Obedience Is Better!

Psalm 119:1-2, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies.”

Psalm 112:1, “Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.”

Psalm 128:1, “How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.”

James 1:25, “But one who looks intently  at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Those who live obediently to Scripture will be blessed. Those who follow the Lord’s commands will receive the reward. Obedience to God is pleasing to Him. To “greatly delight in His commandments” and to “walk in His ways” is to lay up treasures in heaven that we will one day have the great joy and privilege to lay at His feet.

These are all truths that readers of God’s Word know to be true. Notice that I said know and not believe. There is truly a difference. Recently, as the Lord has continually been faithful to reveal sin in my life and I have been seeking to overcome the sins of which I am convicted by His Spirit, I have simultaneously begun to learn that, in many ways, the difference between defeat and victory over sin is the practical belief that obedience truly is better than indulging in fleshly lusts and desires.

For the believer, obedience is a choice to be made. Unbelievers do not have this choice; they are still enslaved to their sinful flesh because they have not trusted Christ to forgive their debt and free them from the power of sin and death. For those who have been saved by grace, however, obedience becomes their inward desire and they are empowered by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them to do “good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Nevertheless, my life and the lives of believers – our actions, words, thoughts, and decisions – are all still heavily influenced by our sinful nature. In fact, sin crouches at the door, it is at our every turn. The temptations of our flesh and of the world constantly seek to entice. Consequently, obedience to the Christ’s law is something that must be diligently and purposefully chosen. It is a battle to be fought! Yet, the soldiers must be convinced that the victory is worth winning, and they must be willing and courageous to exhaust themselves in its pursuit…

What a blessing that our Heavenly Father did not leave us without a motivation to live obediently to Him! Rather, His Word is saturated with promises! For instance, those who work as unto the Lord “will receive the reward of the inheritance” (Colossians 3:23-24). Those who are not anxious but trust in the Lord will receive the peace that surpasses all comprehension (Philippians 4:7). And those who humble themselves in the sight of the Lord will be exalted (James 4:10). Why then, is it so difficult to obey these and all other commands when we know we can be confident of the blessings that follow the obedience?

Consider that in the midst of temptation, sin is appears to be beautiful. The desires of our flesh are intense, and sin is the gratification of those desires. The act of disobedience to God’s commands suddenly seems fun, satisfying, and fulfilling. And it might be so, albeit only for a moment. And for an instant, when the choice is before us, we forget that “when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15). The sinful core of our being is urging us to satiate its hunger, and we ignore the fact that the appetite of the flesh is ravenous and never full. Nevertheless, in the face of all these things, there still remains the fact that the flesh is not master over the believer. There is still the choice to turn away, to flee from the temptation, to reject that succulent sinful morsel our flesh so longs for, and to live obediently.

Every believer has power through the Spirit to choose obedience. And we have been given the precious promises of the hope that obedience brings. We are completely without excuse. Yet, we are so weak, so shortsighted, so proud, that we continually return to those “former lusts which were yours in your ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14), forfeiting the title of “obedient children”! In essence, what we are missing is a true belief that obedience is better. We will never make the choice to obey until we are utterly convinced that obedience is the best choice. Thus, we must examine ourselves and inquire of ourselves, do we truly believe these promises that are inscribed in the Word of God?

This kind of believing takes a measure of faith. Interestingly, as I have been contemplating this concept of believing faith, I have realized that I often think of faith as the general thing that Christians do, that is, we “grow in the faith”. But now I am beginning to understand that faith is the practical living out of a belief. It is the personal conviction of something that cannot be perceived through the senses. It is to be solemnly assured that a divine promise will be fulfilled, that a sovereign prediction will come to pass. Oh how I have cried out to the Lord to increase my faith! I have questioned myself repeatedly, saying, “Do I really have faith that God’s Word is true and that He will do that which He has promised He will do? Am I confident that the rewards of faithfulness are real and imminent? Do I truly grasp and believe that the eternal ramifications of obedience far outweigh in value and in joy the passing pleasures of sin?”

1 John 5:4, “…For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

It is faith and a real belief in the truth of God’s Word that will convince us to turn away from the sinful patterns that often rule our thinking and habitual living. It is faith that God is who He says He is – that He is faithful, true, being incapable of telling a lie, and thus bound by His own character to fulfill the promises that He has made. It is a confidence in eternal rewards that we will not receive this side of heaven, but will inherit upon seeing Jesus Christ face to face. We must set out sights on the eternal promises and benefits of obedience rather than settling with the fleeting, tasteless, insufficient satisfaction of sin. Believers must be consumed with the desire to live in accordance with the commands of Scripture because they both know and believe that this pleases God, that they will receive the eternal blessings of this obedience, that treasures in heaven are being stored up for them so that they may one day cast them down before the throne in holy worship of the Savior who has pardoned their sin and given them life. What better hope do we have in our pursuit of obedience and holiness than to know that this glorifies our God and Sovereign Lord, and that one day we will be able to serve Him and worship Him and obey Him with perfect devotion and unadulterated joy?

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