In my last entry I mentioned Jesus’ total obedience to His Father and the Word. That along with some recent events triggered a deeper-than-ever realization that the Western church at least seems to have lost sight of the absolute importance of obedience. At its core, the joyful journey of following Jesus is one of increasing obedience that grows out of a loving, trusting relationship with God, and we will never enter into what He intends for us apart from a life of increasing obedience. I see in the story of
entering the Promised Land a wonderful illustration of the Christian life: the people of God were preparing to enter into new territory in fulfillment of God’s promises to them. Great wonders and miracles are ahead of them. The new territory, however, is unknown to them. They have not passed this way before, so they are told that God must do the leading. Their part was to consecrate themselves (set themselves apart for His purposes). Israel
Allowing God to lead requires obedience. The people of
would not have entered the Promised Land without obeying God’s instructions. So although obedience is not a word you hear a lot of in today’s world ( Israel or otherwise), as you will discover, we cannot enter into the future God has for us apart from our uncompromising obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Simple Church
Many people today don’t even like the word “obey.” But obedience is not a four letter word! Neither is obedience optional and neither is it “legalism.” Therefore, I offer below some corrections to some common myths about obedience, based on an article I originally wrote for a “church newsletter.”
Myth Number One: Obedience is optional for Christians.
Some Christians seem to think that because we are saved by grace through faith, obedience is optional. But we are saved to obey not from having to obey! The first word of the Gospel is repent (turn control of your life completely over to God!), and the first confession of faith in the early church was “Jesus is Lord.” Our culture doesn’t really understand submission to a ruler, but the early Christians knew very well that when they confessed Jesus as Lord, they were committing themselves to a life of uncompromising obedience. And this is reflected clearly in the New Testament. Consider the following few (of many) scriptures (italics mine):
1 Peter 1:2a who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: (NRSV)
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Romans 1:5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (Note well here the connection between faith and obeying!)
Romans 15:18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—
Romans 16:26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
I think you get the picture. When you received Jesus as your Savior, you also were submitting to Him as Master of your life from that point on.
Myth Number Two: Obedience means just becoming a nice person!
It is true that we are to stop doing the bad stuff and allow the character of Jesus to be formed in us by His Spirit so that we become kind, gracious, really wonderful people! Christlike character is one very important fruit of obedience. But obedience doesn’t stop there. Stepping out and doing good to others is also obedience. When Jesus spoke of His obedience to the Father, He wasn’t talking about being kind, He was referring to His ministry to destroy the works of the devil by setting people free from sin, sickness and bondage! Don’t you suppose it’s the same for us? Many Christians stop at getting sin under control and then live basically self-indulgent lives then wonder why they are so miserable! They are miserable because they are not fulfilling God’s ultimate purpose. God wants us to get out of ourselves and make a difference in our world by following His leading as Heaven invades earth. And since Jesus went about “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil,” we believe that doing good includes supernatural stuff for us as well. That’s when obedience becomes downright exciting!
Myth Number Three: Obedience means following a bunch of rules.
It’s really important that we refute this myth! Obedience is not at all about following a bunch of rules, it’s about following a person, and there’s a huge difference. If we view obedience as following a set of rules, it leaves us in control—we are deciding what rules to keep, etc. Not only is it impossible to keep all the rules, approaching obedience as rule keeping misses the point of obedience altogether: obedience grows out of yielding control of our lives to the Lord in partnership with the Holy Spirit.
How much better it is to have obedience flow out of our love relationship with Jesus! Notice how the following passages underscore obedience as focused on the person of Jesus.
John 14:15, 21 NRSV 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” These verses make clear the connection between a loving relationship and obedience. I suggest that it is the primary connection.
Think about this. Love is the highest and most powerful of all motivating forces. What parent would not want obedience from his or her children to be based upon love rather than mere fear? God is no different; He longs for us to love Him enough to trust and obey Him. So if you would grow in obedience, seek to fall deeper and deeper in love with Him. And remember that we love Him because He first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). We obey a person, not a rulebook.
Myth Number Four: Consistent obedience is basically impossible.
The devil really wants you to believe this myth because there is great power to destroy him and his work in obedience! The earlier passages from Romans, however, make it clear that Paul knew that consistent obedience was clearly possible. Consider the following provisions from God that enable us to obey Him.
The Holy Spirit has been given to enable us to obey God. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is given to enable us to obey. 2 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (See also John 14:16-17, 26). The Holy Spirit helps us to obey in at least three ways.
a. As the Spirit of Truth who lives in us, He leads us into truth and away from the deception that is often a part of disobedience. (John 14:16-17).
b. As Counselor (or Strengthener), He comes alongside of us to encourage and empower us in our quest for obedience.
c. As the One who reminds us (John 14:26), He helps us to remember the words of Jesus that we are to obey.
It’s good to remember at this point that everyone in New Testament times was baptized in the Holy Spirit. The "power from on high" gives power to obey.
Faith also helps to enable obedience. Faith and obedience are used almost interchangeably in the New Testament. A great example of this is in Acts 5:32 “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Part of the connection between faith and obedience is obvious: if we trust someone, we obey him/her. So obedience grows out of faith as well as love. If we trust God more than ourselves, we will obey Him. If you’re struggling with obedience, you may be struggling with trust. Do you trust Him enough to obey Him?
But there is more. It is faith that energizes and enables obedience. Obedience is not possible in our own strength. Only by faith are we able to release the power of the Holy Spirit which enables obedience as mentioned above (see Galatians 3:2-3).
Let me summarize all of this: First, obedience is not a “four-letter word” for the people of God. There is power and purpose in obeying. Neither is obedience optional! Second, we grow in obedience by falling more and more in love with the One who loves us most and by activating the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit through faith. Do you love Him; do you trust Him? Then you will obey Him with increasing consistency as His power works in you. His example of perfect obedience urges us on! Third, does it cost to obey? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Absolutely! 1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— (“if you love Me, you will obey my commandments!”).
Hmmm. Well, I could write more about this, of course, but this will have to do for now. Remember, we love because He first loves us--all that I have written about obedience (especially as it flows from love) will be impossible apart from your continuing experience of God's love (see Ephesians 3:14-21).Stay lost in His love,
Tom, one of Abba's children