Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?
Last fall, I had to make a decision.
Being the first year after my Mom’s fatal car accident made 2013 one of the toughest years of my life, as you could imagine.
When grieving loss such as the death of a loved one, or even a lost career, a divorce, a cross-country move, chronic or terminal illness or any kind of major loss or change, the regular pains of life intensify.
Last year my family and I saw the regular up-and-down’s of life taken to extremes. In the midst of all the raw emotion, I fell into a type of depression. And that is when I was bombarded by the questions and decisions.
As anyone experiencing similar grief, I had a lot of questions about life.
I felt like Job who wanted to “take God to trial.”
But from all the questions, one monster protruded out from the rest: “Why am I doing all this Christian stuff?”
And then all the little monster questions followed right behind: “Why am I hanging onto all these convictions? Why do I follow and obey God? Who’s going to care? Why don’t I just go do my own thing?”
Let me ask you: Why do you do what you do? Teenager, why don’t you have sex whenever you want? Why do you hold on to your convictions? Why do you work hard to obey God?
After all, you are saved because of God’s grace through faith — not because of what you do.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about modesty: why does modesty matter? Why don’t we lust and flirt? Why should we bother to live peaceably with each other and strive for reconciliation? Why don’t we murder? Why don’t we lie? Why do we follow the Bible? If none of this adds or subtracts to our salvation, then why bother?
These are scary questions to ask because they open the door for possible wrong conclusions. In reaction to this, we often end up making dogmatic statements in an effort to keep ourselves or others from walking through the wrong door.
But unfortunately this also shuts the door to finding any sort of deeper meaning in what we do. More often than not this causes us to die spiritually from meaninglessness.
We lose what is good, right, true and beautiful by either becoming stagnant legalists or completely throwing it all out in our drive to find meaning.
Humans, at the core, passionately desire meaning, and, although there are some why’s that will never be completely answered, we must keep searching. God loves and blesses hearts that seek after Him (Psalm 14:2).
Often “obeying God” or “good works” is talked about in the context of salvation.
Actually, salvation is the engine which pulls the “train-cars” of good works. We are saved to do good works and to live “blameless lives” (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10).
In order for God to accomplish His purpose of good works in our lives, we must first be redeemed and walking with Him.
Nobody deserves salvation — it is a free gift God has extended to man. Salvation stands alone in that it is neither created nor maintained by good works.
Yet neither is salvation a moment in time.
In fact, it is not complete until the Day of Judgment (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 5:9). But this is a conversation for another day. Suffice it to say that salvation results not from any works we do, but as a result of receiving God’s gracious gift, Jesus Christ and everything He did for us.
So, again, why do we live blameless lives filled with good works? Because obeying God and doing right glorifies God and is worship to Him, is warfare against Satan, and is helpful in drawing us closer to the Father.
Our primary purpose in life is to glorify God in everything we do (Revelation 4:11; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our lives ought to be projected toward Christ and anything we do should be born out of that pursuit of God.
In other words, our primary purpose is “to make God look good,” not because He is insecure in His goodness, needing us to sit up straight and behave; but because we are His representatives on earth.
We do not take cues from men, but from Jesus Christ, who is our King.
The kingdom of heaven is not a place; it is wherever Jesus Christ reigns supreme.
Therefore, having become citizens of God’s Kingdom, we take orders from Him.
It is an immobile sequence: citizenship first, followed by obedience. Would it make any sense to become a citizen of a country but completely disregard what the King tells you to do? If you think of salvation as citizenship, then think of doing good works or “living blamelessly” as the duty of all good citizens.
We were given citizenship in God’s kingdom so that we would glorify God.
Not because we glorify God, but so that we would glorify God.
This is why James says that faith without works is dead (useless in fulfilling its primary purpose) (James 2:17).
Salvation leads to works which leads to God being accurately represented on earth (a.k.a. building the Kingdom of Heaven). Therefore, simply moving into a community, a career, or a culture and “living right” (accurately representing God; obeying His commands, first loving Him and others) is glorifying to God.
Directly tied into our life-purpose of glorifying God should be a lifestyle of worship.
The two are inseparable and foundational for a healthy Christian walk. But first we must be aware as believers of our position before God.
When a person is saved, God breathes into his spirit divine Life.
In other words, God reaches into Himself and pulls out His own anointed life (Christ) and puts it inside the new believer.
The “old man” is crucified on the cross with Jesus and that Anointed Life (Christ) takes up residence inside of us; our identity changes from sinner to saint (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20).
We stand boldly before the Father as His children whom He has cleansed, accepted, and loved. We are in Christ and Christ is in us.
Take a moment to imagine Heaven with me.
In the center of Heaven is God’s throne from which radiates thunder and lightning, and all kinds of power.
A roaring crowd of millions of people, watched by millions of angels, surround the throne where twenty-four elders toss down their crowns and worship God.
Being God’s beloved children we can approach the holy throne and as we do, we see that the path is stained by Someone’s blood.
All of heaven watches with pleasure as we make our way to the throne where the Father waits with Jesus, our older brother, who stands at His right hand (Hebrews 2:11).
We fall down at Jesus’ feet weeping and telling Him we love Him, asking Him for strength.
Fellow Christian, it is crucial that we realize that the image I just painted is more real than the fact that you are reading this article right now.
Our spirits are hid with Christ and are currently before God’s throne, worshiping at His feet.
Anything we do in life is (or ought to be) a reflection of that reality, we do not have to strive for this position because after salvation, it is reality; we just have to live like it.
Reality is truth: God is not asking us to understand just yet, He is simply asking us to agree with what is already true. Doing what is right, obeying God’s commands is agreeing with God that what He says is true and He deserves to be our highest priority.
It is agreeing with the reality (truth) of who we really are: His precious sons and daughters standing before His throne receiving His grace, love, and commands.
Who we agree with, God or Satan, is really who we worship. Which reminds us that “living right” is actually an act of warfare against Satan.
From the beginning, Satan has been striving to steal our worship. Or one could say he has always been trying to get mankind to agree with him, rather than with God.
That is exactly what he did with Adam and Eve: he told them lies and, despite knowing the truth, they chose to agree with Satan and ignore God.
Sin, at its core, is agreement with Satan.
I believe that when we sin, God is more grieved by the fact that we are agreeing with Satan than by the actual act, because He knows that Satan wants to destroy our lives.
By agreeing with Satan (sinning) we are agreeing with a liar and a thief who will not hold up his end of the agreement but will take everything we give him! (Therefore God’s anger at our sin is actually born out of love for us.)
Let’s make this practical.
My family moved to Los Angeles in 2008 where violence and immorality plague the city.
How can we expect to have any authority over spirits of violence if in our hearts we hate or refuse to forgive any man? Do you think Satan is going to take us seriously when we command the spirit of violence to leave, if we agree with it by hating our fellow man? (Or what if we are agreeing with the spirit of violence by the video games we play?)
The more we actively and intentionally love and forgive everyone around us — even our enemies — and are cleansed of hatred and bitterness (violence), the more authority we have over the spirit of violence.
What about immorality? All over the world women and children are being trafficked for sex.
How can we expect to fight sex trafficking or any sexual perversion (spirit of immorality) if we are actively agreeing with it by the way we lust after each other, or are slaves to pornography? How can we expect to have authority and victory over immorality if we are agreeing with its spirit by the way we dress or flirt?
By doing any of this, we make God look like a fool, and all the devils just laugh.
If we want to be effective in glorifying God and redeeming culture we must be asking ourselves “Where does God draw the line?” and we must get in agreement with Him.
This is hard to live out on a daily basis because everyone has their own interpretations of where they think God draws the line.
Nevertheless, we must approach life with such an attitude and with humility.
On every issue, we must endeavor to discern if there is a line and where it is, otherwise we will fail miserably in our fight against Satan and in building God’s Kingdom. Not in a legalistic or controlling manner, but in humility, earnestly wanting to “know what the Boss thinks.”
I’ve tried to model this in my post about Christians and music.
We do not fight Satan or build God’s kingdom through human warfare, but through spiritual warfare — through prayer, worship, and obedience to God (Ephesians 6:12). These “weapons” are incredibly powerful because they take us out of the picture and allow God to move freely through our lives.
Let’s take up the breastplate of righteous living and move into the battle Christ is calling us to fight.
Not only is living “blameless lives” glorifying and worshipful to God, and warfare against Satan; it also deepens our love for God and His righteousness thereby drawing us closer to Him.
It is true that “what is fed the most grows the most.”
When we choose to agree with God by obeying His commands, we “feed” our souls “food” which will strengthen us and draw us closer to the Father’s heart.
The more we sin, the more we want to sin; likewise, the more we pursue God and His righteousness, the more we love God and become righteous (Romans 6:19).
There is unexplainable power in obedience! God is more delighted when we choose to obey Him than when we make sacrifices for Him.
Not that He dislikes sacrifices, but our sacrifices do not mean much if we are living in disobedience to Him (1 Samuel 15:22).
But this is not a call to legalism — it is a call to genuine faith and surrender.
Righteous living and good works “drudged up” on our own are only filthy rags.
But holiness and good works will follow genuine faith and surrender because as Christians we have Christ living directly inside of us.
When we are completely surrendered to God, He can freely flow out of us with us hardly even knowing it. It is not a freedom we can evoke on our own—it comes only from spending time with Jesus in solitude and in fellowship with believers on our faces before God.
We will do good works and we can live righteous lives, but it won’t be from ourselves (Gal. 2:20).
True, heartfelt, revival can happen in the Western church — not a revival of politics, of wealth or health, or of prosperity — but a revival which touches lives in meaningful ways.
A revival saturated with truth, filled with love, leading to repentance of sin and freedom from oppression (physical and spiritual).
A revival like this can happen — but first we must examine ourselves and get in agreement with God.
The Lord is looking for a generation which is unconditionally surrendered to Him — willing to obey and follow Him wherever He needs them to go. Because when we surrender to God without conditions, and obey Him without questions, His spirit will be unleashed without measure in such fashion only seen a few times since the New Testament church.
Now my question is “Am I willing to be that generation?”
Am I willing to obey God no matter how I look or what people say?
Am I willing to surrender my life to God and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?
Or am I more afraid of my youth group? Am I more concerned about getting “God” to agree with culture than I am about getting culture to agree with God?
Will we live radical lives for Christ Jesus—not for the sake of being radical, but for Christ’s sake? Or is that not possible?
Is it too hard?
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