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What a creepy little monkey taught me about obedience

Last Updated: July 14, 2021

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

I wanted to comment again on blogger Boaz. While I don’t agree with some of his ideas, there are many points that Boaz makes that are worth reading. One in particular stands out to me. In his “tips for combating internet pornography” he says, “Your actions should arise out of the principle of doing what is right because it is a part of your inner being, not because someone tells you what the right thing is to do.

This is so true.

It is more important who you are than what you do. In the Bible, God certainly calls certain actions “sins,” but close to the heart of the gospel of Jesus is the promise of transformation: transforming who we are at the core.

What was the secret of Jesus’ obedience to His Father? What was His secret to having a passion for God, compassion for people, and a focused vision of the kingdom of heaven?

I believe that the secret is this: Jesus knows who He is.

Jesus knows He is the Son of His Father in heaven and that shapes everything. Consider Jesus’ baptism experience. Picture John the Baptist standing waist deep in the Jordan River, a new prophet in Israel with the fire of God in his eyes, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God. He announces that one is coming after him who will baptize God’s people with the Spirit. Revival is coming, but not just any revival: the long awaited age of the Messiah, the King of Israel.

Enter Jesus. He knows who He is. From the very first recorded words from Jesus’ lips (“Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?“) to His dying words (“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit“), He was conscious of who He was. Yet this baptism experience at the Jordan River seems to be something special the Father does for Him. “You are My Son, My Beloved. I am so pleased with You.” With that Jesus has a spiritual experience that is unparalleled: He sees heaven ripped open above Him and the Spirit of God descends upon Him like a dove. Accompanied by His Father’s voice, Jesus emerges from the water with a fresh vision of who He is.

Immediately God desires to test and refine this experience in the wilderness. Mark’s words are interesting: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12) for 40 days of fasting. The Greek words used here indicate that Jesus didn’t really want to go. The Spirit compelled Him. And notice the devil’s attacks on Him: “If You are the Son of God . . .” He knows that if he can get Jesus to doubt who He is then he can get Jesus’ obedience. In the end, Jesus stands up to the devil’s assaults on His identity.

The same is true with us. We may say, “But I am not like Jesus. He was the Son of God.” True. No one is like Jesus in this respect. And yet we read in the New Testament the mystery of Jesus’ identity, fully God and fully man. Divinity putting on humanity. If we believe that Jesus somehow had an advantage in listening to and following His Father, we miss one of the great points of the incarnation. He did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself and took on the likeness of men, and even further, took on the true form of a servant among men (Philippians 2:6-7). The one who was the very radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3) is the one who entered into human reality fully, with all of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and is today still not ashamed to call us brothers (Hebrews 2:11). Imagine it: somewhere, right now, in the heavenly realms, God is seated on the highest and most exalted throne; and who is sitting beside Him? A MAN. A human being! Granted, Jesus is more than a man, but He is not less than one either. He fully entered into our human condition and emerged a spotless lamb.

God’s Son came and died so that we might have the privilege of being adopted, but more than this, God also sent His Spirit into our hearts so that we might have the EXPERIENCE of adoption. Jesus called God “Abba,” meaning “Papa, Daddy.” He could do so because He was God’s Son. But we who follow Christ have the same Spirit that Jesus had, the same Spirit that led Him, guided Him, and empowered Him to live the fullest human life. We also can call God Abba.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-17)

Can we say with great confidence that God loves us in the same way and manner that He loves Jesus Christ? If we cannot, then we have not entered into a full experience and appreciation of the Spirit’s inner witness to our hearts that we are fully adopted children. This is who we are.

Brennan Manning writes it this way:

Jesus’ self-awareness and unflagging zeal in His ministry must be seen in direct and unceasing relation to His interior life of growing intimacy with the Father . . . The only way possible to move out of our obsessive self-awareness and into the life of Christ is to surrender ourselves and let God be God. Such a surrender involves mining the field of our hearts and searching for this pearl of God’s truth hidden deep within us: we belong to God. This precious discovery makes security, pleasure, and power look like cheap, painted fragments of glass. . . . In claiming ownership of the divine status as sons and daughters of the Creator of the Universe, we gain a coherent sense of self. We lose ourselves to find ourselves. . . . This loving awareness of being the child of the Father moves us out of a life spent pursuing our base desires and frees us to pursue the kingdom of God. We no longer have to live lives bifurcated by our needs. Everything we have and are forms but one self, one heart beating with the lifeblood of Jesus. (Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish)

Have we lost touch with the gift of the Father, the voice of the Spirit saying, “You are mine. I call you son/daughter. You can call me Abba“? Do we know who we are?

Remember The Lion King? I was never crazy about the movie until a certain scene caught my eye.

Simba is speaking to Rafiki for the first time: “Creepy little monkey. Will you stop following me? Who are you?”

Rafiki replies, “The question is: Whoooooo . . . are you? . . . I’m not the one who’s confused; you don’t even know who you are.”

Simba replies sarcastically, “Oh, and I suppose you know?”

Rafiki responds, “Sure do; you’re Mufasa’s boy.”

In the next scene Simba speaks to his father, Mufasa, in a vision. Read the exchange:

Mufasa: “Simba, you have forgotten me.”

Simba: “No. How could I?”

Mufasa: “You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. . .”

Simba: “How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.”

Mufasa: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember who you are.”

Like Simba, we are true sons and daughters of the Great King. He who knows who he is as a child of God and knows what he is to become, someone transformed to look like the Son of God, this is the person who will purify himself (1 John 3:1-3). This is the heart of true purity.

  • Comments on: What a creepy little monkey taught me about obedience
    1. Todd Z on

      Very powerful thank you Iam struggling to truly belive that God can meet all my needs and knowing that what you have shared with us is a great help in fully letting God have control

      Reply

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