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On Obedience

Throughout the world people of various religions are acutely aware of their need of righteousness. This awareness often results in strenuous efforts to be good, to control the will, and to be what some would refer to as "commandment keepers." Yet these sincere souls can only ever fail for . . .

`Man cannot transform himself by the exercise of the will.' (COL96)

As the Old Testament assures us, "neither can you do good who are accustomed to do evil." (Jeremiah 13:23)

Before man can be obedient, he must understand that obedience is not just something that the hand does, but something that the heart is - for the hand only ever moves at the command of the heart. We will appreciate, therefore, that true obedience can never be the product of an overstrained will - it must be the language of the heart, for . . .

`True obedience is the outworking of a principle within.' (COL97)

Jesus Himself told us that "from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts.' Mark 7:21. In like fashion, therefore, it is out of the heart of men that right impulses and right actions proceed.

This tells us at the very outset that our great need is not for a change in what we do, but a change in what we are - a change of heart - for a heart that is governed by right principles will always spawn right actions.

The multi-million dollar question, therefore, is what can we do to ensure that our hearts are governed by right principles?

First of all, we must consider the words of Jesus when He said, "without me ye can do nothing." Then we need to consider the words of Paul, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

All of which translates into the simple fact that we can do anything with Jesus and that we can do nothing without Him.

This means that we can stop focusing on what we do, and we can rather start focusing on Him. Then, being in relationship with Him, and spending time with Him daily, we will find special meaning in the words of Isaiah who once wrote . . .

`No eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who GLADLY DO RIGHT." (Isaiah 64:5)

Isn't it good to know that we can reach a stage in our Christian experience where we will "gladly do right"? 

Please notice that if it is possible to "gladly do right," it must also be possible to "grudgingly do right." I guess we could call these two conditions glad obedience and grudging obedience, or, willing obedience and unwilling obedience.

But, we must ask, is unwilling obedience true obedience? Not at all! In fact, unwilling obedience is no obedience at all for true obedience always delights to be obedient. If we have to strain our will in order to be obedient, our obedience is not the product of the heart and, as such, it reveals that it is not our inner desire to be obedient.

`True obedience is the outworking of a principle within. It springs from the love of righteousness, the love of the law of God. The essence of all righteousness is loyalty to our Redeemer. This will lead us to do right because it is right - because right doing is pleasing to God.' (COL97)

Works of obedience, therefore, are the works of love, they are our willing, spontaneous love offering to a God who first loved us. As such, we will appreciate that . . . 

`Good works do not purchase the love of God, but they reveal that we possess that love. If we surrender the will to God, we shall not work in order to earn God's love. His love as a free gift will be received into the soul, and from love to Him we shall delight to obey His Commandments.' (COL283)

When we love God, we will naturally love His law, for his law is the perfect word picture of the character of God. Therefore, if we genuinely love God, we will love to live in harmony with His law, because this is how we live in harmony with God. It is from this backdrop that we will appreciate that . . . 

`All true obedience comes from the heart . . .  If we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.' (DA668)

How wonderful to know, therefore, that obedience does not spring so much from the exercising of the will, as from the changing of the character, and all that we have to do to have a changed character is to get to know God for, . . . 

`To learn of Christ means to receive His grace, which is His character.' (COL271)

While many might believe that they need to be obedient in order to come to God, the truth is that we have to come to God in order to be obedient - then he works in us in a wonderful way, making us obedient by changing our desires and giving us a whole new set of values and a whole new character that is founded on the great law of love.

When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, we will be changed. We won't strive to be obedient, we will desire to be obedient and we will gladly do what is right. Then we will be but "carrying out our own impulses" and it will be our "highest delight" to do God's will.

So, to repeat, we can stop trying to be obedient, and we can rather start getting to know God, for . . . 

`It is the knowledge of God that works transformation of character. This knowledge received, will re-create the soul in the image of God. It is this [knowledge of God] alone that can make us like God in character. ' (MH425/409)

`By beholding Christ, by talking of Him, by beholding the loveliness of His character we become changed. Changed from glory to glory. And what is glory? Character.' (SD337)

So where do we go from here? Straight to the word of God for, . . . 

`His power, His very life, dwells in His word. As you receive the word in faith it will give you power to obey. As you give heed to the light you have, greater light will come. You are building on God's word, and your character will be "builded after the similitude of Christ." The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His word. The word of God, received into the soul, moulds the thoughts, and enters into the development of character. It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature.' (MB150, DA390/1, DA389)

`Not in our learning, not in our position, not in our numbers of entrusted talents, not in the will of man is to be found the secret of success. Feeling our inefficiency we are to contemplate Christ, and through Him who is the strength of all strength, the thought of all thought, the willing and obedient will gain victory after victory.' (COL404).

No longer do we have to ask ourselves how we can overcome our weaknesses. There is only one question to be asked, and that is, How much time are we spending alone with Jesus every day? Love is a relationship, and a relationship demands time together - time . . .  alone . . .  together.

`Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.' (John 17:3)

`I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known IN ORDER THAT the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.' (John 17:26)

And this heavenly love is the only influence in all the universe that can make us want to obey. May God bless you as you expose your heart to the sunshine of His love.


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