Saturday, March 3, 2012

Is Obedience Optional?

Many Christians today use the “grace card” as an excuse why they don’t need to concern themselves with obedience to God’s commandments.  In other words, they feel that since we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works, our works are not important.  But this could not be farther from the truth.

God places great importance on obedience in the life of the disciple.  This is what Jesus taught.

Condition for Eternal Life
The apostle Paul said that Jesus Christ is the source of salvation to all those who obey Him.  "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation." (Heb 5:8-9). That's not my opinion, it's God's Word.

The apostle John said, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1Jo 2:17).  If you do the will of God, you’ll live forever.  If not, you will pass away with the world and its lusts.

Jesus also said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death." (Joh 8:51) This is a conditional sentence containing the word “if.”  It is only “if” you keep His word that you will never see death.  Surely we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.  But once you are saved, the Lord expects you to keep His word. If you want to meet the conditions for eternal life, you must keep Jesus’ Word!

As John the Baptist said, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (Joh 3:36).  The wrath of God abides on the one who does not obey the Son, and he will not see life.

Loving Means Obeying
Jesus also said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Joh 14:15).  Many people say they love Jesus or they believe in Jesus. But they don’t do what He said.  They don’t keep His commandments.  They make excuses why they don’t need to give tithes and offerings or keep Sundays holy. They justify why it is ok for them to practice sexual immorality, occultism, or idolatry.  But their actions show the true condition of their heart.  A person can appear to be a true follower of Christ on the outside but God knows the heart. There are multitudes of churches on the Earth and many of the churches are filled with many people. However, most of them are not true Christians.

If you want to abide in Jesus' love, here is what you must do: you must keep His commandments!  He said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (Joh 15:10).  Jesus set the example for us and kept His Father’s commandments, so we need to imitate Him.

He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, not just a natural death.  Paul said, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phi 2:5,8).  The Father expects that kind of obedience from disciples of Christ.

Hear and Act on Jesus’ words
Not everyone who believes in Jesus is going to heaven.  Not everyone who calls Him, “Lord” is going to be saved. 

Listen to what Jesus taught.  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." (Mat 7:21-27)

Your salvation is based on grace through faith in Christ.  But it ultimately depends on whether or not you hear and act on Jesus’ words.  Those who hear His words and act on them will be saved.  When the storms come, they will not be shaken.  But those who hear His words and do not act on them will not be saved.  Jesus will call them “you who practice lawlessness,” and command them to depart from Him. They will be destroyed like the house built on sand. 

Don’t build your house on the sand!  All your prophesying, working miracles, and casting out demons in Jesus’ name will not save you.  Those are good to do, but if you are not acting on the words of Jesus, keeping His commandments, you will be blown away.

Jesus’ True Family Does God’s Will
If you are truly Jesus’ brother, sister, or mother, you will do the will of the Heavenly Father.  Jesus said, "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Mat 12:50).  It doesn’t matter if you have prayed to ask Jesus into your heart and you go to church every week.  God is watching to see whether or not you will do His will. If you fail on some point, repent sincerely and ask forgiveness.  God is gracious and will forgive you.  But don’t keep walking in the same sin or you will eventually wind up in hell. 

Feeding on Obedience
When Jesus had once spoken to the woman at the well, His disciples asked if he wanted something to eat. Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (Joh 4:34).  For Jesus it was nourishing to Him to do the will of God, and it is for every disciple of His who chooses to do God’s will. Man lives on every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth.

Sheep and Goats Judged on What They Did or Did Not Do
Jesus is coming back very soon.  At the final judgment, He will sit on His glorious throne.  Here is how He described it:

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:31-46)

Jesus taught that what we do to His brethren, we do to Him.  Remember that He taught us His brethren are those who do God’s will.  So whatever you do to them you do to Jesus.  Whenever you feed His brethren who are hungry, visit those who are sick or imprisoned, clothe those who are naked, or invite those who are strangers into your home, you are doing it to Jesus Himself.  Conversely, whenever you neglect to do so, you neglect to do it unto Jesus. 

The sheep and goats will be judged on what they did and didn’t do.  Both the sheep and the goats will call Him “Lord.”  But only those who do God’s will, who act on Jesus’ words will inherit eternal life.  Those who do not will go away to eternal punishment.

The Word Will Condemn Those Who Don’t Keep It
This is the part people don’t like to talk about.  It doesn’t fit with their idea of grace and freedom.  But these are the words of Jesus our Savior.  He said, "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (Joh 12:47-50)

Jesus clearly taught that the word He has spoken will condemn anyone who hears His sayings and does not keep them.

Putting it All Together
Jesus Christ is the source of salvation for all who obey Him. If He is truly your Lord, then that means He is your Master.  It means you do whatever He says.  If you love Him, you will keep His commandments.  If you don't keep His commandments, then you don't really love Him.

In that final judgment, you won’t be able to pull out the “grace card” from your hand and claim that you are saved by grace alone.  You need to take care now that you are doing the will of God, keeping His commandments, hearing and acting on Jesus’ words, and feeding on obedience to the Lord. 

When you see one of Jesus’ brethren hungry, feed them.  Clothe those who are naked.  Invite those who are strangers into your home. Visit the ones who are sick or in prison. Listen to Jesus’ words.  Study the Bible.  Know what God has commanded, and do what He says.  Then you will prove that your faith is genuine.  Then you will be one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters.  Then you will prove yourself to be one of His true sheep, and you will inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Christians, living under the New Covenant, are not under the Old Covenant law, but able to fulfill its intent through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who chose to ignore God's commandments and neglect the words of Jesus will die in their sin.  They will perish and go away to eternal punishment.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: This article is related to the following messages:
The Obedience of Faith
Doing What is Right
Righteous Deeds and White Robes 
The Law of Love in the New Testament
The Law Established Through Faith
The Law Fulfilled in Us
Faith Works!
Keeping Sundays Holy
Resting from Work
Is Tithing Required for Christians?
Salvation with Fear and Trembling
If -- A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

I invite you to read my daughter's poem, Overflowing Blessings. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Photo credit: Image is from a post by Dr. Michelle T. Johnson, called Obedience is the Antidote, on her Alabaster Woman blog. "Wise and Foolish Builders" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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