As I have progressed through this life God has given me, I have learned that the major battle we have with God – I mean THE major battle – is over control. We see the issue of obedience as being one of control and, to be fair, in some ways it is control. And we humans don’t like ceding control to anyone…including God.
Back in the 1970’s there was a football team in the US that earned the nickname “The Cardiac Cardinals”. Many of their games were close that went down to the final few moments before the Cardinals would win. They kept giving their fans heart attacks (metaphorically speaking), thus the “Cardiac” part of their nickname.
Sometimes I think we Christians should be referred to as the “Cardiac Kids”. A similar nickname for sure but for different reasons. The reason isn’t because we are “winning” at the last moment in life. No, the reason is much more important than that. We have a heart problem that shows itself, in varying degrees, in all Christians. This heart issue only betrays a deeper issue but is evidenced by our struggle with a simple, four-letter word. What is that word? O-B-E-Y. We have problems with obeying God with the right attitude. Shoot, we have problems with obeying God with ANY attitude.
Why do we have difficulty with the word “obey“? I’ve found out that if I want to get a reaction from people all I have to say is the word “obey”. We react to it. Some people even hate that word. So what is the big deal with being obedient? Why do we hate it so, so much.
Obedience is a big theme in the Old Testament. I remember one of my professors at Capital Bible Seminary, saying during one of my Old Testament classes, that God desired obedience greater than He desired sacrifice. The same is true in the New Testament. We see obedience to God taught from Matthew to Revelation. Why so much? Well, perhaps it is addressed so much because we humans have a problem with it. Our problem is not an easy one to solve because we see obedience as being dominated. When we obey, we sometimes think that we have been pushed around…dominated….lost control of our life. We see obedience so incorrectly.
Jesus taught that obedience is more about our heart than we think. Take a look at John 14:23-24 to have a snapshot of what Jesus thought about obedience:
Jesus 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 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.” John 14:23-24 NASB
Why did Jesus link keeping His words with love for Him? What is the connection between keeping His commands and loving Him? And is keeping His commands the same as obedience? Why does Jesus make this link? Let’s think about this for a moment and consider some examples from every day life and see if this will help us. Have you ever loved someone? I mean really loved someone with every fiber of your being?
I’ve been married now for 12 years. I love my wife. I mean I really, really love my wife. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. If she asks me to do anything, I’ll do it as quickly as possible. You know what? My wife feels the same way. We love each other. We demonstrate our love for one another by keeping each others desires and requests paramount. How could I do any less for God? Think about this for a moment.
Let’s say I tell my wife I love her. Now let’s say that my wife asks me to perform a reasonable act of service. it doesn’t matter what she asks. She asks me to do something for her. Now let’s say that I’m watching something on TV or reading a really good book. I turn to her and say “No, I don’t think I’ll do that for you. I have better things to do. Love ya babe!” Now, does my statement that I love her mean anything? No, they’re just words.
But let’s change this a little. Let’s say I respond “Geez honey, I just sat down and began to watch my game. Why didn’t you ask me to do that earlier?” I do what she asks me to do, but have I demonstrated my love for her? In all honesty, no. You see, robotic obedience, obedience with a bad attitude, or rejection of a request indicates a bad heart. I may say I love her but my actions betray a corrupt heart.
How is my heart condition with God? Do I obey with a poor attitude? Do I obey out of guilt? Do I obey out of an attempt to get God to accept me or like me? If I do, my obedience to God really means little. I should obey out of a heart that is thankful and one that has love for my God.
Obedience to God’s commands – whether those commands came through the burning bush, a prophet, Jesus, or an apostle – reflects my heart condition more than anything else. And my heart condition reflects my soul condition. So if my soul condition is ok and my heart condition is ok, my hands and feet will be ok too. In other words, if I am not battling God for Sovereignty (the Soul issue – authority) that will reflect itself in obedience (the Heart issue – control) and will work itself out through my hands and feet – that is, my work for the Lord will be the natural outworking of my vision of Him, and my obedience to Him.
Obedience can be forced and many do force it. But that is just fake obedience because the heart and soul issues aren’t right. My heart needs to be right with God so that I can keep His words and obey Him with the right attitude.
So how is my heart? How is yours? Are we ready, wiling and able to obey what God wants us to do? With a good attitude? Or do we need to visit the Great Cardiologist and have some work done?
We all have issues with obedience. but hopefully, as we are progressively sanctified, those issues become less and our heart becomes more His and less ours. Then we’ll no longer be a Cardiac Kid!