Charles Stanley - Obedience in the Life of the Believer
The first lesson on obedience is found in the first book of the Bible. And it is found very early in the first book. And if you'll turn to this second chapter of Genesis here is the first lesson on obedience to be found in the Bible anywhere. And the scripture says this, second chapter beginning in verse fifteen, after God had created everything, "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it". This is, Adam's by himself now. "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.'"
What an awesome lesson. That's the first lesson on obedience. "In the day that you eat of the fruit of this tree you shall surely die". And God had created everything absolutely, perfectly beautiful and he said here's one lesson, first lesson you must learn: "In the day that you eat of it you should shall surely die". Which is his way of saying there are consequences for violating my rules in the midst of all this awesome beauty and endless blessing that I've provided for you. And the truth is in your family and mine, the first lesson we should teach our children is the lesson to obey.
And if you'll turn to Ephesians for a moment. And notice that Paul emphasized this in the sixth chapter of his epistles to the Ephesians beginning in verse one. He said, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord," that is, you'll do it from a godly viewpoint, "for this is right. Honor your father and your mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth". And then He begins to talk to the fathers and so forth, but look at that, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right".
So, in the family, the first lesson we see is that children are to obey their parents. We are to obey Almighty God who is the authority in our life. And when we do that the way we should, then we're gonna teach our children to obey us. Think about this for a moment. You may have grown up in this kinda of a family. Your family may have gone to church, and maybe taken you to church, but then your father or your mother may've lived like the devil. But they expected you to be obedient to them and for you to live a godly life. Which means you have awesome conflict in a child's mind. When a child knows right and wrong and sees the parents are the authority in their life, see them doing something opposite from what they taught, you set them up for a lifestyle, first of all, of confusion, frustration and ultimately disobedience.
So, I would ask you this question, would you consider yourself an obedient person? When you get up in the morning, do you ever think about the fact that before you start the day, "Lord, I want you to help me to be sensitive today to people I meet, things I face, and above all I wanna be obedient to you and know that's always the right thing". Why not start your day with the very thought that you want to be obedient to God today. It won't mean that you'll be perfect. It doesn't mean that you will always do the right thing. But when you are a godly person and you live a life of obedience, when you do something wrong or think something wrong, immediately the Spirit of God will convict you of it and you will decide right then and there if you are going to be obedient to God or not.
And if you are a spirit-filled Christian, that is one under the control and the obedience to the Holy Spirit, you're gonna confess it, ask God to forgive you of it, repent of it and move on. So, being a God called person or being a godly person doesn't mean that you're gonna be perfect. None of us are, never will be, but here's the difference: a godly person is going to immediately admit, confess what's happened, repent of it and if they need to go to someone else and deal with it and say, "I need to ask you to forgive me," they're going to do it. This idea that, "Oh I'll take care of it next time". There are probably many of you who are listening and watching who've told God that years ago, about somebody in your family who wronged you and really wronged you badly.
And you said, "I'll deal with that later". Yesterday went by and the next day and the next week, next month, next year, next generation almost, you still haven't dealt with it. And here's the first lesson in the Bible and the first lesson in the family and throughout the scripture. For example, a good verse would be First Samuel chapter twelve. Look there for a moment. And I want you to notice this fifteenth verse. First Samuel chapter twelve, verse fifteen. And the scriptures says, God saying to His people, "If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD God," watch this, "but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers".
Now what, what is the opposite of obedience? Rebellion. And that is exactly what God is saying. If we choose not to obey Him, what we are doing is rebelling against the ultimate authority in our life who is Almighty God. So, when you ask yourself the question: am I an obedient person? Nobody can answer that but you. But to put it this way, do you have the idea or the attitude of life that you want to live an obedient life? You can call it obedient or you can call it holy; a righteous life, a holy life. We all make mistakes and we all sin at times. You say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, look the wrong way, whatever it might be. The way you deal with that is confess it, ask God to forgive you and move on because He does. And He knows that we learn to live the Christian life. We don't come into the world knowing how to live a Christian life. So, let's just clarify what we mean by obedience.
Somebody says, "Well, now that's a big Bible and oh, well, what do you mean by obedience"? Listen carefully, you can't miss this. You listening? Say, "Amen". Obedience means doing what God says, how He says do it, and when He says do it. You can't eliminate any one of those. What He says, how He says, and when He says. Anything short of that is disobedience. And oftentimes we want to redefine the terms, but it's very clear when you go through the Bible from Adam all the way through the rest of scripture, it's very evident, God is our authority. If I disobey Him, I am disobeying my ultimate authority. When I obey Him, I'm obeying my authority, the source of the good things, and the source of the penalties when I disobey Him. God is an awesome God of love and He knows if we don't learn obedience what it's going to do to us. It's not going to do anything to Him. He has absolute control of everything.
And so, obedience is absolutely essential in this life. Certainly, it is to please God. So, if we disobey Him, we're rebelling against Him. Now, look if you will in the fourteenth chapter of John, and look if you will beginning in the fifteenth verse. He says, "If you love Me, you will," do what? "Keep My commandments". And then, if you'll move down to verse twenty-one, He's still talking, same night, same group. "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me". And then go down to the twenty-third verse. Now, He said all this in a few minutes, three times. If, verse twenty-three, "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 in him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me". Jesus wanted to make it very clear, "If you guys love Me, you'll do what I tell you to do. You will remember what I said and you'll keep My commandments".
Listen, that still stands. If you and I love Him, we'll keep His commandments. If I were to say, "How many of you love God"? Everybody's hand will probably go up. But if stopped and said, "Do you keep the commandments of God"? A lot of you wouldn't raise your hand because all of a sudden you stopped to think, "Well, wait a minute now. You know, I can look at the Ten Commandments and I do some of those, but some of them I don't do". And if you're dishonest or immoral or whatever it might be, or mistreat people; the Ten Commandments were not suggestions. They were evidence of how God thinks, and what He knows is best and right. And so, when He says, "Thou shalt not steal", that's what He means.
You say, "Well, I just took a little bit". No, that's not it. And so, when we see what God says, all of us would admit and confess and realize and acknowledge what God says is best. Right? Would you say, "Amen"? What God says is best. And if He calls a certain thing disobedience and sin, then it is, and therefore, we pay a penalty. Obedience is to be a way of life. We wake up in the morning. I don't have to wake up in the morning and say, "Today, I will be obedient to God". No. I wake up in the morning just simply thinking, "Lord, now guide me today. Help me to see what I need to see, do what I need to do, listen to what I need to listen to. Don't let me overlook anything dear God that pleases You, and Lord, if I'm tempted about some area, You just remind me that obedience is the key".
Obedience is not only the law of God, the will of God, listen, it's the best way to live, obediently to God. And there is no substitute for obedience. If God says, "Thou shalt not steal". What does He mean? Thou shalt not steal. And in this society in which we live we sort of want to manipulate things and say, "Ah, well, I know that's what the Bible says," and then, what's that next word? "But". You can't improve on God and if God says don't, don't do something, whatever it might be, it's because He's trying to protect us. When you tell your children, "You don't play with matches," what are you telling them? "I don't want you to burn the house down".
And you say, "Oh, well, you know one match isn't going to hurt, just, you can have one". That's exactly what people do about other things. One time won't hurt. Every alcoholic probably said, "One drink won't hurt". Everybody on some other drug, "Well, one won't hurt". Or one act of immorality won't hurt. You don't start with one. We obey God. Obedience is the best way, watch this, obedience is the best way to live, but sometime it's the hardest. But being difficult does what? It tests us. We find out who we really are in our relationship to God by our obedience to Him.
And so, when I look at these passages of scripture and realize that sometimes obedience is tough. And I've been through situations in my life just like you have, and sometimes it was tough to be obedient. But thank God that each time I would look and think, "What are the consequences"? There is no sin, no sin worth the consequences that you pay. None. No matter what it is. And God gave us consequences that sting us, that hurt us, that painfully injure us, in order to do what? To get us to do the right thing. So, I'd ask you this question. Would you consider yourself an obedient person? As you think about your life, in other words, when you go to work do you want to do not just most of what you should do, but all you should do? When somebody wrongs you, what is your response? What did God say? You forgive them.
And so, we could go right down the line. Here's what God says. And probably if I ask you what about this, that and the other, you'd give me the right answer about every single thing. You know why? Because you and I know what is right and what is wrong. You may not be able to quote the verse of scripture, but you know that some things are just, they're just not right. And so, we know what to do. It's a matter of do I love God enough? Do I acknowledge His authority as I should in order to be obedient to Him because obedience may be the difficult way, but it's the best way? Not sometimes, every single time; doing what God says, the way He says, and when He says do it. Now we just read, just that one portion of John and we found three verses where Jesus said, "And this was just," this had to be in a moment, in just a few moments. "If you love Me, you'll obey Me. If you love Me, you'll keep My commandments. Love Me, you'll obey Me. Love Me, you'll obey Me. Love Me, you'll obey Me".
So, if we say, "Well, I love God". But then we acknowledge our sinfulness and instead of doing something about our sin we keep talking about how much we love Him, when we don't. Now, if you're a married person or deeply in love with somebody, and you tell them that you really love them, genuinely love them, but you're found with someone else in some immoral circumstance. If you say to your husband or to your wife, "I really love you, but I'm going to drink anyway," or, "I'm going to smoke pot anyway. I love you, I'm not going to church anyway. I love you, but I don't have time for God". People have a thousand reasons why they disobey God, but very seldom do you hear them say, "I'm going to disobey God". All kind of language, but obedience is doing what God says, how He says do it, and when He says do it.
Would you consider yourself an obedient person? I didn't say perfect, but obedient. Because if you are an obedient person and you do find yourself saying or thinking or doing something that's not right, the Holy Spirit is going to convict you. The Holy Spirit doesn't wait for a week to convict us. Listen, because when you trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and, listen, He never sleeps. So, you can't think, "Well, hm-hm-hm, no". The Holy Spirit is there, He says, "To convict us of sin," which means to make us aware when we sin in order that we might confess it, repent of it and turn away from it. That's one of His works to convict us of sin, but that's not the only one. Because with that conviction, the Holy Spirit also is there to enable you and me to make right decisions, to do the right thing and to be willing to confess when we've done wrong thing, and ask God to forgive us and to cleanse us and get our life straightened out.
So we have His help. He'll show us what's not right, He'll bring us to conviction, and once in a while, you'll hear somebody say, "Well, that God convicted them or something and they wept and wept and wept and wept. What does that mean"? Here's what it means: it means, you'll hear people say, "Well, I know that wasn't right and ask God to forgive me and I'm fine". And then to those people who look deep, deep, deep inside and realize who they've hurt, how they've genuinely disobeyed God, how they've hurt themselves, and that conviction isn't just a confession, but it's a deep, weeping over the nature of their sin and disobedience. Why does that happen? Because God wants to change; He wants to change an attitude or an action or a habit.
And once in a while, somebody will find, probably very often today, people find themselves with habits in their life they don't know how to handle. They'll say, "Well, I just can't". In your own strength maybe you can't but with the strength of the Sovereign God of the Universe, yes you can, because you have the power of Almighty God to enable you to do what is right. He promises us the power to do what is right. So, we have to ask ourselves the question. What's the motivation for being obedient to God? Well, first of all, it's reverence for who He is. If I disobey God, I'm discounting who He is.
So, one of the first things that should motivate me to be obedient is acknowledging who He is. This is Holy God, Sovereign of the whole Universe, who gave His only begotten Son Jesus to die on the cross and shed His blood, to forgive us of our sins and our disobedience. That should motivate us to want to live a godly life. So, when I think about the motivation, who He is, is number one. Secondly, we just desire to please Him. I desire to please God. I don't want, I don't want to displease God in any single area. I've lived long enough to realize that displeasing Him does not bring me peace, joy, happiness or anything else that I want in life. Pleasing Him is always the right pathway. Sometimes it's a very painful pathway, but it's still the best. And what it says, it says, "This is what I believe about God. I reverence Him; I don't reverence Him".
And, you have to ask yourself the question, "Do I love God enough to obey Him when it's not convenient and not acceptable? Do I love Him that much"? So, every morning when you wake up, you have a choice: today, I'm going to obey God. Today, I'm going to do what I want to do. And as I said before, deliberately, sometimes it's hard to be obedient, but it's always the right thing to do, and will prove to be a blessing in your life every single time. But where does that begin? Obedience begins in your life between you and God when you hear the plan of salvation or you hear how to be saved. The Holy Spirit is at work right now. He's at work in your life right now helping you to understand what you're hearing. He's already pointing out to you things in your life that are not right.
If you're willing to ask God to forgive you of your sins, and you're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sins not because you're going to do so much better and because this, that and the other, ask Him to forgive you on the basis that He sent Jesus, His Son, to die on the cross, to pay the penalty for all of our sin, so that if we place our trust in Him, He will forgive us on the basis that Jesus paid our penalty in His death on the cross. Therefore, we can be forgiven of our sin and live a godly life. That's where it all begins and that's my prayer for you that you will make a wise choice and choose today wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever's going on, choose now to ask God to forgive you of your sin, surrender your life to Him and watch Him do His awesome work in your life. A decision you will never regret, but be grateful for.
And Father, how grateful we are that You always keep Your Word. We never have to worry about You changing Your mind, never have to worry about You forgetting anything, overlooking us, but absolutely loving us for all eternity. So, I trust that every person who hears this message will be wise enough to make the decision they need to make in order to be able to say, "As best I know my heart, I'm living a life of obedience to my heavenly Father". In Jesus' name, amen.