You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. (Psalm 119:4)
Obedience Better Than Carefulness
Aretta Loving served with Wycliffe Bible Translators for fifty-seven years. One day as she was washing her breakfast dishes, she saw Jimmy, the five-year-old neighbor, coming toward her back porch. She had just finished painting the porch handrails and they needed to dry. She shouted, “Come around to the front door. There’s wet paint on the porch rails.” Jimmy said, “I’ll be careful,” and continued toward the door. Aretta hollered again, “No Jimmy. Don’t come up the steps,” knowing that he was a bit clumsy. Jimmy assured her as he came closer to the steps, “I’ll be careful.” Now Aretta shouted her loudest, “Jimmy! Stop! I don’t want carefulness. I want obedience!” Jimmy responded, “OK Mrs. Loving, I’ll go around to the front.”
As Aretta turned back to her work, she wondered, “How often am I like Jimmy, wanting to go my own way? I rationalize, ‘I’ll be careful, Lord,’ as I proceed with my own plans.” She remembered that God is not looking for excuses and that carefulness is not enough. The Lord wants us to know Him, love Him, and obey Him, trusting that He knows better than we do.1
Not Saved by Obeying, but for Obeying
Christians are saved from our sins and sin’s consequences by Jesus Christ alone. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”2 Christ saves us by His sinless life, His crucifixion and death, His bodily resurrection, His sending the Spirit, His eternal alive-ness, His presence with us, His ongoing help and prayers for us, and His certain return for us at the end of the age. Now Christians are God’s workmanship, re-created in Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.3 We are not saved by obeying, but saved by God’s grace for obeying the Lord as His adopted sons and daughters. See also https://wohbm.org/jesus-noble-ones/
Two Motivating Scriptures
God’s spokesman Moses said, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God; the curse if you disobey the Lord’s commands and turn from His way by following other gods, which you have not known.”4
Old Testament Israel had already been rescued by God’s grace (His undeserved favor). The Lord lovingly lead them out of bondage in Egypt and lead them for 40 years through the Sinai wilderness. Now the issue was not “getting saved” but showing grateful obedience to the God who saved them and so that they could enjoy His blessing.
In Matthew 11 Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from 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.”5
Enjoying Jesus’ rest includes wearing His yoke (submission), learning from Him, and doing what He says. Christ’s apostle John wrote, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.”6 Disobeying the Lord will take us farther from God than we ever intended to go. Sin will cost us more than we ever expected to pay. And sin will keep us trapped longer than we ever planned to continue doing wrong. So compared to the high cost of disobedience, Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.
A Sampling of Christ’s Commands
Someone has counted over 1,000 commands in the New Testament, given by Jesus directly or by Him through His apostles. Some are repeated. They cover every aspect of human life in our relationship to God and other people. Here are a few:
- Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.7
- Follow the apostles’ example, as they follow the example of Christ.8
- Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.9
- Flee evil desires and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.10
- Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.11
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.12
Putting it into Practice
Knowing God’s words is not enough. We need the Holy Spirit’s power to obey God. Psalm 119:32 says: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” The psalmist asks the Lord to make him desire and able to obey the Lord’s good precepts. We must do the same.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your patience with us. Sometimes we are stubborn, rebellious, and disobedient children. Sometimes we sin deliberately, sometimes we hardly realize it. We need you, Lord, to help us and refine us. Take away our selfishness, laziness, and rationalizing. Make us quick to serve you and others, to forgive and bless others, and more and more to do all that you command us. Teach us to obey you out of faith, hope, and love for you. We ask this in Jesus’ name and for His glory. Amen.
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 Story heard from Pastor Rob Morgan, The Donelson Fellowship. 2 1 John 4:10. 3 Eph 2:10. 4 Deut 11:26-28. 5 Matt 11:28-30. 6 1 John 5:3. 7 Luke 9:23. 8 1 Cor 11:1. 9 1 Thess 5:15. 10 1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22. 11 Heb 12:14. 12 Matt 5:44-48.