The Importance of OBEDIENCE

OBEYI listened to a sermon preached by my mentor, Vasile Filat, and I would like to share some of the main points here with you in this article.

We live in an age when obedience is seen as a negative word. Children are taught to be disobedient in schools. The teachings are subtle but have a lasting impact. Children are being taught that they have rights without responsibilities. This is very dangerous. Children are learning how to manipulate their parents instead of obeying them. They are taught to be suspicious of all authority figures, even to be suspicious of their own parents. Instead of learning to be grateful to their parents for all that their parents do for them, they are taught that because of their rights, they parents owe them everything. Children are learning to be expectant, entitled to their rights without a second thought of their own responsibilities. I have even heard of cases where children have reported their parents to the authorities claiming that they are being exploited because their parents have made them do chores.  We have a couple of generations that have grown up with this entitlement mentality and now they expect the government to provide for them. They claim that they are poor, not because of bad choices but because the government, or their families are not providing for their every need and want. This mentality already exists in us from our birth because of our sin nature and now, unlike any other time in history, this mentality is being encouraged. We do not need to be encouraged in our sinfulness. We need to be taught to overcome our sin nature. We see this being encouraged in the home. Wives are no longer encouraged to be submissive to their husbands, as if submission were a bad thing. Equality is the new buzz word. In a Biblical sense, equality among spouses does not mean that the roles are the same. Husbands and wives are equal in the sight of God, yet, God has established different roles in the home and one of those roles for the wife is to be submissive to her husband. Because entitlement is encouraged and equality at all costs, even in roles, now both men and women view submission to authority as a negative symbol. Logically speaking, when there are two leaders on a team and neither takes the submissive role, the team does not prosper. When one leads and the other follows (helps) the team is able to prosper. These societal teachings have begun to impact the church in a very negative way. One of the common complaints of church leaders today is that the members no longer what to submit to the leaders’ authority. This is direct disobedience to God and His Word. The aggressive form of this disobedience is seen in the way that members talk to the leaders and the way that they talk about the leaders to others. A more passive example of this disobedience is seen in the fact that members do not do what the leaders ask them to do. For example, there is a call to action and very few respond. The leaders feel led by God in one direction and the members simply do not want to follow. Everyone seems to do what is right in their own eyes. Members do not see the need to follow leaders claiming that they can hear from God and follow Him without the direction of the leadership of the church. The church is to be light to the dark world around us, impacting the world in a positive way for Christ, yet, it seems that the world is impacting the church and its members in a negative way. Negative aspects of the world are flourishing in the church and the virtues of the church are disappearing from society. There needs to be a change and the change needs to begin in the life of each person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Because of all of this negative influence, I felt the need to teach on the importance of obedience from a Biblical perspective. The message is first and foremost for the church and then the members of the church are to take this positive example of obedience and influence the society in which we live. Many people are confused when it comes to what obedience is and what it is not, therefore, we need to turn to the pages of Holy Scripture to discover what God calls obedience and what He calls disobedience.

I. What is obedience?

When we speak of obedience, we do not have in mind simply “hearing” what we are supposed to do. Obedience means hearing with the purpose of understanding and then, applying (putting into action) what we learn. Let’s take a look at Philippians 2, where the Apostle Paul explains what obedience looks like in a practical manner. The word obey, or, obedience is used often in chapter 2. This teaching came as a result of a conflict among the believers. Paul addresses the problem of conflict directly. There is a lack of unity among the believers and that is why he writes the following:

4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Being selfish and conceited, which is our nature, is the root of the problem. We naturally regard ourselves as being more important than others. Our natural desire is to look out for our own interests above others, even in the church.
After addressing the root of the problem, Paul uses the example of Jesus Christ, which, as believers, is supposed to be what we live by on a daily basis.
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This is what obedience means, always obeying, even when it is not convenient. Periodic obedience is not obedience. Genuine obedience is constant. There was a lady who when asked, “are you obedient to the teachings of Christ?” her answer was, “well, my mother is a Seventh Day Adventist and I am a Christian too”. When asked if she were an Adventist, her response was “yes and no.  If I do not have any work to do on Saturday, then I am an Adventist but, if I have work to do on Saturday, I am a Baptist”. When asked to clarify, she claimed that her obedience depended on the day. When it was convenient, she was an Adventist, keeping the Sabbath, but, when it was not convenient, she was a Baptist and did not have to keep the Sabbath. IN her mind, obedience depended upon convenience. If your obedience is based on convenience, you are not genuinely obedient. Genuine obedience is constant, until the end, especially when it is not convenient. Jesus, our example, was obedient at all times, especially when it was inconvenient.
41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt * down * and began to pray,
42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but
Yours be done.” (Luke 22)
During the most difficult time for Jesus, He asked the Father to remove the burden of the cross, but, He finished with “not My will, but Yours be done”. Jesus was obedient, especially when it was not convenient. There are times when obedience is easy and there are times when obedience is difficult. If you are a person who is genuinely obedient, obedience is a way of life for you, especially when circumstances are difficult.
Another aspect of genuine obedience is taught by Paul to the Philippians when he writes the following:
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
Genuine obedience is the same when the leader is present, and more so, when the leader is absent. There are some who are the epitome of obedience when the leader is around yet, as soon as the leader is absent, their obedience wanes. This is not genuine obedience. Genuine obedience is seen when the leader is present and also when the leader is absent. Genuine obedience is addressed in the next verse by Paul:
When a person is genuinely obedient, he or she does not select to obey in areas where they like and ignore what they do not like. Also, obedience is performed with the correct attitude. God is interested in genuine obedience from the heart, not just an outward action. There is a story of a man who was late for work and he could not find a parking spot so he ended up parking in a no parking zone. He left a note on the windshield asking for forgiveness from the police office who ticket the improperly parked vehicles. He ended the note with “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. When leaving work, he found a ticket on his windshield with a note from the officer saying, “and lead us not into temptation”.
Another aspect of obedience is that it stands strong in the face of persecution. According to the Word of God, when a person walks in true obedience, he or she will be persecuted by those who do not walk in genuine obedience. Paul, in Philippians 1, even writes that it is a privilege to suffer persecution for Christ because of our obedience.
27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
28 in no way alarmed by your opponents -which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1)
Those who practice partial obedience, or, those who obey out of duty instead of out of a sincere heart, they do not do it out of love. Jesus teaches that His true followers, those who have experienced and received His love, they walk in obedience out of love for Him. It is not a burden or a duty. It is a joy and a privilege to obey Christ’s commands.

15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14)

Paul addresses the idea of obedience for men, for women, for children, for employers, and for employees. When put together, we see that every single person on this earth is called to walk in obedience. In Ephesians 5, Paul first begins with submission (obedience) for all. We are all, as followers of Jesus Christ, called to be submissive to the Lord. Following submission/obedience to Christ, we are to be submissive to one another. Submission is not just for wives, as some people like to claim. Submission is for all. Our modern joke about the man being the head and the woman being the neck, causing the head to turn where she desires, although funny, it is the exact opposite of submission/obedience. Christ is the head of the church. Applying this previous logic, the church would be able to manipulate Christ instead of being led by Christ. In Ephesians 6, children are also taught to be obedient to their parents, their first role models in life, and then to be obedient to their elders. God begins with birth, and all through life, He teaches us the importance of obedience. Parents are to model obedience to their kids and teach them to honor them and to submit to God, which requires genuine obedience. Kids do not naturally gravitate to obedience. They have a sin nature, like all of us do. They must learn obedience and how to walk in obedience all the days of their lives. If a child is not taught to walk in obedience, the Proverbs of Solomon teach us that he or she will bring shame to his or her parents when grown, or even in the process of growing up.
In Ephesians 6, Paul moves from the children to the employer/employee relationship. He uses the words servant and master, but, in our modern context, this can be applied to the employer/employee relationship. Many want to be the boss so that they do not have anyone telling them what to do. News flash, even if you are the boss, you will always have someone telling you what to do. On top of that, God is above you whether you acknowledge it or not. As an employee, obedience is very important and it is not something that can be learned on the job. It is a necessary job skill that you must already have before beginning work. If your parents were following the Lord, they should have prepared you for your future job by teaching you obedience from a young age.

 

Finally, we end this section with Hebrews 13:17.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

As a member of the body of Christ, you have spiritual leaders whom God has placed over you. They have been delegated spiritual authority from the Lord and they will give an account to Him of how they walked in that authority. God commands that your obedience to Him be manifested in your attitude toward your spiritual leaders. If you cannot honor and respect your spiritual leaders in the church, you are not a person who walks in genuine obedience. Again, this idea of obedience should be something that was modeled to you from childhood by your parents and taught to you by your parents, from the Word of God. If you did not grow up in a home of followers of Christ, then you can learn from your spiritual leaders. It is never too late. If you are a person who lives out genuine obedience on a daily basis, then you will bring joy to your spiritual leaders, and to everyone who leads you in any capacity. On the other hand, if you do not obey from the heart, then, you cause grief to your spiritual leaders and to everyone else who leads you.

II. Abraham’s example

Abraham, the man who is considered the father of our faith, he was a man who walked in genuine obedience as a way of life. He was not always that way. He had to be taught. He was a fast learner. One of the key things about Abraham in the Scriptures is the fact that when God told him to do something, he acted immediately. When God called Abraham to follow Him, he acted immediately. When God told Abraham to circumcise himself, and all the men in his household, at 99 years old, he did it immediately. Again, when asked to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord, he rose early in the morning and traveled three days to the spot God showed to him. He did not grumble. He did not try to convince God to change His mind.

12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing * to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because * you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22)

Genuine obedience flows out of a deep respect for God. It means receiving a command from God, understanding God’s command, and then doing what God says, from the heart, with the right attitude, trusting that God is in control and will only allow things that are good for you to happen to you.

So my dear friend, what about you, is obedience a part of your daily life? Do you obey God from the heart with the right attitude? Do you submit to God, to your parents, to your boss, to you spiritual leaders, to other believers? I pray that the Lord will bless His Word that we have learned and that It will produce the fruit of obedience in all of us.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s