Learning to Obey


In that instant when I realize I am acting in the flesh, but right before I try to fix it or stop it, I am learning to surrender.  I am seeing that place between acting by my own means and letting myself fall into the obedience of the Holy Spirit.  I believe this is what Paul says is walking in the Spirit.  Yes, I have heard this basically my whole life, but my mind is just recently wrapping around the act of surrendering.

By the grace and favor of the Lord, I have been noting when and how the Spirit has been speaking to me.   I am so thankful that He draws us near and directs us.  We can find rest in the fact that He bears witness for our souls and makes us sons and daughters of God.[1]  I embrace the mystical element of Him.  I am leaning into not needing the details.  The fact that He is God, but is also dwelling in my soul… sometimes I feel like I have some understanding of this, but other times, I cannot even begin to fathom.  I love that it only takes childlike faith, but simultaneously, it is something that my mind could intently dwell on and never fully comprehend.  Thankfully, He gives us His word to rest in the Truths of Him and that He grows us to more fully understand and put our lives in Him.  Apart from Him, there is no real understanding.

Romans 8:17 says: and if children, then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  There is this element of discomfort, dislike, and hard obedience that takes effort from us to remain in Him and with Him.  This process of sanctification is so easy for me to get mixed up.  I loose the balance; either I think I am supposed to “do the right thing” or achieve something in some way or I will completely un-sync myself (if that is even a word) with Him and go along without Him.  That place in the middle is where the beauty happens.  It is where we are transformed, both harshly and sweetly.[2]

For a long time, I thought being Spirit filled included things like taking long breaths and counting to control anger or frustration.  I guess I thought it was about devising or doing good or right things.  I am not saying that it is not that.  We know that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, and taking a deep breath in order to practice self-control is being obedient.  What I am learning now is that it isn’t about variations of exercises that we complete.  What is behind the practicality is a peaceful revelation that He is there with us and He is waiting to be surrendered to.  I still consider it wise for myself to take deep breaths during fits of anger, etc., BUT after that moment of implementing my device of calming down, I must immediately say “here is my weakness, you are enough, go ahead and do Your thing”.  I am resting in that in-between place that eliminates my work and cuts straight to the Truth of the gospel that gives me life.  The obedience is a direct result of surrender to love.  An acknowledgment of God sending Jesus to defeat the flesh that we cannot beat and then giving us the Spirit to continuously work out our faith.

I just read an excerpt from a devotional book I have that is a compilation of writings from A.W. Tozer about the Holy Spirit. Today’s reading was this:

Obedience is both the evidence and definition of our love for Christ and the condition for receiving the Holy Spirit.  We demonstrate our love not simply in an intellectual comprehension of Christ’s teachings, but by applying them to our lives. 


A young married man once called on me expressing a desire to be filled with the Spirit.  Prompted by the Spirit, I said, “Go and do the next things God tells you to do!”  He left my study hurt that I had not taken more time with him. 


For several weeks I did not see that fellow.  When he called again, I knew by looking that God had fulfilled the desire of his heart.  He confided in me that at the time he had called on me, he and his wife were estranged.  The “next thing God told [him] to do” was to go to the city where his wife was staying and be reconciled to her.  He obeyed the voice of God, and his obedience resulted in the indwelling of the Holy Counselor.  As one preacher put it, “Obedience is always followed by blessing! (John 3:36)”


God being who He is must have obedience from His creatures.  Man being who he is must render that obedience. (from his book The Root of the Righteous)


I love that Tozer gives this seemingly plain advice to the man that results in a miracle! We can have a supernatural interaction at any moment. If we will simply listen and obey, literally, everything in our lives can be as He wants, and that is the best way to live.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 2:17-18 ESV

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who had made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 2:5-6 ESV

[1] Romans 8:12-17

[2] Romans 12:2- Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

[3] Tozer, A.W. Tozer for Today: Tozer on the Holy Spirit. Compiled by Marilynne E. Foster. Christian Publications, Inc. 2000.


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