Imagine a world where everyone was obedient. Imagine the selfless love, the peace, the rest, the unity and the joy we would experience day to day. The Lord would be rightly glorified through man, His creation. Imagine a church with no selfish ambition, envying, malice, gossip, slander, lying and murmuring. What a world it would be if we were all like our father, Abraham.
‘By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going’ - Hebrews 11:8.
Abraham was an obedient servant of God. God called, and he responded by faith.
Abraham’s faith produced the good work of obedience. Many today have wrongly come to the assumption that justification by faith is opposed to the act of obedience. I am talking about the current church generation who wrongly believe that 'obedience is ‘law’ and we are not justified by the law so therefore we can continue in disobedience'. They are right however in the matter of not being justified by the law. They are completely wrong though in assuming that obedience to God’s Word is the same thing as ‘being under the law’. The New Testament regards those who disregard the law as ‘lawless’. We are not justified by the law, we are saved by grace, through faith. However, the outworking of one who is saved is their fruit of obedience.
In the last days, the Bible foretells that people will become more and more lawless. The work of lawlessness results in the hardening of one’s heart against God.
Matthew 24:12, ‘And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.’
We should know that Jesus did not die on the cross so that we can continue to be disobedient to God. Ephesians 2:2 reminds us that a satanic spirit is at work in the children of disobedience.
Obedience vs Disobedience
Let’s take a look at how Scripture reveals the contrast between obedience vs disobedience. The truth is, we cannot claim to know Him if we are walking in continual disobedience. If we are in the light, we will walk as one who is in the light. If we are in darkness, it will reflect by the outworking of disobedience. The manifestation of the heart is revealed in what we spend our life doing.
1 John 2:3-5 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 1:4-7 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Romans 12:1‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship'.
By grace through faith.
Ephesians 2:8-10‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’.
Part of the transformation that takes place in a believer is that our heart and will begins to align with the Lord’s heart and will. A desire to please God begins to grow within us and our disdain for sin, especially our own, increases proportionally. By God’s grace, His work in us is to perfect us in the faith, and obedience is one of the most significant outworkings of this grace.
Our yearning to obey God comes from within, not from our external circumstances. You can’t be guilted into laying down your life for Him because this part of dying to self springs forth from a passion to serve the Lord. You can be encouraged to step up, but don’t be misled into thinking that obedience can ever be truly obtained without the grace of God fuelling it. The Holy Spirit blows a gentle wind to remind us to listen and obey. He will not scream, or rant, or force you. A lesson I have learned in the past is that you cannot make another person do the right thing. You can teach, encourage and remind people of the way, but only God can truly bring a person to bow their knee to Him. There is most certainly the easy way, or hard way. The Shepherd will certainly discipline His wayward sheep if they do not learn the easy way.
Abraham did not delay in obeying God because delayed obedience is still disobedience. We ought to walk in the call of God the moment He calls. His mercies are new every day. This means that God demonstrates each day that He is willing to be merciful to us. However, every day we continue in disobedience is a new day we sin against God, presuming upon His mercy and grace and continuing to walk in sin. I urge you to never put off the call of God. Don't put off anything that you know you ought to be doing. Repeated failure to respond to God in obedience hardens our heart in the matter. Have you ever had a nagging conscience about a certain call to obedience that eventually went away? Sometimes we assume it left because God is no longer concerned about the matter – not so! It’s just that in this case, our heart has become cold towards God. This is a devastating position to be in.
I want to be obedient, but I fail so often
Oh, yes! The cry of every dedicated saint. Obedience is an integral part of the sanctified man, as we know it. It leads him to be holy as He is holy. If you have a yearning to be obedient but you often fail, then do not seek obedience on its own, rather, seek a greater measure of faith because this is where His grace to be obedient will spring forth from. If then you seek a greater measure of faith, this will spring forth by continuing to pray and by reading His Word. Prayer, because we must pray that we are not tempted into disobedience like Peter on the night he denied Jesus (Luke 22:46, Matthew 26:41), and reading the Word because the Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17).
Rebellion deep within our heart is the cause of man’s desperate wickedness. Jesus gave up His life so that we could be reconciled to God, that we would no longer walk contrary to His will with a hardened heart, but we would humbly bow our knee with a heart that is contrite. By doing so, we would bring glory to the King. Our obedience honours the Lord. That is our duty. That is why we are saved (Romans 9:19-23).
A cup is designed to hold liquid. A cup that cannot hold liquid cannot honour the maker. Just as a man who fails in obedience to God fails to honour his Creator. What good is a cup that cannot hold liquid? It is good for nothing and will be thrown in the bin. A man who will not obey God forgoes the purpose in which he was designed.
In the last article, we discussed how we are to imitate those who imitate Christ – just like Paul. Jesus was obedient to the Father, even to shedding blood. A man who walks in such obedience is worthy of being imitated.
A servant who is passionate about obeying God need not fear his/her future. God will undoubtedly provide the grace they require to be refined as a vessel of honour, that they may bring glory to their Maker.
We don’t need to wait until the whole world obeys God to experience peace and joy. Be the one who says, ‘Yes Lord’, and you will surely realise the reward.
Little children are required to obey their parents - likewise - we are to obey our Father in Heaven.
Read, pray and obey!
-- By Judah Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.