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Practicing Obedience

Over the past year, the Tuesday Connection Women’s Bible Studies have been studying the book of Exodus. As we’ve concluded this spring with the second half, women had a few questions as they encountered texts on the law, the Tabernacle, and other topics.

Here, Pastor Jeremy answers one woman’s question as she contemplated what obedience to the law looked like then, and what it might look like now. She asks, “How do we practice ‘obedience’ in our daily lives today?”

Obedience: Delightful or Dull?
What rolls through your mind when you think about obedience? I confess I tend to quickly remember being a kid and having to eat vegetables, finish my chores, or follow through with some incredibly boring commitment. When I hear the word obedience, I certainly don’t think about Disney Land or my favorite hobby.

What’s the Bible Say?
I suppose my problem is that I have bought into the false notion that delighting in obedience to the Lord is impossible. But as we look at Scriptures, we find that obedience to God actually brings us joy. Consider Psalms 16:2 as David writes "I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'" Is it true that I have no good apart from the Lord? Or consider verse 5, "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot." Is the Lord my chosen portion? Or consider the final verse of the chapter: "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more." Do I believe obedience is the path of life? Do I find in Christ the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore? These are certainly tough questions, but I think they get to the heart of practicing obedience.

But How Do I Practice Obedience Daily?
Ah yes, the classic question where the rubber hits the road. I don’t pretend to know exactly how you are to practice obedience, but I can share with you what it looks like for me.

  1. I try to begin my day with a gospel-centered prayer “Lord, I know I don’t deserve your grace and yet I humbly thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ. I pray that I would be motivated to love and obedience because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.” I then proceed to pray that the Lord would give me a soft heart that is quick to repent. I continue to pray through some of my regular requests (I have a prayer list) as well as pray through the day’s schedule (I use my calendar for prompts).
  2. I then aim to spend time reading God’s Word. This is where my heart and mind are changed. A good reading plan can assist you in getting through God’s Word systematically. I consult a study Bible or other resources if a particular passage is tricky. But, I’m trying to understand and apply God’s Word to my life.
  3. Following time in being a disciple through prayer and Scripture, I seek to make disciples of my children. This involves teaching them the basics of the faith (books and catechism), asking questions, and praying with them. I’m desirous to equip them with a solid theological vocabulary as well as plant the seeds of the gospel deep in their hearts. Clearly their salvation is only possible through the miraculous work of the Spirit and therefore I’m all the more motivated to pray for them (see step 1).
  4. As my day starts to pick up steam, I prioritize my responsibilities and then work with all my strength to accomplish what the Lord brings before me. Some days, I cross off a number of important tasks. On other days, unexpected interruptions consume my time. My intention is to end my day with the question: “Have I worked as unto the Lord and done my best with what the Lord has brought me?” My desire is to evaluate my work based on the answer to this question (not based on how many items I checked off my list).

What Do You Do When You Mess Up?
I hope you’re not surprised to know that I’m actually quite skilled at messing up. Therefore, I become more and more practiced at repentance and resting in Christ’s finished work. Here’s the point: I skip, mess up, or otherwise regularly ruin my day through disobedience. But, salvation isn’t based on my obedience, but rather on Christ’s. And the more I come to love, treasure, and delight in the gospel, the more my heart is motivated to obedience. Pastor DeYoung says it better than I can: “The secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.” This is the pathway to delighting in obedience. Learn the gospel. Remind yourself of the gospel. Repent when you’re not believing the gospel. And eventually, the gospel will produce the fruit of delightful obedience.