On Preemptive Obedience and Proactive Repentance


Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 16:11–15 

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.


Following Jesus requires three basic qualities:

1. The willingness to carry the holy love of God until it has become us. This is the essential character of being a witness of Jesus. To be a witness, remember, is not to do something for God but for God to do something in and through you. You are a carrier of the living God, by the ongoing infilling of the Holy Spirit, moving about in the name and authority of Jesus Christ. This means you will be increasingly known and experienced by others as a person of extraordinary love. Hear how John says it: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16b). In the next verse he is even more clear: “In this world we are like Jesus” (1 John 4:17b). This way of living in the world does not come from striving harder and harder after God but rather from an ever-deepening quality of surrender to God. As they walked down to the river that day they were already flowing in the river of the love of God. 

2. Pre-emptive obedience (i.e., saying yes before you get the assignment). They said the big capital-Y yes and now they were following on with the thousand little-Y yeses of the obedience of love. They had an agenda. It was not fixed and closed. They were no longer looking for God’s will for their life. They had given their lives to God’s will for the world. Their agenda was to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to discern guidance from the voice of God—by the Word and the Spirit—through their circumstances, by common sense infused with supernatural wisdom. Sometimes we are looking for a mystical voice when the Lord is saying the obvious: Go down to the river; that’s where people meet to pray. I’ll show you what’s next when you get there. 

3. Radical openness to associating with and befriending all kinds of people. We must let go of our preemptive judgment and our preconceived opinions of people we don’t yet know and who are often quite different from us. These apostles were squarely in Gentile country now. They had all kinds of preconceived notions and prejudices about Gentiles. Today it was Lydia, from Thyatira, “a dealer in purple cloth.” Notice the humility in her comment to them after she and her whole family were baptized: “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.”

She obviously wondered if they really accepted her. She felt their skepticism; dare I say, their prejudice. There, I said it. Prejudice. It is real and dangerous, and more common than we want to admit. Radical openness to people different from us requires proactive repentance, which requires allowing the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to the depths. (I will make some comments about my own journey with prejudice in the afterword in today’s podcast if you care to listen.)


Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove, 
with all Thy quickening powers.
Come shed abroad a Savior’s love,
and that will kindle ours. 

—Isaac Watts, “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove”


Have you come to the realization of your own prejudices or are you still in denial that you prejudge people based on all kinds of things that make them different from us and which they cannot control? What if we de-shamed prejudice and dealt with it as a native element of our sin nature? It is a major impediment to the gospel of Jesus. 


Today we will sing “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” (hymn 596), from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. New shipments arriving now. Use Code: WAKEUPCALL for free shipping through the end of May (does not apply to bulk orders). 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Yes, prejudice is a very real element of our fallen human nature. And it can take many different forms, racial, economic, even bias towards one’s own denominational traditions. I’ve experienced all of these. I grew up, lower middle class, in a mainly white suburban area of a large metropolitan city, Houston Texas. My primary education was in a parochial school affiliated with a denomination that stressed the fact that they possessed “pure doctrine “ as opposed to every one else’s. I spent the major part of my early adult life, (22 years) as a police officer for the City of Houston. During that time, I was exposed to every possible type of human depravity. Also during this period of life, my wife and I moved several times which required our experiencing a variety of different denominational churches. It was not until I retired, and we finally settled down in a small rural Texas community, and I began visitation and facilitating a Bible study at a local nursing home, that God began His work of real transformation within me. I’m eternally grateful that I was given enough time in this life to experience this transformation. Although, I’m still a work in progress.

  2. Here’s are my definitions of your 3 P-Words, JD:

    Preemptive obedience is to reject the option of disobedience even before you know what God is going to prompt you to do. It is to live by this declaration: “Jesus, I’ll do whatever you say today.”

    Proactive repentance is to stop your wrongful thoughts, feelings, desires, words, and actions without waiting for consequences to force you to.

    Prejudice is looking down on people by thinking you are in some way superior to them. It is something all humans struggle with. The Holy Spirit took me on a long journey of dealing with my prejudice and it continues to this day. To see where I chronical much of that journey, search for: Off the RACE Track book.

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