By Steve DuPlessie | April 8, 2018
A few days ago I was reminded of an old prayer, written by a man named Frank Morris. It’s from something called Frank’s Daily Chuckles. It’s one of those things that makes you laugh and then makes you think. Frank wrote…
“Dear Lord, So far today I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, over-indulgent, coveted my neighbor’s spouse, or taken your name in vain. I’m very thankful for all that. But, in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m going to need a lot of help from you. Amen.”
I smiled when I read that prayer again because it’s so typical of most of us. The Christian life wouldn’t be quite so hard if we could stay in bed all day. It’s all that stuff that happens after we get up that gives us problems.
This morning I want to talk to you for a few moments about obeying God. I’m going to make two assumptions. First, I’m going to assume that most of us on one level truly want to obey God. That is, as Christians we want to do the right thing and we want to please our Lord if we can. In putting it that way I’m going to give us all the benefit of the doubt. It’s always easy to question motives, but this morning I’m going to start with the assumption that in your better moments you really want to please God.
But my second assumption is that no one obeys God all the time. As James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). So that little bedside payer is basically right. Gossip is no problem until we hear something juicy. We don’t usually lose our temper as long as we’re not around other people. We’re usually not grumpy or nasty until someone gets under our skin. We do OK as long as we’re in bed; it’s the stuff that happens after we get up that gets us in trouble.
So obedience isn’t necessarily easy, is it? It’s a challenge that takes deliberate courage, every day. It’s great to be here today, to worship together, and to watch as three disciples, three followers of Jesus are baptized. They are taking the first step of obedience as a disciple of Jesus.
The core concept of discipleship comes from one of Jesus’ last conversations with the 11 remaining disciples, just before he returned to heaven. He 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.”
Jesus said that step #1 of being a disciple is be baptized; publically identify yourself with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; when he died for you, it’s as if you died; when he rose again, it’s so you can have new life. Baptism, going under and then coming up from the water, is a simple but powerful one act drama that demonstrates your trust in Jesus as your Savior, who died for the forgiveness of all your sin so you can be made right with God. Baptism is the first step of a faithful heart.
And Jesus said that the next step in being a disciple after baptism as a follower of Jesus, is to begin obeying his commands. For some of us, the first-borns maybe, obeying comes easier than for others who disobey either on principle or from years of practice. But I want to show you at 8 truths, 8 principles from the bible about obedience.
First, Jesus promised to be with us if we obey him… That’s John 14, verse 23. Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and … we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Of course, it’s important to remember that believers are not made right with God by what we do or don’t do. Salvation is always a free gift of God, and we can do nothing to earn it. But Jesus promised a special, personal and intimate relationship with those who love him and are willing to obey his commands.
So I’m remembering what it was like to be a kid. I always knew that my mom and dad loved me, but I also knew that when I lied or deliberately disobeyed them, there was tension, a distance, a separation in our relationship, even though they still loved me. Jesus promised an unbroken, close intimacy with all who obey his commands.
Second, obedience is an act of worship. I’ve been reading through the bible this year, I’m in 2 Kings right now, and I began weeks ago to circle the word “obey” every time I saw it. Dozens of times so far from Genesis on. Obedience is important to God.
But true Christian obedience flows from a heart of gratitude for the love and mercy and grace we have received from God through his sacrifice of Jesus for our forgiveness. So Romans 12:1 tells us, “…dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to willingly give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (NLT). Obedience is an act of worship.
Third, obedience to God proves our love in authentic. The old Apostle John wrote, (1 John 5:2–3) “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (ESV)
Again John wrote, (2 John 6) “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. (NLT)” It’s easy to say we love God, but actually obeying Him demonstrates that love.
So that connects to number 4: obedience to God confirms our faith. Again John wrote, 1 John 2:3–6 “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, ‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (NLT)
Okay, so none of us is perfect this side of heaven. But a deliberate refusal to obey the commands of God should bring serious question if your faith is real saving faith. “I love God, but I love living with my boyfriend, too.” “I love God but it’s ok to be rude to my parents.” “I love God but I can lie on my taxes a little bit…” Really? Obedience to God confirms our faith.
Fifth, obedience is better than religion. 1 Samuel 15:22–23 But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols!” (NLT).
Too often I think I can go through the motions of religion: go to church, read my bible, say my prayers, wear a Christian t-shirt or wrist band, and that will cover my willful disobedience to what God has clearly and simply commanded. No. No it won’t. Obedience is better than sacrifice.
Sixth, disobedience has consequences. The disobedience of Adam and Eve brought … sin and death, evil and suffering onto all of us. Galatians 6:7 tells us plainly, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” It’s true, the pleasures of disobedience last for a while, but the consequences hang on and on for a long time. I have friends who made some foolish decisions in their teens and twenties and are stilling paying the consequences of those choices decades later.
The seventh principle is related to number six: through obedience, we avoid the shame and guilt that comes with messing up. Psalm 118 says, “You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands!” (NLT)
While forgiveness is possible because of the cross of Jesus, the shame and the guilt, the embarrassment and the regret still linger like a bad smell. Not worth it.
And eighth, God rewards obedience. Over and over again we read in the Bible that God blesses and rewards obedience: Jesus said, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:28 NLT).
James wrote, “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you don’t forget what you heard and actually do what it says, and then God will bless you for doing it” (James 1:25 NLT).
Ok, so what are some of the blessings that come with obedience? Well, sleeping with a clear conscience is one. Setting a positive example for your kids and grandkids to follow is another blessing of obedience. Plus there’s the uninterrupted relationship with the Savior who loves you, and the confidence that your prayer requests aren’t derailed … since it’s pretty obvious that God can’t bless dis-obedience.
There’s avoiding embarrassment for yourself and your family that’s a huge blessing for obedience. Then there’s bringing honor and fame, not dishonor and shame, to the name of Jesus that’s another blessing that comes with obedience. And the list goes on.
Obedience for a follower of Jesus begins with being baptized. And then it continues as we learn the commands of Jesus and obey them. And God promises to bless those who obey him. So I’ll make a deal with you: I’ll pray for you to grow in willing obedience to Jesus … if you will pray for me. …