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Aspects of Obedience, Part 3: Positive Obedience

Positive Obedience

Once we have learned to refrain from disobedience and to walk in the light, we are ready for active, positive obedience.

Start out by learning to recognize the positive commands in Scripture. They are almost always expressed in superlatives. For example:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).

Because the positive commands are so all-encompassing, it is easy for us to think of them as ideals rather than realistic requirements. So the next thing to do is accept them as they are. The Bible does not qualify them, and we do not have the freedom to qualify them either.

God provides several wonderful means of obeying these commands. The first is the death of Christ. We all know that Jesus died so we could be forgiven. Few of us realize that He died so we could be obedient. See Romans 6 for an explanation of the efficacy of the Cross in accomplishing obedience.

The second means of obedience is the fruit of the Spirit which…

Aspects of Obedience, Part 2: Walking in the Light

Walking in the Light

But if we walk in the light,
As he is in the light,
We have fellowship with one another,
And the blood of Jesus, His Son,
Purifies us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

This verse presents such wonderful truth that I have set it in poetic form. It is based on the truth of 1 John 1:5:

"God is light; in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5b).

Although I am seated in a well-lit room, there is darkness in it. How do I know? Because if I look outside I can see the brightness of the sunshine on the lawn, and this room is not that bright. However, there is also darkness outside where the trees, houses, and cars cast shadows. There is always a place of more light, except in the presence of God. “In Him there is no darkness at all.” God is the very essence of light, the source of all other lights.

What does this mean for us? “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light...” The kind of light we are to walk in is pure and absolute. It is not the light of a can…

Aspects of Obedience, Part 1

Christian obedience has three primary aspects. The first is refraining from disobedience; the second is walking in the light; and the third is an active, positive obedience.

Refraining from Disobedience

Disobedience is doing, thinking, or saying what we are told not to do or think or say. It is also not doing, not thinking, or not saying what we are commanded to do and think and say.

"Jesus replied: ‘"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment'” (Matthew 22:37-38).

It is easier to measure disobedience by what we do than by what we do not do. However, this does not mean that our neglect is not sin. Not loving the Lord in this way is a violation of the first and greatest commandment.

The first way to refrain from disobedience is to know the commandments. Ignorance is no excuse. God gave us instructions in the Bible, and it is our responsibility to be familiar with them. Here is …

"Partial Obedience” ... or Rebellion & Idolatry

"But Samuel replied: 'Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king'” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Open your Bible right now and read 1 Samuel 15.



Have you read it? Notice why Saul spared the animals (vv. 21, 24). Instead of repenting when confronted with his sin, Saul backtracked and tried to claim that he had obeyed the Lord while all around him was the evidence of his disobedience: bleating sheep and lowing cattle.

Saul called his “partial obedience” obedience. God had another name for it: disobedience. He called that disobedience rebellion, and rebellion He likened to witchcraft. God also compared Saul’s arrogance to idolatry.

Unless we have God’s view of our actions, we will stumb…

A Purpose of Heart: How to Keep from Compromising

"But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself" (Daniel 1:8).

"When he [Barnabas] came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord" (Acts 11:23).

Daniel’s decision and Barnabas’ exhortation had one thing in common: a purpose of heart. Daniel made a single decision that affected every day of his next three years. He did this on principle. The principle was that “he would not defile himself.” He did not wait until breakfast to make the decision not to eat when there was food in front of him and he was hungry. Why? He would have compromised. Daniel “purposed in his heart” once to obey God for a long time. He did not know how he was going to carry out his purpose. He trusted that if he acted on principle, …

Do You Want to Please God?

Do you want to please God?

"Without faith it is impossible to please God…" (Hebrews 11:6).

"This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:4-5).

How crowded our lives get! How unnecessary are the things that clutter them up in comparison to having this kind of faith! Salvation from sin is ours by faith. Day-by-day protection from sin is ours by faith.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

God diligently rewards those who seek Him.

Accusations, Exposing Sin, & That Serpent of Old

"The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down'” (Revelation 12:9-10).

The name of the ancient serpent is the Accuser. I am aware of churches whose elders are accusing or being accused. Some of the accusation is within a church, and some of it is between churches. The saints in these churches may have believed a lie that a fellow believer is the enemy. The fellow believer may have believed a lie and passed it on as truth. That puts him in the wrong camp. It makes him an accuser and a gossiper, but he is never the enemy, even if he is in great sin.

There seems to be a misreading or misapplication of Ephesians …

Being Self-Controlled & Alert: How to Avoid the Roaring Lion

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

Of all the reasons Christians sin, this one is the most disheartening. It happens to very strong Christians who are not alert.

When I was midshipman over sixty years ago, there was a framed picture in the Department of Seamanship and Navigation at the Naval Academy. It was a photograph of seven destroyers grounded on the beach in the Santa Barbara Channel in California. There are eight destroyers in a squadron. The captain of the eighth destroyer decided not to follow the leader. Underneath the picture was this caption: “The price of good navigation is constant vigilance.”

Be Holy: A Command to Obey by Grace

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15-16).

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

These are commands, not suggestions. They are also “be” commands, not “do” commands—they relate to what you are, not just what you do. Since we live by God’s grace, it is safe to assume that He will not command us to be something that He does not provide the means for us to be. Therefore, we should not think that these commands are impossible to obey. If we do, we are not believing God. We are following the suggestions of the Enemy.

Thank God that He has made holiness possible for you. Start obeying by believing that it is possible and by wanting to be holy.

Immoderate Commands & Immoderate Promises

"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you" (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Please look at every phrase in these benedictions, for I will not comment on all of them. Notice that God gives us peace “at all times and in every way” and equips us with “everything good for doing His will.” The God of peace does a thorough work in us.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you may have noticed that it has very few moderate commands. You may also have noticed how many Christians moderate the commands. We think it is alright to bring them down to our size because they are so extreme. This is nei…

Suffering for the Gospel

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory" (2 Timothy 2:8-10).

Paul says that he is suffering for two reasons: 1) for the Gospel and 2) for the sake of the elect. In the middle of this, we find that “Gods word is not chained.” Isn’t that a glorious statement?

This post coordinates with the #SamePageSummer Bible Reading Challenge. Join the challenge here - we'd love to have you reading with us!
Written November 1985.

On the Front Lines

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

We who are in Christian ministry are truly on the front lines in close combat with forces of evil over the souls of men. We ask your participation with us in prayer.


This post coordinates with the #SamePageSummer Bible Reading Challenge. Join the challenge here - we'd love to have you reading with us!

Why Is Obedience So Hard?

• Obedience is an infringement on our freedom. Since we are free in Christ, we conclude that obedience must not be good. Yet we know it is good. Thus, we become confused.
• Obedience means works. We have been justified by grace through faith and are opposed to works, so we are also opposed to obedience.
• We have tried to obey and failed—frequently. Therefore, the only solution must be to disobey and confess.
• We confuse obedience to men with obedience to God.

Each of these statements is a misconception. Here are the corrections:

• Obedience is freedom, not an infringement of it. It is a voluntary act, which means it 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).

• 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 tha…

Studying 2 Corinthians

Have you noticed the series of listed troubles that are in 2 Corinthians? They are in chapters 1, 4, 6, 8, and 12.

Have you also seen the comfort, thanksgiving, glory, rejoicing, grace, and strength in the same chapters? Please take a look and notice the connection.

“I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints—but let them not return to folly” (Psalm 85:8).

This post coordinates with the #SamePageSummer Bible Reading Challenge. Join the challenge here - we'd love to have you reading with us!
Written September 1992.

Active Listening

“Know this my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

When we think of being quick, we think of doing something that takes action. Here we are told to “be quick” to do something that takes no action, at least outwardly. Hearing takes no movement. In fact, you might think that hearing is completely passive. This just is not so. A silent person may be passive. That does not mean that he is listening! Being “quick to hear” means having an energetic interest, an eagerness that mentally reaches out, stretching for information. It is an openness to another person. This does not mean that what we hear will be good, true information. Even so, we are still told to be quick to hear. Being quick to hear has to do with our own sanctification, not the correctness of the information.


This post coordinates with the #SamePageSummer Bible Reading Challenge. Join the challenge here - we…

Repentance Is for Sinners Only (a.k.a., You've Got to Be Bad to Go to Heaven)

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)

Jesus is not teaching the merits of delayed obedience in this passage. He is teaching repentance for both the person who initially refused and for the one who promised to obey and did not.

The Pharisees were like the second son who said he would work and did not. The Phar…

A Way of Life You May Not Have

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).

When it comes to sin, we are all dead. We are either dead in sin or dead to it. When we were dead in sins, we lived in them. Once we are dead to sin, living in it is neither normal nor possible. A Christian may sin, but he cannot make it his way of life:

"No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him… No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God" (1 John 3:6, 9).

Since You Died with Christ...

"Since you died with Christ…" (Colossians 2:20).

"Since then you have been raised with Christ…" (Colossians 3:1).

"For you died…" (Colossians 3:3).

Although these things were written to the church at Colossae, I believe that if they are true, they apply to all Christians. Each of the verses ends in an instruction or a command based on the truths:

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings" (Colossians 2:20-22).

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then yo…

The Insufficiency of a Clear Conscience

A pure, clear conscience is a wonderful thing. A guilty conscience is an awful thing. We desire the one and do not want the other. However, there are guilty consciences that are filled with false guilt instead of true guilt. There are also seemingly clear consciences that are clear only because the conscience does not record; it has become seared.

Even when a conscience is working well and is clear, that does not mean it is working perfectly according to God’s standards of right and wrong.

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5).

A person may say that his conscience does not hurt, as if that were proof that he was innocent. It does not hold. The conscience i…