Obedience to God is Part of the Christian Walk
On his missionary journeys Paul spent a lot of time establishing the truth that salvation is a gift from God and that we do not enter heaven on the basis of our own works. But then he insisted that good works, obedience, sacrifice, commitment, discipline and lifestyle are a big part of what it means to be a Christian. Our actions don’t make us children of God, but we do them because we are children of God.
There are three common traits that have always been part of the Christian walk and they are faith, trust and obedience. Faith is a belief in the reality of God and that God is good and loving and wants to have a relationship with us. Trust is an ongoing expression of faith. It is placing our confidence in God and counting on Him to be with us through our lives. And obedience is when we accept Jesus as not only our Savior – but our Lord. We trust God so much that we submit to His commands. We don’t obey because we have to but because we want to.
Paul encouraged the people in his churches to offer themselves completely to God for His use and purposes. He told them: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) And Jesus calls those who follow Him to deny themselves and take up their crosses. (Mark 8:34)
It is a burden to try to be our own master – to try to run our own life. But it is so much easier to submit to God and listen for His voice. We are off the hook. Scripture says: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way: walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21) Maybe the “ears” that hear God’s directions will be the “ears” of our hearts. But God has His own ways of speaking to us and guiding us. If we ask God for wisdom and directions, He promises to give us that. (James 1:5)
Jesus invites us to submit to Him. He says: “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29) Teresa of Avila said: “I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.” Obeying God brings joy and freedom. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is joy and He gives us joy when we obey God.
Jesus also said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. (John 14:21) Obeying God is like an act of worship. Jesus tells us that He is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. And He says: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) And Jesus gives us plenty of reasons why we should follow Him. In verse 11 He says He lays down His life for us. Verse 14: He knows us and knows what is best for us. Verse 10: He has come to give us abundant life. When we follow Him we will have green pastures and abundant provision for our needs. And Verse 28: He is strong and will protect us.
God has a call on our lives. We are not here to just live for our own pleasure, but Christians are to make following God our goal. If we are Christians our life doesn’t belong to ourselves but to God. Scripture says: “You are not your own, but you are bought at a price.(Jesus’ blood) Therefore honor God…” (1 Cor.6:20) Scripture says that we are here to bear fruit – or do what is good. Fruitfulness does not happen unless seeds of good works and acts of love are planted. What seeds are we planting?
One thing that is taught in Scripture is that while God gives us His gifts freely, He requires an accounting of them in the end. We may know the story in the Bible that Jesus told of the three men who were given talents by their master. The first man was given five talents. The second man was given two. And the third man was just given one talent. Then the master left on a journey and asked the three to use their talents for good while he was away. (Matthew 25:14-30)
The man with the five talents worked and gained five more talents. And the man who was given two talents worked and gained two more talents. But the third man who had only been given one talent did nothing with it. He was lazy, followed the easiest course. Since he was afraid that he might lose it he went out and buried it. When the master came back he was pleased with the first and second man and rewarded them with riches and more talents and responsible positions. But the master was angry with the third man who did nothing with his one talent. He took the one talent away from him and gave it to the man who had the most talents.
Is that fair? What if the man with the one talent had lost the talent on a bad investment? Wouldn’t he have been in bigger trouble? Jesus’ story doesn’t seem to say that that would have been a problem. Jesus says nothing about being judged on the basis of failing. Judgment is based not on failing but on doing nothing, burying the talents that God has given us. It seems that it matters what we do with what we have been given. Scripture says: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
The Bible says: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105) God’s Word sheds light on how we are to live our lives and how we are to obey. And in the Bible we read God’s commandments for living. Basically we are to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to be humble, kind to others and we are to forgive everyone because God has forgiven us. If we are obedient to God we will try to obey these commands.
One of the tests of our character is what we do with our money. And God calls us to give a portion of our income to Him. (Numbers 18:28) Scripture says: “Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
We may remember the Bible story of the wise man who built his house on the rock. I’ve always thought that the “rock” in the story is Jesus. Well when the rains fall and the floods come and the winds blow and slam against the house, the house built on the rock will not fall down. It will stand firm because it is built on the Rock. (Matthew 7:24-25) But then the story goes on and the foolish man builds his house on the sand. And when the rains and floods come along, the house built on just the sand smashes into many pieces and is destroyed and is blown to smithereens!
Scripture says that the house built on the sand that falls apart in the storm is the person who doesn’t obey God. And you guessed it - the house that is built on the rock – the house that stands firm through strong winds and high waves and the worst of storms –that house is the person who does obey God. One house or one life is built on the sand – its foundation doesn’t include God. And the other house – or life – the one that is built on the Rock – its foundation is obeying God. It seems obeying God makes all the difference! Two houses - each on a separate foundation, one on the Rock and one on the sand. Which house are you?