The most important issue in your life right now is your obedience to God.i Every problem you face is in some way related to this issue. Every solution in your life is ultimately found in obedience to God. My subject today is the power of obedience. Obedience opens to you the infinite wisdom of God. You don’t have to know all the ins and outs of your problem. All you need to know is what a loving, omniscient, Heavenly Father tells you to do about it. God has made life simpler than we make it. We analyze, theorize, and agonize trying to figure out what to do, when all we really have to do is hear His voice and do what He tells us to do. That takes faith because it takes us out of the driver’s seat, and we have to trust the wisdom and love of God for the outcome.
There is only one thing God backs up, obedience. Obedience is better than sacrifice.ii Obedience is better than religious activities. Obedience opens the resources of heaven. Nothing else will.
To understand the power of obedience we need to first understand:
I. Obedience is the designed relationship of man to God.
God did not design man to act alone without His divine guidance and care. If an automobile is going to function effectively you have to use it according to its design. Combustible engines are designed to run on gasoline. The power train in your car is dependent upon gasoline being in the tank. If there is no gasoline, you can crank the engine over and over and over and it will not start. You can get mad and scream at it and it still won’t go. The only way that car is going to function is if you operate it the way it’s designed to work.
God designed human beings to work in relationship with Him. That relationship is one in which the creature submits and obeys the Creator; and the Creator protects and provides for the creature. By design man is dependent upon God. There is only one source of life and that is God. Man cannot produce life independent of God. The way people thrive is to draw upon God’s life and that happens as they submit to Him and obey Him. Man is ontologicallyiii dependent on God. This is why obedience is not an issue of which covenant relationship a person has with God. Regardless of all else, man is designed to submit and obey God. He cannot function successfully any other way.
The electrical system in your home does a lot of amazing things. It runs your refrigerator so that your food does not spoil. It runs the fan that delivers heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. It makes your computer work. Our electric oven provides a way to cook our food. Our TV is electrical. And at night it is very nice to flip a switch and suddenly there is light in the room. All of that is dependent upon a connection that runs from my house to the utility poll behind my house. Without that connection nothing works. All the wonderful electrical devises in my home are dependent upon the power center at City Utilities where the generators are. If I am unwilling to plug into that power source, none of the potential benefits in my home will work.
God created man to benefit from His infinite resource of love, wisdom, and power.iv It only happens in the context of obedience. Obedience is absolutely essential.
When God created Adam He placed him in a perfect paradise. The Garden of Eden was a perfect environment for Adam to enjoy. The one thing that Adam was required to do was to simply obey God. God provided all the rest. So in Gen 2:16 God gave Adam a command, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."v I want you to notice the relationship God has with Adam: God has the right to command; Adam has the responsibility to obey. This was before man had ever committed even one sin. It was long before God gave the Law to Moses. It was the Creator/creature relationship inherent in the way man was to operate.
What was the one thing that worked havoc in Adam’s life? It was his disobedience to God’s command. Adam was designed to reflect God’s glory through his obedience to God. Adam was designed to receive God’s provision through his submission to God. From the beginning obedience was required.
When God was about to destroy the world with a flood, the survival of the race depended upon one thing: a man’s obedience to God’s command. God told Noah to build an ark. He gave him specific instruction on how the ark was to be made. And the Bible says Noah did exactly what God told him to do. Twice we are told that Noah did “all” that God commanded him to do.vi Obedience is a central theme in the story.
Abraham is a key figure in the Old Testament. God told him to leave Ur of Chaldees and go to a place that He would later show him. Abraham had to do one thing and one thing only; he had to obey what God told him to do. Heb. 11:8 sums it up this way, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Faith is always expressed in obedience to God. James tells us that a so-called faith that does not act in obedience to God is a sham. True faith is characterized by obedience.vii
Gen 26:5 God was speaking to Abraham’s son, Isaac. God was affirming His promises to take care of Isaac. And God concludes that affirmation with these words, “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." God blessed Abraham and his posterity in the context of obedience.
It’s important to realize that all this happened long before the Law was given to Moses.. God’s expectation of obedience to His commands precedes all that. Obedience is the natural relationship that man is to have toward God; but it is not dependent on the Mosaic Covenant. It was there from the beginning long before the Law was ever given.
Now in the Law of Moses the emphasis on obedience continued. God gave the Ten Commandments. God have more revelation about who He is and what He requires. In Deuteronomy 27 God had one group of people stand on Mt. Gerizim to proclaim the blessings of obedience and another group to stand on Mt. Ebal to proclaim the curses of disobedience. It was a sobering event.
Deut. 28:1-2 "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Notice the heavy emphasis on obedience. Then in verse 15 is the peril of disobedience. "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”
In the history of Israel we see these blessings come upon their obedience and at other times the curses that followed disobedience. In Isaiah 1 the nation was living in disobedience to God. There was plenty of religious activity; but their hearts had strayed from the Lord.viii God put this choice before them in Isa. 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword"; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” It just couldn’t be made any clearer. The choice is yours. You can obey Me and I will take care of you.
That’s the way it is supposed to work. If you refuse operate that way, if you rebel and go your own way, things will not work out so well for you. God will still be God; but your life will be hell.
Eccl 12:13 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man” (NIV). The NKJV says, “…for this is man’s all.” The Hebrew is literally saying “this is the whole man: the full ideal of man, as originally contemplated…”ix That coincides with God’s original intent for man.
II. The New Covenant did not negate the need for obedience to God; it empowered it!
When Jesus came on the scene He said,
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:17-20).
The scribes and Pharisees had made the law of obedience something entirely external. They had a form of godliness, but down deep there was no heart-felt obedience to God. Jesus went on to say in the Sermon on the Mount, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…Verse 27 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The obedience must not just be outward mechanical, robotic activities. It must arise from deep convictions in the heart. In the secret places no one else sees—in the thought life, in the motives, agreement with God and obedience to God must reach all the way down there.
Jesus did not come to do away with the need for obedience to God. In fact, it was His obedience to the Father that established the New Covenant. Rom 5:19 “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, [that’s referring to Adam] so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous” Do you see the power of obedience in that verse? One man’s disobedience plunged the whole human race into judgement and darkness. It disjointed the designed relationship man was to have with God. But Jesus came. Aren’t you glad? He came to do one thing? I know you think He came to die on a cross. That could be said. But at a deeper level He came to do the opposite of what Adam did. He came in a humanbody to fully obey the Father. In John 6:38 He said that He had come down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of the Father who had sent Him. Hebrews 10:5 applies Ps 40:6-8 to Him as the Messiah. “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, 'Behold, I have come --In the volume of the book it is written of Me --To do Your will, O God.'" The end objective is to restore the relationship of man with God to one of blissful obedience. The end objective was not a cross, although a cross was necessary. The end objective was to restore people to right relationship with God. That right relationship always (always has been, always will be) one of obedience to God.
There is a subtle deception creeping into the American Church that minimizes the importance of obedience to God. Sometimes it is shrouded in a message of tolerant love. Sometimes it hides in a message against legalism. But the essence of the error goes something like this. “You have been born again. You are a child of God. There is no condemnation to God’s children. [And all of that is true; but here is where the error enters], therefore, it doesn’t matter what you do, what your preferences are. God understands; and you will be fine. Just keep asking God to forgive you. One day you’ll be in heaven, and it will all work out. In the meantime, don’t feel too bad about the sin in your life. God knows you’re trying.” It’s a soothing message; and I don’t have time to deal with it fully. There’s enough truth in it to make it dangerous. Bottom line of what I’m saying right now is this. If the message does not call you to obedience to God, something is wrong. It misses the fundamental relationship a person is supposed to have with God. If a religious ritual is substituted for obedience to God, it’s error. If a pet doctrine is substituted for obedience to God, it too is error. I don’t care how warm it makes you feel at the time. God has designed us to live in obedience to Him.
Jesus is presented as our example in Phil. 2. In that chapter Paul talks about Jesus’ obedience to the Father. Phil 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (NIV). Even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered.x Even Jesus asked the Father to take the cup of Calvary away if possible. It was not possible to purchase our redemption without it. And this was Jesus’ response to that, “…nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt 26:39). He was obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” Obedience was paramount in His mind.
1 John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Somewhere, somehow, some people have falsely understood love as an exemption from keeping God’s commandments. Just get rid of the feelings of guilt—no, get rid of the sin, then the feelings of guilt will lift off the conscience.xi John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” Our love for God is demonstrated in our obedience to Him.xii
The difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is how that obedience is obtained. Both covenants call for obedience to God. The weakness of the Old Covenant is that it required obedience, but did not equip for obedience. The obedience relied on human effort and willpower. The Law demonstrated the utter incapacity of man to be obedient to God in his own strength. Rom 8:2-4 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” It wasn’t so that God could overlook the sin. It was that God could empower us to live above its dominion. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).
This was prophesied in Jer. 31:33-34 and Ezek. 36:25-28. I will read the Ezekiel passage. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” The role of God in the relationship is One who takes care of the needs of His people. The role of the people is to obey God. The end result of the New Covenant is obedience. Ezek. 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (A restoration of the relationship with God Adam had in the beginning).
III. Heaven will be a place of complete obedience.
Jesus is currently in the process of putting down all rebellion against the Father. Every enemy will be defeated. 1 Cor. 15:28 “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” Everything, including Christ Himself, will be subject to the Father. When the universe is restored to its proper order it culminates with God being “all in all.” Everything comes from Him; and everything finds its purpose and fulfillment in Him. He is central because He is the source of all good things.
Your happiness in the now depends on your obedience to God. Your happiness in heaven will continue to rest in complete surrender and obedience to God. There will be no rebellion in heaven. There will be no lawlessness in heaven. If obeying God is something you don’t want to do, heaven is not the place for you. Nothing that opposes God’s command will be in heaven. Rev 21:27 “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.” Lucifer’s rebellion has been put down. All the disobedient angels have been cast into the Lake of Fire--“there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles.” It is a place of perfect tranquility. The angels there all obey the word of the Lord. There is no hint of disobedience by man or angel. “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. 20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. 21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure” (Ps 103:19-21).
All is as it should be. God is being God. Man is being man in right, submitted, obedient relationship with God.xiii And this is his glory—to obey the Lord and enjoy all the benefits of that obedience. Obedience is the gateway to receiving the joy of the Lord because in His presence is fullness of joy.xiv Obedience is the gateway to peace because under the shadow of His wing we are always safe.xv Obedience is the gateway to fulfillment because as we do the will of the Father we enter into and participate in His glory.xvi Rev 22:3 “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Heaven will be a place of absolute joy and fulfillment. But that fulfillment is found in right relationship with God. Man is designed to find his highest fulfillment and joy in submitting, obeying, and serving God—in doing the will of the Father forever and ever. Rev 22:14 “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Obedience is a theme that runs through the whole of Scripture. From the beginning in the Garden of Eden to the Paradise Restored, man is designed to obey God and find his fulfillment in that state of submission.
Any gospel that exempts people from obedience to God is a false gospel! The good news is that Jesus has laid His life down on a cross so that your sins can be forgiven. He has sent the Holy
Spirit to dwell in you and empower you to live pleasing to God and live in fellowship with God. The New Covenant has provided all things that we need to live godly, obedient lives;xvii and it promises us a home in heaven where obedience to God prevails in every creature there.
Is that the Heaven you’re pursuing? It will be awesome!!!
i I am indebted to Dr. Charles Stanley, “Obeying God” for this opening statement retrieved 9/24/16 at file:///C:/Users/Richard%20Tow/Downloads/Obeying-God.pdf.
ii 1 Samuel 15:22
iii His manner of being, the nature of his being, the way he exists and functions
iv Ps 119:99-100
v All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version unless indicated otherwise.
vi Genesis 6:22; 7:5. Also see 8:15-19.
vii James 2:14-26. I said earlier, “Obedience opens the resources of heaven. Nothing else will. “ I do not mean to exclude faith in that statement. In fact, faith is essential to obedience; and obedience is essential to faith. One without the other is not the real thing.
viii Matthew 15:8
ix Eccl 12:13-14 (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft).
x Heb. 5:8
xi This statement is not intended to be absolute because there are dynamics in which a person might feel guilty even though he is not objectively guilty.
xii 1 Sam. 15:22
xiii Dan 7:27 “Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.'”
xiv Psalm 16:11
xv Psalm 91:1
xvi John 17:22
xvii 2 Peter 1:3