And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him – Hebrews 5:9
Obedience in Christ. What does that really mean? That’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about for the past several weeks. This might be a simple, no-brainier kind of topic for a lot of people, but for me it hasn’t been simple at all. As with just about everything in my walk, this lesson started with a prayer. I wanted the Lord to teach me how to be more obedient to Him, how to walk in His ways, How to do always what is pleasing to Him. Also as with most things, learning this lesson meant going in the wrong direction for a time, recognizing that I lost my peace in the Lord as a result, then seeking the Lord for answers. I have a long way to go in this, no doubt. But, there are some concepts that He has worked out in me that I want to share.
Is obedience required of Christians?
Anyone who’s read articles posted on Kindling Truth probably knows my stance on this already. Does God require Christians to be obedient? Absolutely. We are called to put on Christ and come out of our sinful naturesi. Simply put, sin is disobedience to God, so if we continue in sin, we are not being obedient. But, doesn’t Jesus forgive our sins? You bet! But, should we continue in sin so grace can abound? Noii. Jesus is indeed merciful towards us as we struggle with sin, and though we have all sinned and come short of the glory of Godiii, we should not yield to sin – meaning we should never just give up and accept sin as a permanent conditioniv. Instead, Jesus and his disciples teach that we should push forward, diligently seeking the Lord until we measure up into the fullness of Christv – which is to walk righteously, soberly, and godly in this present worldvi.
But, what does this really look like? Do we lay laws and regulations on ourselves and others? Do we simply make a choice to stop sinning? Or do we put our faith in the Lord who said, “my burden is easy and my yoke is light?”
What does obedience in Christ look like?
In the beginning, God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, were put under law. These laws were meant to set them apart as a holy nation devoted to God. But, human nature tends to find loopholes in law or disregards it all together. Christians understand that Jesus came to fulfill that law and established a new covenant. He came to wash away our sins as a perfect sacrifice. But, many start approaching obedience to Jesus in a legalistic way, rather than through the power of His blood and God-given grace – not really understanding that Jesus also came to write the laws in our heartsvii.
This is so easy to fall into. As Christians, we should want to do what is right, and it is good for us to try. But, placing more law on ourselves or others is not the way. In-fact, doing so denies a key purpose of Jesus. Some examples:
|Issue of Obedience||Legalistic Obedience||Obedience in Christ|
|Women should dress modestly.||Women should have long hair, never wear pants, makeup or jewelry.||Vanity is sin. Yes, we should cover ourselves. Yes, we should avoid dressing with pride. I have personal convictions in these things, but it’s not my place to lay law on others. Pride and vanity of the heart count too.|
|We should refrain from sexual immorality.||Homosexuality is an abomination, so just stop. Stop watching porn. Don’t cheat on your spouse. Look but don’t touch.||Lust of the heart is just as real as lust of the eyes or body. But, in any case, we cannot expect someone to “just stop.” It is the power of Jesus we need in order to overcome, and He is merciful and loving towards us even while we are sinners. And yes, sex before marriage is still a sin – just so ya know. But, as with all sins, Jesus heals. You cannot heal yourself.|
|Have self-control.||Pick and choose what to have self-control over, like drugs, alcohol, laziness, lying, sexual desires.||Be self-controlled in ALL things. Otherwise you’re committing lust, greed, and idolatry to name a few. Control your words, thoughts, and actions – bringing all form of communication into obedience with Christ – but not by your own power. It’s impossible without Jesus.|
A legalistic approach to obedience creates self-righteous hypocrisy and unjust judgment.
When we hold a “just stop sinning” mentality, we tend to pick and choose sins – usually justifying, down-playing, or all-out ignoring the ones we might struggle with. Recall the women who was taken in adultery, and Jesus said something like, “whoever is without sin, let them first cast stones at her.” One thing God does not like is hypocrisy. If we continue in sin, yet stigmatize others for their sins because they don’t “just stop,” do you think Jesus is pleased with us?
The key to getting out of this trap is understanding that Jesus came to write the laws of righteousness in our hearts. It is done to us, not by our own power. In understanding that, we know that all good things in us came from God, so we have no right to speak or act hatefully towards someone who struggles with a sin we cannot understand. It is the grace of God that keeps us from that sin, and if we continue refusing to know that, we might find ourselves tempted.
All sin is disobedience and all is an abomination to Him. We cannot pick and choose which sins to focus on (usually outward) but deny others (usually inward and hidden) while casting stones at people who’s struggles are different than ours. We have all sinned, and we all need the physician.
How do we become obedient Christians?
Again, it bears repeating that all good things in us are God givenviii. It is not by our own power or might that we overcome sin, but by Spiritix. It is the conviction of the Holy Spirit that brings us to a place of repentance, and it is the Holy Spirit that writes the laws in our hearts. There is such wisdom and goodness of God in this truth. If we stopped sinning ourselves, we might have reason for being proud or “holier than thou.” But, because it is the work of Christ and not us, we have no cause for pride but instead give God the glory. We are patient with others and He is patient with us – and as we are filled with His love and appreciate the incredible mercy Jesus shows us, we also show love and mercy to others.
None of us are too broken that Jesus cannot fix us. It is His primary purpose and it is a wonderful and precious gift that came at a high cost. No matter what we do, we cannot repay it. We don’t deserve a life at all, much less a life full of the love, joy, and peace that only comes from the wonderful freedom from sin that Jesus provides.
So then, how do we obey Jesus? We get out of His way and stop trying to obey by our own power. We cannot. Though good to try, we have to understand that it is His work that we are to do the perfect, pleasing will of God, not oursx. We can study all day and learn His commandments, but to know them in our heart as a part of our very nature, not so much. Not fully. Jesus is much better at changing hearts than we are.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13
But, even so, as Christians there are commandments we are expected to live up to. If we see that we are falling short in some areas, we should diligently seek the Lord in these things, asking Him in faith to show us the way and purge us from the sin that keeps us from Him. We must be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. – James 1:22
What are the commandments of Jesus?
Jesus came to change the inner man – to make the inside clean so the outside could be clean also. He despises loopholes of law. Instead, the laws of Jesus are actually more in-depth than the old testament laws in a lot of ways, because they speak to the innermost thoughts, not just outward actions. Matthew chapters 5-7 are good places to read about this. But in general, I think the commandments of Jesus can be summed up as
Judgment, Mercy, and Faith: Seek the righteous judgment of God and show righteous judgment to others, believe in His mercy and show mercy yourself, have faith in the promises of Jesus.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone – Matthew 23:23
Let me explain:
We are to seek the Lord for understanding of His will. Seeking His judgment means that we look to Him for guidance in how we should live our lives and how we should treat others. Some translations say “Justice” in place of “Judgment” We are told to:
- Repent (Matthew 4:17, Luke 7)
- Keep his commandments (Matthew 5:17-19, John 14:15)
- Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
- Fear God, not man (Luke 12:4-5)
- Walk the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14)
- Be born again (John 3:7)
- Obey righteousness (Romans 6:16)
- Judge righteous judgment (John 7:24)
- Give to please God, not man (Mathew 6:1)
- Know that you will be judged by your judgment (Matthew 7:1-2)
- Receive the kingdom as a child (Mark 10:15, Matthew 18:3)
- Settle disputes righteously (Matthew 18:15-17)
- Be perfect (Matthew 5:48)
Because Jesus is merciful towards us, He expects us to also show mercy to others. The mercy of the Lord is beautifully important, and isn’t something to take lightly. His mercy goes along with His forgiveness and healing. His commandments state we should:
- Be merciful towards others (Luke 6:26)
- Forgive without limit (Matthew 18:21-22)
- Go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42)
- Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44)
- Feed His sheep (John 21: 15-16)
- Bring in the poor (Luke 14:12-14)
- Rebuke gently (Galatians 6:1)
As we continue seeking the Lord and His commandments, we continue in faith knowing that Jesus will heal us in His own way and His own time. Jesus teaches we should:
- Let not your heart be troubled (John 16:33, Philippians 4: 6-7)
- Rejoice (Matthew 5:12, 2 Corinthians 6:10)
- Seek the Lord (Matthew 7:7-8)
- Pray in faith (John 15:7)
- Trust in the Lord (Mark 11:22-24)
- Await His return (Luke 12:40)
- Don’t despise child-like believers (Matthew 18:10)
- Receive God’s Holy Spirit power (Luke 24:49)
Judgment, Mercy, and Faith = Love
Of course this is not a complete list of all of Jesus’ commandments, just a few to give example of my thoughts. It does seem to me that within the scope of judgment, mercy, and faith, we have what it means to love as Jesus commands.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. – 2 John 1:6
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:36-40
When we are full of the Love of Jesus, then we have a nature that loves light more than darkness – and we know the difference. The more of Jesus we have in us, the more our sinful nature is purged by default and we become obedient – not by our own will but by the will, mercy, power, and love of God.
As with all things, I’m sure there is more and I don’t know this as deeply as I should. But, I trust in the Lord, knowing that He will lead me to a better understanding day by day, and I hope that sharing what I learn with others will bring God more glory and help someone along the way.
More scriptures on Obedience:
Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Matthew 7:14 Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
2 Corinthians 2:9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Ephesians 6: 1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Romans 2: 6-8 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath
James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
vii2 Corinthians 3:3
xRomans 12:2 / Philippians 2:13