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Why Do You Obey God?

May 7, 2009

If you obey, why do you obey God? Out of duty, in hope of reward, because your momma told you to? How we answer this question is utmost importance. If our answer is sub-biblical, we run the danger of misconstruing the gospel. If our answer is unbiblical, our discipleship will be fraught with angst with the grave possibility of abandoning Christian faith.

Given the gravity of this question, we should slightly tweak it to form a second question: “Why Should we obey God?” Answering this question is equally important. We need to honestly reflect on personal motivations for our obedience, as well as biblical motivations. The disparity between the two will prove quite illuminating in discerning how to regain Christian joy and hope in everyday struggles of doubt, despair, sin, and indifference to God.

So why do you obey…and why should we obey?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2009 8:19 pm

    Because by faith we believe that what God tells us is right and will bless us.

    Psalm 1
    Romans 1:5
    Hebrews 11

    etc…

  2. May 7, 2009 9:19 pm

    So to get blessing? Is that using God? Because its right…doesn’t that bottom out, dry up, obedience out of duty to God’s right commands?

    When you face temptation, do you choose obedience out of alliegance to “what is right” and in “hope of blessing”…

  3. chip permalink
    May 7, 2009 10:31 pm

    We should obey out of the relationship that we have with God. We are reconciled to him by faith, and by the leading of the Spirit, we are enabled to follow him more and more. However, the reconciliation is not a mere transaction–it is the love of God condescending to the cross and triumphing over death for us, and (more importantly) for His own glory. Love for God and desire for Him to receive maximum glory should cause us to hate sin and love what He desires.

    That’s the _should_–the “I” question comes out much differently, sadly. I too often obey because of fear of what people will think of me or desire to show others how godly I am. What a distortion! And can my loving Father possibly be pleased with that? I think even when I have been most warm in my affections toward God, I have had selfishness in my obedience. I’m forced back to the cross because of it.

  4. Skyler permalink
    May 8, 2009 1:39 am

    depends on how you are ‘obeying’ God. Some people might have a strikingly different version on what it means to obey, in religious terms.

    To me, it’s not about ‘obeying’, but its trusting God, outside ourselves, in our own human nature. Being spiritually minded will only help yourself and those around you, and it shouldn’t be done for a silly notion of a reward. You should see the reward in how you live your life, not a reward based on what you think God should give you. You have life, how is that not a good enough reward?

    I’m not exactly sure why people believe they ‘need’ to obey…OR ELSE! It seems to me that this notion really twists biblical texts, especially Pauline letters.

    Maybe I’m just not a fan of looking at it as obedience, because that psychologially tells is it’s not in our nature, when it really is. It’s in our nature to naturally live for God, and I really don’t think it’s healthy to look at it like obedience.

  5. May 8, 2009 6:47 am

    I’m not adovcating religion, but you are good to warn against taht. However, there is a call to obedience all over the Bible because Jesus is our new Lord. Obedience among the Gentiles was central to Paul’s mission:

    I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done Rom 15

    But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they might believe and obey Christ. Rom 16

    Peter:

    who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood 1 Peter 1

    Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, Titus 3

    What of the many appeals to reward in Scripture? What of Pauls many warnings in Gal 5, elsewhere, about the disobedient not inheriting the kingdom of god?

    Seems like we need to think much more holistically and biblically about what motivates our obedience, discipleship to Jesus as Lord…

  6. Joanna permalink
    May 8, 2009 8:17 am

    I think Tim Keller says it best:

    “The gospel is, therefore, radically different from religion. Religion operates on the principle: ‘I obey, therefore I am
    accepted’. The gospel operates on the principle: ‘I am
    accepted through Christ, therefore I obey.'”

    Here are some other verses that come to mind as to why a Christ-follower should (will) obey:

    “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2: 3-6

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

    “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14;21

    I think both Chip and Jonathan are on the same track: we obey Jesus because of our love relationship with Him (because He first loved us), but we cannot deny His Lordship. He’s Master, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and all of those Holy names…so to not obey, is to not love as we should. I think the main point is that we are not to obey out of duty, fear, acceptance, or obligation (many of which I am guilty).

    @Skyler

    “It’s in our nature to naturally live for God, and I really don’t think it’s healthy to look at it like obedience.”

    Just wanted to respond to this as a sister in Christ. To be true, it’s actually not at all in our nature to live for God–this is not a desire we’re born with in our fallen, human hearts.(Hopefully I’m addressing what you mean.) We’re enemies of God by default, who run from Him after our own desires, unless Jesus comes into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Then, he changes our “wanter.” Without the radical, changing power of Jesus on the cross, we could never naturally live for God on our own. Here are a few versus to clarify:

    “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21

    “As it is written:
    “There is no one righteous, not even one;
    there is no one who understands,
    no one who seeks God.
    All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
    Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.
    The poison of vipers is on their lips.
    Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
    Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    ruin and misery mark their ways,
    and the way of peace they do not know.
    There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
    Romans 3:10-18

    I’m open to correction or modification on anything that could be out of context, but the living Word speaks for itself. Thanks!

  7. May 9, 2009 7:44 am

    Love your comments, Joanna. I certainly agree…but the Holy Spirit is missing from a lot of this. Obedience is about relationship with God through the Spirit. The Spirit enables us to walk out the fruit of a new life in Christ. Unforunately, most of us don’t know the Spirit at all. He’s a silent parnter or the red-headed step child of the Trinity. Recovering intimacy, dependence upon the Spirit, I have found, empowers obedience through relationship.

  8. May 9, 2009 10:36 pm

    First, how am I able to obey God?
    Because God, via the holy spirit, compels me.
    I think the statement, “I obey God” couldn’t possibly be true. The heart is desperately wicked, by grace alone is anything accomplished.

    So, I don’t obey God, but by his grace, my self is slain. And someone wholly new and different obeys God.

    As for why…

    Tim Keller does say it best, but he does so by quoting one of his laypeople…

    One of his congregation said they had this problem with the concept of grace…

    “If I earned my salvation, there would be a limit to what God could ask of me. It would be like paying my taxes. But if he gave it to me, and I did nothing to deserve it, there could be no limit to what he could ask of me”

    While we may not obey God perfectly, how could we not be compelled, out of love, to strive to obey?

  9. Skyler permalink
    May 10, 2009 1:07 am

    I guess to clarify what I was getting at is to phrase it like this: Do we obey God because we feel as though we are forced to, or do we obey God ‘naturally’ because that is the whole point of living with the spirit? I know plenty of Christians that sure act like they are forced to obey God, when it should be the natural essence of being Christ-like. I do believe it is in our nature to obey God, or else we wouldn’t be able to comprehend doing so. Our ability to think outside ourselves and contemplate these things is what sets us apart and makes us quite special. Sure, we definitely do have our ‘fallen’ self, but living in the Spirit is what taps into our nature to obey God. Our bodies are temples, it’s always within us, we just need help unlocking it, especially today with the thousands of distractions that flow through our minds every waking moment of our lives.

  10. January 1, 2010 1:59 pm

    I have a chapter length response to this question in my new book Fight Clubs: Gospel-centered discipleship.

  11. Evan Schmitz permalink
    February 16, 2010 8:57 pm

    We obey God because he commands us to, and what God commands is law, which can effect your eternal salvation. It is not a duty, something you get rewarded for, or something you do because your mom will make you sit in a corner if you don’t. Obedience to God is one thing you have to do in order to maintain your innocence before him, and obtain his kingdom on Judgement Day, and helps decide if you spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

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