17. "Hear and Obey"
I am not speaking in any way of those who enjoy the gift of hearing particulars from the Holy Spirit, whom God has exercised in knowing that gift, and who follow that gift in joy with no shadow of curse. That gift is Christ as you; it cannot ever be “hear and obey.” It cannot be what God never speaks. You are perfectly free in Christ to move in all God has taught you concerning Christ as you; you never need to call it something God does not speak. And you never need to interpret God's teaching you of His ways as being “out of the will of God.”
17. "Hear and Obey"
Some precious believers in Jesus are troubled by what I have said about the concept of “hear and obey.” I do think the reason is that somehow two very different things have entangled themselves in their hearts into one thing. Thus they “hear” me speaking against something of Christ most precious to them.
The element of Christ that they know is that of being led by the Spirit, part of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. But when I am speaking against “hear and obey,” I am speaking against the law of sin and death still remaining in our thinking. When I look at their questions, I see that it is true, that the law of sin and death has entangled its reality inside their understanding of the wonderful joy of being led by the Spirit.
With all of my heart, I would untangle those two strands for God’s precious people, keeping the joy of being led by the Spirit and casting off forever the thinking of sin and death, setting them free from Adam’s practice of placing himself inside the arena of self-cursing.
As imperfect humans, one of the great tricks we play is to invent what God ought to have said, and then take our invention and impose it forcefully upon what God does say so that we cannot hear what God does say, but only what God “should have” said.
We obtain our inventions from things we read in the Old Covenant or from Christian tradition or from powerful human argument. And the reason we are so often caught in this disturbing scenario is that we do not speak ONLY what God speaks inside the Covenant of Christ our life.
Nowhere in the New Testament does God ever tell us to “hear and obey.” It is simply not there. When we speak what God does not speak we create an alongside reality for ourselves, with many great arguments and verses thrown in, a reality that appears to be Christian but that cannot be Christ. Christ cannot be what God does not speak.
Christ cannot be “hear and obey,” because God never speaks it in the Covenant we signed with Him. When Jesus said, “I do always the will of the Father,” He was simply stating a certain reality.
Now, it is a good practice to word what God speaks in a way that is personal to us. It is not a good practice to use Old Testament wording and thinking to alter the New Testament. The New Covenant, that is, the gospel that comes through Paul, rules absolutely over any measure of Christ we draw out from the Old Testament. If we allow the opposite to happen, we only separate ourselves from Christ.
If we allow God to remove “hear and obey” from our minds and hearts, then we can catch a glimpse of what He means by what He says. But if we keep tight hold of “hear and obey,” something God never ever says in the Covenant through which we relate with Him, then we are unable to see Christ through what God actually says.
I am so sorry. I can live only by what God says in the Covenant I signed with Him. All my life, the strong arguments of good Christian people concerning what God should have said, have caused such distress in my life, such ruin and despair. And every time I flee back into what God actually says, I find such peace and joy, such a knowledge of Christ.
Everything I teach comes out of speaking what God actually says against the backdrop of casting down everything God should have said, but did not, no matter how “Christian” it sounds.
“My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.”
When I read this, it goes all through me. I know this Shepherd. I hear His voice; I follow Him.
“Hear and obey.”
Could I be honest with you? I don’t mean to stumble anyone or to drive any wedge between any dear heart and their knowledge of Jesus. But when I read these words, I do not know this voice. I cannot hear it. I will not follow it. It is never the voice of my Shepherd. The only thing this word has ever brought into my life was ruin and despair.
Why? Because it is not a word God speaks concerning me.
You see either the first word is true or the second word is true, but they cannot both be true. And yet here is what happens when we use the Old Testament words to rule over Christ; we insist that what Jesus meant when He said, “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me,” was “hear and obey.”
I am His sheep. I always hear His voice; I always follow Him. There is no other possibility. I never ever consider any cute little scenario wherein what Jesus said is dependent upon my own ability to distinguish “voices” and to hop instantly in response. Neither will I ever look at any moment of my life and say, “Well, during this time period I was in the will of God, but during that time period, I was not because I heard God speak but did not obey Him.”
To separate one moment of my past life, or one particle of my present life from Christ Himself living as me, is to place myself into an agony I cannot know.
Both Christ and the law are all or nothing. Either all that I am and all the days of my life are Christ or nothing of me is Christ. Either I do all that God says perfectly in all ways at all times or I disobey all. It’s one or the other, and Paul, by his gospel, places these two scenarios as full opposites.
Paul is audacious, and his gospel is very bold. He takes the wording found all the way through the Old Covenant (Christ is in the Old Testament, but not the Old Covenant) and strikes a huge X across all of it. Then he finds a couple of minor and miniscule phrases here and there, tears those phrases terribly out of context and builds his entire gospel on his rendition of those very obscure words.
Either Paul is right or he is wrong. You would be astonished at how many Christians, deep down in their thinking, believe that Paul truly speaks wrong. We show that we do every time we take Old Testament wording, wording that Paul so clearly axed, and use it to define and rule over everything Paul says.
Having abandoned utterly the entire covenant founded upon “hear and obey” (all that the Lord says we will do), having embraced with all burning of bridges, the gospel according to Paul, that Christ is my only life, and that everything I am is found ONLY inside of Him, I discover something. I discover a whole new meaning in the words I read in the New Testament, a meaning and reality I never could see or know when I once took Old Covenant realities, like “hear and obey,” and forced those words on what God does say in the New Testament.
Now, when I read the word “hear” in the New Testament, I see all that Christ is in all the speaking of God having entered into me and become my very and only life. As a direct response to hearing Christ, I speak Christ my only life. God commanded me to say out loud with my voice box, “I am dead indeed to sin. I have no connection to sin. I cannot ‘disobey.’” In response to hearing Christ, I speak what God speaks. As I do, Christ Himself shows me that all that I am and all I have ever experienced, is He living as me in this world.
The idea, the scenario, that I could “disobey” cannot exist for me, because there is no “me” who can “disobey.”
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Romans 7:4-6
The law is the relationship with God found in “hear and obey.” The newness of the Spirit is a hearing of faith, a hearing that flows out in quite a different scenario than “hear and obey.” And since God never says, “Hear and obey” in the New Testament, those who speak that line limit themselves from hearing what God does actually say.
The rest of Romans 7, then, IS the most abused, misused, twisted, and miss-applied portion of Scripture in the New Testament. Most hear it completely backwards from the speaking of Christ through Paul. And out of the abuse of the remainder of Romans 7 comes so much miss-treatment of Christ and of one another in the church.
In the first part of Romans 7, Paul states as central to his gospel, that we are NOT married to the law. Then, from verse 7 on, he presents the scenario, “what if.” “If we were married to the law, here is our life.” Then, in verse 24 Paul cries out for deliverance from this wretched law of sin and death, answering his cry with verse 25, “Thank God we are NOT married to the law. Thank God that we are MADE (not set) free from the law of sin and death.”
People do not grasp the fact that Paul wrote Romans 7:7-23 for one purpose, so that he could draw a huge, absolute X across the whole thing with Romans 8:2. Yet, in absolute confusion, God's people troll through those verses in Romans 7, attempting to force them into the gospel when they are eliminated entirely by the gospel.
Now, God does say, “Follow,” “Keep,” and “Do,” through the New Testament. And for us, all these things are Christ saying to us, “I follow, I keep, I do.” He fulfills in us all that the Father speaks. Every one of those words is the creative Word of Christ spoken into us. They are fulfilled only as we believe that they are already fulfilled.
If God did say, “hear and obey,” somewhere in the New Testament as part of the gospel, then it would be right to impose “hear and obey” on those things God does speak. But if He did, then I am lost. I don’t hear voices telling me to do this or that. And if I do “hear” a voice, I will not obey it. I get all nervous; I am unable to do voices. “Hearing voices” and the peace of God have always been two completely separate realms for me.
You see, knowing that I simply cannot know “hear and obey,” I seek salvation apart from that which was always and only a horror to me. I seek to know Jesus. I want to live; I don’t want to die, cut off from Him in punishment.
Should an autistic man, someone who cannot know the Lord Jesus or follow Him by “hear and obey,” never teach the gospel? Should someone who cannot ever find “hear and obey,” either in the New Testament, or in their hearts, or in their gross inability never teach Christ? Is Christ never revealed by utter human weakness?
I know most people believe that. Most people I know say to me, not with these words, maybe, but by their response to me, “Come on, Daniel, you cannot speak Christ about yourself. Look at yourself, it simply is not true. All these things you say are not true. They may be true someday for those who can do what you so obviously cannot. Maybe someday those who prove “hear and obey” will know what you claim. But you cannot say these things; just look in the mirror; see the evidence. Get real.”
The problem is that none of that bothers me in the slightest. I know Him. I hear His voice; I follow Him. I never live or see or speak or think anything else. And I will write the river of Christ flowing always out of my heart. I will speak Christ as my only life; all that He is, I am. All that He does, I do.
Either it is or it isn’t. It is NEVER back and forth, partly in and partly out, partly up and partly down, partly good and partly evil, partly Christ and partly anti-Christ.
“Hear and obey” IS the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; it is not Christ.
“Hear and obey” does appear in the gospels. “The wind and the sea heard Him and obeyed.” They never chose to obey or disobey. They simply did all that Christ spoke. And so do I. I am never other than Christ speaking.
Christ IS Lord; I AM His body. Never is there any other possibility. I cannot be other than Christ Himself.
Now, as an integral part of the teaching “hear and obey,” there is a scenario that is so often used. The scenario comes in many forms, many little stories, but they are all the same. This scenario is always frightening – if we believe that it is God. One rendition, similar to others I have heard is: “What if you are sitting in a chair and there is a bomb under the chair? What if God speaks, ‘Get up now,’ and you disobey? You will be blown to pieces.”
I have heard far stronger versions of this scenario preached under mighty anointings. One time I heard one such, one of the most powerful words I have ever heard in a move convention. Afterward, I could not join the crowds to eat; I went straight home, got on my face on the floor, and placed myself before God. How could I ever know Him; how could I know such a God? I wanted to, with all my heart I wanted to, but that God was so far away from me.
Yet that word ruled in my heart and life for many years. God used it to bring me to the despair that, for the first time in my life, brought me to know Christ as He really is – all of my life, all that I am.
Now, when I look at the god of the scenario, I see clearly that it is not my Father. It is a trickster god who plays mind games with those who follow him. I do not know such a god; I have never known such a god. A god who would place me above a live bomb, and then, if I don’t instantly “hop” when he says “hop,” would allow me to be blown to pieces, that is a trickster god I have never known. That god is not my Father.
I have walked in a bubble of the protection of God all my life. I have never seen evil; I have never known destruction. He has kept me every step of the way; He keeps me now. I know Him. I hear His voice; I follow Him. I have never known Him to play such a ridiculous game with me.
Consider the scenario. If you don't hear and you don't jump (sin), then you will be blown to smithereens (death.) And in so arguing, the joy of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is all tangled up with the law of sin and death.
God has made me free from the law of sin and death; there is no curse in Christ.
Let me explain EXACTLY what precious saints do experience. Many do hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to them, “Do this or that,” and they have learned to follow that immediate voice in great joy and they see wonderful things happening as a result.
Please, let me share with you EXACTLY what that is. That is a gift of Christ as you. That is a gift of the Holy Spirit no different than any other gift of the Holy Spirit. He gives to each according to His pleasure. Never does He give the same to all. Here is what He says.
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them… Romans 12:4-6
I have known and do know particular individuals who were given the gift of hearing a voice that is the voice of the Holy Spirit and of following that voice. Out of that gift, that grace granted to them as Christ AS them, they minister to the body.
But here is what happens. Some of those to whom God has apportioned that gift, cannot leave it as Christ as them. They do not allow that word to remain only Christ their life. Rather, they find the words “hear and obey” in the Old Testament, and they take those Old Covenant words alongside the grace of Christ as them, turn their gift into a rule of the gospel, and impose it on others. Some even turn it into the only path of salvation.
You see, their gift is 100% Christ living AS THEM in this world.
Now, there are those who say that speaking in tongues is a requirement, and that those who don’t speak in tongues aren’t really saved. There are those who say that leading lost people to Christ is a requirement and that if school children are not leading their neighbors to Christ, then they are responsible before God for their neighbor’s damnation. (This is one of the most evil things I have ever heard placed upon children.)
We could go on, but here is reality. Christ as you is NEVER Christ as me. The moment Christ as you becomes a law that I must follow – or even a law that you must follow, it is no longer Christ.
Christ as me today is not ever Christ as me yesterday. Christ never becomes a law.
However, three things happen in the church, in the hearts and minds of God’s people, when “hear and obey” is forced, contrary to God, upon the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit given to some in the body, a gift of hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Do this or that,” and following His lead in joy. And if you do have that gift, never, never bring the curse into it. The moment you argue curse inside your gift, you have separated the gift from Christ.
The first thing takes place inside the heart of the believer who does have the gift of hearing particulars, not a common gift, but very much a gift of the Holy Spirit. Their gift “sounds” to them like the Old Testament words, “hear and obey.” Thus they never reckon that the phrase, “hear and obey” never appears once as the gospel, nor do they open their eyes to the fact that Paul absolutely destroys “hear and obey” in Galatians 3.
Let me be specific. “Hear” is very much at the core of the gospel, all the way through. But the moment we link “hear” directly with “obey,” we have removed “hearing” from Christ and recast it as something by which we can never live. And all that Jesus spoke in the three narrative gospels, we can know those things ONLY out from Paul's gospel, that is, that Christ Himself, in Person, IS our very life, and HE Himself DOES DO all that He speaks.
Either He is or He ain't. The gospel has no place for in-part, neither does the law.
And that is exactly what happens in the heart of a dear saint who takes “hear and obey” and uses those words to define the gift they enjoy of Christ living as them. They take the curse and bring it by great arguments into their walk with Christ. Now, God no longer leads them in triumph. Their failure to obey drives Christ far away from them. Disobedience always annihilates union.
I cannot find a single moment in my entire life where I can say, “This happened to me BECAUSE I failed to obey God.” YES, my foolishness got me into all kinds of overwhelmingly difficult situations, no question of that. But I will never call any of it anything other than Christ living as me in this world. He is all the mess I find myself to be. He drank the Cup His Father gave Him to drink, all the dregs, all of me.
All of His ways concerning me are perfect. He has never led me wrong; He has never not led me.
Guess what happens when I speak that with all confidence AGAINST all human reason! I assure you, I do speak it against ALL human reason. Christ grows larger and larger and larger in my sight until I just can't see anything but Him. Some may say, “disobey” all they want, but I can never see it. I cannot see it because it is not Christ.
And that takes us to the second thing that happens in the body of Christ when the gift of hearing particulars from the Holy Spirit is turned into the nightmare of “hear and obey,” when “hear and obey” is taught as if it is found in the New Covenant, as if it is an element of salvation.
Most of God's people do not have that gift. I don't have that gift. And some have that gift in-part. Particular gifts of the Holy Spirit can be in-part, Christ cannot. A person who has a gift of healing does not see healing every time they pray. Think of that, what if the one with the gift of healing convinced himself that, “When someone is healed, I am in God, but when someone is not healed, I am in sin”? And yes, that is part of the nightmare of separated “Christianity.” Yet someone with a gift of healing does see healing at times when they pray and sometimes they don't. All of it is joy, either way; all of it is Christ as them.
But when any gift of the Spirit, any particular expression of Christ as us, is turned into a law, contrary to the speaking of Christ in Paul's gospel, and imposed, either on the one who enjoys the gift or on those who enjoy it in part, or on that majority of the body who do not have that gift at all, what happens is what most would call the “normal” Christian life.
Endless PRETENDING of every shape and form.
“Hear and obey” results in two things in all who embrace those words, endless pretending and endless lying to themselves. You see, it's a terrible thing. If I must hear something and then instantly obey what I hear in order to survive in this Christian life and in order to please God, that what convolutions must I produce in my imagination, in the story I concoct about myself, separate from Christ, in order to bend my weakness to a standard that can never bring life to me?
Now, again, please, I am not speaking in any way of those who enjoy the gift of hearing particulars from the Holy Spirit, whom God has exercised in knowing that gift, and who follow that gift in joy with no shadow of curse. That gift is Christ as you; it cannot ever be “hear and obey.” It cannot be what God never speaks. You are perfectly free in Christ to move in all God has taught you concerning Christ as you; you never need to call it something God does not speak. And you never need to interpret God's teaching you of His ways as being “out of the will of God.”
I know the endless pretending and the endless lying and the endless building of self-righteousness that takes place when “hear and obey” is imposed on all as a condition of salvation, a condition of knowing Christ. And I will keep swinging the sword of Christ my only life against it in all gentleness and kindness, as often as I must, until that thing is busted right out of the minds of God's precious people.
But “hear and obey” does produce a third result in some. And that third result is the only reason why Paul wrote the second part of Romans 7. Get honest. Get honest. Get honest.
If you fail to hear and obey one time, you WILL be blown to smithereens. It just takes once. In the end, all who teach "perfect obedience" are dishonest to themselves. They do not and cannot measure up. Will they do better than Paul, the best of the Pharisees? Yet Paul called all of his zeal to do what God says, "dog crap."
(And I know so many dear saints of God who poured out their lives with all abandon inside of “hear and obey” who went to their graves with the nagging, gnawing realization, ripping them to shreds on the inside that, in spite of all their anointed devotion, giving themselves with all out-poured abandon, really and truly, they had failed to “measure up.”)
You have failed. You have disobeyed. It's over with. You have no hope. Just die.
And having died forever to “hear AND OBEY,” now, for the first time, God can show you that you are indeed dead and that Christ IS the only life you are. Now we don't hear, “Hear and obey,” we simply hear, “Hear Christ!”
It's a miracle of the Holy Spirit; He alone shows us Christ. And as we see Christ, all that is not Christ is no more. Christ is always all before the not-Christ disappears. That makes no sense to the human mind, but it is always true.
You see, “hear and obey” cannot ever be alone. “Hear and obey” must always be accompanied by “fail to hear and disobey.” One never exists for us without the other at all times and in every way. Every argument concerning “hear and obey” uses “fail to hear and disobey” as its proof, as the bottom-line of its reasoning. The first never exists without the other. It is the law of sin and death.
People think that when God said, “the tree of knowledge,” He was speaking of something evil or worldly. That is impossible. The serpent had nothing to do with the tree of knowledge; it was entirely out of God, pure and holy and good. But God said, “Don't eat of it.”
Paul said, “If 'you do' what God says, you must live by that and not by Christ.”
People insist that there are two options only, “hear and obey” or “fail to hear and disobey.” They will not reckon with a third option that includes neither one. Everything I write is a testimony of option number three.
If you have the gift of the Spirit of hearing particulars from the Spirit and following those particulars with joy, then give your gift to the body with all the grace of Christ living as you. But you are 100% free in God never to impose on yourself a word God does not speak inside of Christ your life, and you have no right to impose either your own gift, Christ living as you, or an Old Covenant word upon others.
I never want to impose any part of Christ living as me in my own expression upon you. You are entirely free of me; you owe me nothing. I especially never want to impose my not having a particular gift of the Spirit on anyone who has that gift.
Christ lives as you, as your very and only life, in all that you find yourself to be, in every single moment.
We are sons of God; we are always led by the Spirit. Always! God always leads us in triumph.