Obedience Matters

November 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:

I Samuel 12:14

God in His holy disposition was not disposed to give His people an earthly king. God was their true King, but they wanted a human king very badly, because the other nations had human kings. God allowed them to have their wish, although He knew that having a human king would cause many problems and much heartache and suffering, because a human king would be a sinful king.

He had his prophet Samuel appoint a man named Saul to be the first human king of Israel. I Samuel 12 is Samuel’s farewell address to the people, after he had anointed Saul as their king. What Samuel knew – and what you and I must know and believe ourselves – is that what really matters to God is not so much the strength of our earthly leaders, but our own obedience to God’s will as revealed in His Word.

Here are four brief thoughts on the matter of obedience, under the acrostic O.B.E.Y.

O.wnership

Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:6-7

But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:10

We do not like to think of ourselves as property, and especially not someone else’s property. If, like me, you are an American, you probably believe that our leaders are supposed to serve us, not rule over us. We think we are free and independent. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution even say that we are. But we are not. We are the subjects of a sovereign and mighty King, Whose rule is everlasting. We belong to Him. He owns us, lock, stock, and barrel from the moment of our conception, and He will do with us as He pleases. And we have nothing about us that is threatening or mysterious to Him.

If we believe this – truly believe – then obedience is not an optional thing. It is a logical and rational and inescapable fact of life. To disobey our Owner and King is foolish treason without any hope of working out well for us, and it subjects us to His anger and wrath and punishment or chastisement. Only such attributes as His grace, mercy, and love make even the beginning of a way to exist in His universe, and to therein know any joy whatsoever.

O.bey
B.iblical revelation

God – our Owner and King – has not left it up to us to try to figure out on our own what we must do – or refrain from doing – in order to obey Him. He has revealed His will to us in a written Word.

But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

Romans 16:26

It is our responsibility as God’s image-bearing creatures to know what He wants us to do – and HOW He wants us to do it. This knowledge does not come to us in dreams or visions, or by feelings or hunches. We do not get it by convening a council and reaching a consensus, or through trial-and-error experimentation. We get it by studying His holy Word – studying it to show ourselves approved – workers that won’t be ashamed when we stand before Him, saying, “But I didn’t know that was wrong,” or, “I didn’t know that’s what You wanted me to be doing with my life.” As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, “If you stand before God one day embarrassed by what you’ve done, then you will be standing there embarrassed on purpose,” because He has made it abundantly plain and clear in His book!

O.wnership
B.iblical revelation
E.arnestness

By earnestness I mean that our obedience to God must not be outward obedience only. It must come from the heart – from a true desire to please Him and an inward conviction that His commands and prohibitions for us are RIGHT.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

In order to obey God truly from the heart, our hearts must be cleaned and renewed. They must be “sprinkled” (splashed with the blood of Christ) and washed with the water of the Word. This is work of the Holy Spirit. We can fake obedience to certain extent, and fool other people, but God Himself is never fooled. To obey is better than outward shows of sacrifice, meaning that the inward faith of a desire to truly please God is better than external rituals. Earnestness is not really something we can achieve on our own, but it is the natural product of a true love for Christ and what He has done for us. However, and this is of tremendous importance, such earnestness WILL manifest itself in outward and visible acts of obedience.

O.wnership
B.iblical revelation
E.arnestness
Y.ield

The Holy Spirit wants you to obey God. He wants you to understand and obey His Word. He wants you to learn it and to live it. The office of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. If we will yield to the Spirit, we will honor Christ by our obedience.

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:15

Obedience is not only the way to show our love for Jesus; it is the best evidence of our love for Jesus. It is not only the will of God that we obey; it is the way that we demonstrate that His will is perfect.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

“Present” yourself to God. Yield to Him and His Spirit. This is your reasonable “service:” the way you serve your King and Owner. This will “prove” or “demonstrate” that His will is perfect.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

At the very end of his farewell speech, Samuel said this:

Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

I Samuel 12:24-25

There is no question that obedience is not only the right thing to do, but the objectively best thing for us. Much disobedience in this world escapes the notice and the justice of the earthly authorities, but none of it escapes God’s notice or His justice. His justice WILL be satisfied – either on you, or in Christ.

Going Belly-Up

December 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Romans | 2 Comments
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In his letter to the Romans the Holy Spirit had the Apostle Paul save his greetings for his friends and his notes of thanks for the end of the letter.

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.

Romans 16:7-9

Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

Romans 16:13

Note how the Apostle Paul not only knew his fellow-laborers by name, but he also knew their various accomplishments and things about them personally. It probably makes you feel important when your fellow-ministers at church remember your name, but it’s even better to be remembered for how you’re serving.

I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

Romans 16:22

Imagine the excitement of Tertius! There he was, taking dictation from the Apostle Paul who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and all of a sudden he gets the chance to put his own little salutation in there! These words became part of the Living Word – to last and be known for all eternity! You and I will never be inspired to add to the Bible, but let me encourage you to listen closely in church. The Lord was speaking to the Apostle Paul, and Tertius was listening and diligently taking it all down, and suddenly the Holy Ghost was speaking directly to him.

These servants of God listed at the end of Chapter 16 have their names preserved for all time in God’s Word, along with the honor of having their character and integrity mentioned. By the same token there are others who were not worthy to have their names preserved in the Scriptures. Although they were also known for their character, they were known for having a bad character.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Romans 16:17-18 (emphasis added)

Some Bible versions say “watch out” instead of “mark,” but the idea of “watching out” is too general because we are talking about people who have shown their character. Once they have established what they are about, we are to place a mental label, or “mark,” on them. They cause divisions and offenses contrary to the Apostolic doctrine, but the verse does not say to confront them every chance you get. It does not say to go around telling everyone every bad thing you can about them. It does not say to formulate a plot and plan to get rid of them. No, it says to avoid them. They are such that serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own “belly.” “Belly” is sometimes translated as “appetite,” but the fact is, we can’t always see someone’s “appetite.” Everyone can see a big ol’ belly sticking out. “Appetite” is too neutral. You could have an appetite for good things. But those who “serve their own belly” are guilty of more than just mistaken desire. They have a greedy desire to cause trouble: divisions and offenses. The bigger their bellies get, the greater their hunger is. They see a local church assembly as an all-you-can-eat buffet. They will fill up their bellies with strife, contention, and trouble until someone stops putting more food in front of them.

That’s one reason why it is so important to get acquainted intimately with the people you are ministering alongside at church.

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.

Titus 1:12 (emphasis added)

We have to be on the lookout for those who want to push a false doctrine through division and strife. The Bible says they will use good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of those who don’t know better, but by their bellies you will know them.

Is it Wrong To Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 2)

July 26, 2010 at 9:09 am | Posted in Bible Studies, II Corinthians | 6 Comments
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In a backlash against what is perceived as the “manipulative altar call,” I have heard it said that, “The old preachers used to instruct their listeners to go home and get right with God.”

Maybe so. But before the old preachers did that, the even older preachers demanded an overt response by commanding men to repent and be converted.

In Luke 13 Jesus responds to the questions of the Theodicians by telling them to repent, or else they will perish. Maybe He told them to go home first, before they got right with God, but the Bible doesn’t say that. In fact, later in the same Chapter He says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.

If people are being told that a formulaic prayer is the thing that saves them, then I would say that formulaic praying that makes the prayer itself the object of faith is unbiblical. However, demanding an overt response from the hearers of the Word of God (even lost hearers) is clearly Biblical.

Stating that leading lost sinners in prayer, or calling hearers to an altar for prayer or counseling, somehow means that God is too weak to save during these events is unbiblical. Folks who were regenerated by God as they said a “sinner’s prayer” are God’s Own children, redeemed by Him, predestinated from the foundation of the world unto salvation, elect, secure, and irrevocably bound for Heaven.

Try to catch the Biblical view of God’s sovereignty and power.

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

II Corinthians 8:3-5

God is powerful enough to make men speak of “their” power and them being “willing of themselves” while it is still “by the will of God.” If you can acknowledge that men respond, then you are just a short step away from admitting that God wants men to call other men to respond actively and overtly.

Men are totally depraved and without hope, apart from Christ. Regenerated saints are called to preach the Gospel to these depraved sinners. When God opens the eyes of lost sinners, and shows them their sinful condition, the regenerated believers are to try, in the power of God’s Spirit, to bring these lost folks to Jesus. That’s what Andrew did. We don’t know if he ever preached a sermon or taught a lesson, but we know he brought people to Jesus. Why did the people go with Andrew when he said, “Come with me to meet Jesus?” Why did they “respond?” Because God ordained it and because God made them want to come. You can call it “monergism” or “synergism” or whatever – I don’t care – neither of those words are in my Bible. Andrew bringing people to Jesus, the Apostles demanding a response, people responding, and God saying it is all of Him – those are all in my Bible.

According to the Bible God saves people in His Own power, and He is the One Who keeps them saved, and His Own power empowers them for service. The same principle is at work both in God calling lost sinners to repentance and in God calling His saints to service. I chose II Corinthians 8:3-5 because of the close proximity between God’s will and men “giving of themselves” to the Lord in the same passage of Scripture. I could give plenty of examples of this in the Bible. I believe these Verses are talking about true Christians, not lost unregenerate people, but it’s the same principle, the same God, the same power. I hear people say, “Lost people can’t give themselves to God,” and it’s true – unless God calls them to do it (and He does.) But by the same token, saved people can’t give themselves (or anything else) to God without God’s power, either. God’s will is for people to respond. God calls whom He will to respond. He calls us to call people to respond. And some of them do respond. You can’t get more overt than that. These folks in II Corinthians 8 weren’t just raising their hand or praying a prayer – they were giving money! (Or at least material possessions.)

“How do we get a dead sinner to respond actively and overtly to the Gospel?” is the wrong question. We don’t “get” them to. We command them to – we tell them to – we even “beseech” (Bible word) them to.

We are commanded by God to deliver the Good News with reverence and passion, and the people who hear it from us, spiritually dead though they may be, are responsible for responding.

We are to demand that lost sinners repent, believe the Gospel, and be converted “right there on the spot.” If they walk away, we are to keep praying. (I would argue it’s okay if we even chase after them – certainly Paul covered the same ground more than once in his missionary journeys.) But if God has quickened them, and they say, “I want to know more about this repentance, this belief, this conversion” then we can either say, “Sorry, God will have to do a work in you, I’ve preached and now I’m packing up my box of ‘death to the sinner’s prayer’ and ‘death to the altar call’ quotes and leaving.” Or we can say, “Good, I would be glad to show you from God’s Word more about the salvation of God, and, by God’s Spirit, I will even (gasp!), help you in prayer to call upon the Lord to be merciful and to regenerate you.” One time, the Apostles demanded a response to the Gospel “right there on the spot” and about 3000 souls were saved in that same one day.

Concerning the 3000 who were saved in Acts 2:41, whose Word did they receive? Was it the Apostles’ or God’s?

It was both.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Romans 2:16

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Romans 16:25

Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

II Timothy 2:8

God is amazing enough to cause men to be stewards of His Word, and to even inspire men to call it their own.

Were the folks in Acts 2:41 saved because the Apostles demanded them to do so?

Yes, it was “because” the Apostles demanded a response, and it was because God ordained it. Not only that, He proclaimed it in the Old Testament, and He decreed it from the foundation of the world. Every one of us has a very finite view of cause and effect because we’re not God. God has an infinite view of cause and effect. This is the Truth as God explains it in the Bible, not the way it is popularly explained in the words of men when they rail against “sinner’s prayers” and “altar calls” and “decisionism.”

God has commissioned His church to preach the Gospel and press hard for a response. Death to canned prayers? Amen! Death to sinners praying that God would be merciful to them? Not amen. The Bible condones sinners praying that God would be merciful to them. Death to calling for an overt response to the preaching of the Gospel? Not amen. Jesus and the Apostles called for an overt response to the preaching of the Gospel.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Matthew 11:12

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

They responded and they acted. If God approves of sinners “pressing,” He surely approves of them praying as they press.


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