Why we need to talk about obedience

My daughter's middle name is Grace, and I know of more than one family with a daughter named Misericordia. Grace and mercy: concepts that are pillars in the gospel, concepts beautiful enough to give children those names. But in all my days, I have never met a person named Obedience.

This name was used by Puritans for their daughters long ago, but it has fallen out of use. This is a pity, since obedience is a fundamental idea in the Word of God. In fact, the grace and mercy we love so much were made possible by the perfect obedience of Jesus.

But this word and the concept associated with it have lost popularity. Obedience does not usually come up in informal conversations with other believers. It is not usually written into the lyrics of modern praise songs, and is rarely the subject of podcasts or articles.

Why has obedience taken a backseat in our usual Christian discourse?

avoiding legalism

A couple of decades ago, there was a tendency to exercise Christian freedom while rejecting the legalistic mindsets of previous generations. Issues such as alcohol consumption, the practice of Sabbath rest, biblical tithing, and the use of profanity were hotly debated. In an effort to avoid anything that smacked of legalism, Christians often emphasized grace and mercy over obedience.

Rejecting legalism and seeking obedience are not mutually exclusive positions

Avoiding legalism is a worthy endeavor when following Jesus. Certainly He was not a legalist. At the same time, obedience to the Father was of paramount importance to Him and we follow in His footsteps when we also give priority to obedience. Rejecting legalism and seeking obedience are not mutually exclusive positions. Rather, they are nuanced attitudes that work together to produce a wise heart.

giving in to laziness

Considering what pleases God often requires intentionality. It can consist of stopping, even briefly, to pray for wisdom and strength for the moment that awaits us. Pausing to consider things like tone of voice or whether it's safe to click "send" after typing requires a spiritual muscle that grows stronger with repetition over time.

Developing the spiritual muscle of obedience through a slow, thoughtful life in a culture of relentless activity is a challenge. But when we repeatedly lean toward grace and mercy without striving to obey, we are giving in to laziness. Certainly, the grace and mercy of Jesus are here to cover our sins; They are the foundations on which our faith is built. But they were never conceived to be the basis of our selflessness. As 1 Samuel 15:22 explains, "to obey is better than a sacrifice, and to pay attention than the fat of rams."

Cultivate a lofty view of obedience

Our efforts to avoid legalism and our tendency to give in to laziness can lead us to downplay obedience. But with the Lord's help, we can cultivate a lofty view of obedience that more accurately reflects God's perspective. These are two reasons why it pays to bring obedience back to the forefront of the Christian life.

1. Obedience pleases God

In the Scriptures, the person who willingly submits to the Lord receives the awesome blessing of walking more closely with Him. Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed God (James 2:23), and that belief was demonstrated through obedience. keep going. The Scriptures say that Noah, Enoch and Levi walked with God, while mentioning their righteousness (Gen 6:9; 5:24; Mal 2:4-6).

Honestly, it's easy to get discouraged when I hear about saints like these, because I can't seem to go sixty seconds without disobeying God in one way or another. But let's not read «perfection» in the lives of these men or any of the other people in the Scriptures who pleased God through their obedience.

We are never told that they were perfect; on the contrary, the Word shows us how far they were from being. But they walked with God in a constant relational atmosphere of obedience accompanied by repentance. Not only were their acts of obedience pleasing to Him, but the posture of regular repentance for disobedience revealed a submission to God's commands. This cadence of obedience and repentance marks the rhythm of walking with God day by day for us too.

2. Obedience shows belief

As Christians, we can come out of our scripture study, our fellowship with the brethren, our church worship, and our private prayer time feeling spiritually strong. But when the heat rises through difficult circumstances, will we choose to demonstrate with our words, attitudes, and bodies what we believe in our hearts, especially when it costs us something? Obedience is the irrefutable proof that we believe, before God, before others and before ourselves, that we take our Father's Word seriously and that we are willing to risk our lives for it.

When we live in obedience to Christ, we build our lives on firm foundations.

In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus tells us that those who do not put His words into practice, but live their own way, can expect the devastating effects of life's storms. But when we live obeying him, we build our lives on firm foundations. So when the storms come, we won't be shaken. Even the smallest acts of obedience today lay a foundation that will help us stand strong in the future.

Obedience to God is not usually easy and much less popular. I'll probably never meet a kid named Obedience (although he might be called "Obed" for short). But as a means of showing our Father that we trust him and that we are willing to do what he says even if it is difficult, there really is nothing better. So, as Christians who together make up the body of Christ, let's talk about obedience. Pleasing God should please us too.

Originally posted on The Gospel Coalition. Translated by Eduardo Fergusson.

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