Submission Recognition is a weekly posting on the topic of submission. Join me every Tuesday as I work to expand our understanding of a commonly misunderstood calling on every Christian’s life. You can review earlier editions of Submission Recognition here.
Last week, we began looking at the topic of obedience and the role of obedience in submission to God. The KJV Dictionary defines ”Obedience” in this way:
“Compliance with a command, prohibition or known law and rule of duty prescribed; the performance of what is required or enjoined by authority, or the abstaining from what is prohibited, in compliance with the command or prohibition. To constitute obedience, the act or forbearance to act must be in submission to authority; the command must be known to the person, and his compliance must be in consequence of it, or it is not obedience. Obedience is not synonymous with obsequiousness; the latter often implying meanness or servility, and obedience being merely a proper submission to authority. That which duty requires implies dignity of conduct rather than servility. Obedience may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary obedience alone can be acceptable to God.” [Emphasis added.]
I appreciate this definition because it not only defines obedience, but it also states what obedience is not in a biblical way. It also includes that obedience requires two possible directions: (1) Action or (2) Forbearance to act. In other words, we are to be obedient to the “Thou-shalts” as well as the “Thou-shalt-nots.” I also love the final piece of this definition, where it is clarified that God only wants voluntary obedience. This so perfectly echos our look at the obedience of Abel.
It should be no surprise that God wants his children to be obedient. If you are a parent, you can definitely relate to the joy to be had when a child acts obediently. In John 14:15, we read that Jesus states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is just one example in scripture where God clearly states that obedience is an essential part of our faith and evidence of true love for Christ. Hebrews 5:9 states that Christ became a source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Also see Ecclesiastes 12:13, Joshua 1:8, Matthew 7:21, Romans 6:16, and Luke 6:46.) The Word makes it so clear that God desires us to be obedient to his commands, that it may seem unnecessary to even mention it, right?
Unfortunately, obedience to God’s commands is a topic that is comfortably neglected in many evangelical teachings today. We have become so comfortable teaching love, grace, and freedom, that we’ve neglected to teach obedience to Christ as an essential part of that love, grace, and freedom.
I myself was a college student who had been a church-going Christian for more than 5 years before I understood that God expected me to pursue holiness in obedience with his commands. I had a heart that desired to submit to God, but I did not yet realize that submission to God would require me to know God’s commands (see definition above) and comply with those commands. It was through reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges that God convicted me of this ignorance in my faith. Prior to reading that book, I had believed the lie that feelings of love and spirituality were what made up the depth of the Christian life. The idea that God desired us to spend our lives obediently pursuing holiness and experiencing sanctification by his power completely blew my mind and opened my eyes to a far greater purpose.
Still, understanding that we are called to live obediently is simple compared with the actual challenge of obedience. As sinful, fallen people, we are doomed to fail no matter how hard we try. Even our best acts of obedience will be flawed in some way, and perfection is not something we can fully experience on this Earth. So why can’t we just bask in the grace and forget about all this work God calls us to do? I think the shortest answer to this question is found in James: Faith without works is dead. We can’t just sit back and enjoy our motionless faith, because a faith that does not inspire motion is not a faith at all, my friends!
God promises his people great joy and reward for walking in His ways. As you consider what your life would look like if you fully pursued obedience to God, keep in mind that anything short of full pursuit will always leave you desiring more, hungering for more. True contentment, the contentment we all long to have, is only found in bringing glory to God, and God is glorified by our voluntary obedience. Remember Christ’s words, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:32). Living in obedience to God, in submission to God, is food for our starving souls. No matter where you are in your Christian life, sisters, it is time for a feast.
Join me next week to conclude this brief look at obedience by discussing some common sins that get in the way of our obedience!