Every person, relationship, and organization has values. With the exception of some “special” people, the majority of us have never taken the time to formally agree to and codify those values, but they still guide every decision we make.

Being a big ol’ church nerd, I’ve been reading through value statements adopted by churches. The majority of values I’ve seen are equal parts God-honoring and inspiring, but there are a few groups out there who seem to place a higher value on what they’re against instead of what they stand for.

Churches that adopt negative values do so because the people who make up these congregations have established their personal values from a “this is what I don’t believe in” perspective. Sounds pretty backward to me!

In the interest of being a positive-values guy who strives to please God in everything I do, I’ve worked on a list of personal values that will (hopefully) help me establish my priorities and inform my decision-making process.

I’ve come up with a list of four and will present one to you each week…

Unguarded Obedience
God is completely trustworthy and has demonstrated His love and mercy throughout human history. It is through the Bible I know who God is, what His expectations are, and the unbelievable grace given to me through the gift of Jesus, who, as the only Son of God, has been given all authority to rescue and redeem the world. God is my honorable authority and His Word is authoritativeit is made alive to me by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the source of my teaching and helps connect me to God.
(2 Chronicles 20:6; Psalm 62:5-8; Proverbs 16:9; Daniel 7:13-14; John 3:35; John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 4:12-13)

I’ll shoot straight with you–“obedience” is not the most popular word in our fiercely independent American culture, and there may be a couple of reasons for that: first, I think a lot of people have confused compliance with obedience (I’ll explain that in a minute), and second, I think some people are too afraid to fully trust in someone other than themselves.

OK, let’s tackle the difference between compliance and obedience. I’m disappointed that my trusty Oxford American Thesaurus of Current English lists these words as synonyms because these words have vastly different meanings.

Compliance highlights strict adherence to rules and restrictions, while obedience allows for personal choice after a mentor has explained (modeled) the best course of action. Compliance equates success with good behavior. Obedience says we’re successful once we learn how to make wise choices.  Lastly, compliance is enforced by external pressure while obedience is determined by personal values.

The bottom line: someone else forces you to be compliant, but only you can choose to be obedient.

I turned on a popular cable news channel on Tuesday night while Lisa and I were cooking dinner. I’m still surprised that the TV remained on for more than three minutes–pundits were arguing back and forth about the virtues and iniquities of our current slate of presidential candidates.

Do you know what I understood from that exchange? We’re hard-pressed to find anyone to whom we should submit. Perhaps we have an obedience problem because our leaders have character problems.

That’s why it’s imperative we follow (obey) the right leader. Thankfully, there is One worth following, and (extra bonus) God has invited us to join Him to make the world a better place by sharing the Good News of our creator’s love.

As a rule, if I’m having trouble with something in particular, will look to the Bible for guidance. Not surprisingly, I’m never disappointed. I found the answer to the trust problem in the words of Jesus. Consider this: Jesus, though He is co-equal with God, demonstrated His willingness to obey the will of His Father. That’s a really big deal. If Jesus could trust God completely, even knowing the cross was in His future, then I should have no trouble yielding my will to His.

Jesus said this after He was questioned (read: harassed) for healing on the Sabbath–that was a big “no-no” for good Jewish folks. I think it’s sad that the eye-witnesses to this miracle got more hung up on the day on which it was done than on the fact that Jesus healed a guy who was severely impaired and had been ignored for 38 years.

In response to their questions, Jesus said:

John 5:19-30

[NLT] “So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge,23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. 24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. 25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live.26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

Just as Jesus followed His trustworthy Father, you and I have the same opportunity. What a relief to know we have a God worth obeying!

Psalm 62:5-8 [NLT] “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”

What I need to remember:

  • PRAY FOR OUR MISSIONARIES. The Church @ Clayton Crossings is on a mission to help people find and follow Jesus–not just in Johnston County, but around the world. In addition to our local and domestic missions partnerships this month, we’re sending a group of short-term missionaries (people just like us) to Cuba on June 17. Please pray for the people who will have an opportunity to respond to the Gospel as you pray for our missionaries. Want to learn more about living like a missionary? Visit http://www.claytoncrossings.com/serve
  • GIVING AS YOU’RE GONE. The season for traveling is upon on, and I can’t wait to jump in the car for a few road trips this summer. If jaunts away from JoCo are on your agenda this summer, you might want to take advantage of something that has helped the Sanders family remain faithful in giving back to God. You can set up a recurring tithe through PushPay on our website or on the C@CC app. As one wise person once said, automation trumps determination. God has been faithful to us, giving back to Him is a demonstration of our trust in Him (and is an act of obedience), and your faithful giving allows us to continue pointing people to Jesus. Thank you for your faithfulness!

What I’m reading
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. I’m indebted to my friend Brian Dembowczyk for walking with me through this book a few years ago. It has a definite flavor of Reformed theology, but I’m pretty OK with that!

About me:

John Sanders is the non-stuffy pastor at The Church at Clayton Crossings. His primary mission is to help people find and follow Jesus. Additionally, he longs to write like the child of Aaron Sorkin and Dave Barry, preach like W.A. Criswell, look like Bradley Cooper, and eat like he’s seventeen years old. A more complete (and less snarky) bio can be found here.

Let’s be friends: