The Necessity of Obedience
[Give background of text- jailed & miraculously freed]
Intro: If you know the story of the first man and woman in the Bible, you know that God gave them only one restriction: Don’t eat from one certain tree or you will certainly die. With a little help from the serpent, Eve tasted the forbidden fruit and got herself into a bad jam. With a little help from Eve, Adam tasted the fruit. When God came and found them playing hide and seek with Him, He confronted Adam, who blamed Eve, who blamed the serpent. The serpent didn’t have anyone else to blame, so God started with Him and worked his way back up the line. Both Adam and Eve were punished for disobeying the only command God had given them. They were banished from the garden, and things would never be the same; but, don’t mistake God’s discipline for abandonment. God did not leave them. He still wanted to give them the opportunity to choose right and to obey their Creator. Here is the main thought I’d like to look at today:
Prop: Obedience is a must for those who want to have a right relationship with God.
Interrogative: What can we learn about the urgency of obedience from our text?
TS: I’d like to look at four truths that demonstrate the necessity of obedience.
I. Obedience Is a Moral Obligation
-Let me clarify that we are talking specifically about obedience to God. Yes, we are to obey the God-given authority over us, but that is not the focus of the message today. God has given us specific commands regarding some things in life, and it is our responsibility and obligation to do those things. Obedience is not optional for those who desire to please God and remain in right relationship with Him. However, it is important to remember that this obedience is designed to work in the context of close relationship with God. As we get to know Him better and experience how much He loves us, then we are not simply keeping a set of rules, but we are simply doing what is in keeping with who God is.
-God’s commands were never designed to be kept outside of a right relationship with Him. God has a plan for each of us, and it is a plan for good, not evil. It is a plan to bless us and prosper us, not to harm us. He tells us to draw near to Him so He can help us live the life we were meant to live. Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” When we do that, He will give us the strength to obey and make the right choices in life.
-As Peter and the other apostles stood in the middle of the semi-circle of Jewish leaders and temple rulers gathered around them to call them to account, I’m sure they had every reason to feel intimidated. This was the same group that had been responsible for putting Jesus to death just a few months earlier. Peter and John had already faced this group back in Acts 4, and had been sternly warned that they were not to talk about Jesus anymore. In that meeting, Peter said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20).
-Now, several, if not all, of the apostles are standing before the Sanhedrin, and are being threatened and intimidated so they will stop talking about Jesus. However, they know what God has already told them. Jesus told them that they would be witnesses of Him. Before that, He told them to go and preach the good news to all nations. And just a few verses ago, God sent an angel to release them from jail, and the angel told them to go stand in the temple courts and tell people that there is new life in Jesus! They had no doubt about what God wanted them to do. It was a moral obligation, but even more, it was one thing they could give back to the One who had done so much for them. So, with God’s help, they obeyed.
-TS: In these next 3 points, let’s talk about what obedience does in our lives.
II. Obedience Produces Authority
-When Peter answered the Sanhedrin, he wasn’t being mouthy or sassy; he was simply speaking out the truth, knowing that he had only done what God had told him to do. He spoke with authority and boldness, because He knew who was backing Him. The Creator of the universe had given him specific instructions, so Peter had no qualms about doing it.
-In our lives, there is also a sense in which obedience fosters boldness or authority. Now we’ve got to be careful here. Sometimes we can get authority confused with self-righteousness. If we think we are doing pretty good in our spiritual journey and have been praying and walking with the Lord faithfully, sometimes pride can come in and make us think we are better than those around us who may be struggling in their walk with the Lord. How can we tell the difference between authority and smugness? Well, it’s probably not too hard for others to tell the difference, but here is a clue: True authority operates through humility, while smugness or self-righteousness manifests itself through criticism, whether spoken or unspoken.
-Do you know the story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector? It is found in Luke 18:10-14: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ’God, I thank you that I am not like other men-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ’God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
-How did the Pharisee pray? It was all about him, and he criticized others to make himself look better. That wasn’t what God wanted to hear. How did the tax collector pray? He humbled himself and asked for God’s mercy. There is more authority in true humility than there is in smug arrogance.
-Nevertheless, there are times when we need to use the authority God has given us, and it may come out loud and strong. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are arrogant or think too much of ourselves. It simply means that we are stepping out in faith, seeking to make an effective difference in our situation. But our authority will melt away from us if we are not living in obedience to God. Obeying God by doing things His way will result in greater boldness and authority to do the greater works Jesus said we would do.
-TS: What else does obedience do?
III. Obedience Demonstrates Our Faith
-Obedience does not save you, faith does; however, faith is not faith without obedience. James tells us in James 2:17 that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Obedience is the action or expression of our faith in God. It is the legs of faith. James goes on to say in v.18, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” We can say that we have faith, and say that we believe in Jesus, but if there is no obedience, then according to James our faith will not save us.
-So, we need to ask ourselves, if obedience is the expression of faith, how are we doing? How much faith are we showing by our actions? Is there is a lack of obedience? If there is a lack of obedience, it indicates a probable lack of faith, which would explain why we do not see more miracles.
-The apostles and the early believers had faith in Jesus, and they demonstrated that faith by obeying what He had told them to do. As important as it is, just praying the sinner’s prayer will not get you into heaven. It is a beginning, and can make us right with God, if we are sincere. However, if it is not accompanied by obedience to God, then Jesus Himself said it is not enough. He said in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, ’Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Words are important, but a life of obedience is what demonstrates that we really trust Christ for forgiveness and eternal life.
-TS: Well, the last thing that obedience does is this:
IV. Obedience Welcomes the Holy Spirit into Our Lives
-The first important steps of obedience to God involve following God’s plan for finding forgiveness. In order to receive the HS, we must repent of our sins and trust in Jesus. When we do that, God sends His HS to live within us. There is another work of the Spirit that is somewhat different from what happens when we repent and are forgiven. We call this the baptism in the HS, as demonstrated in Acts 2. The NT writers often refer to both works of the HS (indwelling & infilling) when they write about His work in our lives. This appears to be the case in v.32, where Peter says that God gives the HS to those who obey Him.
-The Jews commonly believed that the HS would be given after the Messiah came. This was to be a sign that the Messiah had truly come. That is one reason Peter referred to Joel’s prophecy when he preached on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah had come and the HS had been given to all who repented and received Him as Lord and Master. Joel 2:28-29 says, 28 ’And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
-So, when Peter said that the HS was a witness of these things, whom God gives to those who obey Him, he was emphasizing that the Messiah had indeed come in the person of Jesus, whom the Sanhedrin had put to death. He was also painting a contrast between the followers of Jesus and the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin did not have the HS because they did not obey God. They did not obey God in their daily lives, neither did they obey Him by repenting and believing on His Messiah, Jesus. They had not welcomed the HS by responding to God with heartfelt obedience. Later in Acts, Paul tells the people of Athens that God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. If a person does not obey God in repentance, he or she will certainly not receive the HS. Obeying God’s call to repentance is the first step in receiving the HS. When we first do this, we call it salvation or conversion. The HS washes our hearts and becomes the driving force in our lives. No longer are we controlled by bad desires, but the HS leads us toward what is good and right- down the path of obedience.
-Obedience opens the door for the HS to begin His work in us. Again, there is more that He wants to do in us and through us after we are forgiven. He wants to fill us with His power, so we can effectively convey the good news about Jesus to others. The apostles did not dissect the work of the HS like we do today. They really saw it as a package deal. They believed that if you repented and believed on Jesus as the Messiah and sacrifice for sin, then you were forgiven and filled with the HS, with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. That experience of being filled with the HS as evidenced by tongues-speaking appeared to become less common decades later, but history reveals that there were believers in every age since then who have either spoke in tongues or were used in other charismatic gifts of the Spirit.
-My point is that the package is still available today for all who obey God. If we will obey Him in repentance and walk close to Him, the HS will live within us and give us the power we need to do what God has called us to do- that is to reach those who do not yet know Jesus as their forgiver and leader.
Conclusion: As we close today, I hope that you are at a place where obeying God is the most important priority in your life. Obedience to God is our moral obligation. We owe our allegiance and obedience to our Creator. Obedience to God gives us greater authority, it is an expression of our faith in Christ, and it enables us to receive the HS, when we repent and make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
-Let’s bow our heads and let the Lord speak to our hearts. If you need to repent, asking God to forgive you and change your life, there is no good reason not to take care of that here today. Right where you are you can begin to talk to the Lord and tell Him you are sorry for all the wrong things you’ve ever said or done. Then say, “Lord, please forgive me. Make me clean.” This can be your start of a life of obedience.
-If you need more boldness or authority in your life, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk. 11:11). If you are willing to obey God and then ask Him for more of His Spirit, I don’t think you will be disappointed. He knows how to give good gifts to His children. If you’d like to pray or be prayed for…. Let’s pray.