obedience is great if you can. But don’t worry, it’s pretty much optional.” Jesus now exists to lift our hearts and heal our hurts and to make us not feel so guilty if we rebelliously keep on doing our own thing.
This is so foreign to the Scriptures! The Law was weak, not because it called for obedience. But because it couldn’t create obedient people! Grace is powerful because it can do what the Law couldn’t – not because it allows us to sin without consequence.
If you haven’t read Spiritual Authority, I urge you to do so. You can find it in electronic format for free online.