Tim Keller on Christian obedience and on Jesus as the author and finisher (NIV perfecter) of our faith:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
If that text had said “Jesus is the pioneer of our race” — if he was our example — he went first and now you follow him … In other words he ran the race of commandments first. He came to earth and he lived lived an obedient life as our example. He went first, now you follow him. That wouldn’t be very exciting to me. I would say I’ll never keep up with Jesus, I’ll never run like he did. He didn’t knock over any of the hurdles etc …
But it doesn’t say that, it says he is the pioneer and finisher of the faith. Jesus Christ was obedient. Jesus Christ came to earth. He humbled himself. Philippians 2 says he became obedient even unto death — on a cross.
But why did he die? Why did he obey? Why did he say “not my will but thine be done”?
Why did he follow the thread? Why did he accept the authority of the Bible? Why did he obey perfectly? Why did he accept the adventure? Why?
Not just as our example. As our substitute. He didn’t just run the race as our example. He ran the race for us. He obeyed for us. He satisfied … The gospel is not that we give God this great performance and then God blesses us, but that in Jesus Christ God gives us a perfect record which we receive by faith and then we bless him.
And what this means is there’s no way running the race, and there’s no way obeying the commands will be a delight and will be a love relationship if you don’t believe you’re already accepted. You can’t be condemned. You can’t flub up. I mean running the race would just be … you’d always be afraid — “what if I don’t do it well enough.” Unless you accept that the race is already finished for you. Unless you accept the finisher of the race. Unless you read verse 32 of Psalm 119 in light of Hebrews 12:1,2 and 3, your obedience won’t be a love letter. It won’t be an experience of love. It will be a grind. That’s the reason why that little hymn goes like this:
To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
Accept the finisher — you’ll be able to accept all the rest.