The Essentials: Obedience

It is obedience that is the mark of fellowship, for, in obedience we are acting in God’s way, like God, being His companion in righteousness.  Obedience, therefore, magnifies God, and minimizes all that opposes Him

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”

“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”

“But I’m starved,” the governor said.

“Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”


Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”


Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”


Here was a woman careful to follow orders, not allowing anyone or anything to keep her from the rule of her job.  We Christians have a lesson in this: our obedience to Jesus ought to be just as unswerving. Richard Baxter, an old Puritan preacher said:


Lord, it belongs not to my care

Whether I die or live;

To love and serve Thee is my share,

And this Thy grace must give.

If life be long I will be glad,

That I may long obey;

If short–yet why should I be sad

To soar to endless day?

Christ leads me through no darker rooms

Than he went through before;

He that to God’s Kingdom comes,

Must enter by this door.



The Christian life is an obedient life.  It is obedience that is the mark of fellowship, for, in obedience we are acting in God’s way, like God, being His companion in righteousness.  Obedience, therefore, magnifies God, and minimizes all that opposes Him: evil, wickedness, sin, unrighteousness, and worldliness. Most of all, self, the habitat of all these.  


We are bond slaves, servants, we are owned by God, belonging to Him, His own possession.  He is our Sovereign, our Lord, our Master.


Growing as a Christian means growing in obedience to God.  Are we living for ourselves? Who are we living for?


In a way, all the previous essentials we’ve studied come under this one essential:  obedience. Obey the Gospel by believing it: conversion. Obey the word by forming your beliefs, convictions, strength and so on from it.  Obey God in prayer. Obey God by fellowshipping with other believers in Church. Obey God by serving His purposes with your life. Obey God with your money, and, your possessions by giving.  


#1:  Obedience is all-encompassing.  

It bears on every single aspect of our lives.  We ought not dare point to anything in our lives and say that obedience to Christ is not relevant here.  The totality of our lives: our time, our money, our recreation, our jobs, our aspirations, our goals, our attitudes, our habits, our ways, our talk, our thoughts, our beliefs, our convictions…everything that I am and have is in subjection to Christ.  


#2:  Obedience does not win salvation.

It is the full and complete obedience of Jesus Christ in His dying upon the cross that wins us salvation.  His obedience is how we are saved, not ours. His obedience was perfect and acceptable. Ours is imperfect, incomplete, and unacceptable.  If we trust in our obedience to gain eternal life we will be eternally condemned. If we trust in the successful obedience of Jesus – meaning His obedience in going to the cross – then we will be granted eternal life and escape eternal condemnation.  To put it more simply: the only obedience God requires of us to be saved is to obey His command to believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.


#3:  Obedience is the expectation and standard for the Christian life

The saved-life is to be seen as an obedient life.  James 1:22 sayd, “….”


A life that has been saved by Christ is now lived for Christ.  “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor. 5:15).  It is not normal, or standard, or expected, for Christians to live in disobedience. “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription:  ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Tim. 2:19). Obedience is the expectation, the normal, in the life of the Christian.  James 1:Let us not excuse the need to be obedient simply because obedience is imperfect and because we spend our lives growing and getting better at it.


#4:  Obedience is the expression of desire for God

If there is a desire for God, a longing for Him, obedience is a primary expression of that desire.  Isaiah 26:8 says, “Yes LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you: your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”  Notice the connection between desire for God’s name being renowned and walking in the way of God’s Laws.


Desire for God is seen most forcefully in Psalm 119.  The longest of the 150 psalms at 176 verses, the author dips every one of the 176 verses in desire for His God.  Verses 12-16 are a perfect sample, “Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”  When desire for God is present in the heart it will come out in obedience to God. Notice the words of the 3rd stanza in that ancient hymn: O Sacred Head Now Wounded, verse 3,


What language shall I borrow

to thank thee, dearest friend,

for this thy dying sorrow,

thy pity without end?

O make me thine forever;

and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never

outlive my love for thee.


Desire for God creates desire for obedience.  Obedience is the expression of desire for God.


#5:  Obedience acknowledges God’s authority

The Bible talks in language that describes the Christian as a slave, or, a servant to God.  My self-image is now that of a lowly servant to the High King. The Bible uses language to emphasize Christ’s authority over me by describing me as His possession, “You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19b-20) Notice ownership dictates use. I do not own myself, therefore, I do not get to use myself however I want. Jesus Christ owns me, and, therefore, how I use my life is dictated by Him.


#6:  Obedience is humility in practice

Humility means I don’t think higher of myself than I ought.  It means I’m not self-willed. Christian humility means I recognize the greatness of God and have had my ideas of myself properly lowered as a result.  Obedience, therefore, means that I’ve stepped aside from being the highest authority in my life and yielded to a higher authority, recognizing my obligation to someone else who has greater authority over me than me.  


#7:  Obedience brings joy

Psalm 1:1-6


Christian maturing will reveal the potent joy waiting in a life of obedience.  Not instant gratification, not in the moment thrill or elatedness. But, the settled, deeper, more saturating and fuller happiness of travelling close to God.  


#8:  Obedience is love for God in action

Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands.”  John the Apostle, who personally heard Jesus say that, later said in his own letter, 1 John 2:3-6, he said, “….”  and then in 5:1-3, “….” Obedience is the evidence that someone knows God. Lord Chesterfield said in one of his letters to his son, “Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give lustre, and many more people see than weigh.”  You may have all the Bible knowledge in the world, but, if you are not accomplished in matters of obedience, you are not impressing God. For God looks to see the obedience of a believer like a farmer looks on a field for a crop.


John Kenneth Galbraith, in his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family’s housekeeper:

It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House.

“Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.”

“He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him.”

“Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.”

“No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you. When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure. “Tell that woman I want her here in the White House.”

John Kenneth Galbraith, A Life in Our Times,  Houghton Mifflin, Reader’s Digest, December, 1981.


#9:  Obedience cannot be replaced by religion

1 Samuel 15:22-23


Saul’s disobedience to the command of God was equivalent to a rejection of God’s Word, and, a rejection of God personally.  


#10:  Obedience is waiting for the coming of righteousness

Isaiah 26…  1 Thess. 1:9-10


#11: Obedience is how prayer is answered

Turn with me to 1 John 3:21-22.  If you want to have tremendous influence with God in your prayers, and remember that you can, then get obedient to Him.  Nothing seems to open God’s ears to our prayers more than when He sees our commitment to His commands.


Obedience pleases Him.  Obedience glorifies Him.  If we are devoted to those two things God will be much more willing to answer us when we pray.  


So, spend time looking in the mirror, not to primp, but, to examine.


#11: Obedience is based on Jesus’ obedience

Read:  1 John 2:6.  


How did Jesus live?  In perfect obedience to His heavenly Father.  “I have come down from heaven, not to do my will but the will of Him who sent me.” (Jn 6:38). “Just as I have kept my Father’s commands and I abide in His love.” (John 15:10).  “but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me Get up, let us go from here.” (John 14:31)


Expressed perfectly in those succinct, humble words, Matt. 26:39, “Not my will, but yours Father.”  Our entire lives are summed up with, “Not my will Christ, but yours.”


#12: Obedience is the product of grace

Turn to Titus 2:12-14 with me, “….”  Worldly logic is opposite of Biblical teaching.  The wordly mind says, “So, grace means that I can do whatever a I want now because there’s always going to be forgiveness?  Since there’s no consequences with God, I can go sin all I want?” The Bible says however, that grace is not a license for sinful living, but, instead it is the power for righteous living.  Notice with the worldly mindset there is the awareness that doing bad things brings judgment. Notice also that the first thing that is thought of when grace and forgiveness are explained, is that now we go and indulge all the bad we want.  It shows the depravity, and the desire and the drive to go and sin. It shows that fear of judgment has a restraining effect, and, when grace is thought of as a lifting of judgment and an encouragment to live however one wants, they want to go sin.


But grace does not work disobedience.  Jude 3-4. Grace works obedience. God’s grace effectively produces righteous hungers, righteous living.  


#13:  Obedience is the most important way to discern God’s will

Romans 12:1-2


#14:  Obedience demands conquering the sin within

(Romans 6:10-14)  Montaigne, the French essayist said, “Virtue shuns ease as a companion…It demands a rough and thorny path.”  Christian virtue is no less demanding. The demand upon us to be virtuous in the things of Christianity are equal to and greater than the intense demands coming from within our own hearts for all things ignoble.  


The source of disobedience lies within our own hearts.  Our corruption makes rebellion against God instinctive to us.  When everything within you wants to disobey, you must learn to disobey your desires.


Illustration:  Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses, and test them to see if they are completely trained.


The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainers force the horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and of course they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle.


The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience, stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience he gives them a signal to go back to drink.


Now this may be severe but when you are on the trackless desert of Arabia and your life is entrusted to a horse, you had better have a trained obedient horse. We must accept God’s training and obey Him.


#15: Consequences for disobedience


Self deception James 1:22

Death.  God will remove you from the game early.


Trials & Hardships

Persecutions to purify believers, corporately or individually.

Unanswered prayer

Unblessed decisions


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