As a church, we’ve been going through a series titled “Gospel Renewal”. The topics that we’ve covered so for this series are as follows:
- Gospel-centred Prayer – 1 John 5:14-15
- Gospel Humility – Philippians 2:3-11
- Gospel Repentance – 1 John 1:5-10
- Gospel Dependence – Genesis 15
- Finding True Satisfaction – Matt 13:44-46
In fact, all of these topics are probably taught in our moral science classes & certainly in other religions. But what’s the difference here? While in all the other cases, people teach and talk about how we need to do so many things to achieve a prayerful life or a humble life or a satisfied life.
In contrast, what we’re saying is that the good news of Jesus in fact empowers & enables us to do all of these things!
And continuing in this series we have a wonderful theme this week called “Gospel Obedience”. I’m presuming that some of you as soon as you heard this…you were like “it’s going to be another sermon on how I need to do this and that and then by the end I realize how I fail to do all of those things”.
And I just want to let you know that I understand that sentiment. I remember a few years at a camp that I attended, the speaker spoke on obedience and the title of his message was “the thrill of obedience”.
And I remember being a little taken off guard by the title because I never thought obedience as something thrilling or enjoyable or something to look forward to. And that happens because of some baggage that we carry with us.
We view God as a Rule-book keeper
All of us have had a strict teacher at school or a headmaster or a parent or a pastor – and we sometimes think of God as being like that – Like a very strict headmaster who is making a list of all our moments of obedience and disobedience and waiting to punish us for every mistake that we make.
And although God is Just and Righteous in everything, but He’s not like the Headmaster that we think He is.
We see ourselves fail to keep up with the rules
The other reason why a topic like obedience could be discouraging for us is because we know how we fail in our attempts to obey God’s Word. Some days might be good in our performance – I read the Bible today, I had no arguments with people today, I completed my daily work on time and I even managed to share the gospel with one person.
But then there are quite a few other days where we don’t do any of them and then suddenly, we realize that we cannot keep up with the performance. We keep missing the mark. We keep falling and failing. And we keep looking up at the “headmaster” wondering how angry he is.
Has anyone ever been there? That’s why I think today’s sermon is going to be important because it’s going address our baggage that we’re carrying and also push us forward to gospel obedience.
Our main text passage is from John 14:15:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
If you notice it doesn’t say – if you go to church, you will keep my commandments. Or if you read your Bible, you will keep my commandments.
What does it say? If you “LOVE” me, you will keep my commandments. Love for Jesus is the motivation for obedience!
We express our LOVE for Jesus by keeping His commands. So the real question is do we truly love Jesus? That’s the real question.
Let’s begin changing the way we ask ourselves questions about our obedience. Obedience is not about Do’s and Don’ts but it’s about loving Jesus. Do we love Him? What does it mean to love Jesus? How can I love Jesus?
1. Loving obedience is always a response to God’s love
19 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
Our love for God is always a response to His love for us! When we obey God, it’s not to do Him a favor neither is it a way of us to receive favor from Him. Gospel obedience is the result of a deeply thankful heart for what Christ has done for us!
Tim Keller mentions there are two types of obedience:
Religious: I obey, therefore I am loved and accepted by God
Days when I read my Bible and I try to live a good, spiritual life and I’m active in the church and that’s why I think God loves and accepts me. Days when I’m not able to live a good, spiritual life – those days I’m fearful and insecure. My spiritual performance determines God’s relationship with me.
Gospel: I am loved and accepted by God in Jesus, therefore I obey
God has loved me infinitely through His Son Jesus and He accepts me wholly as His child. His love and acceptance doesn’t change based on my spiritual performance but on His Son’s perfect life.
Because God’s love and mercy is sooo great….because the worth of His sacrifice is immeasurable – I want to joyfully serve Him in obedience.
A few years back when I was in full time ministry, I remember getting really discouraged after doing 9 months of ministry. 3 times a week I would go to different business parks around Mumbai trying to share the gospel with different people.
And even though some people would initially show positive response but after 9 months no one believed and I found no seekers as well. Plus I would go for all these conferences where people would come and say that they planted many churches in year and I would think “it’ll be good if at least 1 or 2 people believed in my case”.
And I remember feeling very insecure because I wasn’t sure if God was pleased with my ministry. Maybe I was doing something wrong. And I was talking to this one pastor friend of mine who said this “There’s nothing more you can do for God to love you more, and there’s nothing less you can do for God to love you any less.
He loves & accepts you fully and completely in Christ Jesus”. And a weight of pressure and condemnation just left me. In fact that day…a new freeing joy entered my heart to share the gospel! Not because I wanted to gain acceptance from God but because I’m already accepted in Christ.
This is different from antinomianism which means “God loves and accepts me for who I am so it allows me to do whatever I want to do”. No, that’s heresy.
God’s love and His acceptance in Christ – humbles me and makes me want to joyfully, willingly obey Him. I hope you understand this very key point on obedience.
We obey from love not for love! We obey from acceptance not for acceptance!
Not only is Loving obedience a response to God’s love but
2. Loving obedience is always whole-hearted
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37)
It’s not partial obedience like 50% or 80% or not even 90% but loving obedience toward God is 100%. It’s all or nothing. I’m sure some of us might be thinking “I’ve heard this verse numerous times but what does loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength actually mean?” I think it could mean two things:
- Delight in God:
Have you ever thought of delighting and enjoying God? For some of us it sounds like a strange thing because we think of God as the “rule book keeper” and we never think about God as someone we would be enthralled and delighted in! I remember when I was in my teens how me and one of my friends from school would end up watching full 5-day test matches.
Sometimes when these matches would be played in New Zealand and Australia, I would also wake up early in the morning to watch it. And this was during regular school days! Quite crazy but at that time I enjoyed watching cricket! It didn’t seem burdensome or tiring to me.
And now when I think about this – it was for something of very little value (sports and entertainment)…how much more should I delight in the One who Created me and Redeemed me from my sin? He wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him.
As we grow in our understanding of what Jesus has done for us, as the beauty and radiance of Jesus becomes brighter to us, as we see God answering our prayers, as we see God use us to minister to our brothers and sisters, and as we see ourselves looking more and more like Jesus everyday – God’s desire is for that to thrill our hearts and our minds.
God’s desire is for us to be in awe – and realize that we are in a relationship with an amazing God! God doesn’t desire begrudging obedience – that doesn’t bring Him any glory…what He desires is delightful obedience.
- Not Delayed
Have you ever thought of Delayed obedience as disobedience? I realized this some years back as I was having a conversation with my brother in Christ. At that point I was 8 years into the faith but still not baptized. This brother asked me what my thought was about baptism?
And I explained how I believed in believer’s baptism but wasn’t sure if the time was right. Maybe I would want to do it sometime in the future. That’s when he told me this – “Delayed obedience is disobedience” and it just made sense and convicted my heart immediately. Similarly, I want to challenge you which ever area God is calling you to right now in obedience, what would it mean for you to obey right now?
What would it mean for you to not delay? To not give this excuse or that reason but actually obey God. In some cases I know it might be painful or hard, but would you obey God no matter how difficult the cost?
Not only is loving obedience a response to God’s love & wholehearted but :
3. Loving obedience is always self-sacrificial
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:2)
For me this was a little strange verse initially because I kept thinking what’s the relationship between loving the children of God and my obedience? The two things seem separate and contrasting.
How is my obedience or disobedience related to loving someone else? Well, that’s the biggest myth we need to put out. Our personal obedience is not just between us and God. Our obedience/disobedience is always affecting other people- our families, our church and the people we interact with on a daily basis.
Let’s say for example I’m harboring unforgiveness against someone else. I know I need to repent & reconcile but I’m disobedient, what happens? I’ll keep a distance from the church. I’ll try to be isolated. But am I truly being loving?
No, I’m actually withholding the church members from receiving my gifts, my encouragement, my comfort and service that God has given me. So my disobedience is actually not just grieving the heart of God, and affecting the other person but also the whole church. This is just one example.
Similarly, what the area in your life where God is calling you to obey Him self-sacrificially? You know that your disobedience is not just affecting your relationship with God but also the other people that are doing life with you.
In the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit – with that one act of disobedience idolatry, adultery, immorality, murder, theft, lies and every other kind of sin and wickedness flowed into their hearts.
And with that the guilt and shame associated with disobedience. And we all were born with that very same nature of disobedience. But when Jesus Christ the Son of God came to the earth, unlike us he did not have that nature and lived a perfect life of obedience.
And through His death and resurrection – he paid for our lifetime of disobedience once for all and not just that but reversed and began the restoration process for us who believe so that one day when He returns we will be like Him perfectly obedient to God – not out of our will or efforts but totally by the grace of God. So let that encourage our hearts today – if we have repented of our sins & truly trusted in the finished work of Jesus, then where we are today is not where we will be when He returns.
He will fully and completely finish the work of reversal and restoration that He began at the cross. Let that be our hope. Amen!