Obedience is Better
“What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it.”
John Bunyan, The Pilgrims Progress
This side of eternity, we might never fully obey God. But the good news (the gospel) is that Jesus has done that already. We are let off the hook by faith in the finished work of the cross. We are completely justified by faith (“holy, blameless, without reproach” assures the scripture), the very righteousness of God, in Christ. That’s very relaxing news. Now we get to move out in obedience, not so that we may earn God’s love but because we are loved. We can follow Jesus from a place of rest and excitement, rather than resentful, fearful, religious obligation – knowing that God is trustworthy and that He knows what’s best for us and how to lead things.
The following is perhaps my favorite scripture on obedience:
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” (John 5:19-20)
There are three things that underpin healthy obedience.
First, we must believe that we are greatly loved by God and designed by Him for a purpose (Psalm 100). The foundation of obedience is love; God’s love for us and then ours back towards Him. The posture of trust necessary to fuel our obedience works through love. As Jesus says above, we are built for relationship and collaboration with our Father, not an orphan-hearted, independent view of life. It’s our Father’s joy to show us our part in His-story, the son’s delight to trust and follow. God made us for relationship. He knows, often against our better judgment, that doing life alone is no fun and that, ultimately, it’s exhausting, vain and fearful. As we learn to accept our powerlessness and the mutual love and devotion between Father and son, obedience becomes a joy, a delight (Psalm 119:35), rooted in trust and producing lasting fruit, which in time we shall marvel at.
Second, we must repent (change our thinking) and understand that we can do nothing of eternal value without God (John 15:5). This truth is extremely counter-cultural. The definition of “profane” is anything man is doing that God did not initiate. Unless the Lord builds the house the laborers labor in vain.
Third, obedience leads to a life of grace, rest, marvel and wonder. The pressure is off us and on Him. With all of the above in place, we will avoid the pitfalls of vain and exhausting independence and enjoy life in all its abundance. It’s unbelief and disobedience that leads to burn out and mediocrity.
In conclusion, arguably the greatest hindrance to obedience, perhaps ironically, is our religious bent – our lust to perform our way into God or man’s good books. However, the foolishness of obedience to the call of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom the world has to offer. The next revival or world-changing reformation will come through many whom the world, even parts of the church, regard as complete fools. His wisdom will always confound the worldly wise because His ways are higher. Remember the words of Samuel – “Obedience is better than (the) sacrifice (of religion).”
(Meditate on John 15)