Greetings Friends Around the World,
You are precious in the sight of our God – the Father of all mankind. He wants us to understand that He made mankind in His Triune image so we can enjoy being in His presence. That is the Gospel in its simplest form. I hope you found my last 3 posts about God’s Trinitarian nature enlightening and relevant to your life and your loved ones. I hope you were able to see its significance to your promised destiny in Christ that’s undergirded in the life of the Spirit who takes us into the Triune Life of God and makes all things possible – even immortality. (Eph.1:13-14) It is this self-same life-posture, that the first century Christians were accused of “turning the world up-side-down,” or more accurately, “right-side-up.” (Acts 17:6 KJV) It opens for us the path to answer our true identity as humans in this world – that we were made to be “Triune beings” in Christ, in place of the “solitary beings” that we are in our fallen state of existence. (Gen.1:26-28; Rom.3:23; John 3:16)
In this post, I would like to discuss a subject that’s relevant to our peace of mind and joy as believers – it is the topic of “obedience.” “Obedience” and LOVE are flip sides of the same coin. Regrettably, “obedience” has come to have a life of its own with a legalistic meaning that’s associated with living the “solitary” life of man, and the burden that comes with it. In his “solitary” frame of mind, man is constantly struggling with trying to manage sin (“obey”), and it can never be done. It is lamentable that every time the word “obedience” is uttered, most times it is framed in its “solitary” legalistic demands which places unsustainable burden on people. So, we struggle with something that has become foreboding and daunting rather than a joyful and mollifying experience with God. It is my hope you will come out of the entrapment of legalistic “obedience” which is a heavy and grave burden to carry. The Bible tells us that it is for “freedom” that Christ came. (Gal.5:1) He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt.11:29). Let’s begin.
“Obedience” has become a loaded word because it is presented to people in its religious undertone, and legalistic frame of reference. Our call to live the unified Triune life of God in Christ, is not a religion to be “obeyed,” but a relationship to be experienced founded upon LOVE. Whenever God tells man in the Bible, “If you will obey Me…” (2 Kings 3:14) He is really saying, “If you will LOVE Me…” God does not enforce “obedience” upon anyone. Where His LOVE exists, there is freedom, not “obedience“ by domination. The prophet Isaiah qualifies man’s “obedience” by saying, “If you are willing and obedient…” (Isa. 1:19, emphasis added) “Obedience” that comes with a willing heart is “obedience” given out of freedom and LOVE.
We are “Triune beings” as the result of our union in Christ, who is Himself Trinitarian with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We don’t live as “solitary beings”- that life was buried in the watery grave of baptism in the “flush-out.”* As born-again believers, we take our place as riverbeds, with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, interpenetrating the “living waters” which now flows through the riverbed – or, in one word, the Bula man-river.** People come and relate with the waters of the river, not the riverbed. The riverbed (you) is your life-destiny charted by the Father for Jesus and the Spirit to flow in you as “living waters” through the valleys of your calling. We can only freely “obey” God because we freely exist in His Triune LOVE, and we learn to LOVE God first as God LOVES us, which endows us with the same LOVE to extend to our fellowmen. We LOVE, therefore, we willingly and freely “obey.” We LOVINGLY and willingly “obey” because Jesus has done it for man, not because man can of himself do it. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of man’s testimony, law, and responsibility.
In my Book, Bula man-river – The Miracle of Triune Living, I said this: “Humans were not made a subservient species, so obedience doesn’t come naturally. Man was made to rule and have “dominion” (Gen. 1:26, 28). This dominion spirit is why man resents “obedience” because it is an act of “domination” which inhibits freedom. Be that as it may, ‘obedience,’ when given, is either legitimate or illegitimate. Legitimate obedience can exist only in an environment of love, not domination. True obedience is simply man’s unforced, spontaneous response of adoration and worship, which comes naturally in an environment of love. This is reflected in what he does (“obey”) to please the one he loves in response to the love he receives. Obedience is birthed out of respect, veneration, and worship. Domination is never in the equation when we consider legitimate obedience. Meditate upon the vision of God’s love in your life. He does not exist for Himself alone. He made us to enjoy being in His Triune presence (Ps. 67). Respect, venerate, worship, and love God, and proper loving obedience will follow.” (Pg.208)
Think of God’s Triune LOVE in its full expression as recorded in 1 Corinthians 13 and other passages (see the list of these fruits in my ‘post’ dated May 7th 2013, titled “Life Begins Where Our Concept of God Takes Root – “Creative” Trinitarian Life, Pt.3″; or in my Book, Pg.112). These fruits are not legalistic laws we “obey,” they are all life expressions or LOVE-fruits that are expressed in relational and inter-personal context. Indeed, for these fruits of LOVE undegirded the Triune Life of the Father, Jesus, and Herald*** (Spirit) from eternity. They are pictures of the energizing LOVE of God flowing in man which the Spirit produces in the life of the Bula man-river (you). Just as the “ocean” is the supporting and enabling condition for all marine life in the seven seas, the LOVE of God is the “ocean” which creates the LOVING condition in which God loves man and enables man to LOVE God back, and his fellow humans.
No human government regulates laws against these fruits (action) of LOVE in the Spirit. These fruits reflect the basic human/spiritual rights innate in mankind which has its foundation in God’s image of LOVE. (Gen.1:26-27) So man, as he has been hereditably endowed by God, is called upon to live by these fruits of LOVE in his relationship with God first, and his fellowmen. (Matt.22:36-37) So, Paul says there is no law against them (fruits of LOVE – Gal.5:23). If LOVE can’t be legalized (made law) then “obedience” by domination is made redundant. Who has ever gone to a human court of law to answer to charges for being kind, patient, not easily angered, joy, humility, honesty, etc – you get the picture. LOVE is the power of God upon which man is sustained in a universe God nurtures in His LOVE. Everything God does is an act of LOVE, for God is LOVE. (1 John 4:8)
These LOVE fruits reflect the image of God which undergirds mankind’s basic human dignity, made in His likeness, and cuts across borders, nations, cultures, peoples, tribes and languages. They are man’s immutable connection to the Creator who is LOVE and Triune by nature. These fruits are not laws to be “obeyed” legalistically, but is the LOVE-energy of the Spirit that flows in man into the valleys of his calling and destiny. These fruits of the Spirit keeps man connected to who he is – man is the image of LOVE within the Triune Being of God. Through God’s Triune LOVE, in which believers now exist through the Spirit, every demand of the law (“obedience”) is met and satisfied in Christ. In Christ (LOVE), the true believer is above the law (saved), not under the law (condemned).
Even if we consider a situation where there may be no codified law about stealing, for example, as it was prior to the law given at Mt. Sinai, God’s unwritten law of LOVE, which is inherently expressed in the form of kindness, compassion, and honor, are really the values which undergirds our actions. They tell us to recognize and respect the property of others, and not covet what is not ours. We don’t need a law to tell us that, LOVE does that automatically. Today, the world live by codified laws, whether in secular or ecclesiastic “obedience,” because the people of the world still live as “solitary” beings (not “Triune” beings in Christ) who require a legalistic framework to exist.
We don’t “obey” God, we LOVE God. For when we LOVE God, “obedience” comes as a natural outgrowth of it. “Obedience” to the law is based upon the Old Covenant with Israel which has been replaced with the New Covenant of Grace in Christ, where God’s LOVE enflames a joyful devotion to live in the Triune Life in all our human responses with God and all mankind in Christ. Originally, God’s relationship with Abraham was not codified in law – it was based upon LOVE and faith. When you LOVE someone, you place your trust and faith in that someone. God respected Abraham’s faith, and it declared him righteous for it, for it reflected God’s own image of LOVE, faith, and hope. (Rom.4:20-22; 1 Cor.13:13) Through LOVE and faith, Abraham related with God, and willingly “obeyed” God. The law has “limited” application of LOVE, for example, the Bible gives the definition of murder and adultery as originating in the heart where hatred and sensuality has taken the place of LOVE and finally ends in “disobedience.” (1 John 3:15; Matt.5:27-28; 15:17-20)
To LOVE God
The command to LOVE God with everything we have – “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” is impossible to do in the “solitary life” of man. (Luke 10:27). It takes a miraculous act of the Spirit, who takes us constantly into the “Triune Life” of God which gives man the capacity to LOVE God through the One who has already done it for man – Jesus. Only a God-Being could LOVE another God-Being alike and perfectly. Only Jesus, who is Himself God, could LOVE His Father perfectly. He became man to make the LOVE command possible for man. The Spirit continuously transports the believer into the “Triune life” of God through Christ thus energizing man to LOVE God in the Spirit’s persona of LOVE.
Unified Presence of The Spirit
The Spirit, while He is unified in the ONE Triune Being of God with Jesus and the Father, simultaneously lives in the believer “forever.” Jesus prayed, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16). This “forever” ‘dual’ but unified presence of the Spirit, shows that His role is to integrate man in one unbroken movement with God through Jesus, man’s Mediator. (John 16:13-15) The Spirit’s undeniable function is to eternally (i.e. “forever”) facilitate in man the Triune God-Life by bringing God to man, and taking man back to God in one continuous circulatory flow of His ONE existence in the Triune God and in man. (Psa.139:7-12)
Just like a river’s waters (Bula man-river) has a circulatory life, flowing in one movement from the mountains, through the valleys, and into the Ocean (God), then naturally begins all over again, so is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of “living waters” flows “forever” from God into man, and takes the Bula man-river (you) into the presence of the Father through the Son, and brings to man the grace to live the Triune life of LOVE in God. It is through the Spirit’s Triune life with Christ that gives us the capacity to LOVE the Father (God) with all our hearts. This is the ever-flowing miraculous activity of the Spirit in the life of man. For only by a miracle can we be transformed from a “solitary” being to a unified “Triune” being thus enabling us to willingly “obey” this LOVE command. This is the essence of the meaning of “obedience” in man. The Triune LOVE is at the center of man’s existence. Man’s love is “solitary,” God’s LOVE is Triune.
Remember this, the purpose of the Trinitarian Life we have in Christ is to experience Their LOVE firsthand as we live in Their Triune relationship with each other. This is not academic, this is the Gospel being lived out in its primordial sense, and it takes a miracle to live it, as the Spirit continuously brings us into the Triune Life of God.
Here are excerpts from my Book on the subject of “obedience” and LOVE:
“There is no “obedience” in love, only joyful devotion. When such a love becomes our reality, obeisance comes naturally and lovingly. It is a sad commentary that man has come to see obedience in a negative light. Legalism is at the root of this gross misunderstanding. We have added so much “religion and religiosity” to obedience that we think God is trying to subjugate His people as a stern judge and ruler. Then we emulate this concept in life to those with whom we associate. Obedience becomes like a transaction to be traded for “good behavior” – this is evil to its core. Obedience exists only in a condition of fear and evil. Where there is no evil but love, obedience becomes redundant.” (Pg.207-208)
“Man’s effort (obedience) counts for nothing if he does not have the wherewithal to love God. The Bible states without love we are nothing, no matter how noble or how great our contribution to “good works” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Obedience is the keyword of the legalist. There is no obedience in love. God does not have to obey Himself, for He is love. For Him, it is effortless to live in love for He is love. Therefore, obedience is irrelevant and inapplicable. Obedience is for the disobedient. Obedience is for the fearful legalist. Life is about living in the covering ocean of God’s loving existence in and through Jesus. Obedience is living in a continual state of trying to cope with and control sin, and it can’t be done. Don’t misunderstand, man is not without sin, but at the same time the Bible declares man is righteous only in Christ. God is not imposing His justice upon us; He is imputing His grace in His Son’s atonement for our justification. That’s how He loves us, so we can love Him in return. Our faith in His atonement in Jesus keeps man right with God (Rom. 3:9-26, 8:1-4; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:19-22; Phil. 3:7-11). When we respond to someone in love, we do things to please the object of our affection. That’s not obedience, that’s love. Obedience is for the disobedient and the legalist.”
Loving God Perfectly in My Place
“It was a beautiful morning in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was taking a morning walk and praying when I felt an ache in my heart. I told God, “I’m so sorry I couldn’t love You more than I would have liked, and it pains me in my heart.” Herald, the name I affectionately call the Spirit, had brought me to a place in my life where I saw that no matter what I did it would never be enough to express my love for God. In an instant, as if from nowhere, He answered me in my heart and said, “Even though you couldn’t do it, Jesus is the one who can love Me perfectly in your place.” The ache in my heart disappeared. Tears welled into my eyes. I can’t explain this except to say that this is the pattern of the miraculous life we are promised in His Son. The joy that entered my heart was inexpressible.”
“Here is the question: did I feel like living my life the way I wanted, independently, apart from Him? No, if anything the experience drew me closer to Him than ever, and living my life in Him was now my consuming desire. It made me desire all the more to please Him. Never for a moment did the word obedience enter my mind. Disobedience could not enter that environment. With such inexplicable joy overwhelming me, the last thing that crossed my mind was obedience. Obedience was irrelevant, but love was all that mattered. I wanted only to please Him. The life of miracles is not a transaction to be negotiated in exchange for obedience. It is a relationship to be tasted, enjoyed, and reciprocated in love. Did I become perfect and sinless from that time onwards? No, I’m still human, but it made me see I can love God perfectly through Jesus, by faith (1 Cor. 1:29-31; Rom. 10:4; Col. 2:10). I was connected to the reality I have in Jesus, confident about His mediatory role in liberating me from all my imperfections. I wanted all the more to follow Him.”
“As I said, obedience makes you think of sin and how to manage it on a constant basis, whereas our minds rightly should be immersed in the ocean of His love. Our minds are to focus on Christ, not sin (Isa. 26:3).Through the fall of man sin entered the world and man’s spirituality became defined by the law (Rom. 5:12). However, the law became the very power of sin itself, which grips us in its tentacles (1 Cor. 15:56; Rom. 4:15). The law was a temporary measure until the Spirit came and replaced it (Gal. 3:19). Our obedience to the law will not save us, because the law, like a merry-go-round, keeps us in remembrance of our condition and keeps on condemning us. It was given to lead man to Christ, where we are taken from the “sin condition” in the law to the “saved condition” in Jesus (Rom. 3:20; John 16:9).This is what the life of the Bula man-river brings.”
“Living this triune life with and in God is as natural as He is love – it is not a forced obedience. God accepts His Son in our place, as our vicarious defense against the law which defines sin and demands our life. So when Christ died as our perfect human atonement, we died in Him (Rom. 7:4-6). When He was resurrected, we were lifted with Him. When He ascended to heaven, we relocated in Him (Eph. 2:4-6). The covenant promise God makes with man in His Son removes the heart-of-stone and replaces it with the heart-of-flesh. This is our new life in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension (Heb. 8:6-11). The heart of fear dies and reincarnates into a heart of love (God). This is the miraculous life we have been called to live, for nothing but a miracle can make it happen.”
“Regarding the issue of “cheap grace,” if man does not respond genuinely to the offer of grace, if man thinks he can do it on his own without Jesus, or a 50/50 proposition with Jesus, then he has not truly comprehended the gospel. What he believes is something phony and has no power to liberate him. His life will not have traction, and connection with the miraculous life will not be possible. That person’s life will be no different from the way it is lived now – without communion and God’s power. It’s that simple. And the proof of it is the obvious absence of life-changing power in his life. God can’t be mocked. By “cheap” we inadvertently place a price tag on God’s grace. Grace is not cheap. Neither is it expensive – it is free! It is free because it is priceless. God’s love is mankind’s birthright and cannot be bought by man’s action no matter how good he may seem. No amount of money or valuables can buy it. It can only be received freely or not at all. In truth, any other way apart from the one presented to man by God would effectively be “cheap grace.”
“The depth and wisdom of God as witnessed in His astounding act to unite man to Himself as His own children is beyond human comprehension and shows the brilliance of His love in its most inspiring manifestation. Now the two, God and man, can walk together in a journey to the same destination (Amos 3:3). The amazing thing is that this relationship becomes an eternal, everlasting one. For through faith in Jesus God gives man the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of man’s immortality (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). This is unbound grace poured upon man – the gospel made manifest in the life of the Bula man-river.” (Pg.27-30, emphasis added).
I hope, from this post, you can see the weight and substance of becoming and living as Bula man-rivers (“Triune beings”) in Christ. This is the life we have been called upon to live which produce a miraculous life that is filled with joy beyond what we can imagine.
Until the next time, live faithfully in the Triune Life we have in Christ,
Kiang (Your Servant in Christ)
* “Flush-out” – see its definition in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section above
*** Herald is the name I personally and affectionately call the Holy Spirit
** The “Bula man-river” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bula man-river, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book. Thank you for your support.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise