Most of you probably know the children’s song, “Obedience is the very best way to show that we believe…” It’s a little trite, but it’s also very true. Obedience is the best way to show what we believe. Why?
Obedience is the highest calling of a Christian.
If we know Christ as our personal Savior, then we have a completely new life in Him. We are no longer forced to obey the call of sin; rather, we have freedom from its control, and freedom to obey our new Master (Jesus Christ).
And along with that freedom, comes the higher calling of obedience. No longer can we live to please only ourselves; no longer can we live based on how we feel. Rather, we are called to obey God’s Word at all times! We are called to literally be slaves to His commands, to obey without hesitation or complaint. We are to obey, not for our own glory, but to exalt our Master and make His greatness known to the world.
Our actions speak louder than our words. And our obedience (or lack thereof) speaks louder than anything we simply proclaim with our lips. We may say we believe in God, but do our lives truly show it?
As James tells us, our faith must be shown by our works. Our words (our verbal testimonies) must be supported by our actions (our actual testimonies). But we cannot swing the opposite direction, and think that pious actions alone will be enough to save us.
Mere outward conformity is not the same thing as
Think back to ancient Israel. She claimed to be God’s favored people, and yet she continually went chasing after other gods, worshiping idols in the place of the one true God. She offered sacrifices to Him in His temple, but at the same time she also sought fulfillment from false religion, and craved approval from pagan society.
She praised Him with her lips, but her heart was far from Him. And read what He had to say about it, what consequences He promised for her disobedience to His Word [Jeremiah 6:19-21]:
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
and as for my law, they have rejected it.
What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba,
or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.
Therefore thus says the Lord:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people
stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together,
neighbor and friend shall perish.’
You see, the obedience of their hearts was more important to God than the perfunctory sacrifices they offered every day. Sure, they went to the temple and offered sacrifices routinely, but their hearts were still wicked and unrepentant. They brought costly ingredients to prepare their sacrifices, but they were not willing to pay the cost of their own souls.
They were hypocrites.
And so are we, if we claim to believe God’s Word but don’t live in full obedience to it. We are hypocrites, offering sour-smelling sacrifices to God, if :
- we say God is our greatest priority- but we put other activities ahead of spending time with Him.
- we say we trust His sovereignty- but we worry or feel anxious about things outside our control.
- we say ”God’s will be done”- but we fail to pray without ceasing, or memorize His Word so that we won’t sin.
- we say Jesus Christ is our greatest example- but we don’t love as He does, impartially and unconditionally, without asking anything in return.
Too often, we’re like that little girl who was told to sit down. She did, with a saucy toss of her head, and proudly exclaimed: “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing up on the inside!”
But disobedience to God has dangerous consequences.
Read those verses again. God promised disaster to Israel, because she chose to disobey. He promised that families and whole communities would perish because they refused to obey.
Imagine it like a railroad crossing. If you have faith that a train is coming, you will stop and wait for it to cross. Your actions portray your belief. And if you don’t stop, when all the warning lights are flashing and the train whistle is blowing furiously, then you face the disastrous consequence of a train slamming into your car.
And so, when we disobey God, we too face disaster. We too will perish. Maybe not at the hands of a foreign nation, but certainly inwardly, by the foreign enemy of sin. Because, remember? We are no longer owned by sin. But when we disobey God, we allow sin to be our master again.
How much better to simply obey Him in the first place? God says that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. And that doesn’t just mean obeying on the outside. He wants our heart-obedience.
Not sacrifice. Not lip service.