Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why Is Obedience So Hard?

There are several reasons why obedience seems hard. I will comment on some of them and then speak positively on how obedience is easy.

We think:

1) Obedience is an infringement on freedom. Since we are free in Christ, and obedience is somehow contrary to that freedom, we conclude that obedience is not good. Yet we know it is good. Thus, we become confused about obedience and are not single-minded.

2) Obedience is works. We who have been justified by grace through faith are opposed to works; therefore, we are opposed to obedience.

3) We have tried to obey and have failed—frequently. Therefore, the only solution is to disobey and later confess to receive forgiveness. It is easier to be forgiven by grace than to obey by effort.

4) We confuse obedience to men with obedience to God. Although these are sometimes one and the same (see Romans 13, 1 Peter 2-3, Ephesians 5-6, Colossians 3, and Titus 2), sometimes they are not the same (see Colossians 2:20-23, Mark 7, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, and Peter’s great statement in Acts 4:19-20). Confusion occurs when we reverse the texts and equate obedience to men, described in the second set of Scriptures, with obedience to God.

If these statements were accurate, obedience would be hard. However, each statement is a misconception; each hides a subtle lie. Here are the corrections:

1) Obedience is freedom. It is a voluntary act of the will which can only take place if the will is free. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

2) Obedience is not related to works. It is related to faith.

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Heb. 11:7-8)

“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Rom. 1:5)

“…but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” (Rom. 16:26)

When we obey, we are acting by faith, not works.

3) Trying to obey is the opposite of trusting to obey. When we try, we are self-centered, not God-centered. When we trust God to do His will, God provides the strength to obey, a much better alternative than depending on ourselves for obedience.

4) Confusion is avoidable when we know the Scripture well enough to differentiate between the commands of men and the commands of God.

Here are positive reasons why obedience is easy:

1) The Scriptures were given to us in order to prevent sin (1 John 2:1).

2) God provides a way in every situation so that we need not sin (1 Cor. 10:13).

3) We are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. Obedience is the natural quality for the life controlled by God’s Spirit.

4) Jesus died that we might be dead to sin.

“By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?... Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.... The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:2, 8, 10)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

God commands us to obey. But He also provides for our obedience via His death and resurrection, and His gifts of faith, grace, the indwelling Holy Spirit and a new and glorious nature.

Sin is based on two things: a lie and rebellion. Many Christians, like Eve, believe a lie. Once we buy the lie, rebellion is the consequence.

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3)

If you would like to read more on this subject, check out Dead and Alive: Obedience and the New Man.

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