Last week our church did a week long study on Obedience as part of a larger church-wide study on “revival.” As I mentioned in the lesson on Sunday morning, the way the lesson was laid out was problematic and it was my hope to correct theological misconceptions and legalistic tendencies that the lesson book veered off into.
First and foremost is that our relationship with God is not based in any way whatsoever on OUR obedience. Rather it is based on the obedience of Jesus Christ. So, the lesson plan that states our “obedience is foundational” to our relationship with God, it simply incorrect.
It is only because of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have any ability to stand before God’s throne or His people. Paul tells us this much in Romans 5:
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:15-19 ESV)
Our service to God in obedience is a biproduct of our love for Him and His work on our behalf. However, even the love itself is not of us, but rather of and from Him who took the initiative and gave us the example of love in His Son, and imparted His Holy Spirit to empower us to love. Here’s what John had to say about the matter:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:7-16 ESV)
Because of this love, we are compelled to stop sinning. Paul says this:
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
(Romans 6:13-14 ESV)
Therefore, the key to obedience is not a checklist – as the book provides us – of items that we need to ensure we do each week, but rather the key to obedience is love for God and others. We love and obey because of His work within us.
In very practical ways, we can do this by the power of the Holy Spirit by reading our Bibles and praying for God’s help. The renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) goes hand in hand with our presenting of ourselves as living sacrifices. We need to be in the Word and we need to be in prayer if we’re to have any hope at all of even wanting to obey!
Once we have been in the Word and in prayer the Holy Spirit will prompt our obedience – now is the time to take action! Be a doer of the Word and show your fruit. Listen to what James says:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18 ESV)
Therefore, our actions in obedience to Christ’s commands will prove our faith and show forth his work in us. This is not a matter of legalism, its a heart issue. Listen to what Jerry Bridges says about this:
We have loaded down the Gospel of grace of God in Christ with a lot of “oughts” – “I ought to do this” and “I ought to do that.” “I ought to be more committed, more disciplined, more obedient.” When we think or teach this way, we are substituting duty and obligation for a loving response to God’s grace.
Finally, when God helps you obey, and you live in His will you will want to give Him glory. Check out this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)
Indeed it is God who is working in us for His good pleasure. It is Christ’s obedience that is the foundation for our relationship with God the Father, for He is the Cornerstone of the church upon which our faith is built.
No lists; just grace!
Peace be with you all,