There is an unforgettable story told of a young man whose mind was stirred to focus on God in a way that eventually captured his heart. He was evidently wealthy and often rode a beautiful horse decked with an expensive saddle that proved he was well-to-do and refined.
As the young man was riding on his horse in the clothes of a gentleman, suddenly his horse bolted back. Looking down, he saw a poor, ragged leper lying on the roadside begging. He was as startled as his horse.
It happened that he was thinking of Jesus at that moment, so he dismounted his horse and, overcoming his thoughts of horror, he pressed money into the leper’s hand. And yet, he just could not draw away from him, he felt compelled to do more, and he did the unthinkable, he kissed his hand! Still holding his hand, the leper kissed his hand in a returning act of amazing gratitude and love expressed.
The young man remounted his horse, and yet an overwhelming presence of Jesus was now with him and in him! He confessed, “What had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of body and soul.” He rode away with a lasting sense of Jesus in his life, not by virtue of his selfless act, but in that act he welcomed Jesus, it seemed. He now had Jesus in control of his life. That story is true, and it is the story of the conversion of Francis of Assisi in the early thirteenth century.
Much like C. S. Lewis had a mysterious conversion to Christ as he rode his bicycle to the Oxford classroom where he was to lecture—in also the same way Francis had an unforgettable conversion experience when he got off his high horse and reached out to touch the leper. C. S. Lewis said in his book Surprised by Joy that he got on his bicycle a doubter and got off a believer. Somewhere along the route he had opened his life to Jesus and the Lord had taken over! To repeat, it was almost the same with St. Francis; when he got back on his horse, Jesus was in his life, a miraculous conversion!
St. Francis spoke of it being a most joyous conversion, and, of course, each person is different emotionally. Meeting Jesus does not cause all people to react in the same way. One young man spoke of being clean inside, saying, “I have never felt clean before.” A woman in Poland described it as “being right with the whole world and filled with love.” She said, “I could love anybody now!” Another person said, “I just wanted to tell the whole world about this!”
Yet, let’s take a step back. For Francis, his conversion started when he got off his horse. He strongly felt he just had to do that. You remember the simple song we once sang:
Trust and obey,
for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey.
What would that mean in your and in my life now? To say it another way, if we were “to get off our high horse,” how would that be expressed for me or you? The obedience that springs from faith is the obedience of love, not some obligation of fear.
Here is something to seriously consider, we cannot expect God’s promises to be in effect without obeying His promptings. As in St. Francis, the starting point of faith was obedience. Oswald Chambers, the devotional writer, said, “The golden rule of understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.”
We say we have put our trust and faith in Jesus, but the faith that saves has one distinctive quality above all others; authentic faith is a faith and trust that always produces a spirit that obeys. Always! Love and Law go together in this way: love of Christ makes us obedient to the laws of God, so that, love is the deep root of it, obedience is the delightful fruit of it. Another Francis, Francis Schaeffer, once commented, “Love of the creature toward the Creator must include obedience or it is meaningless.”
Let’s get off our high horse and get down to the matter of obedient faith! And so, take a step back to see the picture more clearly. We say correctly, salvation comes without works, it’s all by grace, which is very true. Yet, often we have gone so far in the opposite direction that we are now unwittingly saying by our actions that it is salvation without obedience! That is also totally untrue! Salvation is without works, but salvation does works! Spurgeon has it precisely right. He said, “Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle. He who obeys God trusts God; and he that trusts God, obeys God.” We would all do well to commit that statement to memory.
We see it now, I believe, it’s love of the Lord that, in turn, obeys the Lord. Therefore sit and ask, “What would be for me an act of obedience in my life at this very moment?” It may be very simple and practical, but the virtue is in the fact that we instantly obeyed! So, again for emphasis—just get off your high horse and get down to obey the Lord, and do it now!
Let us confess and believe that all of heaven is now waiting to come to the assistance of any of us who discover what God wants us to do and do it wholeheartedly. None of us merits blessings and full assurances by our obedience, and yet very often God crowns obedience with His best as glorious joy comes on us like a shower from heaven.
“The fundamental deception of Satan is the lie that obedience can never bring happiness.”
R. C. Sproul