Obedience has been a stumbling block for humanity since the very beginning. In Genesis chapter 3, we have Eve and Adam disobeying the one “no” command that God had given them, with the disastrous result of the fall of humankind. It has been continuous rebellion from that point. We are born sons of rebellion, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. ” (Romans 8:7) Obedience is difficult for we fallen mortals, and even after salvation, we all to some degree struggle to obey. It is by the process of growing sanctification, through the help of the Holy Spirit, that we increase in obedience. Jesus defines love as obedience, did you realize that? In John 14:23 Jesus says, “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.” That is counter intuitive for most people, because we tend to classify love as a feeling of fondness. Notice that Jesus didn’t say anyone who loves me will feel affection for me, or like the nice things I do and think of me as a great role model of compassion. Those being the common ideologies of the multitudes today. He says that we love Him if we obey Him.
One of the consequences of post modernism is the need to have a reason that makes sense in one’s mind for anything the Bible says. This higher criticism mindset dovetails neatly with our natural sinful state, and has unfortunately infiltrated the thinking of the professing church with the result of all sorts of disobedience. I see this most readily in the attitude of, “I’m deciding what I believe to be true of the Bible.” Oh, realllllly? Translation: “I am approaching scripture buffet style so as to avoid and ignore those absolute truths that I do not want to obey.” Disobedience, plain and simple. And, according to the Lord, not loving Him. God welcomes honest questions, and is patient with us as we wrestle with scripture. But that is not what is going on in this example. There is a difference between willful rebellion and growing sanctification in understanding of the scriptures.
Another place that I have observed obedience being a stumbling block is around the issue of unconditional election and evangelism. Some say, “what is the point of evangelizing the lost if it is God who decides who will believe?” The answer is simple: because God commanded us to. The end. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19). It is instances like this, when our limited, fallen minds have difficulty harmonizing Biblical truth, where a priority and understanding of obedience of the believer to the Lord is imperative. We do not always have a perfect, put-it-in-a-box-and-tie-a-bow, explanation that is understandable to the minds of men, concerning scriptural truth. Sometimes we have to allow for there to be tension, knowing that it is perfectly reconciled in the mind of God. Happiness for the believer, in situations like this, is found in submission and obedience to God’s authoritative Word.
Providence is another area where a proper understanding of obedience is key. We know that God works all things for His purpose, and He often does that through divine providence. The trouble comes when we try to sort out what parts are providence. We can not do that. Our job is to obey God’s commands, and leave the providence to Him. The book of Esther in the Old Testament is a wonderful example of divine providence. It is also the only book of the Bible that does not mention God. I encourage you to read it, you will be blessed by seeing God’s hand of providence, and the obedience of Queen Esther. Providence and obedience go hand in hand.
As the great Hymn Trust and Obey says:
When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way;
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
I exhort you today, dear readers, to demonstrate your love for Jesus by trusting and obeying Him. For as He Himself said, those who love Him do what He says.
Soli Deo Gloria!