Sermon March 17, 2007 : A call for obedience

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Steve Johnson
  • Date: March 17, 2007
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Have you ever known you’re just supposed to do something and you just didn’t want to do it. Maybe it was someone like, when you’re younger your parents told you to do something and you thought, ‘you know, I just don’t want to do that. I’m not going to do that.’

Or maybe it was an appointment you were supposed to keep and you didn’t really want to have that meeting and so you kind of put it off, and put it off, and then you knew you were going to be late, and then you just called the person, ‘ok, I’m going to be late, sorry, I can’t do anything about it, I can’t make it’. You just decided you were going to blow it off.

Or maybe, it’s something else entirely, but it’s a point sometime, and I think we’ve all had one of these points sometimes, when we decide, you know, this thing that I’m expected to do, I just really don’t want to do it, so I’m not going to do it. Can we all relate to that in some way or another? I know in my life there are a lot of those things through the years that I just decided, you know, I’m not going to do it.

And sometimes you say you’re going to do it, and you know you’re not going to do it. You say, sure, I’ll do that, in the back of your head you’re thinking, yeah, in some other lifetime, you know. If I had nothing better to do, and trust me, I will have something better to do, but… That’s how we act sometimes. And maybe not all the times, and maybe not even often, but it happens occasionally.

And tonight, the passage, we’re going to be looking at something that’s horrid. We’re going to be looking at something that’s difficult and before we jump into that passage I just want to share a little story that kind of relates to this, and it’s a story from the Bible and it’s in the book of John and it is John, chapter 6, verse 60.

And actually, I heard a sermon on this topic recently on the radio. It was by J. Vernamin Gee. Has anyone ever heard of J. Vernamin Gee? He does this through the Bible on the radio, and the guy… when did he do that? When did he record these things? Back in the 50s, something like that, and he’s got this great southern accent, and I love it, because I feel like I’m at home when the radio comes on and he’s on the radio, because I’m from Tennessee and he says, ‘Brothers, when you sing it that the Lord has called you’…. you know, he has that kind of ways that I just love.

But he was preaching on this passage and it’s really great because he brings out this idea on Jesus’ teaching about how the Jews, the people that if they wanted to be right with God had to eat to his flesh and drink his blood, and this is just, you know, on the verge of blasphemy for a Jew. You know, a Jew is not supposed to drink the blood of any living creature, and you know, all the stuff…. It’s kind of idolatrous sounding and they say, they grumble and they argue with him and he says, ‘no, you have to’.

And they say in verse 60 “.. on hearing it many of his disciples, not his 12 disciples but many of the other disciples, said, ‘this is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’. And Jesus turns to the twelve and he says, ‘do you want to leave too?’, because his disciples were leaving. He turns to the twelve, and he says: ‘Do you want to leave too?. And Simon Peter answers him, in verse 68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life.”

And I just bring that up to say, that sometimes in life there are things that we don’t want to do, but when it’s the words of Jesus that are hard, when it’s the teachings of the Bible that are hard, we just have to realize that no matter how hard it is, there is nowhere else we can go. And I say that tonight just to make this point: we need to decide right now whether we’re going to follow the teachings of Jesus, whether we’re going to accept the teachings of scripture.

Before we get into the hard teaching, we need to decide right now that we’re going to accept it and that we’re going to live by it.

Now, some of you in here, may not be at the point when you’re ready to do that maybe you think, you know, I’ll wait and see what it is and then I’ll decide. It’s your choice. But as a committed follower of Christ, we need to decide now that we’re going to accept the teaching that Jesus gives. And so that’s kind of my preface into the passage that we’re going to look at tonight, which is actually also in the book of John, in chapter 14.

So, if you will turn to John 14 and a lot of us have read this passage before and we probably didn’t fall on the ground and think, ‘oh, Lord, this is too hard. Oh, how can we do this?’ We probably haven’t had that experience where we just in total rebellion say, ‘No, Lord, I’m not going to do what this passage teaches me to do.’ We probably haven’t been there. You’ve probably read this many times and you never felt that. But in our lives we act like that, we act like the person who says, yes, I’ll do it and then turns around and doesn’t. And we have all sorts of reasons and means by which we get out of this teaching, but let’s look and see what Jesus has to say in chapter 14 of John. And we’re going to start in verse 15:

Jesus says: “…. If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever, the spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Before long the world will not see me any more, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I’m in the Father, you are in me and I am in you. 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’.

Then Judas, not Judas Iscariot said, ‘but Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching, my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me, will not obey my teachings. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I’ve spoken while still with you, but the counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say I am going away and I’m coming back to you. If you love me, you’ll be glad that I’m going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you’ll believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of the world is coming, but he has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father, and I do exactly what my father has commanded me. Come now, let us leave”. The word of the Lord.

This passage has a lot of things that, we as Christians are very interested in. There’s a lot of interesting things about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus coming and going and coming again, about his relationship with the Father, about his relationship with us, about his relationship with the prince of this world, the devil. There’s a lot of really interesting and important information for us as believers. And I think the tendency, at least in my life, and the life of a lot of people I’ve known, and churches I’ve been in before, and I think even in this one, I think the tendency for us is to look at a passage like this; it’s a kind of a long passage, and to focusing on those things about a comforter or a helper of the Holy Spirit, to focus on the things about how we’re united in Christ, and Christ is in the Father, and therefore we’re in the Father, to be focused on the fact that Jesus has promised that God will reveal himself to us. Those are great promises, but the thing is we often overlook one of the most important parts of the passage, something that is repeated over, and over, and over again: “… if you love me you will obey my commandments. Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. Those who don’t obey my commandments do not love. If you follow my word, if you keep my word you love me….” And he even says: “… I love the Father and I show it by doing everything that he tells me to do..”

And that’s the part of this passage that I want to focus on tonight. And it’s kind of a hard teaching because, as Christians, we talk about a relationship with God, a relationship with Jesus Christ, how we love God, we love Jesus Christ, we sing about it, you know, we sang about it tonight, how much we love God. And yet sometimes our life does not reflect the love as defined by Jesus in this passage.

And we don’t want to hear that we don’t love God, because we feel good feelings towards God. We really like him. He’s come through for us in the past, he’s been there when we needed him. If you haven’t experienced that, it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that there’s someone great out there, someone amazing, someone powerful out there that’s on your side. What a wonderful feeling! And yet Jesus says, that if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments, and he says, if you obey my commandments, then you love. And it’s this inescapable conclusion that for Jesus, loving God and obedience are completely tied together. You can’t have one without the other. You just have to take this face value, you’ve got to take Jesus’ word at face value and say: ‘ok, Jesus, you’re saying that if I’m not obedient, then I don’t love you; or that if I love you I will be obedient’. I’ve got to take that face value and wrestle with my life, because I think what we do so often is we reason a way of it, we reason ourselves out of the implications of that statement.

Well, what Jesus means is that if we love him, we’ll try to be obedient, because we know that no one’s perfect, right? And how can you have to be obedient to love God? That means no one would love God, because no one is always obedient. And we reason our way out of it. But he doesn’t say, if you love me you’ll try to keep my commandments. He doesn’t say, if you try to obey me, then you love me, and if you don’t try to obey me then you don’t love me. That’s not what he says. He says, if you love me, you will obey my commandments. If you love, you will obey my commandments, that’s what he says over and over again. He says it like six, 7, 8 times in this passage. This isn’t the only place we find it either. There are other places in scripture where we see identical or very similar teaching.

And so, what I want to do tonight is I want to force us to wrestle with that statement, with that idea, with that truth that those who love him keep his commandments. We need to wrestle with that in our own lives. And I don’t want us to too quickly worm out from underneath that difficult saying. So that’s the first thing tonight: there’s means to recognize that this is a truth, this is a statement of Jesus Christ that we have to take at face value.

Now, I will say that I don’t think Jesus is saying that if you fail to keep my commandments ever, then that means you don’t love me. He’s not saying that. He might be saying something more along the lines of ‘when you are in obedience you’re displaying love to me, and when you’re in disobedience you’re not displaying love to me.’ That might be what he’s saying or might be part of what he’s getting at and we’re going to have to explore that in the passage a little bit and see if that works, see if that is adequate, understanding of his teaching here, because I really, again, I want us to wrestle with this tonight.

So, Jesus says, if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments, you will obey what I command, you will keep my teachings. He says that multiple times here, and I want to know, can he just mean that we’re showing love when we’re obedient? And I think the answer to that is near the middle part of this passage:

“Judas says ‘Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’….”

Think about that for a second. Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world? Because Jesus said he would reveal himself to us, even when he was gone. He doesn’t ask, why is it that you’ll show yourself to us sometimes and not show yourself other times? He doesn’t ask, why will you sometimes show yourself to these people and sometimes show yourself to these people? It’s a very categorically, making this division between two types of people: those who are going to be revealed that Jesus is going to be revealed to, and those who Jesus is not going to be revealed to, which are they called the world.

And he says, ‘If anyone loves me, there in verse 23, he will obey my teaching, my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.”

I think the idea there is you can’t just say that he’s talking about sometimes you obey and sometimes you don’t. That’s not what he’s getting at. That doesn’t make sense to this answer that he makes. This doesn’t make sense to the question because the question talks about two distinct groups of people that we basically understand that once you’re in this group, you’re in this group always, and once you’re in this group you’re in this group always, because he says ‘we’ll come and make our home with him. The one who obeys my commandments, I will come and make my home with him.’

You don’t make your home, he doesn’t say he’s going to pitch a tent and then like maybe go and pitch his tent somewhere else when you’re not being obedient. He says he’s going to come and make a home with him, a dwelling and abode. This word that’s used here, he says I’m going to make my home with you is referencing a very physical, permanent dwelling place. That’s the idea.

So then, what can he mean? If he doesn’t mean if you ever are disobedient then you don’t love me. And he doesn’t mean that you’re either showing love or not showing love by your obedience or disobedience. What can it mean? Is anyone nervous? Does anyone really want to hear the answer? Do I fit that category? Probably the wiser we are, the more nervous we are, but the most sure what category we’re in. Did you catch that? The wiser we are, probably the more worried we are, but also the more sure what category we fit in.

I think Jesus is saying that those people whose lives are characterized by obedience, those people who generally are striving to be obedient to the words of God, to the words of Jesus, those people are the ones who love God, those people are the ones who have life in Jesus Christ, those people are the ones who will have God revealing himself to them, who will have God make his home with them. Those are the ones.

And I think, as we walk in our Christian life, as we gain experience and wisdom in the Christian life, we realize that we have to be very nervous about our obedience to Jesus. We can’t take anything for granted, but we know that we have committed our lives to him. We know that we’re dedicated to the things that Jesus has called us to. We are sure of the fact that we love God and God loves us and he is with and in us, and part of it is because in a sense, this passage is talking about the future, but it was a specific point in time that for us is now past, does that make sense? Jesus is at…. Had the last supper and he’s pointing to a future time, but the future for him has already come for us. So, the spirit of God who has made his dwelling with us, already testifies in the hearts of believers that he has made his home with us, that he is with us and therefore he is loved by us and we are loved by him. Does that make sense? Do you get the idea that this should already be a past event for so many of us. If we’re believers in Jesus Christ, this is a past event.

He says, I will send someone, but for us he’s already been sent. He says, I will make myself known, but for us he’s already made himself known. So, for a believer who understands his or her position in Christ, this is still something that we have to take seriously and we have to wrestle with, but we don’t do it with fear in the sense of, oh, no, am I really the one with Christ? Do I really love Jesus Christ? Do I really love God? But with the kind of reverend fear that says, I understand that if I fail in obedience, if I turn the other way, if I change my life and no longer serve God, no longer seek God, no longer obey his teachings, then that’s a sign that there’s some serious trouble in my life, a serious trouble in my future. That’s a sign, I need to always be concerned about that.

Paul says, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. He’s talking about that on going recognition that our salvation is based on our trust in God’s mercy and we can never take mercy for granted, we can never just assume that we can live how we want, get on with our life and then have all the expectations of glory that are to come.

So, we’re going to take this statement of face value, we’re going to understand that it’s talking about a lifestyle obedience. Now, then the question might be, what constitutes a lifestyle of obedience and what fails to constitute a lifestyle of obedience? But that’s a tough question.

The Bible is actually very silent on how obedient you have to be to be considered obedient. Jesus goes to a tree on his way down to Jerusalem and there is no fruit on it, and he says, this tree should be bearing fruit and it’s not, so it’s going to wither and die, and when they pass by a day or two later, it’s withered and dead. There was no fruit on that tree. If there had been one piece of fruit, would he had let that tree live? If there had been two pieces of fruit, would he had let that tree live? I don’t know.

But the point is, that tree was clearly characterized as not bearing fruit which translates to us a person clearly characterized as someone not being obedient to God. That’s what that tree symbolizes. The tree bearing fruit for our purposes here tonight is the person whose life is characterized by obedience to God. But again, how obedient? I don’t know and I can’t answer that question in your life, I can barely answer that question in my life. I do know that the spirit of God will testify to you whether you’re being obedient or not, whether you’re living a lifestyle of obedience or not. I can promise you that.

In fact, the Bible tells us that the spirit of God convicts the world of sin. Why would the spirit of God convict the world of sin? Why do we need to be convicted of sin? It all ties into this thing, the concept theme through John 14, that we have to be obedient, we have to obey the teachings of Jesus. We have to obey the commands of Jesus. We have to. There’s no way around it, we have to do it. But there is a reward for obedience and actually I kind of set them all already, the ones in this passage, but we have, if you love me, you’ll obey what I command and I’ll ask the Father and he’ll give you another counselor to be with you forever.

One reward of obedience is a sense is the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the one who comes on beside us and helps us as we struggle on this life to be obedient to Christ, as we struggle against the disobedience of others, this Holy Spirit comes on beside us and helps us. You might have the word comforter in your Bible, you might have the word counselor, you might have the word helper. Swirl is a very interesting word, you may have heard it before, paracletos…. Very common word that we’ve…. You know, if you’ve been in the church for a while you may have heard that term. Basically it means someone who comes alongside. Someone who comes alongside to do what? Well, a lot of things to comfort, to counsel, to help. You know, it’s actually in a sense the word is not very specific which is why it can take on such a great meaning, because the person who comes alongside, comes alongside to do whatever the person comes alongside to do. That’s kind of a cheap way out of it, explaining what he does, he does whatever he wants to do, he does whatever he’s going to do; but that’s what he does, whatever he’s going to do. He comes alongside and he does it. That’s what the Holy Spirit does.

But in this context the Holy Spirit comes alongside to help us obey the commandments of Christ. And we need that help. If you’re familiar with Galatians 3, Paul comes to these people who lived in Galatia and he says to them: ‘you’re so foolish. Why is it that you got saved by the Holy Spirit but now you’re trying to continue in Christ through your own works? You see, to say that is obedience that indicates our love and to say that we have to be obedient to have relation with God, does not mean that we then are on our own and we don’t trust in God’s grace and we don’t trust in God’s spirit. No, it’s the exact opposite, because obedience is so important we have to trust in the grace of God all the more, we have to rely on his Holy Spirit to move in our life, to give us the ability to be obedient, to give us the strength to be obedient, to give us even the desire to be obedient.

Have you ever been in a funk and you just don’t care if you’re obedient? And you pray, Lord, help me care, because I don’t even want to be obedient right now. I don’t even know why I’m praying for you to make me care, because I don’t care. Where do you think that prayer came from? The spirit of God in you? Perhaps, mayhap, my favorite archaic term. It’s the spirit of God in you that allows you to pray that prayer. It’s the spirit of God in you that gives you the desire to be obedient. It’s the spirit of God in you that allows you and informs you, and encourages, and empowers, and strengthens, and enables you……. to be obedient. Everything you need to be obedient comes from God.

So that’s one of the benefits of being obedient. Now, that’s kind of weird, right? If you’re obedient you’ll get someone to help you be obedient. It’s what he says. Those who love me will obey my commandments and I will send another one like myself, another one like Jesus, who will come alongside you and help you in your times of need, who will come alongside you and comfort you, who will counsel you, who will teach…. We’ll see that later, he will teach you all things, he will remind you of all things that I have taught. It’s an interesting part of the passage.

Says, but the counselor, the paracletos, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and remind you of everything I said to you. What is he reminding us that Jesus said? That maybe one day Jesus may be said to his disciples, ‘hey, let’s go get lunch’. Is the Holy Spirit reminding me that statement, everything Jesus said? No, his sayings, his words, his teachings, his commandments.

In fact, when you see in the NIB, what is it he says? If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. Anyone who loves me, he will obey my word. That’s what he said. He will obey my word. The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I said. You see the connection? The role of the Holy Spirit in this passage is to help us to remember, understand and follow the words of Jesus, the commands of Jesus. And isn’t some unusual thing that we see in the scripture. Constantly Jesus is saying things about obeying him: follow my commandments.

My goodness, the most famous passage on evangelism is the Great Commission. As you’re going make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them all the commands that I’ve given you. Teach them all the commands so they understand and know and know about the commands. No, so that they’ll do the commands.

When you disciples you’re teaching people to do the right thing. Now, again there’s that word teach. Does teach just mean inform? Teach them all the things I commanded. No, teach them to do, as a teacher, especially when you think about Jesus was a teacher, a rabbi. Back in those days a teacher had a lot more authority than teachers do now. Teachers in here, anyone? You have a lot of authority, right? Yeah, if people want to give it to you, if the kids care, right? You have good kids, you have bad kids. Sometimes you are supposed to have authority but it’s hard to enact that authority.

But, you know, Jesus as a teacher, he had a lot of authority, people come to him. I have a dispute with my brother, give us the answer, what shall we do? They didn’t just want information, they wanted the teacher to tell them what to do. That’s what we’re talking about here. Does the spirit of God teach you as you read the Bible, does he reveal things about the Bible to you? Of course he does, but what he’s talking about here, when he says teacher, that he will teach you all things. He’s not saying that you’re going to have all knowledge if you have the spirit.

What he’s saying is the Holy Spirit is going to work in your life so that you become obedient and to the point that you resist or accept he work of the Holy Spirit in your life, is the degree to which you will have that obedience. Because it’s not just teaching knowledge. It’s teaching to make you do something. So that’s one of the benefits of being obedient.

The other is, God will himself to you, will reveal Jesus Christ to you and the Father and the Son will make their home with you. Now, what better place to be? What better location on earth to be than in Jesus’ home, and Jesus’ home kind of moves with you, as you walk his home walks with you, as you get on the train, or the bus, or the plane, or the car, Jesus’ home is right there, moving along with you: no t-pass, no extra ticket, but he’s right there with you. What better place to be on earth than in the presence of God?

And sometimes we say, and rightly so, the presence of God was with us tonight, and what we mean is he revealed himself in a very unique way, right? But isn’t the presence of God with us always? And it’s, you know, we invite the presence of the Lord in this room, wasn’t he here before we got here? Didn’t he come in with us when we came to the door?

Now, it’s right to do that. Please, continue to pray that God will be present. Continue to pray a prayer inviting the Lord here, because what we’re saying by that is, ‘Lord, we recognize that we need you and we’re asking you to be with us.’ But we’re also saying, ‘Lord, we also expect you to answer that prayer because you’re with us all the time, because you like to be present with us, because you enjoy being present with us, because you love us and we know you love us because….. what does Jesus say? Because we obey your commandments. Well, that’s where….

We know that God loves us because we obey his commandments. It’s a hard sell in a lot of churches today. It’s a hard sell in the world, for sure. That idea is not very common in the sense that it’s taken that seriously. Because what we say is, ‘oh, brother, what you’re teaching here is legalism. What you’re teaching here is that if we just obey, if we just do everything right, then we earn our salvation’. No, that’s not what I’m talking about.

You see, obedience is not a condition for salvation. Obedience is not the means to salvation. But obedience is the means to sanctification. Obedience is a requirement of sanctification and by sanctification what I mean is that journey that we go on, to live out our salvation. We’ve been accepted by Christ, we’ve been accepted by the Father because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and we have a right relationship with God, we’re perfect in his eyes, now, we’ve got to start living out that relationship that we have through Jesus. We have to start living out the position that we have in Christ. We have to put on righteousness. We have to take off our old self and put on a new self. This is all through the Bible, this idea of holiness, obedience, righteousness. I think….. be there for holy because your Father in heaven is holy, your God in heaven is holy. Did you read that early tonight?

We got to be holy. We have to be obedient and again, it’s so easy for us to take the hard edge off of that. Oh, yeah, we have to be holy, we have to pray, and read our Bible, and we have to go to church, and when you ask someone sometime, how’s your Christian walk going? You know, Christian walk, what does that mean? But we say stuff like that, what is your Christian walk? How’s your Christian walk going? Oh, pretty good, I’ve been praying a lot and you know, I’ve had great times of worship and I’ve been reading my Bible and you know, …. Yeah, it’s good.

Oh, how’s your obedience going? What? Well, I asked you how your relation with God was, so it seems natural that you would tell me about how obedient you’re being? No, that’s the last thing on our mind. Right? It’s the last thing, we’re not worried about our obedience, but God is. God is very much concerned with our obedience and if we take the edge off, then we are doing ourselves a disservice and we’re really saying to Jesus, ‘I want to love you on my terms. I don’t want to love you on your terms, which is the demand of obedience. I want to love you on my terms’. And that really gets at the other side of this, you know, not teaching legalism because love without obedience, in this relationship with God, is just sentimentality, it’s just sentiment. If you have good feelings for God, but you’re not obedient, you just have a sentiment. That’s all. And if you have obedience without love, then that’s legalism.

Like the student with the teacher. I asked the teacher the other week, do your students obey you because they love you or because they have to? I think they do, because they love me. That’s great. She’s a really good teacher. She’s a great teacher and I bet her kids really do love her. But I see a lot of students obey a teacher because they had to and they hated that teacher. I’ve seen parents, I used to be a youth pastor, parents would ask me, ‘you know, my kids are doing this, should I make them stop? Should I forbid them to do… ? You know, should I forbid them to go out because if they go out they might drink? Should I forbid them to do this because if they do that they might smoke? Should I forbid them … forbid them, forbid them….

And, one thing I would say is ‘yes, you need to put a barrier around your children, a barrier to keep some of the world out and a barrier to keep some of their sin in.’ You know, restrain a little bit. That’s right and good. But some parents push and restrain and restrict so much that the child has one or two options: they can either rebel or their spirit can be broken, and they obey, but they don’t love.

And then some parents don’t have any rules, and their kids love them, but there is no obedience because there’s no rules, and we’ve seen what happens, or I’ve seen what happens with those types of children. I have not in my immediate family, but in my family, that was the ideal that was lived out, we’re going to give our children every choice so they can make their own decisions so they can be their own person. They are not doing so well today. They are all, all but one’s an adult and not one of them is doing so well. They didn’t have any order, they didn’t have any restraint.

So, you see, you have to have love and obedience working together. And that’s not legalism, that’s a true relationship with God. That’s the relationship with God that he wants and that’s what’s so great about it, it’s that it’s going to be good because that’s the one that he desires for you.

So, now the question is, how do we be obedient? This verse, this passage really only talks about one thing that I see in terms of how to be obedient. We’ve already talked about it, the spirit of God must be present for you to be obedient, but there are other questions and other answers that might be there in terms of how to be obedient. And the first thing, I just want to throw out some ideas: 1) learn to be obedient in the little things, so in a sense, practice obedience.

If you have small things that you need to be obedient in and you do them and you do them, and you do them, what you’re doing is you’re practicing saying, yes, Lord; yes, Lord; yes, Lord; yes, Lord; and then this big thing comes that you really weren’t ready for and it says, ‘do this’, and you say, yes, Lord. What, what did I say? You’ve practiced it so much that you just do it, it’s just natural. God tells you to do something and you do it.

Again, I think it was Tolu who shared a story about a woman who practiced obedience and God told her, you know, make a left turn here, or something and she just did it and saved her life. You know, crazy stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s that crazy. Right? But the idea is that she practiced obedience and so when some weird thing came, she knew it was the voice of God and she just did it. When some difficult thing comes, she’s going to know it’s the voice of God, she’s just going to do it.

I pray that I would practice obedience enough so that I don’t have to think about being obedient, in the sense that I don’t have to consider whether I’m going to obey this command or not. And that’s why I said before we got…. That we had to decide beforehand that we’re going to accept the teaching, that we’re going to do what it says and that we’re going to follow it.

In the Christian life we don’t have the option of deciding which rules we’re going to follow. We don’t have the option of considering a command to determine whether or not we like it or whether or not we’re going to do it. I mean, in a sense we can, but we really don’t have that…. God does not afford to us that privilege. You know, I think we’re used to in this country, thinking ‘well, that’s the law but it’s not a good one, so I’m really not going to follow it.’ Or at the best, we’ll try to change it, right? If you don’t like a law, try to change it.

Well there is no option for that with God, there is a law and you do it whether you like it or not, there’s no congress, like that’s effective, but there’s no means to change any laws, there’s no voting, there’s no petitioning. A lot of us filled out a petition in the last couple of years on something we didn’t like. We can do that, but not with God, we don’t have that option.

So that’s it, you’ve got to practice the obedience. We talked about how the spirit helps us, he teaches us to be obedient, he reminds us about the things we need to be obedient and he comes alongside us to do those things. Really, other than practicing obedience, the most important thing we can do, I mean, other than… actually in order to practice obedience the most important thing we can do is to actually know the commandments.

Who in here could recite the ten commandments? Anyone? One, two,…. Any language, I don’t care, Hebrew, whatever…. Five, six, some of us are thinking maybe I can, let me check: do not steal, do not………. You know, yeah, there’s ten of them. They’re all there. you know, do we know them? How many of you when Jesus said ‘obey all the things I commanded you, how many of you know what things Jesus commanded of us? In this passage, right before this, Jesus talks about washing each others feet, serving each other, he commands us to serve each other.

He says, “… a new command I give you, love one another…” By the way, when he says, love one another, just a few paragraphs away from this chapter, don’t think that that loving is so different that it doesn’t require any obedience or submission, or something, you know. He’s talking about a similar type of love. Those are the things, we have to know the commandments, we have to practice them.

So, I just want to, kind of restate this idea that I set earlier also, that obedience is not the means to salvation, but it’s the means of sanctification. But we still have to do it by the spirit, Galatians 3, Paul says “… why did you start with the spirit and then you went to your own ways”. No, you’ve got to keep doing it with the spirit, it’s still a spiritual thing. obedience is a spiritual act. It requires discipline, it requires fortitude, it requires strength, it’s a spiritual act. Every time you’re obedient you’re doing something spiritual. It’s a worshipful act, every time you’re obedient you’re worshipping the Lord. And it’s a loving act, every time you’re obedient you’re loving God.

So, we as a people need to do those things. We need to practice those things. Now, we’ll say if anyone in here says, ‘you know, I haven’t lived a life of obedience. I haven’t had a life characterized by obedience, and you know what? I don’t even love God, or maybe I’ve said I loved God but realized tonight I never really have. Maybe you realized that you haven’t had the confirmation of having the spirit of God come to you and reveal himself to you and make his home with you. Well, the good news is that because obedience is not the means of salvation you don’t have to get everything straight first. You come to God just as you are, you come to God in whatever state you’re in. If you are just covered in, shall we say, the filth of sin, if you reek, if you are stained in more ways than one, if you are so consumed with your own concerns that you consistently put aside de things of God, then you’re in the perfect spot, you’re in the only spot you could be, because God says it’s the people who don’t obey, the people who aren’t righteous that have an opportunity for salvation. Have you ever heard that one before?

It’s not those who are righteous who are saved, but it’s the unrighteous who are saved. Jesus said, I came not for the healthy but I came for the sick. So, if anyone in this room is in that situation, when you say, you know what? I’m just in a bad place. I don’t know God. I don’t love God, I don’t obey his commandments. Then, take heart, you’re in a great place because at this point all you have to do is say, ‘Jesus, I accept you. I accept you. You’re the answer for me.’ We’ll get the obedience thing afterwards.

When we are worried about sanctification, we’ll get that obedience thing in order. The Holy Spirit will make sure of that. But the Holy Spirit might be target on you now and saying, you’re going to make a decision just to love in the sense of submitting yourself to God, that you reach out to Christ. Jesus is talking to his disciples hours before he goes to the cross, in a moment of hours he is going to be taken and strung up on a cross, for sins that he did not commit, because each of us needed someone to pay the penalty for our sins, each of us needed someone to sacrifice himself, to die so that we could live. And the work Jesus did on the cross is for your salvation, the work Jesus did on the cross is so that you could have life, so that you could love him, so that you could obey him. And it’s the same death that brings us salvation, it’s the same death that allows us to be obedient.

I’m not going to explain all that tonight, but just know that it’s the same act that allows us to be obedient, because it’s that act that allows the paracletos to come. It’s that act that allows another counselor, another comforter to come and to be with us, to encourage us, to teach us, to bring us to a point of obedience.

So, I want to pray for us and I do want to offer an opportunity if anyone wants to pray to accept Christ, wants to pray a very simple prayer that says ‘I have not been obedient, but I know that Jesus went to the cross so that all that could be wiped clean, and I accept that in my life.’

So I’m going to give you an opportunity to pray that if you like, but I’m also going to pray for everyone here. So, if you would, just close your eyes, bow your head and I’m going to start with that prayer, if anyone feels that they need to make that decision tonight, to give themselves to Christ so that they can have a life that’s one with God, where God dwells with them, where God is revealing in their life, then just pray this prayer with me.

Father, I recognize that I have sinned, I have recognize that I’ve been on disobedience, and Lord, I know that obedience is not the way to get saved but it’s trusting in Jesus Christ. Lord, I thank you that you sent your Son to die for me, so that I could be saved. And Lord, I commit myself now to seek a life of obedience.

And Father, for every other person here, Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit would not be lacking in our lives, that your Holy Spirit will not hold back but that he would convict us of our sin, that he would compel us to do the right thing, Lord, that he would enable us to walk in a life of love towards you, that he would enable us to walk in the truth of our relationship with Christ, that as we’re made holy in Jesus Christ that we would walk holy.

Lord, let us never allow ourselves to reason our way out of obeying your commandments. Lord, may your Holy Spirit convict us if we ever use our intellect to reason our way out of obedience. If we ever use our circumstance to give ourselves a break so that we don’t have to be obedient.

Father, I pray that you bless us, bless us with the hard reality of obedience. Lord, let this congregation be marked by people who say, no matter what the cause I’ll obey. Let this congregation be marked by an idea or a practice of obedience so that as soon as you speak we’re there. When you say go, we say where and we go. When you say do this, we say, yes, Lord we’ll do it with no hesitation.

Lord, start with me. Lord, we all need this teaching, we all need your help. No one graduates beyond the cross. No one graduates beyond the Holy Spirit. No one gets to the point when they are so spiritual that they don’t have to be obedient any more. Quite the contrary, Lord, the more we grow in you, the more you expect, the more consistent we need to be in our obedience. So Lord, thank you, thank you for your word, thank you for your spirit, thank you for loving us and dwelling with us and giving us the understanding that we might follow you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


Sermon delivered by Steve Johnson taped March 17, 2007 at Congregation Lion of Judah Listen | View (100K) | View (400K)

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