God responds to action that springs from faith in Him. Obedience matters. Period. It’s evidence of your faith. And it’s evidence that you are who you say you are.
That is the point of Obedience Matters Part 1. We looked at Rahab, how the Lord delivered her from destruction because she hid the messengers (Joshua 6:25). Remember, Joshua didn’t say, “Because she believed me.” He said, “Because she hid the messengers.” But we know she only hid them because of her faith in God.
In other words, it is as Paul Tripp states in his book,lNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, “Faith in God is more than believing the right things. It’s living the right way because you believe the right things.” Our faith affects the way we live, which means obedience matters. I’m stating it this way because we live in an age where authority is constantly being questioned. We don’t like it. Our culture embodies the cry of the crowd when they yelled, “Crucify him.” We want the King of Kings dead (Mark 15:13-14).
We don’t like submission. We don’t like to think that our ways must change. We’d rather change the wording. We want to participate in what God is doing. We want to cooperate with his plan. We want to love. It’s all about love, right?
Yes, a love so great and demanding that it crushes us and brings us low to the point of surrender. A love so pure that it causes us to weep because our sin has us feeling so unworthy of it. A love so gracious that it lifts our heads and builds us back up. A love that transforms. A love that takes over. A love that obeys.
And honestly, I sometimes wonder why I bother writing about this at all. I mean, just re-read Tripp’s quote. So many have already written about the relationship between faith and works. Today, I want to take it a step further.
Do you want to know another reason why our obedience matters?
It affects people. Obedience affects people for good. In fact, John states that we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:2). I remember stumbling over this awhile back. I couldn’t take my eyes of the phrase “children of God.” I asked myself, “What in the world does my obedience have to do with other children of God?”
Disobedience also affects people. Let’s return to Joshua. But this time let’s look at chapter 7. The Lord instructed the Israelites NOT to take the things devoted for destruction from Jericho. I want you pay close, close attention to Joshua 7:1.
“But the people broke faith in regard to the devoted things,
For Achan the son of Carmi,
Son of Zabdi,
Son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things.
And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” (emphasis added)
What happened here? Who disobeyed? Who is affected by the action taken?
At first glance, as you start reading, it seems like everyone disobeyed and took the devoted things, but that’s not the case, is it? No, Achan took some of the devoted things. Yet the Lord’s anger burned against the people.
There’s so much that can be said here, so much that I can’t even get into because I haven’t completely wrapped my mind around the significance of the corporate people of God. We are so individualistic as Americans but God has a totally different perspective. He’s redeeming a People. And In Christ, he refers to us as a body. Paul makes the effect we have on one another apparent when he describes how a hurting member of the body affects the rest of the body (1 Corinthians 12:26).
We can’t just think about ourselves. It’s so easy for me to coddle sin and be okay with how it will affect me or my walk with God. I never give thought to how my decisions may affect those around me–not just in the present, but in the future.
Every time I read through this Bible this reality strikes me. It’s all over the Scriptures. Our actions can impact even our children’s children. I think of my husband’s grandfather, Mardy. My husband looked up to this man so much. I don’t know if Mardy ever knew how much his decisions for Christ would impact his grandson, but in many ways they have shaped the way my husband thinks about his life and how he wants to live. What battles did Mardy have to fight to become this example? What discipline did he have to enforce? How many times did he have to humble himself and obey simply because of what he believed about God? What if he had broken his faith instead?
That brings me to another observation about Joshua 7:1. I am amazed at how it directly relates to Part One of this series. Joshua writes that the people of Israel broke faith. How did they break faith? By taking the devoted things. They are one in the same. And the Lord, when his anger burns, he’s responding to them both. We live out of what we believe.
If you keep reading, you will see what this means. In short, 36 men die at the hands of their enemy. Which surprises Joshua and the rest of the people because they had experienced unimaginable victory with God on their side. And the people of Ai were a small people. How could this have happened?
People died because of one man’s disobedience. And it gets worse.
God allowed the people to suffer the consequences, meaning there were consequences for the people of Israel if one of them disobeyed here. But he punished Achan, and not only Achan, but his family.
Achan devoted himself and his family to destruction by taking things that were devoted for destruction for himself. And I have to think that they this said something about his faith too.
We disobey all the time. We make excuses for it because we are saved by grace. But our actions affect people. Our actions affect our effectiveness in the body. Our actions affect our families. The Lord will do His will despite us, but we have to know and accept that obedience truly matters.
I love reading the Old Testament because it has a way of highlighting spiritual realities and impressing them deeper in my heart. There’s a rawness in the Old Testament Scriptures that just makes everything so real to me. But the reality is that when we disobey, we are not punished. One already suffered and died for the disobedience of the Church, and in drawing us to himself and giving us his spirit, making himself known to us, he has given us all we need for life and godliness. There is unimaginable grace for us to obey. We simply must believe in Him.
Our faith in Him transforms us. He changes our hearts. He changes our lives. The way we think. The way we live. We never stop growing once we find ourselves in Him. We never stop becoming more and more like Him. That’s a huge part of what it means to be His.
When we live as though disobedience doesn’t matter, we are saying the above paragraph doesn’t matter. And we’re not just saying that to God, we’re saying that to everyone around us. And that affects people.
I can tell you, firsthand, that I affect my husband when I resolve to obey God as best I can and depend on God for the grace to do so. I am available to serving him and building him up. I make decisions that bless him and others. I get out of the way and do what the Lord desires me to do, and it ends up being sooooo good. So much better than anything else I would have done.
But when I cave, when I give in to temptation and disobey, when I break faith and resolve to do what I want to do, it’s hard to shake that and go right back to following God. It usually has a domino effect on the rest of my day, which affects those around me too. I am not as available to my husband, my son, my family, or my church. I am selfish. And I don’t care until the Holy Spirit gets my attention and I turn from my sin yet again.
And what if I make a pattern of that? What if I make a life of “doing me” whenever I have opportunity? What will my son pick up from that over time? What does that say about God?
This little series is for me, People. I need to remember that obedience matters. The Lord responds to it. And it affects people. Even those most dear to us. Can God do amazing things in their lives despite us? Sure! But should we presume upon his grace?
Yes, we are saved and swimming in gracious waters. But let’s continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Because God works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure!!! There’s so much grace and so much strong help in our Lord. Let’s make an adventure out of using it!
More to come on those amazing verses (Philippians 2:12-13) soon.