The Joy of Obedience

There was once a man who had two pets. One was a rat, the other a parakeet. The man set very few rules for his pets. He asked only that they come when they were called, eat what they were fed and try to get along.

The rat obeyed her master's wishes. She came when she was called. She did not bite and she gratefully accepted all that she was given, always pausing to give her master a glance of thanks before returning to her cage with her food.

The parakeet was quite a different story. He refused to get along with the rat, and instead would get up in her face and yell at her. He did not come when he was called, but was always running away from his master. He did not eat the food that he was given, but threw his food at the master while yelling at him to bring seeds instead.

The rat became her master's best friend. He kept her right next to his office chair where he would often play with her and shower her with gifts. The rat lived happily, even when she was very old. She and her master had a relationship that was joyous and bright.

The parakeet wasted away because he refused to eat. One evening, after a particularly energetic round of yelling, the bird collapsed from exhaustion. A few minutes later, he lay on the bottom of his cage, unmoving, his feet cold and blue. He was dead from starvation.

This is a true story.

Obedience. It's something we in western society don't like to think about. Especially for those of us in the United States, the word "obedience" is one which grates on the nerves. It makes us think of slavery or totalitarianism. We tend not to realize that submitting ourselves to another can be a good thing. Our pride, our ego quickly gets in the way. I don't know how many times I've heard the phrase "I've got my pride!" My response is always "Well, that's the first thing that needs to go."

All too often, I see friendships, pertnerships and marriages dissolve because both individuals want to be number one. In my own life, I had a marriage cancelled two weeks before the wedding because she was not permitted total dominance in our relationship. Not that I ever actively tried to be the dominant one. I tried to be accomodating while pursuing my own interests, but it wasn't enough. Her desire to be number one destroyed what could have been a lovely and rewarding marriage.

Jesus himself lays down an excellent example of healthy submission. Even though he is the most unique being in all of the universe, even though he made the ultimate sacrifice and is the savior of all who will accept him, even though he is Jehovah's equal in every way, he has never considered ultimate authority a thing to be grasped. Rather, he has always submitted himself to the will of his father. Imagine if He did not. We'd have two competing Gods. Who needs that? Instead, Jesus not only benefits from submission by having a wonderful relationship with the Father, but provides a stable, nurturing environment for us, His children.

How many of you have watched "Alien Nation"?

While I don't endorse referring to God the Father in the feminine, as He has asked us to use the masculine and thus it would be an act of tremendous disrespect, I often wonder if he might not reveal himself to a matriarchal species in the manner of "Selene" and "Endarko", the married gods of the tenctonee. After all, the relationship between Yahweh and Jesus forms a perfect picture of the ideal marriage relationship. Jesus' obedience to the Father and the Father's exaltation of Jesus is a mirror of how a wife should obey her husband, and the husband, in turn must honor his wife. Likewise, the church is the bride of Christ. As we obey Him, He will in turn reward us with honor and blessing, and draw us nearer to himself. If we do not obey Him, but elevate ourselves as ultimate judges, we alienate ourselves and grieve the Holy Spirit. Sadly, this is happening more and more in churches today, as they abandon God's commands to follow what seems right to them.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. and in 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

We've learned that obedience generates harmony. Here we see that obedience brings good judgement. The wise man knows that he is not wide enough to match brains with God. If he wants to achieve ghreater heights of wisdom, he will submit himself to the Lord. Only the fool believes that he is a wiser judge of what is right than The Lord.

Take for example, Saul. Saul did what was right in his own eyes. Thinking the Christians to be blasphemers and heretics, he actively hunted us down. All the while, he thought he was doing God a favor. After Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus and Saul submitted to the Lord, he looked back on what he had done with great regret. Even after he had become the greatest missionary the world has ever known, Paul still counted himself the chiefest of sinners.

So obedience brings joy, harmony, honor, wisdom and freedom from regret.

Now far from the most important, but perhaps the most exciting result of obedience is power. God has entrusted every one of us who submit to him with spiritual gifts. Some are very dramatic. There are those who say that miracles no longer happen today, but they most certainly do. Those who obey God are able to perform healings, raise the dead, stop wildfires dead in their tracks, and much, much more. I myself have performed exorcisms and my grandfather...
My grandfather was involved in what can only be called a magical duel. A rather one-sided one. A witchdoctor, angered that this white man was encroaching on his livelihood, threatened to curse my grandfather. Grandpas said "Go ahead. My God is stronger than your magic." The witchdoctor cast spell after spell at him. Finally, he was forced to give up and admit that our God was indeed stronger. This man, if I remember correctly, gave his life to Christ as the result of that battle.
Of course, it was not my father's power that rendered him immune to the witchdoctor's spells. It was God's power. In every case it is God's power flowing through us. Only by remaining aligned with His will can these things happen. Of course, God's gifts are not limited to the spectacular. Sometimes, simply being a good host or being generous can have a profound impact. These are gifts from God, too, and should be considered no different from exorcism or healing. Any one of you, simply by being obedient to God's command to share the gospel could lead someone to Christ who turns out to be the Billy Graham of Furrydom.

But the most important thing is this. Our very first act of submission, even before we can truly call ourselves Christians, is to humble ourselves before the Lord and admit that we need a savior. To confess that we understand we are sinful, and that we are completely unable to save our souls under our own power any more that we could fly to the moon by flapping our arms. To agree that only Jesus can provide our means for salvation, and to turn our lives over to Him, declaring him as Lord. This is the act of submission and obedience which leads to eternal life.

My challenge to you today, if you have not accepted Christ as your savior, is to lay aside your stuborn pride and enter into this wondrous, life-giving relationship. If you have, my challenge is to examine yourself, and see if there is any area of your life you have not surrendered to the Lord. If there is anything by which you may benefit from greater obedience, I challenge you to prove what I've said here today and enjoy the bliss that comes from a right relationship with God.

Pastor Oren Otter
September 3, 2005