“For many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
“Faith”, whatever that means to different people, doesn’t, of itself, lead to obedience; generations of Christianity have demonstrated that well enough. The English word apostasy comes from the Greek apostasia, having its root in a Greek word that means “departing”. In the context of the New Testament, it signifies departing from the person and teaching of Christ Jesus. In these days, what was meant to be the Body of Christ has departed from the Head and is floundering around in confusion, searching for the latest religious fashion.
There is a reason for this. Faith, Biblically understood, inevitably manifests itself in faithfulness and in trust; that’s what Biblical faith is; complete trust in God. It means surrender to God in every aspect of life, following God’s ways and leaving outcomes in His hands.
Unfortunately, our whole culture is outcome focused and the hardest thing for people, including Christians, to do, is to surrender outcomes to another, including God. The Adamic nature prefers to keep control of outcomes, while seeking God’s “permissive will” – a revealing expression – for whatever it is we have determined upon. After all, God permitted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; Adam was forbidden, but God did not stop him from eating!
Faith, then, means surrendering outcomes to God and following His ways. This is what the sheep do with the Good Shepherd; they hear His voice and follow Him; they don’t know where they’re going, but they know He is the only one that can lead them to pasture. It is like a small boy going out with his father; he doesn’t know where they are going but he just confidently and securely puts his hand in that of his father; as long as he hangs on to Dad’s hand, he knows he will be OK.
This is true Biblical trust, and this sort of trust implies obedience; if the sheep don’t follow the Good Shepherd they won’t find the good pasture. Of course they are free to wander off and find their own pasture, but then they are vulnerable to all the “snares of the trapper” and the dangers of the world of darkness. Other sheep might decide not to follow the shepherd, remaining in the sheepfold to be fed by hirelings. These, of course, get no exercise, nor do they get the best pasture, but just sit down all day.
We are not called to sit down, though, but to stand and walk. When we are sitting down, comfortable though it may be, we are very vulnerable, not only to predators, but to spiritual torpor. Our bodies are perishing from the moment we are born; death is the inevitable outcome of mortal life in this world. The principal purpose of this life is that our spirits might be prepared, in this world, for eternal life. This is the place of preparation; the world is the theatre wherein the great drama of humanity is played out.
We are, in effect, in the dressing room of the theatre, clothing ourselves in the clothes we are to wear for eternity. In the wedding parable in Matthew 22, we see that we may not enter dressed in our own clothing – that is, our fleshly nature – but we must be dressed in the “robes of righteousness” – that is, the Divine nature – of which we are called to be “partakers” (2 Peter 1:4).
God is not our dresser; He shows us what to wear, but we still must choose for ourselves and in our choice rests our eternal destiny. That is the cross that each of us must bear.