After nearly 70 podcasts here at A Faith that Obeys, there is one aspect of our topic we have never really studied deeply. We’ve skirted around the issue, we’ve included the notion in a number of our discussions but we have never tackled this topic head-on and let the chips fall where they may.
The issue? The fact that scripture teaches us that; love for Christ is directly linked to obedience to Christ.
Study out the word “Obedience”
This showed up on my radar last week when I was creating a list of scriptures that specifically mention obedience. That study is an entire study in and of itself and I would highly encourage you to do a search for the word obey in all its various forms, using your Bible Software or online at BibleGateway.com or BibleStudyTools.com and discover the amazing things revealed by that search. You will be both delighted and challenged.
In my study, I wanted to find scriptures that spoke specifically about obedience being necessary for salvation. In the process, I was struck when I saw how many times obedience is directly connected or associated with love for God and Christ. As I read these passages I was amazed with how dogmatic they are. There is no gray area. We either love God and Jesus through our obedience or we do not.
What we are about to look at we have seen before but never in such a challenging way… never so directly.
A Quick Prayer for a Soft Heart
Lets begin with a prayer because I think we’re gonna need it!
God and Father, please be with us as we look at these challenging scriptures. Help our hearts be soft and receptive to the facts we are about to see. Help us be willing to change anything we need to change in our lives in order to follow you more closely. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
In this podcast, let’s begin by talking about obedience in general and then talk about how it relates to the love of Christ. Here’s probably the most challenging scripture. It is found in 1 John.
1 John 2:3-6
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, Gods 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.
This is a scripture about salvation.
Knowing Christ Does Not Mean Christ Knows Me!
When John speaks about coming to know him, he is talking about a person’s relationship with Jesus. Implied in his assertion is the fact that not only have we come to know Jesus, but Jesus knows us, too. I point this out because I am recalling those folks back in Matthew 7 who knew Jesus super intimately and were doing amazing things for him but Jesus never knew them. There are two parts to the equation, right?
In this 1 John passage, it is clear that we are talking to real disciples of Jesus. John is talking to Christians. We also know this because he is comparing the “we” of the first sentence with “the man” of the second sentence; who is clearly lost. Here it is again for reference.
“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.”
Without Obedience, We Do Not Know Christ
Now notice something critical. This first sentence is conditional. It contains an if/then statement.
We know that we have come to know him… IF we obey his commands.
That’s a pretty clear delineation isn’t it? We have assurance of a relationship with Christ IF we obey his commands. People who do not obey his commands, do not know him.
Verse 4 is wildly intense! “The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
I am not sure I know of any places in the Bible that are more direct an (dare I say) more harsh.
Being called a liar, by anyone is a terrible thing. Being called a liar by the Apostle John and by extension, God is terrifying. In the physical realm, them be “fightin’” words. But spiritually speaking, our arms are far too short to box with God nor would we even dare try. God calls certain people liars? Yeah, there it is in black and white. A person who says that they know Christ but does not do what he commands is a liar. And he is not just a liar. John says, “the truth is not in him.” A person who is not living in obedience to Christ can not present the truth because he does not have the truth within him. It’s just not there and we can’t argue with that. That’s what God says. The truth is not in him.
But who are we talking about specifically?
Let’s take this a little deeper.
We are talking about a person who is a kin to those folks we have already mentioned way back in Matthew 7. They sincerely believed they had a relationship with Christ. They served him with all their heart and even did miracles but they were not saved. Christ never knew them. They were under a great and magnificent deception that they had a relationship with Jesus… but they did not. If we compare the people in Matthew 7 with this man who says, “I know him,” in 1 John, I think there is a small, subtle difference. “The man,” in 1 John seems to have a bit more boldness and confidence than the folks in Matthew 7.
In 1 John, the man who says, “I know him,” is not just excused as unenlightened, or confused. This is a person who is confidently boasting to others that he has a relationship with Christ when he does not. Have you ever been in a situation where you were dead certain of a thing… absolutely convinced of something… only to find out later you were wrong? That’s a tough thing to go through but if we are humble, it can lead to the discovery of the info we were missing. Humility is our gateway to filling in the blanks.
This man who so confidently professes that he knows Christ is not in a position of humble correctable ignorance. This person is confronted face to face by John and told, You are a liar. Wow! That’s really intense. This man is a liar and the truth is not in him.
An Encouraging Olive Branch
The next sentence is the antithesis of the first and brings a sense of hope and encouragement.
Verse 5. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.”
This is not only an olive branch to the braggart we see in the second sentence, it sure sounds like a place I want to be. I want to be in a place where God’s love is truly made complete in me. That is endearing, comforting and full of assurance. And what leads to this amazing comfort and assurance? Obedience to God’s word. It’s that simple.
While the fist part of this passage is dramatic in its condemnation for those who are disobedient, it offers incredible encouragement as it closes.
“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
To walk as Jesus did provides absolute assurance that we have a true and correct relationship with him, but you know what? That’s a pretty tall order! Walking as Jesus did… does that mean, no home, no possessions, no place to lay your head? Maybe for some. But why not just try the mission of Christ, first.
How to Begin Walking as Jesus Did – Four Things
You know, there are some pretty solid commands we can follow if we want to walk as Jesus did but we must start that walk on the right foot. Are we walking as Christ did by obeying and teaching The Great Commission? Those are starting gun instructions and a great place to test our claim of obedience.
In those instructions, Jesus told us how he wanted his followers to advance his mission after his departure. Are we doing that?
He told us to go. There’s no reason to be thick or confused about the intention in this command. He wants us to not stay home but to reach out to people outside our spiritual community. He wants us to say something about Him. This is implied by the next command to: Make disciples.
Evangelism is a Matter of Salvation
We need to take a deep breath and agree on something very specific here. Listen carefully. If we are not evangelistic (Going), we are not obeying Christ’s commands. Let that sink in. If we are not evangelistic, we are not obeying Christ’s commands.
Do we really understand this. We are not obeying. We may claim we love Christ, but without obedience to this very first command we are, in the words of John, a liar. Now, let’s not deny it! Let’s not make an excuse for our lack of obedience to go. And certainly, don’t take offense at me. I’m just reporting the truth with the greatest possible love and concern I can. If we are not evangelic we are walking in disobedience to Christ. That’s what the “Go” of The Great Commission is all about.
Second, are we making disciples? Making disciples is a process. It takes work. What kind of work? Well, in our modern church era we have a challenge of breaking up, digging out and clearing away an unholy ton of religious tradition. People are deeply committed to church and family traditions which have no basis in scripture. Our job is to help people understand what’s really in the scriptures and abandon their religious traditions and practices because these are a massive stumbling block for the modern believer.
I suppose there should be no surprise. That is exactly what Jesus faced. Do you realize that for the most part, Jesus entire message was presented to the religious lost? Think about it. Most of the people he reached out to were solidly committed to their own traditional form of religion. Which, by the way, was a false and empty religion! It saved nobody. When Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” in Matthew 11:28, He was not talking about the burdens of their marital problems or their soul-sucking careers. He was talking about their empty religious system which was getting them no where yet oppressed them with impossible rules.
Making disciples is the single greatest spiritual motivator and inspiring activity a Christian will ever do. When you sit down and open the scriptures, especially with a religious person, and they see the truth for the very first time and you watch their eyes light up with understanding… well, there is no greater thrill in the entire world. There is no greater joy than planting the seed of scripture in a humble open heart and watching it blossom into full compliance and obedience to the scriptures. And why is this true?
No Greater Joy than Planting and Watering
Think about this for a moment. There is absolutely nothing… NOTHING you will ever do in your life that is greater or more important that moving a person from the power of Satan to the Kingdom of God. NOTHING! You may be the greatest brain surgeon who ever lived and save hundreds of lives but they will still eventually die. Or you may be the person who finds the cure for every form of cancer but another death still awaits the cured. Those accomplishments pale in comparison to saving just one soul for an eternity. The sad thing is most believers never have the experience of planting the seed of God’s word and watching it grow.
In most churches, opening the scriptures for the purpose of converting a soul is relegated off to the pastor, or some other leader in the church. The average believer never opens the word with a nonbeliever to show them the truth. They never feel the thrill of victory. And yet, isn’t that what The Great Commission is all about? Every disciple should be involved in this process and every disciple is thrilled when it happens. There is no greater purpose in this life than sharing the Scriptures and helping another soul discover Christ.
It’s the Great Commission, Not the Great Suggestion
“Making disciples” is not the second thing in “The Great Suggestion.” It is not an optional exercise of a believer who enjoys a modicum of joy because they know a little bit about Jesus. Making disciples is a command and by definition, every disciple makes disciples. There is no other kind of disciple. We must never claim we are disciples of Jesus if we are not actively involved in making other disciples. If we claim to be in him but do not do what he commands… we are liars.
Once we have introduced someone to Christ, what on earth do we do next? Well, what’s the next command? What did Jesus tell us to do? It’s in your bible. We baptize them!
Once again, this is not some optional suggestion. It is a direct and clear command of Jesus. It is simple and unambiguous. Elsewhere, the scriptures are full of the mode, method and meaning of water baptism. It is a complete immersion in water, in obedience to this Great Commission command. It is by absolutely no stretch of the imagination, a work of man. It is an act of faith instigated by this command. If you have ever argued that baptism is a work of men, then you’ve never understood that a command of Christ cannot be… at the very same time… a work of man. Is it a work or a command? The two are mutually exclusive. Baptism is not something you do to yourself anyway. It is something you submit to. In baptism a person is buried with Christ, they are raised to a new life. This is the Born Again experience. People are not saved at some point in time before their obedience in water baptism. They are not saved when they first believe and accept. They are not saved when they repent. It is in the commanded process of baptism that a person is Born Again. It is during baptism that God washes away sin and sends the Holy Spirit as a seal of sonship. Baptism is our pledge to keep our conscience clean for the rest of our life and it is how and when we call on the name of the Lord to be saved. This is a work of the Holy Spirit as He baptizes the believer into the body of Christ during physical baptism. Without obedience to this Great Commission command there is no saving experience. Just think it through. How can I have a relationship with Christ if I refuse to obey Christ? I would be a liar.
There is not other plan of salvation.
Folks, Jesus authorized no other methods of obedience. The “Sinners Prayer” is a deception. Accepting Christ and repenting as a prelude to conversion is a fine first step but without obedience in baptism, this leaves a person in a very excited but lost state. Without obedience in baptism, the Holy Spirit never indwells them, they must rely on their own power to eke out their life in Christ for the next 50 (or however many) years. Erroneous methods of conversion leave a believer powerless and empty. This leads to a quick exit from the faith and maybe even a bitterness over the failed promises of “life to the full.” Christianity becomes a joke because people begin to build but do not have the power to finish. After all, it’s pretty difficult to deal with addictions for example without the Holy Spirit indwelling you. People fall flat on their faces and 90% of them leave the church where they were introduced to Jesus. When we humbly obey Christ’s commands, he comes and lives in us as our helper. If we try to crawl into the house some other way than the prescribed way, we get tossed out on our ear. Obedience to Baptism seals the deal. It is the final step in conversion. If I reject baptism, I reject the commission.
Let’s flip the coin over. Would a true disciple of Jesus… a person trying hard to make real disciples… refuse to baptize someone? Would a true disciple of Jesus delay the command to be baptized until the bi-annual baptism service? I don’t want the potential guilt of that weighing on my soul! First century New Testament baptism was immediate because they understood people were not saved until they obeyed The Great Commission.
Finally, Jesus told his disciples, and us, to obey everything. Do we really need to say more? He had just given three commands, but just in case we think we can somehow skate around any one of them, he nails it down and puts it into a nice little wrapper, teach them to obey everything. This means that beginning with the first generation of disciples who were made on the day of Pentecost, until this very moment, as you listen to this podcast, every single person who has ever become a true disciple of Jesus has been presented The Great Commission, obeyed all of it and continues to plant it in the hearts of the people they meet and share the Gospel with. All true disciples of Jesus understand that it is their responsibility to Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and teach them to obey these four things. Folks, we can not get around this and this is just the start of obedience. There are many other things Christ told us to obey.
The icing on the cake… the cherry on top of everything Jesus gave us in The Great Commission, is that he would be with us always. That’s awesome! But to be sure; that promise follows the commands. Without obedience to ALL the commands, there is no promise. Folks, let’s make every effort to keep in step with God’s Spirit and commands.
And in conclusion….
Ok. That’s enough for now. We’ll have more in the next podcast.
What we are looking at is how love for Christ is connected to obedience to Christ in the scriptures. The scriptures teach in a variety of ways, in no uncertain terms and in a number of places that if we do not obey, we do not love. I am just discovering this bold and terrifying truth anew. This study is pretty deep. I hope you can accept it.
For me, this teaching is tough but doable when I have a Faith that Obeys.
Join the discussion here.
Listen Now – Podcast 066 – For the Love of Obedience – Part 1