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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - The Priority of Obedience

Charles Stanley - The Priority of Obedience

Charles Stanley - The Priority of Obedience
TOPICS: Priorities, Obedience

I was only in the first grade, but I still remember that big, long key that unlocked and locked the door of my home where my mother and I lived. And it was one of those long black keys. And I would take that key after I left in the morning and locked the door and hid it under a rock and nobody, but my mother and I knew where that key was. And I remember sometimes coming home in the afternoon and wondering if the key was there. I can still remember a little bit of how I felt when I moved the rock and there it was. And what made that key so important it was the key to my house. It was the key to where my mother and I lived together; where my needs were met and where all of our belongings which were extremely minute. They were all there in that one house.

That's where I felt my mother's love and her care for me. It was a very important key. And more than likely you have keys to your house, to your car, to your boat, to your desk, to your drawer, to your safety deposit box, you've got all kinds of keys. But haven't we all talked about having the key to somebody's heart? And what we mean by that is simply this: When you have the key to somebody's heart you know how to get on the inside. You know how to move them towards you. You can sort of get a little bit of a feeling of what they feel. It says something about what you know about that person and about how you relate to them.

And when I think about having the key to somebody's heart, let me ask you a question: If you could hold the key to anybody's heart, whose heart would you want the key to? Well, more than likely you could think of one, two, three or several people but probably somebody came to your mind first. Maybe it's somebody you love, somebody you greatly admire. It could be that somebody you wish loved you. If you just had the key to their heart. Well, I want to begin a series entitled "The Key to the Heart of God". Because there is a key to the heart of God.

You may say, "Well, anybody knows what that key is, it's love". No, it's not love. Well, then it would have to be faith. No, it's not faith. Well, it must be service. No, it's not service. Well then, it's possibly more than likely it's humility. No, it's not humility. Maybe perseverance. No, it's not perseverance. The key to the heart of God is obedience. Most people don't know that. Most people don't even like the idea that obedience is the key to the heart of God. Yes, it is. And in this first message in the series, I want to talk about "The Priority of Obedience". And what I'd like to do is to take you through the scriptures to demonstrate, to show you why I do believe this is the key to the heart of God.

And as you follow through the scriptures with me, what I want you to do is to listen carefully and to look at these scriptures and then relate them to your own heart. Because sometimes it's difficult to be obedient, sometimes it's painful to be obedient. But obedience is always the safest. It's always the right thing to do with no exception. So, I want us to look at one scripture. I'm not gonna talk about this scripture, but it's sorta the anchor scripture we'll come back to numbers of times. And I want you to look if you will in the fourteenth chapter of John. Fourteenth chapter of John, the twenty-third verse. And then we're gonna go to the Old Testament.

And I want to take you through to show you why obedience is the priority in the eyes of God for your life and mine. He says in the fourteenth chapter of John, and these are just wonderful chapters, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. And Jesus said in verse twenty-three, "He answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him". He's speaking of obedience. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word or obey My word. Now, when we say that obedience is the key to the heart of God. I want you to go all the way back to chapter one of Genesis. And I want us to see what God is saying in this particular passage, because in the very beginning of God's relationship with man, He was in the process of teaching him the most overriding, most important principle of all and that is to be obedient to God.

Because you see, the truth is if you're not obedient to Him, what difference does faith make? What difference does humility and all the rest? If there's no obedience, because you see to obey God is to honor God. We express our love to Him by obeying Him. We honor Him by obeying. We express our reverence to Him by obeying Him. We express faith, love, there's so much that we express by obedience. And if obedience is missing, then something very important is missing. So, I want us to go to this first chapter of Genesis and I want you to notice here that God gave in the garden of Eden two commands to Adam and Eve. Beginning in verse twenty-eight, listen to what He says, "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth".

Commandment number one. That is, be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth. Wonderful command. Commandment number two begins in the second chapter. Beginning in verse fifteen, listen to what He says, "Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die". Those two commands, what I want you to see is this. In the garden of Eden with the first family, between them and God, the most overriding principle here is simply this. God wanted, desired, commanded, anticipated obedience.

Listen, first of all be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Here they were in God's perfect paradise. Then He said, "The other command is this. There is a tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you are not," listen, He said, "You are not to eat. For in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die". There is nothing confusing about either one of these commands. They're very clear, very certain, very understandable. And then what happens of course, they disobey God. And remember that disobedience is rebellion against God. Disobedience says that I choose not to honor God as my creator. It means that I absolutely refuse to acknowledge that He has the right and the authority to tell me how to live my life. And so here's what we find.

In the third chapter, they've eaten of the tree and here's what happens. Verse eight: "They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden of the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?'" Not because God didn't know. He wanted Adam to realize. "He said, 'I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.' And He said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?'"

They disobeyed God and what was the penalty? The penalty was very clear. The Bible says as a result of their disobedience, if you look in the third chapter, the twenty-third verse says: "Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out". That is, they lost paradise. Now you say, "Well, that's what affected them". But I want you to turn to Romans chapter five for a moment. Because one of the things I want us to see several times, many times in these passages is this. Often times we think our little act of disobedience here is only going to affect us. Or, this little act of disobedience is not going to be all that bad. If Adam and Eve had only known that it was going to cost them paradise, I do not believe they would have chosen to sin against God. But listen if you will in the fifth chapter of Romans because more got lost than paradise for Adam and Eve.

Notice if you will. Now when he says "one" here, he's speaking of Adam and "one" he's speaking of Christ. Verse seventeen: "For if by the transgression or the sin of one," that is Adam, "death reigned through the one," through Adam, "much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ". That is because Adam was the head of the whole human race. When he sinned, that sinful nature has been transferred to every single one of us so that all of us are sinners and all of us have suffered the penalty of their disobedience. Verse eighteen: "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men; even so through one act of righteousness or obedience there resulted justification or salvation of life to all men. Those who will receive".

So, what I want you to notice is this. With God in the garden of Eden, obedience was the issue. It was the most paramount thing. He had given them paradise. He had given them every single thing. They had the privilege of subduing and controlling and being fruitful and multiplying in an awesome paradise for which we cannot even begin to explain or to describe. And he says the other command is, "Do not eat of the fruit of that tree because the day that you do you will surely die". They rebelled against God. They may have tried to explain. And if you'll notice and you'll see this over and over again back to this third chapter. You'll see this over and over again in the examples that we're gonna talk about here because here's what He said. When God confronted Adam, He said, verse eleven. "'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' The man said, 'The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me the tree, and I ate.'"

Now you laugh at Adam. How many times have you said, "But God, now I know it's wrong but here's what he did". Here's what she did. And what do we do? We want to blame our disobedience on someone else. You and I are responsible for our disobedience to God. Now I want to say right up front, so you'll understand. When we talk about obedience, I'm not saying that you should go through the Bible and right down all the commandments that of the Ten Commandments, all the things Jesus said in His life, all the things that Paul said, and list all these hundreds of things and say, You mean to tell me that in order for me to be obedient I've got to live up to all of that. That is not the issue, that is not the question. The issue is this. What is the next thing God's telling you to do? You don't have to make a list. Jesus was not legalistic. He didn't make a long set of rules and, that's what the Pharisees and Sadducees did.

So, we're not talking about that. We're talking about your relationship to Him, your being obedient to Him step-by-step, day-by-day as He tells you to do something, that's exactly what He means. It cost them paradise. It's cost all of us sin. It's cost all of us hurt and pain and suffering in our life and an entire human race. He said, "Through one the transgression of that sin passed upon all". What did they do? They listened to God. They heard it very clearly. They understood it fully and they chose to rebel against God. That's what disobedience is all about.

Now, I want you to turn to the sixth chapter of Genesis for a moment. Because what is happening in the sixth chapter of Genesis is that God is preparing to destroy the earth, because of the wickedness. He says, in fact, "The earth was corrupt in the sight of God and the earth was filled with violence," so, "God looked on the earth, behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth". And so, God finds a man in the man, Noah. Look if you will in the sixth chapter now, beginning in verse eight: "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; and Noah walked with God. Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence".

And so, in the midst of all this, God finds one man who's willing to walk with Him. Now, you say, Well, walking with Him, is that, how, well what degree of obedience does that mean? So, I want you to watch this. Look in verse twenty-two. When God told him how to build the ark and what to do, here's what he said. Verse twenty-two: "Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did". If you look in chapter seven, verse five: "Noah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him". Chapter seven, verse nine: "There went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah". Verse sixteen: "Those that entered, male and female of all the flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him".

Now here's what I want you to see. Will it always be popular for you to obey God? No. Will people criticize you? Yes. Will they think some things that you do are ridiculous? Yes. Will they laugh at you sometimes? Yes. Talk behind your back? Yes. I want you to think about something. Here's a man who chose to walk with God in the midst of a society that was corrupt and so evil and so wicked, God chose to destroy every living human being on the face of this earth besides one family. Can you imagine what they must have said to him when they said Noah, what's all this lumber? What's all this lumber about? Building a boat, building an ark. What's an ark? You wouldn't understand. No water around. Can you imagine as this went on, how large this thing was? What they must have thought. What they must have said to him, to his wife, to his sons, to his children. How absolutely ridiculous.

First of all, what are you gonna do with it? Secondly, what's it gonna do? Float where, where, on what? Can't float on land. And you know what? Here's the key to obedience. You listening? Say amen. Here's the key. When God has told you to do something, you do not focus on the things or the persons who would distract you from doing exactly what God told you to do. Distract us, listen, distract us cause our attention to waver from what God has called us to do. If he had begun to listen to those who criticized him, ridiculed him, he would not have built the ark and he would have been swept away with all the rest of the earth. He absolutely chose to be obedient to God.

You see, what God has placed in His Word is not here by accident. When He repeats something, whether it's something someone did or something that He wants us to do, there's always a purpose, because He's trying to get our attention. So what does He say? Noah did according to all. Noah did according to all. He did exactly what God had commanded him to do. And what happened? He saved his life and the life of his family. When God tells you and me to do something. Suppose he had said, "Well, I know these are the dimensions but after all we can shorten this thing down". We can take a shortcut. Here's what we'll do. Here's how, here's how large we're gonna build it. And I know it says that we're to cover it with pitch, but you know, I don't know that that's all that necessary and so let's leave that off. The thing would have sunk. It probably would have never gotten off the ground.

Obedience means, listen, doing what God tells you to do, when He tells you to do it, how He tells you to do it, as much of it as He tells you to do it, as long as is necessary to do it. That's what obedience is. And you see most people have the idea that if I at least just head in the right direction, that's really all that matters. In other words, I'm obeying God, after all. That's not obedience. Obedience is doing what He says, when He says, how He says, as long as He says, until what He says is accomplished, is finished. That's not what we think about in this society in which we live. We too have a corrupt society. And we too have rationalized obedience to the point we're missing the best of God's blessings.

People wonder why, why doesn't God answer my prayer? Why doesn't God hear when I cry out to Him? Why are things so bad in my life? Why is it I try and try and try and try and things don't work out? More than likely, if you've trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and that's happening, somewhere you are not dealing and have not dealt with something or you are living in disobedience or you are disobeying God in some area of your life. Or it could be that God said to you a long time ago, or some time ago, Here's what I want you to do. And you didn't do what He said do. You did part of it. And so you decided, "Well, I did it, I did exactly what God said do". You only did part of it. Well, here's what I did. That's not what God said. The question is, the issue is this: Can you say I did all that God commanded me to do in this situation?

Now I'm saying again don't think about trying to list all the things that God ever said for us to do and not to do. That's not the issue. The issue is this. It's, it's about your life today. It's about what did He tell you to do? Have you done what He's told you already? We're not talking about a long list, we're talking about a single thing. What is God, what is God working on your heart about? You read the scripture, He keeps bringing something up. It's sorta like the windshield wiper, flip, flop, flip, flop. Every time you get into prayer and every time you come to the Word of God; every time you come to a message, God just keeps bringing this thing up and you say, Well, I'm gonna handle that one of these days, one of these days, days, days. Weeks go by, months go by, years go by. You're living in the same mess that you've been in for the simple reason you have chosen to do it your way.

Listen, disobedience is rebellion against God, irreverence toward God. It is a statement of your heart, that you have chosen to do it your way. You refuse to acknowledge God's authority, His right and His power in your life. So, here's what I wanna, just give you a little warning. Somewhere along the way in your life you're going to get tested in the area of your obedience. You say, "Well, man I get tested every..." No, I'm talking about, I'm talking about the acid test. I'm talking about the test that's going to determine if you have a heart after God or if you do not. I'm talking about a test where you will know because the requirements will be so strong. It may be painful, very, very painful for you to surrender this or to surrender that. But at some point, if God is gonna use you at all, if you're gonna become the person God wants you to be, you're gonna have that acid test.

And what I want to say to you is simply this. You don't know how obedient you are until the acid test comes. There may be many tests in your life. There probably will be. Some of them will appear to you to be insignificant but they're not. Test after test, they're not insignificant tests. God knows how we're gonna respond. But more than likely there's gonna come a fork in the road. And what you do in this acid test of your life is going to determine the kind of person you ultimately become. And what God will be able or not be able to do in you and through you.

I can remember two very acid tests in my life. One of them was something I fought with the Lord about for many months, and on the morning that that decision had to be made, I was in the hotel room, and I walked to the door, and I can still see that doorknob. I reached for the doorknob because I had decided I was not gonna do it. I had rationalized it. I'd gone away and prayed and fasted and argued with God and rationalized it and so I'd figured I wasn't gonna do it. Somebody else could do it. I reached for the doorknob, and I am certain I heard God say, Don't put your hand on that doorknob until you're willing to do what I tell you. I dropped at the foot of the bed and weeping and knowing in my heart that I was afraid. I was afraid to obey God. I didn't think I knew how. And I thought somebody else could do it much better than myself.

Had I reached for the doorknob, ignored the voice of God, and went on and said no, I'm not gonna do that, I would not be standing here. A second acid test in my life was very painful, very difficult. It took me a while to come to realize I had to make a decision. I couldn't put it off any longer. I couldn't rationalize it. I couldn't argue with God any longer. And God says here's what you must do. Wasn't easy. What I want you to see is this. Obedience is always right but not always easy. And I had to let go. I didn't want to let go. Very, very, very painful. But I knew what God had said and I knew that I was at the fork of the road in a very important place in my life. And I only had one of two choices. There was no argument, no rationalization. It was very, very clear.

And I just want to say again, I would not be standing here if I had not obeyed God that second time. More than likely there's gonna come an acid test in your life. And what I want to say to you is this. Please do not listen to other people's opinions. Please do not listen to other people's suggestions. You've heard from God, He's told you what to do or He's told you what not to do. You must not do what God tells you not to do. You can rationalize, you can argue with God. I've been through all of that.

And I want to tell you, listen, it's just as rebellious no matter how convincing you may think you are. You may think that you have enough arguments that even God will listen, it's still rebellion in the eyes of God. There'll come an acid test. And that acid test is gonna determine your future happiness, your joy, your prosperity, what God does with you, how He uses you, or what you become in your life. And you know, I look back in my own life and I see decision after decision, but there are few very acid tests. And I can tell you I know for certain, if I had disobeyed Him there, or here, or here, I would not be standing here.

God does not take "no" for an answer without releasing the penalty and the consequences of disobedience. And many of you are living a very unhappy life. You have no peace and no joy. God has already brought to your mind one of those tests back there and you have to admit today you failed Him. You thought about it, but you said, "Well, but maybe it'll work out". Let me tell you something. Disobedience never works out. Only obedience works out. That's the way, listen, that's the way God has made things. You cannot change God's law. The command of God was very clear. God demanded perfect obedience. That is, that doesn't mean you and I are to be perfect. But if He says, "I want you to put two and two and two over here where ten is..."

You put two and two and two over here where ten is, not where nine is. Obedience is obedience. Exact obedience to whatever, whatever God tells you to do. Very clear through the scripture. Secondly, what's clear is every time there's disobedience there are painful consequences. Sometimes those painful consequences are to the individual, sometimes they spread out over other people. Obedience is absolutely necessary.

You say, "Well, now you're coming on awfully strong on me". You know why? I'm gonna tell you why. Number one, because I care. Because I love you who make up the fellowship of this church and I love you whom I will never see till the other side. But you know what? I care. I care enough to make it hard when it needs to be hard, strong when it needs to be strong, quiet and peaceful and loving when it needs to be that way. You know why? Because I do care. Because I've been through enough hurt and pain in my own life. I've made enough mistakes of my own to know that God is a gracious, loving, wonderful, kind, indescribable, awesome God.

And because I know that obedience is the only way you will ever be happy. The only way you'll ever become the person God wants you to be. The only way you'll ever be able to achieve the things in life that God has so wonderfully prepared for you. I think about your children and your grandchildren, teaching them to obey God is the most awesome lesson you can teach them. Share with them your heart, your mistakes, your failures.

And listen, don't tell 'em, "Well, I disobeyed God, but everything was okay". No, it's not. When you disobey God, it's things are never okay. God may straighten it out. He will forgive you, but disobeying God is never okay, never right, never safe, never good, never wise, but always the wrong thing to do. And I want to encourage you, if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your first act of obedience should be:

Father, forgive me of my sins. I've sinned against You. I've been living in rebellion. And I'm asking You to forgive me of my sins. Not because I'm so good, God, but because I do believe that when Your Son, Jesus, went to the cross He paid my sin-debt in full. I accept His death as payment for my sin and I receive You as my personal Savior.

The moment you do that the Holy Spirit comes into your heart and you know what He comes in to do? To enable you to walk obediently before God, in His strength and in His power. And that is my prayer for you, my petition to God in your behalf, so you can become the persons God wants you to be, do the work God wants you to do, bear the fruit that God wants you to bear in order to receive the blessings that God has prepared for you.

And Father, how grateful we are. You look upon our weakness and our frailties. You see often times our struggles. And then in Your grace and love and Your awesome power, You enable us to walk obediently before You. I pray the Holy Spirit will sink this message so deep in the heart of every single person who hears it, cannot escape it. Always before them is the word "obey". Obey, obey, obey. Reap the marvelous fruits of obedience. For we ask it in Christ's name, amen.

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