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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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Christian obedience?

Following Christ begins with Christ

Often we think of godly obedience as a product of self effort. 

Submission to the Lord typically doesn’t look or feel the way we would expect. We expect the natural energy and joy to read our Bible, sing hymns and repent. However, God doesn’t promise the motivation to do those things. 

When Michelle Richards — an impactful figure in my life — heard the term “Christian obedience,” the words “difficult” and “faithful” came to mind.

Growing up, she had never heard pastors discuss difficulties. She was taught that obeying God meant no earthly consequences and that Christian struggles were due to a lack of obedience.

Richards said the teachings and rules that Christians are expected to abide by can make them feel as though God is withholding good, which can make us question God’s goodness. 

We may wonder: Why does God ask us to walk the narrow path and become more Christ-like if his love is a free gift? Doesn’t he want us to be happy?

Unlike God, we cannot see the “big picture.” 

“If you will trust him, he will prove himself faithful,” Richards said. 

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Edward Meadors, professor of biblical studies, explained that the New Testament teaches to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Meadors saw those teachings as a way to communicate love for God. He believed that we display our love for God by obeying his will — being holy as he is holy. 

Julie Borkin, assistant professor of communication, described being raised in a time when doing the right thing was the priority. Everything looked right on the outside, but she knew her heart wasn’t where it was supposed to be. God sanctified her in time, and soon obedience overflowed from her new heart. 

“It isn’t just about our own heart, our own feelings, but that the Spirit is continually taking over new parts of our being,” Borkin said. “Isn’t that whole transformed by the renewing of our mind that even when we start out with bad motives, or bad intentions, and we’re acting in obedience, that the Lord can redeem it, and he shines light — when, all the time it’s his work?”

We give ourselves too much credibility on whether our hearts or actions are in the right place. Without the Holy Spirit, Christians cannot submit to Christ. This changes how Christians should perceive obedience to Christ. Christians aren’t supposed to depend upon themselves  to glorify the Lord — we can’t. 

Michael Cook, senior pastor of Oakland Heights Baptist Church, believes that Christians can’t live according to his will without him, and that’s the key reason God provides us with his law. He said that God desires humanity to rely upon him – that he should be our sole provider. 

“Obedience always starts biblically with the ‘being’ and not the ‘doing,’” Cook said. “I think the concept of obedience would always start with who we are in Christ and with Christ.”

Obedience consists of us asking God to sanctify our hearts through our actions. In turn, the Holy Spirit motivates us to pursue him. It’s not by our own strength that we are obedient, but by the grace of God – with or without feeling.