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Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. - Deuteronomy 11:1 (ESV)
I’ve never really understood folks who say, “I can’t cook.” I don’t get it. There are TV shows about the world’s worst cooks. Us dads like to talk about bumbling around in the kitchen while, in the end, ordering from Dominos. But I’ve never understood that. Because I’m no chef. I don’t know about flavor palettes or knife techniques. I hear cooking show hosts talk about balancing savory with sweet and spiciness with tanginess and I have no idea what they mean. But I can cook. I can cook because I can follow a recipe.
A while back I made some French toast that blew my family’s mind. “How did you do this? Where did you learn such a skill? Have you been given a special gift from God Almighty to blend eggs, bread, cinnamon, and vanilla?!” Nope. I Googled, “really good french toast,” and did exactly what the directions told me to do.
Sometimes I think we see godliness as some special skill or talent. Some of us think there’s a secret magic to living life with God. And there are some nuances that make each of us different. Our relationship with God is, by no means, a formula. But obedience is a great place to start. If my recipe calls for a teaspoon of vanilla extract and I add a whole cup, that’s certainly an easy way to go from yummy to yucky. If you’d categorize your relationship with God as yucky, I think opening up His Word and trying to follow instructions is a great starting point to turning things around.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” - Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESV)
My dad is 6’3” and plays a mean game of basketball. I’m 5’7” and make a mean piece of French toast. We’re different. He’s proud of me and encourages me in all of my life’s choices. But, from early on in life, it was clear that I was never going to be a baller like my dad. Yes, he tried to make that happen but it didn’t work. When I was a kid, he always wanted me to play basketball. He encouraged me to sign up for leagues and go to week-long camps to practice and play. I remember once he told me I couldn’t come inside until I made 100 free throws. He knew that practice makes perfect. But I knew I hated basketball. So his passion for the game created a disdain for it in me. I chose to not like it because my dad loved it.
It’s a worthy examination to look at our relationships with our parents when we think about obedience. Our parents are our first authority figures in our lives. And none of our parents were perfect, by the way. So some of us developed a distaste for obedience. There’s a streak in us that sees authority as a bad thing. When we don’t respect or cherish authority, any rule set in play by our parents, our boss, our government, or any powers over us feels like it is against us instead of for us.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. - Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
Some of my most unholy thoughts and words have been about authority figures in my life. There was that algebra teacher whose methods I disagreed with. Or my boss at the movie rental place who I thought got paid too much. Or there was that cop who pulled me over for a busted headlight and hassled me about not having any shoes or a shirt on while driving. “Excuse me, Mr. Officer, but I’m headed to the drive-thru at Taco Bell. Why would someone need a shirt or shoes for one such excursion?” Until a few years back when God finally broke me of my arrogance and anger, anyone who expressed power over me seemed to bring out the worst in me. I had a submission problem. And in a season of brokenness, God revealed to me that my submission problem wasn’t just with flesh and blood authorities. I was carrying that same anger and disrespect into my relationship with Him.
Obedience doesn’t happen without submission. And submission can seem like a bad word in our culture. But our attitude in all of our relationships is often a mirror to our attitude toward God. Some of us need to work on submission, in general, as we work through obedience to God.
Pray for your authority figures today. Pray for your boss or your spouse. Pray for mom and dad. Pray for those people in your life that you’ve been challenged to submit to. And don’t just make a prayer about yourself like, “God give me the patience to pray for this nitwit.” Pray for them to succeed in what they do. Pray for their relationships and families. Pray that their relationship with you grows stronger.Share Tweet
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. - James 1:25 (ESV)
I’ve always loved a good oxymoron. It’s defined as “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.” In school, they used to use “the little giant” and “jumbo shrimp” as the go-to examples. They’d show us oxymoronic sentences like, “I will not tolerate intolerance,” or “You must make haste slowly.” It’s a stellar literary tool to make a point or show the irony of the subject at hand.
And we get a great oxymoron about obedience here in the book of James. “Law that gives freedom,” shouldn’t be overlooked. Too many of us think of freedom as, “I do what I want when I want.” We think freedom comes when no one can tell us what to do. Freedom is an absence of law, right? Well, not Christ’s perfect law in God’s Kingdom!
And this verse calls us out on another aspect of walking with Jesus. It says, “not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it.” Don’t just be content with studying the Word and knowing what to do. Actually, do what you’re hearing from God. Knowing the rules to Monopoly doesn’t help if you don’t actually follow the rules.
Ask yourself two questions today. First, ask, “Do I feel free?” Most of the time when I feel imprisoned, it’s because I’m not steeping myself in the truth of God’s perfect law. I sometimes forget to believe in the freedom He’s offering me. Second, ask yourself, “Am I practicing what I hear preached?” A lot of our walk with God is about what’s happening in our hearts. Obedience is what happens when our feet hit the floor every morning. Ask God to reveal to you if your beliefs and your actions contradict one another in any way.Share Tweet
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. - Romans 5:19 (ESV)
Today, I want us to end this week with one word: Gratitude. Obedience is difficult. Yes, I believe it is simple: Walk with God and He’ll show you what to do. That’s simple but it ain’t easy!
Walk with God and He might ask you to break up with your boyfriend.
Walk with God and He might ask you to give away some of your money.
Walk with God and He might ask you to put down your phone.
Walk with God and He might ask you to stop spending so much time at work.
Walk with God and He might ask you to speak a difficult truth to a friend.
Walk with God and He might ask you to confess a difficult truth about yourself.
Walk with God and He might ask you to stop watching your favorite TV show.
Walk with God and He might ask you to stay home and not go to that party.
Obedience might be tough. We all struggle with putting our faith into practice. But do you know who did obey? Jesus. Jesus obeyed. And because of His obedience, we’re no longer completely defined by our disobedience. He knows that we’ll mess up and He still paid the price so we could be forgiven. Yes, we’ll miss the mark on obedience sometimes. Yes, the more obedient we are, the more freedom we might feel. But even when we mess up, He doesn’t take our freedom away. He loves us and He paid the price for us. So we should be grateful.