A man owned one dog. He loved that dog with all his heart, and the dog loved him back. The dog did everything he was told, including fetching his paper and his slippers, watching over his children and keeping off of the furniture. It was so wonderful, he decided to get another. The new dog was not obedient. He was a purebred and considered serving others beneath him. He did not do anything that was asked of him. He regularly jumped up on the furniture. He chewed the master's shoes. He relieved himself wherever he felt like relieving himself, inside or out. When it came to the children, he largely ignored them, until one day he spied a bit of food in a child's hand that he wanted. He attacked the child. The first dog leapt in and protected the child. When the master learned what had happened, the disobedient dog was put down, but the obedient dog was rewarded for his heroism.
What do you think of when I say the word "Obedience"? This word seems almost like an obscenity to the world. When you say "obedience", they get images of slaves getting their backs flayed for not working fast enough, or of a wife so meek that she puts up with a horrific array of mental abuses from her husband. For the world, obedience means a lack of freedom. It's debasement. It is the degradation of oneself. That's how Lucifer saw it before the world began and that is how the godless will continue to see it until the end of time. This self-agrandizing view has been the cause of all of the world's strife from the curse of Eden to Ragnarok. I think we can safely assume, therefore, that there is a better way to think of obedience.
Obedience is a means of harmony. It is a means of working with others rather than against. It helps us find our place in life. It does NOT involve being a doormat. Being a slave and taking heaps of abuse is not the kind of obedience i am talking about. Now that may be what you'll have to do some days. Jesus did. But Jesus was not debasing Himself to those who were abusing Him. His obedience was to His Father, Yaweh, who richly rewarded Him.
Obedience to God has natural benefits. Anything He tells us to do will result in our own good. Even the simple things, such as burying one's refuse, has enormous health benefits. It inhibits disease and keeps parasites away. It also makes the city smell better. Kindness to one's neighbors results in popularity and reciprocated kindness most of the time. Gentleness turns away wrath. Forgiveness stops feuds before they are born. But as if that were not enough, God tacks on additional rewards. When we obey His will, He commends us, praises us and stores rewards for us in Heaven. Sometimes, He even rewards us on Earth. God likes to give us nice things, as long as they do not interfere with our moral character. Our abiding in His will gives Him opportunity to do that. Most importantly, obedience fosters an excellent relationship with God. As we learned in our study of First John (For those of you not yet participating, I recommend it!) Anyone who obeys God with his whole heart is His child. Anyone who does not obey God does not know Him, and has no communion with Him.
1 John 3:24 And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.
But whereas obedience carries benefits, disobedience has consequences. There are the natural consequences, of course. For example, God did not explain why He forbade incest. We now know that the rule is not arbitrary. Incest results in things like retardation and arms growing where ears should be. Not a pretty picture. It also makes God angry. Disobedience carries divine punishment. It may be something as simple as withdrawing His protection and letting you face the consequences of your own stupidity. It may also involve active retribution. It may involve being swallowed alive by the Earth like Nadab and Abihu or even being struck dead in an instant like Ananias and Saphira. If you call yourself a Christian, it is likely to be much worse, because God wants less to get you out of the way than to teach you a lesson. David, for example, was punished not with his own death for his sin, but the death of his son, and later a horrific plague upon his kingdom. This was what it took for God to set him straight and bring him back to a state of humility and obedience. And of course, it is impossible to have a decent relationship with God if we are not obedient.
Pride is a terrible thing. I'm not talking about pride in your accomplishments or
he ability to hold your head up. I'm talking about the pride that makes one unable to submit to authority or act with humility. This type of pride is a deadly sin, because it refuses to acknowledge the legitimate need of worship. I once heard someone say that they refuse to acknowledge God as Lord because she still had her pride. My response was "Well then your pride is the first thing that needs to go!"
Down in South America, there is a common belief that one can accept salvation and choose to obey God later. I wonder how anyone can possibly think that. To accept God's salvation is to become His child. How can one be a person's child if there is no love? As Jesus said, if we love Him, we'll keep His commandments. John makes it ver clear in his first epistle that salvation and obedience are not separable.
1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Is it possible to be saved and not obey God? Technically, yes. I won't lie to you. It is. In the same way, it is possible to live and never move. It's like having a job and never going to work. You may have a nametag, but don't expect to collect a paycheck. Jesus died to save us. That death was meant to be the atonement which reconciles us to God. Failure to obey puts a wall between us and God. If we're not even trying to obey, how can there be reconciliation? The person who accepts Christ as savior but not Lord may go to Heaven, but he'll be pretty much naked, having no rewards and no deeds that survive the test of fire. His place in Heaven with be one marked by the humiliation of a life wasted. Salvation and obedience go paw in paw.
Let us each make sure that we are not like this person. If you have the salvation of Christ, do your best to make sure that you express that salvation by being God's willing servant in all that you do. If you don't have it, that's the first thing you need. If anyone here or reading this sermon in the archives has not accepted Christ as savior, I invite you to come speak to me or one of the other elders. Let us introduce you to Christ.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.