Last week we studied the biblical fact that in order to experience God, we must actually love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. Now if I would quiz you today, you would probably answer that you do love Him in that way. But here is the thing, the litmus test for whether you truly love God in that 100% full way is the question “Do you obey God in that 100% way, fully in your life.
In the Bible there are many places where we find things and lists which are sins, disobedience. We may think we are obedient but if I may let me point out an often overlooked passage from 2 Corinthians 12:20 which may address many of us good church going people who might think we are obedient yet we need to clean up some things that Paul mentioned. Paul said: “I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” Those are often the minor sins we dismiss when we compare them to those big evil sins. Do they exist in your life?
Bottom line is when it comes to sin and obedience, we have to decide, will I follow God or will I continue to do what I want to do? Obedience is Important. Obedience is crucial in the life of a Christian for a couple of reasons.
1. If we don’t obey, something here on earth is not done.
I realize some people might have been raised with a strong focus on God’s sovereignty, in other words, God is in control therefore he will take care of it. However I firmly believe as the United Methodist Church believes, and that is God is in control, but he also gives us the free choice to obey him or not.
God will not control our choice, and if we choose the wrong path, not only are there consequences for us, but many times for others as well. We are the hands and feet of Christ. It’s important for us to listen and obey. If every Christian obeyed God, I believe there would be no hungry people, and every person would have heard the Good News of Jesus Christ because every person who has truly accepted the call to follow Jesus would have shared the Gospel liberally. God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. But I’m not here to guilt us into doing something, I just want us to realize the consequences of our disobedience.
2. Obedience Reveals Our Love for God
The second reason obedience is important is because, as Jesus said, our obedience reveals our true love for God. John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” God tells us he wants us to love him with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and all of our strength. The real test for our love for God is not how we feel about God, or our affection for God. The real test for our love is measured by our obedience. Are we obeying his commands, following his teachings, doing what he tells us to do? Everything else is just giving God lip service. Anyone can say they love God, but the proof is when we obey God.
Now notice, we obey God’s commands because we love God. The reverse never works, we can’t obey our way into a love for God. In other words I can’t make myself love God more by simply doing certain things like following God’s commands.
Martin Luther and John and Charles Wesley all discovered that you can’t obey your way into loving God. All three were clergyman, they tried to do all the right things, they initially tried to follow every commandment, every church teaching, but instead of experiencing God’s love and grace, they were empty inside, Luther was even angry and bitter over how miserable his life was in trying to follow all of God’s rules and regulations.
It wasn’t until they were awakened to the incredible love God has for them in Jesus Christ, they were set free from the law so that they might love God. As they were in a loving relationship with God, they longed to follow God’s commands. Without love often we fail to appreciate God’s commands as ways to help us, to give us life. We become legalistic and start trying to force others to follow the rules. That’s why last week we talked about a personal love relationship with God, because obedience without relationship is just rule keeping. How many of you love the IRS more because you paid all of your taxes? No, obedience doesn’t grow our love for God, it flows out of our love for God.
How many of you have kids or had kids or are around kids? When you ask your kids to do something, what are your expectations? That they will do it. Your kids may do what you ask for several reasons. Perhaps they do it because they are afraid of the punishment they might receive if they don’t. They are afraid of being grounded, given time out, etc. In other words fear is the motivation. Perhaps they do it because they know they will be rewarded. Maybe their allowance is tied to whatever you were asking them to do.
Perhaps they do it because they know you will make them feel guilty about not doing it. O finally and hopefully they might do what you ask because they know you love them, and they want to please you. I know it doesn’t happen that way very often. We know that the motivation of our kids obedience affects what happens when they child grow up, move out of the house. Which ones are going to be the most well adjusted and which ones will likely rebel and start trying anything and everything?
This is the interesting thing, we can be similarly motivated to obey God. We can be motivated by fear (hell, punishment), reward (heaven, crown of righteousness, Jesus saying to us “well done good and faithful servant”), guilt (you sinner), but God desires for us to be motivated out of love for him. What happens when we obey God out of love? Let’s look at John 14:21
Jesus Reveals Himself to Those Who Love and Obey
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Notice in this passage, who is the one Jesus shows himself or reveals himself to? The one who loves and obeys him. This is exactly what we have been focusing on. God wants you to experience him in your life. Jesus wants to reveal himself to you. He wants you to personally experience his spiritual presence, his power.
If you are wondering why you aren’t experiencing God in a personal way, perhaps you need to ask yourself, two questions: What is my motive for obedience and am I obeying and doing what God has already revealed for me to do, or what he has laid on my heart to do through the Bible, prayer, or even a sermon?
Perhaps God is not sharing more with us because we haven’t obeyed what God has already revealed to us. Our obedience determines what God and how much God will be able to do through us. The ceiling or limit on our experience of God, is our obedience. We can’t go any higher or deeper with God than our level of obedience.
If we aren’t making the adjustments, if we aren’t doing what God has told us, than we are preventing, to some degree, the work of God’s Spirit. Jesus taught that those who have proven themselves faithful in small matters, or we might say are obedient in small matters, are the ones who are given greater responsibilities in God’s kingdom (Luke 16:10; 19:17). If we haven’t been faithful with what God has already revealed to us, how can God share more with us? Too often we want God to do something, but we aren’t willing to respond when he does.
Likewise churches do not experience the revealed Jesus, the Spirit, when they are not exercising their obedience to what God has already revealed, when they don’t fulfill the great commission (making disciples of all nations), when they are not loving each other, when they can’t forgive each other, or are angry with each other, or gossip or slander. We need to remember in the next chapter in John, Jesus tells us his command is to love each other just as he loved us.
Does God love us any less if we are disobedient?
The Bible is clear that God loves us unconditionally no matter what we do. As a parent do you love your children any less because they disobeyed. Sure, you might be disappointed, upset, perhaps even angry with them, but you still love them. Because of our disobedience God may be disappointed, upset, perhaps angry with us, but his love for us is unfailing.
So is it time to make some adjustments in your life so you can experience God more so God will reveal more to you?
This could be an adjustment in our…
Relationships (how we view a relationship, time we spend in a relationship – family, friends, coworkers, business associates, fellow church attendees)
Thinking (how we think, or what we think about such as a prejudice, worry-anxiety, anger, bitterness, jealousy )
Behavior (lying, gossip, cheating, slander)
This could be an adjustment in our….
Priorities and Commitments (with respect to family, church, job, leisure activities such as hobbies or sports,)
You know there are some people who wouldn’t interrupt a hobby for anything in the world. In their mind they say they want to serve God, but they keep eliminating things from their life that is going to interfere with their own plans.
Financial (the way we earn, give, save, or spend money)
Our perceived needed goals, desires, or dreams
What adjustments might you need to make in order to be obedient to God? The Good News is that if we are willing to step out in faith and make those adjustments God will honor that and bless that decision.
In closing I want to remind us that while our love and obedience for God fails, God’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting. Communion reminds us of God’s love for us. In our sin God sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sin, to remove our guilt, to set us free. It’s easy to beat ourselves up knowing we haven’t been obedient.
During communion we are called in light of God’s love to examine ourselves. To ask ourselves if there is any way within us which does not conform with God. Have we failed to obey God? Do we truly love God? We lay ourselves before God’s throne of grace and ask for God’s forgiveness