What is it about the word obedience that makes each of us sigh “ugh…” inside? The truth is, we have an issue with obedience because of our fallen nature. When I ponder “why?”, it’s because obedience has a negative connotation that someone is forcing me to do something I don’t want to do and, of course, our flesh doesn’t like that as it’s screaming ME, ME, ME! Jesus addressed obedience in Matthew 7:24-27:
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
And James 1:21-25 says this about obedience:
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues [in it], and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
When you think about it, it is actually harder to obey than to do what your flesh wants to do. It takes strength, it takes submission, it takes effort, it takes meekness as the verse above says. If you are a parent, especially of young kids, teaching obedience is a constant battle. After my kids disobey, which sometimes seems like it’s all day long, I ask them; “Did you obey?” Even my two year old is self-aware enough to say “no.” Next, I ask them what it means to obey, and I’ve ingrained the definition of “hearing and doing” into their minds from the verses above. Most of the time, they will admit they heard what I said and will even repeat exactly what I asked them to do, but they will admit they didn’t “do” what I asked. Oh how this is SO relevant to us adults, too! There are so many Christians who hear the Word of God on Sundays or go to Bible Studies and get head knowledge and comprehension, but totally miss the mark on the “doing” part - the part where God calls us to live it out! Or as Pastor Matt says "install it"!
In the Bible, it’s clear that God wants us to obey His commandments. Under the New Covenant, we don’t need to follow the ceremonial law of the Jews as Jesus died for our sins, and we are forgiven and clean as Christians once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We don’t need earthly ceremonial traditions to cleanse us. Praise God! However, the moral law is still intact as God’s heart is still the same. It’s always been the same and always will be – He is constant, never changing, and forever faithful. He created us, He knows what is best for us, He knows the intentions of our hearts, and He does not want sin to separate us from our relationship with Him. After all, He created us to fellowship with Him and to glorify Him in all we do.
Jesus exhorted us in John 14:15:
"If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Our heart should be to obey Him because we love Him. We love Him for who He is, for what He’s done for us, and because we know as our Abba Father that He wants what is best for us. It’s not forced obedience - it’s something we chose to do because He loved us first. Like Pastor Matt said a few weeks back, “We obey because of salvation, not for salvation.”
So, what does obedience have to do with prayer you ask? When it comes to prayer, obedience is a key component to effective prayer as 1 John 3:22 says:
“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
If we expect God to answer our prayers, we must do our part and OBEY HIM, trusting and respecting that He knows best. To obey His precepts, we must know them and be in the Bible regularly. If we aren’t in church or spending time in the Word, how do we “hear” the Word of God to “do” the Word of God? But it’s not just about a list of commandments and rules to follow. Our heart should be to glorify Him and be pleasing in His sight, so we must have a heart to honor Him above all else. We must study His heart and His Will to know what will please Him. If we are true children of God, it brings us joy to please our Father, our Creator. We do it gladly!
Here’s a practical example for you from my life. A few years ago, God convicted my heart about drinking alcohol. Now, I didn’t have an addiction problem or anything. I knew God commands us not to be drunk with wine, and I was very good about restricting myself to a glass or two max. I was following the “rules.” But God kept convicting my heart and, to be honest, my flesh wanted more than a glass or two (flashback to my 20’s and many stupid choices). Why was I so convicted then? Even though I was following the “rules” regarding alcohol, could it stumble me someday? Yes. Could it stumble others? Yes. Did it please God, and was it helpful in bringing me closer to Him? No. Did it help me glorify Him to others around me? No. Once I understood God’s heart to protect me and my relationship with Him and that His plan is to use me as an instrument for His kingdom and for His glory, I realized that God was convicting my heart about alcohol because it could interfere with His best plan for my life. Why would I want to hinder His perfect and complete plan for my life? Once I made the decision not to drink at all, it released a burden I didn’t even know I had, and His promised freedom and liberty overflowed. Why? Because I wasn’t in bondage forcing obedience with a heart that secretly despised it. He changed my heart to please Him, and it brought joy, gratitude, and honor into our relationship.
“Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters,’ Says the LORD Almighty." – 2 Cor. 6:17-18
It’s ok to be separate! It’s ok to be different, because you are a Child of God! (Here’s a truth I wish I understood in my teens and 20’s!) Children of God should be separate from cultural and societal “norms” that are determined by imperfect people and are ever-changing. Make it your focus to please the Lord. He alone should be our standard to emulate. Walk in the light, and let your light so shine among men! 1 John 1:5-7 says:
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
We must walk in the light OBEYING GOD to have fellowship with Him and to have an effective prayer life that works! It takes action, strength, and humility, but JUST DO IT like the prophet Nike once said.