Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Joy of Obedience

Many times I have spoken on specific subjects regarding the letter and the spirit of the law, but today I want to speak of that concept in a more general way.  I think we often take God for granted.  We are more like petulant children trying to get away with as much as we can rather than children of God desiring to please our Heavenly Father.  This really is a matter of our heart.  We must ask ourselves a very important question. Is our desire to merely avoid disobedience or is our desire one for obedience?  In other words, are we living out of fear of displeasing God or are we living out of love and trying to worship God through our obedience.
So Samuel said: "Has the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, [And] to heed than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22 NKJV
Many you disagree that obedience is a form of worship for God.  Some like to revel in the amazing grace of God and not worry about their lives.  Some like to think that grace is a means to sin and that God does not care about our sin.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Here is what the Bible says.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Romans 6:1-2 NKJV

If you love Me, keep My commandments.  John 14:15 NKJV
It is clear from these verses that not only is a life of sin incompatible with a life in Christ, but that our claim to love Christ will be expressed in our obedience.  You see, if you are in Christ, you are dead to sin.  If sin is still very much alive in you, then you really need to examine where your heart is.  I am not saying that we will never sin in Christ as we will all continue to fail God.  What the Bible is saying is that we should not have that desire.  Our desire should be to please the Lord and sin happens in those times when we fail in our desire.  The desire to sin over and above your desire to please God shows that you are still living in the flesh and not in the spirit as your overriding desire is to please yourself rather than God.  Then we have the statement from Jesus.  He says, quite plainly, that if we love Him we are to keep His commandments.  Note this is not a way of earning His love, but it is an expression of love we already have for Him.  It is our response to His love for us and our love for Him.  It is the heart of a true man of God. 

Unfortunately, the habit of trying to get away with what we can begins as a child, continues into adulthood, and even works its way into our walk with God.  As children, we constantly try to test our parents.  We push things to the absolute limits and some parents help by giving the never ending count to three.  I wish I could say we grow out of it, but we do not. As adults, we commonly drive at the highest speed we can without getting pulled over by the police usually well above the posted speed limit (and I am no less guilty of this).  When it comes time to pay our taxes, we find every possible deduction we can possibly stretch to somehow fit our situation.  Some people now are getting into coupon clipping and when there is a per-person limit on items, we just wait in line over and over again.  Sometimes we ignore the letter of the law and just try to get away with what we feel we can.  Other times we adhere to the letter of the law but completely ignore the spirit of those laws.  We do all we can to make the world more self serving to us.

Then we come to Jesus.  It is at this point that self we were serving is supposed to be denied and the flesh we have been satisfying is supposed to have been crucified with Christ.  For many, that is not the case.  Just think of the things we do.  When we date, we try to do all we can to fit the person we are interested in to somehow be considered a Christian.  We ignore the spirit of the law, which is to ensure we are marrying into a relationship where the two can grow together in Christ.  When dating, we know we are not supposed to fornicate so we make some rule that as long as we are technically a virgin, we are not fornicating.  We ignore the spirit of the law that says that we are to be pure on our wedding night.  In other words, our desire should be to be pure and not to see how much we can dirty ourselves yet still somehow be considered pure.  We know we should not lie, so we either hold things back or tell incomplete truths so that we are technically not lying.  In other words, what we do is what we want and afterwards we try to find some way to justify our actions.  It is not about pleasing God at all, it is about pleasing ourselves with God merely being an afterthought in our actions.  

And this brings me back to 1 Samuel.  God desires obedience over sacrifice because sacrifice represents the consequence of disobedience.  If there were no disobedience, there would be no need for sacrifice.  Sacrifice is the blood and death that are required as payment for sin.  Before Jesus, that came in the form of animals.   Now, Jesus is that sacrifice. Each sin we commit was paid for by Jesus on the cross.  Jesus died for our disobedience so that we may have eternal life.  Should we now take that for granted and sin at will knowing that the blood of Jesus will cover it?  Do we flippantly just tell ourselves that being that He already died for my sins, I can just sin all the more?  That is what we do when we live lives of sin while still trying to hold onto our relationship with Jesus.  Our desire should be for obedience.  Our desire should be to please God.  And when we inevitable fail, our response should be to thank God for the cross and the blood of Jesus that covers us in those times of failure. 

Many who act the way I described would call me a legalist.  I contend that they are the legalists.  I know that makes no sense, but a legalist is someone who (among other things) has a wrong impression of the law.  Sadly, they can only see the law in a negative way.  They claim that any desire to follow the law is some measure of trying to earn favor with God or trying to earn our own salvation.  They can not give up that pre-Christian view that God is some heavenly tyrant that we can never measure up to and for that reason I am concerned for them.  If, after coming to Jesus, you still have an aversion to obedience then you really need to check your heart.  If we truly love Jesus we should want to please Him.  If we truly love Jesus we should listen to those things He tells us to do.  If we love Jesus, our desire should be show Him our love through our obedience.  If we come to Jesus, the law is no longer something to be feared, but something to love.  Obedience should be our desire because we delight in pleasing the Lord we love.  If we are only concerned with what He did for us that is a rather selfish love and really not love for Him at all.  It is loving yourself and taking Him for granted.  In the end, we will live our lives for the one we love the most, who is that for you?
But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:2 NKJV

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