Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Incomplete Obedience is Disobedience

I consider myself a "compartmentalizer." I'm not even sure if that's a word, but it describes me perfectly. Allow me to define it for you (although you may have already looked at dictionary.com to verify the word). A compartmentalizer is someone who likes to put things into categories. If you were to check my file cabinet at home you would see this is true. I love to file things and have them orderly so I can easily locate them when needed.

However, my tendency toward compartmentalizing bleeds over into my walk with God. Unfortuantely I will sometimes try to compartmentalize the will of God. One comaprtment is labeled "Big Deal to God." The other one is labeled "Not such a Big Deal to God." Now you may not have ever given much thought to your labels, but it is highly likely that you have compartmentalized God's will as well. For example, it is likely that you believe the teaching of "salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone" is a bigger deal to God than the biblical teaching about faithfulness to church, or tithing or baptism.

The problem with compartmentalizing the will of God is it leads to incomplete obedience, as illustrated in Nehemiah 8. After the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt the people found themselves face to face with God's word and His will. The Jewish people had a festival known as the "Feast of Tabernacles" or the "Feast of Booths." God's instructions for how this feast was to be celebrated are spelled out in Lev. 23:33-43: the first day was a Sabbath day of rest (v. 35), seven days of offerings to God (v. 36), keeping of the feast after the ingathering of the harvest (v. 39), and building temporary booths to live in for 7 days (v. 42).

As Nehemiah, Ezra, the priest and the people looked into the word of God something happened- "And they found written in the law which the Lord commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the fest of the seventh month" (Neh. 8:14). It's obvious in other portions of scripture that the people of Israel had celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles at least since the first exiles returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:4). Although they were celebrating the feast, they weren't obeying completely. They had been celebrating the Feast (Big Deal to God), they just had not been making the booths and living in them (Not such a Big Deal to God). Somewhere along the way their compartmentalizing had led to incomplete obedience.

It seems logical, doesn't it? They were keeping the feast for 7 days. Wasn't that enough? Did God really care about the booths? What if they just kept the feast but they did it in another way? The booths weren't nearly as important as the feast, was it? We do this, don't we? I go to church, is it really that big a deal for me to serve? I've been saved by grace through faith, but is baptism that big a deal to God? I am faithful to church, but is it a big deal if I'm not sharing the gospel with others?

Another term for "incomplete obedience" is "disobedience." The slide from "compartmentalizing" to "disobedience" and although it may be more convenient to compartmentalize the will of God, it is harmful to do so. God had a specific reason for asking the people to live in booths- "That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 23:43).

The Feast of Tabernacles wasn't about the people. It wasn't about the booths. It was about the glory of God. The booths were a reminder of God's provision for them in the wilderness. The booths were a reminder of God's deliverance. The booths declared the glory of God among the nations- "He is the Lord our God." That message was lost because the people did not obey completely.

Although we may feel compelled to file some of the teaching of God's word in the "Not Such a Big Deal to God," foler, doing so will cause the message of God's glory to be lost in the shuffle. Your file cabinet for God may look nice, but your life will not declare the message of God's glory as effectively. Complete obedience helps makes His glory known in your life. So stop compartmentalizing and start obeying...completely.

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