Pastoral Perspectives

Obedience To God

My CG is still studying John Stott’s book on Acts and in our last gathering we were discussing on Acts 23:1 – 2 when Paul said: “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day”, indicating his obedience to what God has called him to do. Then the following question was: “How does your purpose in life compare with Paul’s statement”. Well, as believers, we struggled with obedience to God.  This is what I call selective obedience or optional obedience. In answering, I made reference to the Sunday sermon by Pastor Lee Kien Seng on “Worship – Our Ultimate Priority” and obviously, this perspective is also a response to the second sermon on “Service – Our Undeserved Privilege”. Pastor Ronnie also echoed this in his perspective last Sunday. Many a time, we begin on a wrong note by asking: What does God want of me? Obedience isn’t just about being used by God, though. If it were, it would be easy for us to simply tell God “I don’t really want that job, but thanks for asking.” Obeying the commands of God is not a test we must pass in order to gain knowledge of God, a prerequisite for knowing God or a condition that must be fulfilled in order to come to know God. Rather, obedience is the manifestation or evidence of knowledge of God.

            In the book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned these words, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate”The thing about God’s call is that He rarely asks us to serve people or in places or in tasks that are easy or comfortable. We see the uncomfortable call in Scripture over and over. God called Abram to leave everything behind and go to an unknown place. God called Moses to a high profile, conflict-laden leadership position. God called Esther to leave her home to be Queen, where she would face the possibility of death in order to fulfill God’s plan. God called Mary to bear His Son — untold blessing that came with a package of scorn and isolation. God called Saul and renamed Paul, who in obedience endured shipwrecks, imprisonment, hunger and beatings. To this Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) What He’s really saying is that when we love Him, our obedience to Him will flow out of that relationship.

            Obedience is love in action. Obedience is proof to God that our claims of love aren’t empty words. Obedience to God’s commands should be more than an interesting addendum or occasional accompaniment to our lives. “Obeying God’s commands,” points to the shape of the Christian life as a whole, to the consistency of our discipleship, and not to individual acts taken in isolation. Obedience can be summarized as “walking in the light,” as we strive to conform our character to that of God. The sort of people that God wants are those who hope to conform themselves to the very character of God. Obedience and love of God are like twins. Love of God, like knowledge of God, is expressed through “keeping God’s word,” through our allegiance to God. Our aim is to live for one master, God alone, in and with all that we do. That is walking as Jesus walked.

            How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”  Our Daily Bread.

            A widespread false teaching in the evangelical church today is that you can accept Jesus as your Savior, but that obeying Him as Lord of your life is optional. They do not deny the importance of submitting to Christ as Lord, but they do insist that it has nothing to do with saving faith. And so they teach that it is possible for a person to truly believe in Christ as Savior even though he never submits to Him as Lord. Scripture is clear that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Genuine saving faith always results in a life of progressive godliness. If a person claims to be saved, but has no hunger for God’s Word, no growing hatred of sin, and no growth in godly living, he needs to examine whether he is truly in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

            Many other New Testament verses virtually equate saving faith with obedience and unbelief with disobedience, because the connection is inseparable (see Acts 5:32; 6:7; Rom. 1:5; 2:4-10; 6:16; 10:16, 21; 15:18; 16:19, 26; 2 Thess. 1:8; Heb. 3:18, 19; 5:9; 11:8, 31; 1 Pet. 1:2, 22; 2:8; 4:17). Outward obedience is not enough; God demands that we judge our evil thoughts and attitudes, bringing every thought into submission to Christ. If we name Jesus as Lord, we must enthrone Him as Lord of all our lives. Many professing Christians, even many who are engaged in ministry, are just living for self. What motivates their Christian service is not the glory of the Savior who gave Himself for them. They’re not doing what they do because they love the Lord Jesus. They’re motivated by the strokes they get from serving. They love the affirmation. But if their service goes unrecognized or someone else gets the credit, they get angry and quit. Their motive was to please self, not to please the Lord.

            Christianity is not a system of rules where you decide you will start working on the list. It is fundamentally a personal relationship with the risen, living Savior. I like the 3rd stanza of the hymn we sung last week in worship “Another Year of Dawning” I pray that it echoes our heart beat and resolution for this New Year:

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father,
let it be On earth, or else in Heaven,
another year for Thee.

Pastor Cheng Huat

January 19, 2014