Obedience: The 99 And The 1
I was recently in Central Asia, meeting with believers from the persecuted church.
What I learnt from them is one of the most powerful lessons from my time with Open Doors. Obedience.
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"What does it mean to be wise as a serpent?"
This was the question a friend asked me as we stood outside a bustling cotton market in Central Asia – a region of the world that sees the violence of Islamic extremism and the relentless pressure of communism collide.
Image: Mike in Central Asia.
I remember I didn’t have an adequate answer, so I chose to remain silent.
My friend said, "Well tell me, can the serpent hear God?"
Again, inadequacy and fear of getting it wrong rendered me silent.
He said, "The serpent can hear God but doesn’t obey God..."
My friend paused and with a warm and genuine tone smiled and said, "Sounds a lot like you, right?"
He said the scriptures talk about the sheep and the shepherd. The sheep hear and obey his voice for they are His most valuable possession, the scriptures also talk about the 99 and the 1.
My friend said, "Have you ever thought that you might be the one? Because when I look at people in your country I see people who claim to know God, but when He asks them to do something, rarely obey."
To be honest, I’ve never thought I’m the one but for the first time in my Christian walk I realised…. I am the one.
Image: Mountains in Central Asia.
I’m a sheep treasured and valued by the shepherd, I hear his voice but unless what I’m asked is safe, comfortable and guaranteed to work I rarely obey.
Looking back I realise that in those moments of obedience I often mask my evangelism with kindness and generosity but without mentioning “Jesus”, it’s as though in those moments I sell Jesus out for the hope a receiving a "Yes" or to protect me from the fear and embarrassment of a "No".
My friend in Central Asia tells me, "There may be nothing more cruel than to leave Jesus out of our language. Because in those moments all we’re doing is paving the wide road to hell with generosity and good deeds."
Whereas, the people I meet in Central Asia tell me that despite what their obedience will likely cost them, that the simplicity of the gospel is being able to articulate who Jesus is and what He has done in your life, that their greatest reward is to one day see Him face to face, and that Jesus is the most serious thing in their life.
They tell me that in those moments of obedience they’ve become used to water being their pavement;
Can you imagine being so used to stepping out of the boat that the water felt like solid ground?
You see, unless there is a Jesus distinctive to our language, then I fear that we are no better than the serpent who hears the voice of God but doesn’t obey.
We shouldn’t be trying to avoid persecution. We should be running towards it with courageous obedience – knowing that wherever the Gospel is being shared, persecution exists.
The 99 and the 1.
The question is which one are you?