By Shane Idleman; www.WCFAV.org
In the eyes of a secular culture, obedience to God’s Word seems intolerant, tyrannical, and demanding. Yet, obedience is a spiritual principle intended to protect and honor others, as well as ourselves. Sadly, it is not only a cultural mindset, but many Christians have little regard for, or a skewed understanding of obedience.
One of the most common comments I’ve hear is, “I know what the Bible says! I’ve been in church all of my life.” But “hearing” is not enough. Jesus confirms this in Luke 6:49 when He said that the person who hears His words but does not put them into practice is like a man who builds a house without a foundation. When the storm comes, it collapses. The man “heard” but did not “do.” We must not only hear God’s Word, we must respond. A consistent theme throughout the Bible is: Hearing plus doing equals success.
We live in a nation saturated with hearing. The Bible is readily accessible in many translations; Greek and Hebrew resources are in abundance; classes on homiletics and hermeneutics are flourishing; hundreds of Christian radio stations and thousands of sermon podcasts are aired daily. We are inundated with the Word of God. So what’s the problem? Why so many broken lives and families? The problem is, and has always been, obedience. In Genesis 4:7, at the beginning of creation, we read God’s words to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Obedience matters.
James 1:22 also reminds us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” We live in deception when we know the Word but do not obey it. For example, I remember counseling a man about anger. His response, “I know what the Bible says!” He then offered many excuses justifying his behavior. One of the frustrations when counseling is that many say the right thing, and often, quote Scripture, but few genuinely repent and obey the Word.
On numerous occasions when I have spoken about the dangerous of sexual sin from the pulpit or during counseling, many enthusiastically agree that it’s wrong, but continue anyway (“hear” but do not “do”). Sexual sin is deceptive at its core…it draws us in to a false sense of attraction. Lust is extremely strong and enticing. It affects emotions, feelings, and our will at a very deep level. For those who are married, it often leads to the devastating words, “I don’t love you anymore.” At this point, unable to perceive and/or obey spiritual truth, sin’s deception has taken over and spiritual blindness has set in.
When sexual sin has gained a stronghold, the heart hardens and an array of excuses follow. The spouse they once loved and cherished is now despised and discarded. Sin continues to deceive with the ultimate goal of killing the marriage: “Sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15).
Obedience is crucial…it stops sin dead in its tracks. Often, the only way out of adulterous and destructive relationships is to do what is right regardless of feelings. Feelings often lie, but obedience can be trusted.
Sadly, many do not experience freedom and true restoration because wholeness is found in obeying the truth, not just in hearing it. Church, for some, serves as therapy for this very reason. They hear about sin, are convicted, and leave feeling justified because they “heard” and “felt,” but they did not repent and change.
James 2:14-26 says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Scripture does not promote a works-based religion; it demonstrates the importance of having a genuine relationship with Christ that, in turn, seeks to honor God and others through obedience. Genuine faith is reflected in obedience to God and His Word. The fruit that follows is sincere humility, selfless love, true repentance, and disengagement from the things of the world verses a love for them. Does your life reflect these characteristics? As you can see, hearing and obeying the truth are vitally important.