One afternoon it was really quiet downstairs as the boys were playing. If you have boys, you know that is unusual! When they came up for dinner, our four year old was sporting a baseball cap. When asked to remove it, he refused. When asked a second and third time, he gave the same response. Finally he blurted out, “My brothers told me not to take my hat off!” Looking at the older two I inquired, “What happened?”
As the story unfolded, they were playing and got gum in Mark’s hair. Unable to get it out, they gave him a “haircut.” When he took the cap off, I almost doubled over in laughter – a huge bald spot was shining in the light. Thankfully his hair grew back quickly, but hopefully the lesson of telling the truth and being obedient lasted longer. During that season we actually coined the phrase, “Learn to obey, or learn to live with pain.”
We don’t have to be taught to disobey! Often some of the first words children say are, “no” and “mine.” We come with a built-in sinful, selfish nature. Disobedience comes a lot easier than obedience – ask any mom!
Obedience can be a challenge for me. I thought that at my age this struggle would be less, but I can identify with the Apostle Paul when he writes, “I’m the foremost of all sinners,”(1 Timothy 1:15) and “the very things I want to do I don’t do…”(Romans 7:15).
In my sin I tend to:
React versus Respond
Compare versus Be Content
Be Anxious versus Trust God
Disobedience to the Lord is an indicator that something is amiss. When you take your child’s temperature, the thermometer may indicate a fever and that something is likely wrong. In the same way, obedience, or lack thereof, indicates whether or not I am abiding deeply with the Lord (John 15). For example, when I’m walking deeply with God, I am more secure and not so easily hurt or offended.
When our boys were 2, 4 and 6, I had a dear friend (with little girls) tell me that I needed to reign my boys in and teach them to be obedient. (She had a good point, things were a bit out of control with 3 sons less than 4 years apart!) When she spoke those words, I happened to be in a good place abiding in the Lord. Instead of taking up an offense or being hurt by her forthrightness, I listened and responded versus reacting, which might have been my natural tendency. I have to say, it surprised me that I was calm and measured. Ultimately, obedience is an indicator of the condition of my heart towards God and is a by-product of my abiding with Christ.
How can we seek to live a life of obedience to the Lord?
1) Remind yourself of the Gospel:
As a believer in Christ, God’s love is unconditional and nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38-39) We do not obey to gain God’s approval or blessing. I can too easily think that if I obey, I can earn God’s favor. We obey not to please God but because we have his favor as His daughter and want to honor Him. Secured by the grace of God, we have the privilege to obey.
2) When I sin, I get less, not more:
Psalm 16:4 says, “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.” Sin and disobedience are tempting but in the end, emptiness and shame bring sorrow upon sorrow. In addition, we have an enemy that prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) and who is “the father of lies.” (John 8:44) He seeks to destroy our lives and to make us desire to disobey the Lord. Yet Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life and life to the full.” (John 10:10) When we sin, we get less!
3) Be a fast repenter:
As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, it is our desire that we sin less and seek to obey more. While that is a great idea, it is often not a reality. Perhaps a better measure of obedience to the Lord is not that we sin less, but that we repent faster. A fast repenter will lead a life of greater obedience to the Lord.
4) Strength to obey comes from the Lord:
We simply cannot obey on our own strength. An obedient life is empowered by God. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.“ (Colossians 1:29). Ask the Lord for His strength to obey and remember that He is our source of strength.
5) Seek to renew your mind:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Obedience to the Lord happens when we remind ourselves of the Gospel, and by his strength seek to follow Christ. My prayer for each of us is that we will live a life with Christ the center, in intimacy with Him and in joyful obedience.