What attitude do I bring to the Scriptures when I read them? Is there an attentiveness to what is written? Is there an expectation to hear from God? Is there a readiness to obey?
Obedience is at the heart of faithfulness. If God is King and I’m not, then how can I do other than obey him?
But I see in myself and hear from others a “yeah, but” spirituality, where we agree with God to a point but then put the brakes on our obedience.
I don’t mean that we should read a story like that of Jephthah (Judges 11, particularly 11:29-40) and make rash vows to God that cost the lives of our children. Rather, we ought to read stories like that and make well-considered vows to God that we follow through on as tenaciously as he did. The story is painful as a cautionary tale in its reminder of how good people can make stupid choices. But it is also a reminder of how seriously those who came before us have taken the kingship of God.
Each day, I need to hear the Scriptures and ask questions that lead to obedience.
What does it look like for me to honor my father and mother (Ex. 20:12) without qualifying it with a “yeah, but” that keeps me from doing it?
What does it look like for me to love my wife the way Christ loved the church and give myself up for her to make her holy (Eph. 5:25-28) with no “yeah, but she said this and didn’t do that.”
What does it look like for me to hear Col. 3:23-24 as I do my job? “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
What does it look like for me to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Then. 5:16-18)? And how do I do this in a culture that teaches me to complain, to reject suffering, to spend time on my iPhone instead of praying, and to always want more for myself? How do I “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4)? I really want to say, “Yeah, but they’re not looking out for my interests!”
I am full of yeah-buts. They take the substance out of my Bible reading and my obedience to Christ. But what’s even worse is I project a “yeah, but” hesitancy on God as well.
Even though the heart of the Gospel is Jesus in the Garden telling his Father, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 2:42), before obediently going to the cross, I have to admit that I often treat God as if he’s holding back, as if he’s holding out on me. Even though the Scriptures are together the story of God’s full attention on redeeming humanity, I treat God as if he’s not generous, not faithful, not intent on blessing me.
Even though “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6), I expect of God: “I would reward him, but …”
I don’t actually say these things to God. But the way I live betrays a belief that God is holding out on me, that each “yeah, but” to him from me is matched my a “yeah, but” from him to me.
I need to live 2 Cor. 1:20 —
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
I need to hear God’s overwhelming YES in Jesus and respond with a full-bodied YES of my own.
When I do so, my obedience will be that of a dearly loved child to his open-hearted Father. It will be the obedience of richly rewarded servant to his generous Master. It will be the obedience of well-taught disciple to his wise Teacher.
There is no hesitancy in God toward me. May there be none in me toward him either.