Have you ever felt guilty for not doing everything you think Jesus wants you to do?
If you were serious about following Him you would need to try harder to obey. Right? God must be upset with you over your failures and just wants you to get with the program. True? This is a critical question we must sort out if we are to survive and, perhaps more importantly, to thrive in our walk with Jesus.
We can’t seem to get it right most of the time, and it can drive us away from Him who loves us rather than toward Him. This has never been the Lord’s intention or desire for any of us.
Obedience & Relationship go hand-in-hand
Obedience is a wonderful thing – if it takes place in the context of loving relationship. I love it when my kids or my wife serve me by doing something that blesses me the way I like to be blessed. But I would never want them to do what I ask because they are afraid I might reject or even punish them if they didn’t. Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father do. Not just because that was His stated mission and duty, but because He delighted in walking with the One He loved (Isaiah 11:3).
I believe Jesus is inviting each one of us to enter into a deeper love relationship with Him, which produces amazing fruit in our lives. One of those is obedience. Obedience is an expression of love, not a curse word. But it doesn’t start with obedience. It starts with knowing and loving and trusting Him.
″Obedience is an expression of love, not a curse word.″
This is part 3 of my series on Discipleship – If you missed my previous posts, check them out here:
It’s all about Love
In John 14, Jesus made three statements about obedience that are important to us. It links love with obedience. But perhaps not in the obvious way we would think:
- “If you love me, keep my commands” (v.15)
- “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (v.21)
- “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (v.23)
I used to think Jesus was trying to single out those who were missing it, pointing out their weak spots and demanding a better showing of their love. Do you love me or not? Come on, show it already! But Jesus was simply describing reality here, not prescribing a reaction.
Have you ever attempted to demonstrate to Jesus how much you love Him through your acts of obedience? I sure have! It was my opinion that if anyone was really serious about following Jesus they had to get with it and obey everything He said, and do it fast. Now that’s perhaps a good start, but possibly not what Jesus was after. Obedience grows out of love, and is an expression of the value we place on someone. It has always been about the heart.
What obedience is supposed to look like
I learned early on that obedience must be instant, joyful and complete, or else it wasn’t really obedience. I get that. I tried to follow that. I taught others that. But when I don’t respond to the Lord this way, it is a symptom of what’s going on in my heart. Am I struggling with lack of trust, fear, disappointment, loss of passion? It doesn’t help much to try to do better before I deal with the underlying struggles. Only then am I free to follow.
The Greek word translated “obey” in some Bible versions of the Great Commission, for example, is tereo. It means to “guard” Jesus’ teachings, and doesn’t imply literal obedience. Obedience-based discipleship is a good concept, but must be first based on the pursuit of loving Jesus, calling on the Holy Spirit to help work out what it means to guard His words as a treasure from Someone we treasure.
The Benefits of Obedience
I don’t live in fear of breaking God’s commands or being disobedient to Jesus anymore. A revelation of His love drives out fear. I am aware that I could miss out on His good purposes if I don’t pay attention to His leading, but no longer do I fear His displeasure or rejection if I fail. I don’t want to be careless with what my Father says to me, though. Why? Because He is so good, and He is so valuable to me, and I don’t want to walk outside of His goodness.
What are some of the benefits of doing what Jesus tells us to do? Obedience is:
Wow, God is not after our outward obedience, but a deeper love relationship where obedience is a natural outcome. He wants to give us more, not to control us more.
How do you struggle with the idea of obeying God as a follower of Jesus? Where do you feel you’re missing out on a deeper relationship with Him, and want to go higher?
- Watch for part 4 of this series on Discipleship, where I address whether it’s OK for followers of Jesus to do whatever we want because of Grace …