Summary: This is a sermon designed to preach to a group of pastors.

Excellence or Obedience?

Sermon by: Charlie Newman


What in your life would you define as excellent? Do you enjoy excellent food? Do you have an excellent family, maybe even a few excellent friends or a church that excels in fellowship? I’m looking forward tonight to an excellent meal at Longhorn Steakhouse as our conference registrar treats Kathy, myself and the others from the Alabama-West FL conference to the second steak dinner in three weeks.

What is obedience? I have learned, most of the times the hard way, that obedience is doing what you are told to do without any hesitation or question. Sometimes we can better understand a term by examining the opposite meaning.

I have a thirteen-year old son who hasn’t quite figured out what obedience is all about. If I ask him to do some chores, he has to question why the chores need to be done. “No one else goes into my room, so why do I have to keep it clean?” Or, “The toothpaste on the mirror in the bathroom is very artistic if you look at it the right way.” I find that I must explain why he should be obedient before he becomes obedient.

During our time together, we will explore what the difference is between excellence and obedience and hopefully find out ways we can grow in God’s amazing grace.


Our scripture from 1st Samuel tells of King Saul and his alleged obedience. Samuel didn’t explain why God needed all the Amalekites had to be destroyed or why all the livestock should be “murdered” either. The command was from God and Samuel didn’t think that it needed any further explanation or discussion. Saul, much like my thirteen year old son, tried to think through this command for obedience.

He thought that the livestock didn’t do any harm; in fact they could be used as sacrifices and once you get to know old King Agag, he isn’t such a bad fella after all so I figured I’d spare his life too.

When we try to apply our own logic to God’s command for obedience, we too can get in trouble. The last thing a person says before going off for a long trip are words that are usually chosen carefully. Jesus chose very careful His words before His Ascension; “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” There is nothing confusing about that command. We are called to make disciples. When and how do we apply logic to this one?

Think through all the programs of your church. What is the church doing or planning to do over the next six months? Think them through as best you can. Now, how many of these have the command to make disciples as the main reason for their existence? If a program of the church doesn’t have the call to make disciples as its main purpose then why is the church doing it?

Well it seemed like it was the most likely thing to do at the time. Our budget was tight and we couldn’t really afford that curriculum on making disciples anyway. And besides that, who would really be interested in evangelizing in this small church anyway? Besides that, everybody around here goes to church. INSTEAD OF BEING FISHERS OF MEN, WE HAVE BECOME KEEPERS OF THE AQUARIUM!

The default nature of humans is to mix excellence with obedience. After all, excellence leads to obedience, right? Is it OK to modify the truth to avoid unpleasant circumstances at home? Initially most will say it is not OK. Men folk can identify with this one; “Honey, does this dress make me look too fat?” What do you do men? Do you modify the truth to avoid an unpleasant night on the couch or do you speak the truth in love? I don’t know about you but I have a natural default response called the “blank stare”.

I remember the first time I used the blank stare. I was about four or five years old and mom was very busy cleaning the house. She had just mopped the kitchen floor and was upstairs gathering laundry. I had asked more than my fair share of silly questions that day and mom had already warned me about this. As I was thinking about where Moon Pies come from, I suddenly became thirsty for a glass of milk. I didn’t want to bother dear mother so I made the decision to get the milk myself. As I opened the refrigerator I spotted that nearly full gallon of milk on the very top shelf. Not to be outdone by circumstance I climbed up a few shelves until I could grab the handle of the milk jug. Then it happened – kaplunk! The milk, eggs, butter and other things came crashing down with a sound that would revive last night’s leftover spinach soufflé. As I looked down on the main ingredients to bake a cake, spread all over mom’s formerly clean kitchen floor, Mom came running in and asked me what happened. I looked at the cat, I looked at mom. I looked at the cat on the other side of the kitchen and I decided right there that a blank stare would serve to preserve my posterior health. I didn’t want to tell a lie, but I certainly didn’t want to tell the truth.

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