16 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF OBEDIENCE
Like contentment, obedience should play a major role in the process of transforming us into the image of Jesus.
There are many examples in Scripture of obedience and disobedience and the consequences that followed the choices people made. Apart from Jesus, two examples stand out for me.
Saul, the first king of Israel, had every advantage to be a godly king. God called him, anointed him for his office and equipped him with the power of the Holy Spirit to rule wisely. He started well but eventually lost everything through his disobedience, including his life, because he became arrogant and self-sufficient and thought he knew better than God.
This was God’s verdict over Saul’s life when he called up Samuel from the grave…
“Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked Saul.
“Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.”
But Samuel replied, “Why ask me, since the Lord has left you and has become your enemy? The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. The Lord has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. What’s more, the Lord will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The Lord will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.” 1 Samuel 28:15-19 NLT
The consequences of Saul’s disobedience brought wide-reaching disaster on the whole nation.
David, on the other hand, earned a title from God Himself – “a man after my own heart” – because, even in his position as king, he was obedient to the Lord and loved and valued His Word.
“But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts of the Apostles 13:22 NLT
This does not mean that David was perfect or sinless. When he fell into terrible sin, he was quick to acknowledge his guilt and to cry out to God for forgiveness.
He had to live with the consequences of his failure but, unlike many of the kings who came after him, he never became arrogant and self-sufficient. He continued to do what God told him to the end of his life.
Of course, the most perfect example of obedience is Jesus Himself.
Many years before He came to earth, prophecies about His character and obedience abound in the Old Testament.
David wrote about the Messiah…
“Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalms 40:7-8 NLT
This was one of Isaiah’s visions about the Messiah…
“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away….
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:4-5, 7 NLT
Jesus’ own testimony was that of perfect obedience to the Father’s will…
“So, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” John 8:28-29 NLT
Jesus challenged His opponents to find anything in His life out of line with the will of His Father.
“Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?”… John 8:46 NLT
THE WAY OF OBEDIENCE IS NO EASY ROAD
- Obedience demands humility.
Jesus’ humility took Him all the way from His position in the Trinity to a broken and naked body on a Roman torture stake.
“Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8 NLT
- Jesus paid the highest price for His obedience to the Father.
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8 NIV
OBEDIENCE HAS REWARDS THAT FAR OUTWEIGH THE COST
- Jesus’ submission to the Father saved Him from spiritual death and brought God’s answer to His prayer
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV
- Jesus’ obedience to the Father had a personal reward
” But it was the Lord ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands.” Isaiah 53:10 NLT
” I will give him the honours of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” Isaiah 53:12 NLT
“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 NLT
- Jesus learned obedience through suffering
” Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8 NLT
- Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will brought salvation potentially to the whole world, but especially to those who believe.
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:23-25 NIV
“Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.” Romans 1:5 NLT
“When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” Isaiah 53:11 NLT
- Jesus’ obedience will restore the universe to God’s original purpose.
“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Romans 8:20-21 NLT
6.We have a share in Jesus’ victory because of His obedience
“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.’ 2 Corinthians 2:14 NLT
OBEDIENCE HAS DIFFERENT FACETS
1. Obedience to the gospel
Being a believer is much more than a free pass to heaven or “having a relationship with Jesus”.
God entrusted to the church, through the Apostles, a body of teaching which encompasses everything that relates to our lives in the New Covenant. Like the Old Covenant which was God’s constitution for citizenship in Israel, the New Covenant is our constitution for life in God’s kingdom. This constitution is sometimes called “the Gospel (Good News) ” and sometimes “the Faith” or “the Way”.
Being a believer, therefore, is a commitment to obey all the requirements of this divine “constitution”.
“As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT
Paul testified, shortly before he died,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
- Obedience to Jesus, the Word of God
God’s Word is His divine “GPS” for navigating a difficult and treacherous road through life. We have three enemies that will do all in their power to lure us off the way that will take us to the Father…the world, the flesh and the devil.
Each of these enemies works through the powerful weapon of deception. Each offers us a way to live that doesn’t need God. Each holds out the prize of self-sufficiency and self-gratification. Each fails to show us the small print, i.e., eternal death – separation from God and everything good.
Jesus said, “I am the Way…” He is also the Word. To reach our destination, we must follow the directions given to us in the Word which echo His nature and show us the way.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalms 119:105 NIV
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV
“Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28 NLT
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30 NLT
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17 NIV
As we abide in Jesus, remembering that without Him we can do nothing, He guides us by His Spirit, reminding us of the words He has spoken to us. Our response is to follow the prescriptions of His Word which will neutralise the deception of our enemies.
- Obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if, through the power of the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Romans 8:12-14 NLT
Since God’s Word is the expression of His will,
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NLT
GOD REQUIRES OBEDIENCE TO TWO SIMPLE COMMANDS
“And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.” 1 John 4:21 NLT
“And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23 NLT
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law…. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8, 10 NIV
THE FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE
- THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
When we obey the gospel, i.e., when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Him from the dead, God gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us as we become His temple.
“We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” Acts of the Apostles 5:32 NLT
“Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.” 1 John 3:24 NLT
- FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS
Friendship with Jesus is not automatic nor does every Christian enjoy the privilege of friendship with Him. It is reserved for those who obey Him.
” ‘You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.’ ” John 15:14-15 NLT
- FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON
Relationship and fellowship are not the same thing. We may have a relationship with Jesus but be out of fellowship with Him because of disobedience. Sin does not change our relationship with Him unless we have purposely chosen to renounce our salvation. However, sin interferes with our oneness with Him.
“So, you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.” 1 John 2:24-25 NLT
- ANSWERS TO PRAYER
Prayer, in the deepest sense of the word, is not about getting what we want from God. It’s about sharing His heart and learning to be one with Him. He answers our prayers in accordance with His will when our hearts are in tune with Him.
“Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” 1 John 3:21-22 NLT
- PROOF THAT WE ARE ALIVE WITH GOD’S LIFE
Loving our fellow believers us a fruit of our life in Him. It shows that we are” participants in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” 1 John 3:14 NLT
- ETERNAL LIFE
Obedience to God’s constitution is also proof that we are citizens of Hid heavenly Kingdom.
“And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:17 NLT
- A DWELLING PLACE FOR THE FATHER AND THE SON
God’s final purpose is to be at home in the hearts of His people.
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:2-3 NIV
Obedience is a hallmark of sonship; therefore, obedience prepares us for being God’s eternal dwelling place.
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23 NIV
Obedience, then, to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a powerful protection against our enemies, and a preparation for life with God in an eternal union with Him in heaven, His dwelling place.
All Scripture quotations in this series
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.