Obedience under grace

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The New Testament is full of commands and ways to obey God. We are called to “the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5). The great commission is to make disciples and to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

It is so important to get the central truths of grace straight in our minds to be able to look at these commands properly, because we are so tuned in to “religion” instead of the grace of God. It is so easy for obedience to God to become a heavy burden again, like it was under the law. We are just half a click away from religion and legalism much of the time – the freedom and voluntariness of life under grace takes quite a bit of getting used to.

Jesus’ commands to obedience are actually wonderful commands, not awful ones. He is saying to us, “My dear children, your lives will work if you do as I say – read and understand and do as I say”. His commands are “life” (John 6:63) and are entirely for our good.

Obedience is often preached in a morbid, depressing kind of way in the church. This should be a major clue that something is very wrong, because obedience is associated with joy so much in the New Testament:

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).

Hebrews 1:9 says about Jesus, “God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” The reason why God anointed Jesus with the oil of joy was because he “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” – he loved to do what pleased God and obey him.

So obedience isn’t struggling under a heavy burden, trying to follow some oppressive command. It is being who we were created to be – like Jesus, loving good and hating what is evil, and entering into God’s joy. And the wonderful thing is, God never leaves us alone to somehow try and obey him – his grace is always there, empowering and strengthening us to do what he asks.

For reflection:

When God gives a command, it is also a promise to you. You can look at all of the commands in the New Testament and say, “That’s where I am heading – I’m going to live up to that one day!”

God’s grace teaches us to live in a way that pleases God – not by threats of condemnation if we fail, but by calling us up to a higher place and saying, “You can do it!”

“The grace of God ... teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12)

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