“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

4.2 Obedience

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments [commands].” – John 14:15

Obedience to Christ’s Commands. As Christ was obedient to the Father, we are to be obedient to Christ. Christ loved God the Father, and He was obedient even to the point of death.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply profess to be a Christian – for what use is there to profess faith in Christ, and then not do what Christ has commanded us to do through obedience? Can you claim to love Christ and then not do what He has asked (commanded) you to do? Such a faith is dead, worthless; Christ condemns lukewarm faith – typically characterized by a lack of obedience.

A Christian’s true motive for obedience is love however, not coercion. We recognize the authority of Christ as Lord, that He created us, that He owns us, and we defer and place ourselves under His command. For it is written that “if you love Me, you will keep My commandments”.

The kind of faith that is pleasing to Christ is not one born out of a casual commitment, or one of convenience, nor foxhole faith, but a lifelong commitment to Christ – one that dies to self each day, one that picks up the cross of Christ to follow Him, one that “seeks the things above” (not things if this world), one that is active in obedience and one that perseveres to the very end.

Foxhole faith is like foxhole prayers – it seldom leads to a truly repentant and changed life, fleeting in duration and only appearing for a moment soon to vanish again into the darkness and nothingness once the immediate circumstance (usually danger) has passed.

A Christian must also always remember that they are a bond-servant if Christ. When you come to Christ you are giving Him your life to do with as He pleases. For He bought and paid for you with His blood, having redeemed (purchased) you from slavery to sin. Your obedience is required; we have a duty to God.

Matthew Henry summarizes the subject of obedience very nicely as:

“Of his obedience to his Father: “As the Father gave me commandment, even so I did – did the thing commanded me in the manner commanded.” Note, the best evidence of our love to the Father is our doing as he hath given us commandment. As Christ loved the Father, and obeyed him, even to the death, so we must love Christ, and obey him. Christ’s eye to the Father’s commandment, obliging him to suffer and die, bore him up with cheerfulness, and overcame the reluctancies of nature; this took off the offence of the cross, that what he did was by order from the Father. The command of God is sufficient to bear us out in that which is most disputed by others, and therefore should be sufficient to bear us up in that which is most difficult to ourselves: This is the will of him that made me, that sent me.”

Remember it was the disobedience of man in the first place that started the whole mess of sin and this fallen world!

We are to “be like Christ”, emulating Him. We are no longer to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed, seeking the things that are above (heavenly things); for our citizenship is now in heaven, not on earth. Following takes committed selfless action (obedience), not just idle words of profession. Following Christ also means denying oneself and seeking God’s will, instead of your will.

The apostle Paul describes this as putting on your new self: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This is also called living a “Spirit filled” life. Don’t worry if all of this doesn’t make sense to you at this time, what’s important at this time is that you start emulating Christ through obedience to His commands, as a “doer” of the word instead of merely a “hearer” of the word. As you continue along the path of obedience, you will find that more things become clear to you.

We are to live our lives so that others see your good works so that the father in Heaven is glorified. We are called to be a light to the world, pointing to way to Jesus and eternal salvation. We are to obey God, rather than man.

Part of seeking the things above is also described as “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This means to start discarding sinful, fleshly, worldly, selfish thoughts, and dismiss them through the power of Christ; banish them from your mind when they occur.  Even when you see others now still partaking in worldly, fleshly and carnal activities (or words, jokes, etc), you do not partake of them. You are called to a higher standard now. Over time, this gets easier to do, although spiritual attacks will continue (remember we are in a spiritual war).

In summary, you are moving from a life of worldly, selfish and fleshly pursuits, to a life of heavenly, unselfish, and giving/loving pursuits desiring to be more like Christ each and every day. You are now battling the forces of darkness, not walking under the power of Satan, the prince of this fallen world.

Just like the Old Testament had the Mosaic Law given to the Jews, the New Testament also has a law which operates under grace – this New Testament Law is expressed in the commandments (commands) of Christ. Most people (even non-Christians) can recite the two most important commands (commandments) given by Jesus: 1) love God, and 2) love others as yourself. However, Christ’s commands go into much more detail than that. There are other commands to forgive others as you were forgiven, don’t judge others, do not commit adultery, let your light shine before others, lover your enemies, pray for your enemies, render unto Caesar, etc.

To be obedient therefore, you must learn and obey Jesus commands/instructions as given in the New Testament. I’m not going to reiterate all of Christ’s commands here; and in fact, it’s better if you read the Bible and seek them out. That way, they take on a deeper meaning as you discover them for yourself.

So in order for one to be obedient, one must know what Christ commanded, and in order to know, one must also therefore read and diligently study the Bible – as you are starting to see, everything about the Christian life is connected to reading and studying the Bible, for it is our instruction manual. Additionally, we are truly blessed like no other time in history to have an absolutely amazing bounty of resources to read from, written over many years by the scholars and saints that have come before us. Please do avail yourself of the wisdom of these men who have come before us. You do however need to use discernment in what you read, as many false teachings abound in the words of man (see the wolves chapter).

Now the process of obedience doesn’t happen instantly but is developed over a lifetime of conscious commitment to reading the Word and following Christ. And make no mistake, living life as a Christian takes courage, discipline, character; we are to be warriors for Christ. We and on the front lines of a spiritual war; we battle against the spiritual forces of darkness and evil. We are to put on the full armor of God, so we can resist the devil and stand firm against these forces of darkness, just as Christ did Himself, resisting the devil and worldly desires, influences and pleasures. The topic of putting on the armor of God is so important that it properly deserves its own separate book (maybe I’ll write one on it also). It is covered in a bit more detail in the next chapter.

It is also written that “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” For the longest time, I was confused by this verse, even after becoming a Christian. I mean how in the world could I be “perfect”? I didn’t feel “perfect” nor did I act “perfect”, nor did I see a way to become “perfect”. The closer you get to Christ, the less “perfect” you feel! In fact, that verse didn’t become clear to me until I wrote this very book, and this very chapter. And now I see how that verse contains a very key component to obedience.

So how do we become “perfect”? Very simply: by pursuing (imitating) Christ every single day! And that’s also how we become (and remain) obedient!

While we are still here in our mortal, fleshly, sinful bodies, we cannot attain the perfection of Christ, that is not what the verse is stating; perfection for us, now, at this time in this world is seeking to become more like Christ each and every day. Imitating Christ – that is perfection for us, and that is also obedience for us!  This is also described as “continuing in the Word”.

Perfection in this world therefore means to abide in Christ daily, and He in you. When you do this, you are living under His power, His spirit, His strength, His might and His wisdom, and you will be triumphant in obedience. Never forget that you are no longer living by your own might/willpower now, but by Christ’s power (through His Spirit) in you. Also realize that for a Christian there no such thing as “luck” or “coincidences” any longer! All things work by, though, and for Christ, in you. How stunning is that!

Finally, as you will read in later chapters, you will also need to change your worldly habits, entertainment choices, etc. If you fail to do those things, sin is crouching right at your door again, waiting to pull you back into it.

In fact, the more obedient you are, the more that you will find that sinful fleshly temptations of the world will come your way in an attempt by the powers of darkness to turn you back from following Christ. God stresses action, not mere profession of words followed by idleness; obedience to God cannot happen without “good works” also happening. Mere professors and pretenders of faith in hypocrisy (“make believers”) will be sorted out by the Lord on the Great Day of Judgment.

Therefore, the discussion of obedience continues in more detail in the next chapters on producing fruit (“good works”) and persevering in faith for the Lord. Lukewarm faith is also condemned by the Lord; lukewarm faith usually manifests itself in a lack of obedience.

FALSE TEACHING WARNING – BEWARE! Please know that Jesus was referring to His commands as given in the New Testament, not the Ten “Commandments” (and thereby also the entire Mosaic Law) given to the ancient Hebrews under Moses. See the extremely important warning about that false teaching of “legalism” (i.e. sabbath keeping) given in the chapter on Wolves; as that false teaching is shouted loudly today from several leading cults and “ism’s” (i.e. false Christian groups) masquerading as “Christian” churches. Following their false teachings places you back under the bondage of the entire Mosaic Law, which Christ nailed to the cross; and you are re-crucifying Christ again if you follow it!

False Teaching(s) You Will Encounter:

  • Saying the “sinner’s prayer” “saves” you forever to eternal life, no matter how you live your life thereafter (i.e. even if you don’t repent and lead a changed life, nor are obedient to Christ, nor prove your faith through works, nor persevere in faith unto death)
  • You are saved by “faith only”
  • Being “born-again” is the only required step one has to take for eternal life (i.e. obedience, works and perseverance are not required)
  • Sabbath Keeping (legalism)

Related Scripture:

I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. – John 14:30-31

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. – John 15:9-10

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. – Romans 1:1-6

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [Jesus] the many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:19
[Note: this verse is about Jesus being obedient to the father, even to the point of death. So even Jesus was obedient in faith to God the Father.]

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. – Matthew 16:24-27

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. – Romans 6:16-19

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.’ – Revelation 3:15-18

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. – Philippians 3:12-16

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. – Ephesians 5:1-2

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. – Hebrews 5:8-9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. – Colossians 3:5-10

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:12-17

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” –  Matthew 22:37-40

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” –  Matthew 28:19-20

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – Daniel 12:3

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” – Luke 22:42

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. – Ephesians 4:17-24

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:28-32

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. – Ephesians 5:3-5

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  –  John 8:31-32

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” –  John 8:51

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. –  John 14:23

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” –  Acts 5:29

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” –  Matthew 7:24-27

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. – Galatians 5:16-17

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. –  Galatians 5:19-21

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. –  2 Timothy 3:16-17

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:2-3

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” – Luke 6:46-49

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“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:32

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