And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
We live in an either/or world. We are comfortable making a choice and then arguing with anyone who makes the other choice. When we are confronted with both/and we perceive a paradox and don’t know what to do. Jesus is a living paradox. Most people view either from the perspective of grace or truth, but rarely do we see both lived out. Grace, in the extreme, says God has done it all through Jesus and I don’t need to do anything but believe this. If I believe, then I’ll spend eternity with God in heaven. No further effort required. Truth says that God expects more than this from His children. He expects for us to believe and follow Jesus. Following Jesus will require us to change. Following Jesus, discipleship, has a cost and if you’ve been reading along we explored that in commenting on The Cost of Discipleship.
The problem with either “just believe the gospel … more” or “just obey your Lord … more” is that alone, the leave us focusing on ourselves as the real agent of change. There’s something we need to do, even if that something is do nothing but believe. Either son by itself, places us at the center. – Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
I have spent most of my life on the “just obey” side of this false either/or choice. I struggle with multiple addictions (repeated sinful behaviors) and when I put the focus on me and simply try harder the only possible change is that those addictions gain more power over me. Wilbourne’s proposition is that we have another option.
It goes back to something that Bonhoeffer wrote: “Only those who believe obey” … “and only those who obey believe” – The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If I believe that I am in Christ then my identity is not a weak human being in bondage to sin, but instead, I am a child of God incredibly loved by Him. I can rest in that assurance. If I believe that Christ is in me, then I am not alone in my struggle. I have super-natural resources who are ready, willing, and able to give me victory over what I am powerless on my own to defeat.
I get it at a head level. Actually believing it so that my heart will choose to obey is a different story. My hope is that Wilbourne will help us by teaching us how to make this a practical reality.