The Fellowship of the Transfigured Face (Holy Obedience)

I love to re-read Thomas Kelly’s words in his classic, A Testament of Devotion. He inspires me to seek Christ with all my heart.

In Thomas Kelly’s chapter on “Holy Obedience” he offers uncommon and refreshing wisdom on what it means to obey the Lord. Most people focus on behavior which evokes pressure and guilt, but the renowned Quaker teacher focuses us first on opening our heart to the Hound of Heaven who pursues us in love. He urges us to pray to the Lord in secret continually and adoringly, submitting to and seeking His will in all things.

Holy Obedience to Christ is a God-intoxicated life! It’s a sweet fellowship of the Transfigured Face! We’re not aloof from the needs and hurts of people around us — we offer them practical love. We don’t avoid difficulty — we simplify our lives by “centering down” into the silence of our soul in Christ even as we’re experiencing stress. Kelly is teaching us to wed a life of prayer and mission, engaging our world in contemplative action.

I pray that these words of Thomas Kelly will inspire you and I to follow Jesus wholly:

Testament-of-Devotion-Thomas-KellyHoly Obedience (Excerpt of Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion)

Wholly Obedient to the Hound of Heaven

Within the silences of the souls of people an eternal drama is ever being enacted… It is the drama of the Hound of Heaven baying relentlessly upon the track of human beings. It is the drama of the lost sheep wandering in the wilderness, restless and lonely, feebly searching, while over the hills comes the wiser Shepherd [eager to] hold His sheep in His arms. It is the drama of the Eternal Father drawing the prodigal home unto Himself…

It is to one strand in this inner drama, one scene, where the Shepherd has found His sheep, that I would direct you. It is the life of absolute and complete and holy obedience to the voice of the Shepherd…

Religion as a dull habit is not that for which Christ lived and died.

There is a degree of holy and complete obedience and of joyful self-renunciation and of sensitive listening that is breathtaking… Jesus put this pointedly when He said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3), and Paul knew it, “If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17)…

The life that intends to be wholly-obedient, wholly submissive, wholly listening, is astonishing in its completeness. Its joys are ravishing, its peace profound, its humility the deepest, its power world-shaking, its love enveloping, it’s simplicity that of a trusting child…

It is the life and power of Jesus of Nazareth… It is the life and power of the apostle Paul, who resolved not to know anything among people save Jesus Christ and Him crucified… It is the life an power of Saint Francis, that little poor man of God who came nearer to re-living the life of Jesus than has any other person on earth… It is the life and power of myriads of unknown saints through the ages. It is the life and power of some people now in this room who smile knowingly as I speak…

Obey Now and Find Yourself in a God-Intoxicated Life

Do not mistake me. Our interest just now is in the life of complete obedience to God, not in amazing revelations of His glory graciously granted only to some… States of consciousness are fluctuating. The vision fades. But holy and listening and alert obedience remains, as the core and kernel of a God-intoxicated life, as the abiding pattern of sober, workaday living…

God alone seems to be the actor and we seem to be wholly acted upon. And our wills our melted and dissolved and made pliant, being firmly fixed in Him, and He wills in us…

The Houd of Heaven is on our track, the God of Love is wooing us to His Holy Life.

Once having the vision… Begin where you are. Obey now. Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are. Live this present moment… in utter submission and openness to Him. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, as in the deeper level of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, “Lord, open my life. Guide my thoughts… They will be done.”

Walk on the street and chat with your friends. But every moment behind the scenes in prayer, offering yourselves in continuous obedience. I find this continuous prayer life absolutely essential…

Use a single sentence, repeated over and over and over again, such as this: “Lord, be my will. Lord, be my will,” or “I open all before you, my God. I open all before you,” or “See earth through heaven. See earth through heaven.”…

Don’t grit your teeth and clench your fists and say, “I will! I will!” Relax. Take your hands off. Submit yourself to God. Learn to live in the passive voice — a hard saying for Americans — and let life be willed through you. For “I will” spells not obedience…

Holy Obedience is Lovingkindness and Compassion for Neighbors

God inflames the soul with a burning craving for absolute purity… Absolute honesty, absolute gentleness, absolute self-control, unwearied patience and thoughtfulness in the midst of the raveling friction of home and office and school and shop…

For the life of obedience is a holy life… cut off from worldly compromises… heaven-dedicated in the midst of people, stainless as the snows upon the mountain tops.

Those who walk in obedience, following God the second mile, living the life of inner prayer of submission and exultation, on them God’s holiness takes hold as a mastering passion of life… For humility and holiness are twins… God draws unworthy us, in loving tenderness, up into fellowship with His glorious self…

And holy obedience must walk in this world, not aloof and preoccupied, but stained with sorrow’s travail…

A Simplified Life

The last fruit of holy obedience is the simplicity of the trusting child… the simplicity which lies beyond complexity… It is the beginning of spiritual maturity, which comes after the awkward age of religious busyness for the Kingdom of God — yet how many are caught, and arrested in development, within this adolescent development of the soul’s growth!

The mark of the simplified life is radiant joy. It lives in the Fellowship of the Transfigured Face. Knowing sorrow to the depths it does not agonize and fret and strain but in serene, unhurried calm it walks in time with the joy and assurance of Eternity. Knowing fully the complexity of people’s problems it cuts through to the Love of God and ever cleaves to Him… But it binds all obedient souls together in the fellowship of humility and simple adoration of Him who is all in all.

I have in mind something deeper than the simplification of our external programs, our absurdly crowded calendars of appointments through which so many pantingly and frantically gasp. These do become simplified in holy obedience, and the poise and peace we have been missing can really be found. But there is a deeper, an internal simplification of the whole of one’s personality, stilled, tranquil, in childlike trust listening ever to Eternity’s whisper, walking with a smile into the dark.

The Fellowship of the Transfigured Face

This amazing simplification comes when we “center down,” when life is lived with singleness of eye, from a holy Center where the breath and stillness of Eternity are heavy upon us and we are wholly yielded to Him.

Some of you know this holy, recreating Center of eternal peace and joy and live in it day and night. Some of you may see it over the margin and wistfully long to slip into that amazing Center where soul is at home with God. Be very faithful to that wistful longing. It is the Eternal Goodness calling you to return Home, to feed upon green pastures and walk beside still waters and live in the peace of the Shepherd’s presence.

It is the life beyond fevered strain.

We are called beyond strain, to peace and power and joy and love and thorough abandonment of self. We are called to put our hands trustingly in His hand and walk the holy way, in no anxiety assuredly resting in Him…

As a simplified person love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength and abide trustingly in that love. Then indeed do we love our neighbors… This is the Fellowship of the Transfigured Face… a Mary-Martha life.

In this day when the burdens of humanity press so heavily upon us I would begin not with techniques of service but with the most “Serious Call to a Devout Life,” a life of such humble obedience to the Inner Voice as we have scarcely dared to dream.

Hasten upon Him who calls you in the silences of your heart. The Hound of Heaven is ever near us, the voice of the Shepherd is calling us home.

(Excerpted from A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly, pp. 25-29, 32-34, 38-40, 45-47. I made minor edits for gender neutral language and contemporary wording.)


Further Reading

Related Products


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest



Are you feeling stuck in your faith walk? The healthy Christian life is one of continuing spiritual, emotional, and relational growth, but sometimes we feel stuck or stagnated at one stage of the journey.

Get unstuck and identify the next steps you need to take to grow emotionally and spiritually—no matter where you are or how long you’ve been following Jesus.