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The Paradox of the Cross

Elisabeth Elliot: When you buy a new gadget and plug the thing in and turn it on and something goes wrong, the chances are that you didn?t read the instructions. When all else fails, you read the instructions.

Lisa Barry: I often wonder if God doesn?t look down from heaven on us and sometimes shake His head. We stew and fret over things. We work and slave to try to bring about the results we want in life. All the while, God is trying to draw our attention to the Bible that is sitting on the shelf. It?s our instruction book for life, as well as our preparation for eternal life. Many people would love to have an emotional, spiritual experience, but few are willing to live the life of obedience Christ demonstrated for us.

Today on Gateway to Joy, Elisabeth Elliot continues talking about obedience and why it is indispensable in the Christian life. Let?s get started.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That?s what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you again today about "Whatever Happened to Obedience?"

My husband and I had the opportunity to go up into the top of that great arch in St. Louis. I was fascinated to learn about its construction. I know nothing about architecture, but a few things sank into my thick head. It was designed by Eero Saarinen, the famous architect.

I was thinking about that he, as an architect, has perfect freedom to design any kind of building he wants, but he does not have the freedom to discard either the plumb line or the level. The mathematical calculations that had to go into the building of that first-of-its-kind structure are staggering. The workers put up these tremendous stainless steel triangles one by one on two sides, and they had to bring them up to meet at the top, with no other support than themselves.

Now listen to this. A mistake of 1/64th of an inch at the bottom could have spelled disaster at the top. That?s a good illustration of my subject, which is "Whatever Happened to Obedience?" The liberty of obedience?does that sound like a contradiction in terms?

There isn?t any freedom apart from obedience. We have freeways in this country, but there would be no freedom for anybody to travel at high speed without interruption, if most people were not obedient to the laws. You can?t travel any old speed, any old direction, any old lane on a freeway. You must obey the laws. Those are what give us freedom. Do you want to be obedient to God?

James 1:25 says, "The man who looks closely into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and who lives in its company does not forget what he hears, but acts upon it. That is the man who, by acting, will find happiness."

This verse brings together three great words: law, freedom and happiness. I believe that in God?s economy those three things are inseparable. Saranin was free to construct that amazing stainless steel arch in St. Louis because he obeyed the laws of the universe?the laws of gravity. He used the plumb line and the level.

My husband and I live on the ocean. I love the summer?when we can watch hundreds of sailboats skimming along the horizon with the most wonderful freedom. But those sailboats would not have the freedom to skim along the horizon and stay on top of the water if they were not obedient to the laws of wind and wave, and if they had not been constructed in obedience to certain laws, such as the ratio between the beam and the keel.

In every area of life, there is no freedom without obedience. The world tells us that freedom means doing what you want to do and not doing what you don?t want to do. I have a friend who is a wise mother. When her kids were about 8 and 10 years old, she told her son one Saturday morning that it was time to get up.

He said, "I?m not getting up this morning." "Oh!" she said, "Aren?t you feeling well?" He said, "No, I feel fine, but I?ve decided that this is going to be a free day." "Oh," she said, "What does that mean?"

He said, "I?m just going to do what I want to do, and I?m not going to do anything I don?t want to do. Right now, I don?t want to get up."

She said, "Do you think that would be a good way for the whole family to live?" He said, "Yes." So she said, "Okay, we?ll try it."

At about 11:30, he came stumbling into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes, and said, "Where is my breakfast?" She said, "Breakfast?" "Yeah. You didn?t fix breakfast." "No," she said, "This is a free day. I didn?t feel like fixing any breakfast." "Oh."

He got his Cheerios out of the cupboard and managed to get something to eat. While he was eating breakfast, he looked out the window and saw his brother going out of the garage on his bicycle. "Hey," he said, "You can?t take that! That?s my bicycle!" The brother said, "I thought it was a free day today. I can do anything I want to do, and I don?t have to do anything I don?t want to do." So the day went on.

By supper, it was not necessary for the mother or the father to preach any sermons about the true meaning of freedom. They discovered the two boys had learned that freedom is not doing what you want to do and not doing what you don?t want to do. Freedom requires limitations and laws.

When you buy a new gadget and plug the thing in and turn it on and something goes wrong, the chances are that you didn?t read the instructions. When all else fails, you read the instructions.

Unfortunately, that?s often the way we conduct our lives. We assume that we know how to handle things and we plunge in. We make a mess of things. Then we wonder what went wrong. When all else fails, we might go back to the Book of instructions. Jesus said, "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free."

We often hear just that last phrase quoted, but it?s a violation of the prerequisites. He says, "If you continue in My word." That?s where you start?obedience. Then "you are My disciples." Then "you will know the truth and the truth will make you free."

My second husband, Addison Leitch, was the dean of Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He discovered that the happiest students on the campus invariably were the musicians and the athletes. He pondered that for a while and he came up with a reason. It?s because they are kids who have put themselves voluntarily under discipline.

Everybody else is in college with more or less an unmixed desire to get a college degree. But everything about the process of getting that degree is odious to them. They?re not convinced that it makes sense to do this particular assignment for this professor, or they don?t see that this course is necessary in order to receive a BA. When it comes to writing a paper or taking an exam, they hate almost everything about it. But?and this is important?the athletes and the musicians are there because they want to be, because they want to play the game or they want to be in the orchestra.

What do you want? Aristotle said, "All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions." Would you agree? Everybody wants happiness. But the differences between individuals lie in where they seek happiness. Jesus has given us the formula for happiness. He said, "If you lose your life for My sake, you will find your true self. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

The principle of the cross is a paradox. We bring to Christ our sins; He gives us His righteousness. We bring Him our losses; He gives us His gains. We are obedient; He gives us freedom.

Now let me give you three things to think about: desire, dependence, decision. The Apostle Paul states simply what he wanted more than anything else in the world. He said, "All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of His resurrection, and to share His sufferings." All I care for is to know Christ.

I?m convinced that there is nothing that can happen to me in this life that is not precisely designed by a sovereign Lord to give me the opportunity to learn to know Him. That?s what life is about. Everything that makes up what you are, God knows about. God knows exactly how to bring into your life the circumstances that are going to enable you to learn to know Him.

I don?t know what the circumstances of your life are today, but I can assure you that God knows about them. He knows how to bring into your life exactly the kind of circumstances which will enable you to learn to know Him; and in knowing, to obey Him; and in obeying, to find the liberty of obedience?the happiness that only obedience can give.

When I was a college student, I began to admire from a distance another college student on campus. His name was Jim Elliot. My brother Dave was a buddy of his, and Dave had been talking about him for several years. They had been on the same wrestling team. Dave was always saying to me, "You?ve got to meet this guy, Elliot."

Well, Dave is my little brother, and I wasn?t excited about meeting my little brother?s friends, so I didn?t go out of my way to follow his advice. But during my senior year, because Jim and I majored in the same subject, we had almost exactly the same classes. I began to notice this man. I liked that he was a spiritual leader on the campus, president of the Foreign Missions Fellowship, the kind of guy who was always going up to people and grabbing them by the lapel and saying, "Hey, buddy! How come you?re not going to the mission field?" If they stuttered and said, "I don?t know. I mean, like, I don?t really feel called," he?d say, "You don?t need a call. You need a kick in the pants."

I?m going to talk again tomorrow about obedience. Whatever happened to obedience?

Lisa Barry: Isn?t it interesting to think that true freedom is really found in obedience? I love the examples Elisabeth used today, because they illustrate so beautifully the necessity of obedience in a world where spiritual laws are scoffed at.

If you?d like to go deeper into this subject on your own, I encourage you to purchase a copy of Elisabeth?s book, THE LIBERTY OF OBEDIENCE. You?ll love the influence it?ll have on you. The cost is $5. You can send that, along with your request, to Gateway to Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. As always, we have a tape series of this available when you contact us. Or you can call us toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. On the Internet, we?re at gatewaytojoy.org. Today?s program has been a production of Back to the Bible.

There?s more to come on obedience tomorrow, so tune in then for another Gateway to Joy.

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