Christianity 201

September 8, 2013

Obedience and Faithfulness that Pleases God

Another first time for a new source of great devotional and Bible Study material; this one goes by the name Quality of Life Ministries. The post is titled Loyalty and Obedience. (Click through to view other material and graphics.)

Loyalty and Obedience

“Consider the holiness of Christ.  We need this first of all to be firmly grounded in our security in Christ….  It is important  therefore that we understand the righteousness of Christ, and the fact that His righteousness is credited to us.

On numerous occasions the Scriptures testify that Jesus during His time on earth lived a perfectly holy life.

But the holiness of Jesus was more than simply the absence of actual sin.  It was also a perfect conformity to the will of His Father.

It is possible to do the right action from the wrong motive, but this does not please God.  Holiness has to do with more then mere acts.  Our motives must be holy, that is, arising from a desire to do something simply because it is the will of God….

Consider the holiness of Christ, because His life is meant to be an example of holiness for us….

Consider then His statement, “I always do what pleases Him, “Do we dare take that as our personal goal in life?  Are we truly willing to scrutinize all our activities, our goals and plans, and all of our impulsive actions in the light of this statement: “I am doing this to please God”? …

This is the example we are to follow.  In all of our thoughts, all of our actions, in every part of our character, the ruling principle that motivates and guides us should be the desire to follow Christ in doing the will of the Father.  This is the high road we must follow in the pursuit of holiness.

(From The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges)

Joshua 22:2-5

He told them, “You have done as Moses, the servant of the LORD, commanded you, and you have obeyed every order I have given you.  You have not deserted the other tribes, even though the campaign has lasted for such a long time. You have been careful to obey the commands of the LORD your God up to the present day.  And now the LORD your God has given the other tribes rest, as he promised them. So go home now to the land Moses, the servant of the LORD, gave you on the east side of the Jordan River.    But be very careful to obey all the commands and the law that Moses gave to you. Love the LORD your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, be faithful to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”

Before the conquest had begun, these tribes were given land on the east side of the Jordan River. But before they could settle down, they had to first promise to help the other tribes conquer the land on the west side (Numbers 32:20-22). They had patiently and diligently carried out their promised duties. Joshua commended them for doing just that. At last they were permitted to return to their families and build their cities. Follow-through is vital in God’s work. Beware of the temptation to quit early and leave God’s work undone.

Here Joshua briefly restated the central message Moses gave the people in Deuteronomy: Obedience should be based on love for God. Although the Israelites had completed their military responsibility, Joshua reminded them of their spiritual responsibility. Sometimes we think so much about what we are to do that we neglect thinking about who we are to be. If we know we are God’s children, we will love him and joyfully serve him. We must not let daily service take away from our love for God.

Psalm 119:33-37

Teach me, O LORD,
to follow every one of your principles.
     Give me understanding and I will obey your law;
I will put it into practice with all my heart.
     Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
     Give me an eagerness for your decrees;
do not inflict me with love for money!
     Turn my eyes from worthless things,
and give me life through your word.

In today’s world, people most often covet financial gain. Money represents power, influence, and success. For many people, money is a god. They think about little else. True, money can buy certain comforts and offer some security. But far more valuable than wealth is obedience to God because it is a heavenly treasure rather than an earthly one (Luke 12:33). We should do what God wants, regardless of the financial implications. Make the psalmist’s prayer your own, asking God to turn your heart toward his statutes and not toward making money; it’s in your own best interest in the long run.

John 21:15-17

After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
 Once more he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

In this beach scene, Jesus led Peter through an experience that would remove the cloud of his denial. Peter had denied Jesus three times. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. When Peter answered yes, Jesus told him to feed his sheep. It is one thing to say you love Jesus, but the real test is willingness to serve him. Peter had repented, and here Jesus was asking him to commit his life. Peter’s life changed when he finally realized who Jesus was. His occupation changed from fisherman to evangelist; his identity changed from impetuous to “rock”; and his relationship to Jesus changed—he was forgiven, and he finally understood the significance of Jesus’ words about his death and resurrection.

Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. The first time Jesus said, “Do you love (Greek agape: volitional, self-sacrificial love) me more than these?” The second time, Jesus focused on Peter alone and still used the word translated into Greek, agape. The third time, Jesus used the word translated into Greek, phileo (signifying affection, affinity, or brotherly love) and asked, in effect, “Are you even my friend?” Each time Peter responded with the word translated into Greek as phileo. Jesus doesn’t settle for quick, superficial answers. He has a way of getting to the heart of the matter. Peter had to face his true feelings and motives when Jesus confronted him. How would you respond if Jesus asked you, “Do you love me?” Do you really love Jesus? Are you even his friend?

Philippians 4:3

And I ask you, my true teammate,  to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. And they worked with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

Those “whose names are written in the Book of Life” are all who are marked for salvation through their faith in Christ (see also Luke 10:17-20; Revelation 20:11-15).

1 Peter 1:14-16

Obey God because you are his children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn’t know any better then.  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy.  For he himself has said, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

The God of Israel and of the Christian church is holy—he sets the standard for morality. Unlike the Roman gods, he is not warlike, adulterous, or spiteful. Unlike the gods of the pagan cults popular in the first century, he is not bloodthirsty or promiscuous. He is a God of mercy and justice who cares personally for each of his followers. Our holy God expects us to imitate him by following his high moral standards and by being both merciful and just.

After people commit their lives to Christ, they sometimes still feel a pull back to their old ways. Peter tells us to be like our heavenly Father—holy in everything we do. Holiness means being totally devoted or dedicated to God, set aside for his special use and set apart from sin and its influence. We’re to be set apart and different, not blending in with the crowd, yet not being different just for the sake of being different. God’s qualities in our life make us different. Our focus and priorities must be his. All this is in direct contrast to our old ways (1:14). We cannot become holy on our own, but God gives us his Holy Spirit to help us obey and to give us power to overcome sin. Don’t use the excuse that you can’t help slipping into sin. Rely on God’s power to free you from sin’s grip.

Ramblings

Do you really want to follow Christ’s example by doing the will of the Father?  Are you ready and willing to submit your plans, thoughts, and behavior to him?  If submitting is difficult for you in a particular area, pray specifically that God will help you.

Still need more help; work on loving God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.  If you make progress on that; God will give you the help to truly be His, “Good and Faithful Servant.”  Then all other things will fall into place.  You will still have battles to fight, but you will be on the winning side.