Bible Church International
Seeking Consistent Obedience
Back to Basics: (Part XVI)
SEEKING CONSISTENT OBEDIENCE
John 14:23-24 (NIV):
23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, andwe will come to him and make our home with him.
24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
1 John 5:1-3 (NIV):
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.
3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
Many of us who grew up singing hymns at church most likely have fallen in love with the great hymn "Trust and Obey". Maybe, some of us can still sing first stanza and chorus from memory:
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.
What really made this hymn very special was how it captured the message that faith and obedience always go hand in hand. Every time anyone sings it, especially the chorus, that person would be reminded that it is not enough to say that you have faith in God, he or she must be committed to obey Him as well. I totally love the emphasis on the hymn that the only way we can be happy in this life is when we exercise faith and obedience.
Let me ask you, is there a basis in the Bible for such a teaching – that if you want to be happy in this life or blessed in life, you need faith and obedience? Absolutely! Let me explain: First, the last lesson we had on faith, we emphasized the necessity of obedience. We said that if we believe in God, we will obey Him regardless of the consequences. We have to believe that He knows what is best for us, and He has our best interest in His heart, so we can obey Him in whatever He commands for us to do. Take for example, in our natural faith; we go to our doctor because we are sick. And so, he prescribes us a medicine; if you don’t drink the medicine because of your lack of faith towards Him, do you think you will get better. Certainly not! Same is true in our relationship with God. If we truly believe that He wants the best for us, then we have to obey Him.
Secondly, we have direct statements in the Bible like the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:23-24. Consider the promise of Jesus that if we obey Him the Father will come to us and they will make themselves at home in our lives. Now, you might say, isn’t already a reality in the life of all believers that they are indwelt by God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But, this is more than just God indwelling us, this is more of the greater influence and manifestations of God in our lives. This is more of the Holy Spirit allowing those who are obedient to experience greater joy, wisdom, and power in life. This is often what is lacking in the lives of many believers. If this is what you desire to experience today, then we have to learn the need to become more obedient to God. In order to cover more grounds about obedience, let’s consider four areas about it:
I. THE DESIRE OF OBEDIENCE:
It is unfortunate that having a desire to obey is often a struggle for many believers. People resent the idea of obedience because they have the tendency to associate the concept with restrictions or lack of freedom. They are like the people who perceive the Bible negatively because they assume that with all the dos and don’ts, this would make life miserable.
The truth of the matter is: this is a grave misunderstanding of the God who gave us the Bible and all the commandments found there. First and foremost, we should never forget that God is a good and loving God. It is not His desire to make us miserable. If there is anything He wants for us, He wants us to experience life to the fullest (John 10:10).
Now, going back to one of our key texts, verse 3 of 1 John 5 declares it plainly - This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
This is what we have to believe that it is not God’s intention to make our lives miserable– “His commands are not burdensome.” Perhaps, we will understand this better if we go back to the book of Exodus. Some of you who are taking Old Testament Survey would remember that when we studied the book of Exodus, we saw how God brought Israel in Mount Sinai after they left Egypt, and before He would give them the 10 Commandments and other laws which will help them, He explained to them His ultimate purpose:
Exodus 19:5-6 (NIV):
5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,
6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
Take note of those statements – “my treasured possessions,” “for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Evidently, it is God’s desire to establish an intimate relationship with them. Unlike the Canaanite nations, He wanted Israel to be a distinct nation. He wanted them to be able to commune with Him and experience His blessings to the fullest. Although the Promised Land where they were going was a great land, yet their blessedness will not come solely because of the land more than having an intimate relationship with God.
I think parents can identify very well with the concept we are seeing here. Parents, why do you establish some house rules? Is it because you hate your kids and you just want to make your children miserable? I don’t think so. You do this because you love your children so much and you want to help your children develop into productive individuals. So, kids don’t be rebellious towards your parents. Don’t resent them for their rules, and parents have to make sure that they maintain great relationships with their kids while expecting obedience from them.
Likewise, we as Christians should take this to heart. We have already established a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In John 14: 23-24, Jesus communicated clearly to His disciples that when we have the desire to obey Him, we show Him that we love Him and appreciate everything that He has done for us.
I know that there are people who are obeying because they are afraid that their disobedience will result to some curses or punishments. I know this is also a legitimate reason for obedience, but there is a much better reason. A more mature basis why we desire obedience is because we love God. How is your obedience today? The Bible declares – the more you love Him, the more you will obey.
II. THE DEVOTION OF OBEDIENCE:
Based from our Scriptural texts, love for God is proven by our obedience. However,
we need to identify the kind of obedience that will demonstrate greater love and devotion. I believe there are two kinds of obedience that we need to incorporate in our lives:
A. Complete Obedience:
This is the kind of obedience that is not half-hearted or a “pick and choose” kind of obedience. Many of you are familiar with the blunder of King Saul, the first official king over Israel. In 1 Samuel 15, the Lord has commanded him to totally destroy the Amalekites, without sparing anyone including their animals. However, when king Saul carried out God’s command, he decided he would spare Agag, the king of the Amalekites and some of their best lambs, so he can use them as their victory offerings.
How did God respond to this kind of obedience? Here’s the direct statement about it:
1 Samuel 15:10-11 (NIV):
10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel:
11 "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
Examining God’s words, the incomplete obedience of King Saul was considered absolute disobedience. God was totally grieved when he obeyed partially. Now, we need to learn from this. Often, Satan has made us believe that as long as there is an effort to obey, even if it is not completed, it would be good enough for God already. Or there are times when we only decide to obey those which are convenient for us and completely disregard those which are inconvenient. For example, in our tithing, do we give the whole tithes? We know the command, right?
Malachi 3:10 (NIV):
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Just giving a part of it is not complete obedience. God will hold us accountable for the whole tithe. Again, incomplete obedience is disobedience. Then, another kind of obedience is:
B. Continual Obedience:
What is also encouraged from us is the kind of obedience that is consistent and continual. The apostle Paul commended this kind of obedience from the Philippian Christians:
Philippians 2:12 (NIV):
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
What kind of obedience? – “you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence.” Wow, how I wish this is the kind of obedience we can also exemplify today. Isn’t it true that it is easier to obey when we are being watched? Lately, I was reading a Christian magazine for college students in my office. An article says that college students who are far from their home churches never become consistent in church attendance. Many of them are using their jobs and school work as their excuses for their inconsistency.
Let’s all learn this today, God wants us to be consistent in our obedience towards Him. We have to remind ourselves all the time that He is constantly watching us. He is definitely well aware of our consistency.
III. THE DISCIPLINE OF DISOBEDIENCE:
Thirdly, I also would like to provide some warning concerning our disobedience. God has clearly dealt with the disobedience of his people. Listen to the following verses:
Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (NIV):
26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse--
27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today;
28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
When God gave us the privilege to choose freely how we want to live, He also gave us the option between blessings and curses. We will be blessed if we obey, and we will be cursed if we disobey. Someone has appropriately put it:
“Life is like a cafeteria, you choose what you want, but you must pay what you take.”
When we are punished because of our disobedience, we have to bear in mind that this is God’s way of disciplining us because He loves us. His discipline is design to produce righteousness in us:
Hebrews 12:5-6,11 (NIV):
5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
However, we want to be familiar with the different ways the Lord has discipline His children. Here are five examples:
Loss of Health (1 Corinthians 11:30)
Loss of Joy (Psalm 51:8, 12)
Loss of Property (Amos 4:6-9)
Loss of Loved Ones (Amos 4:10)
Premature Death (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 John 5:16)
We don’t have time to look at all the verses, so take the time to read them on your own. God has dealt with disobedience because He wants to produce from us an obedient life. Let’s constantly examine our lives so we don’t fall into a life that would warrant God’s discipline. Of course, we shouldn't obey just because we are afraid of God’s discipline. We obey out of love. But, if fear can make us obey, this could be a good start.
IV. THE DELIGHTS OF OBEDIENCE:
Lastly, I want to finish the sermon the way I started it. We will never regret it if we seek a consistent obedient life. God has so many promises for the obedient ones. Here are some of the best passages:
Exodus 23:22 (NIV):
22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.
Deuteronomy 28:1-3 (NIV):
1 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
Luke 8:21 (NIV):
21 He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."
Both the Old and New Testaments highlight the blessings of the obedient ones. From blessings of victories, prosperities, and intimate relationships; all these are to impart greater joy into our lives. Let’s decide to obey completely and consistently because God is a Worthy Master.
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