Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with a simple definition.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Obedience is doing exactly what I’m told to do, when I’m told to do it, with the right heart attitude.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 23.

Sometimes you think your child might have broken a rule, but you’re not quite sure. They knew what you expected, but you can’t quite prove whether they disobeyed or not. Children have a way of trying to push the limits.

We do the same with our Heavenly Father. But when we obey completely, it is joyful and restful. Here’s Nancy to explain.

Nancy: Let me ask you to turn in your Bible, to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter eight. I want us to look at an account that gives a great description of the meaning of obedience.

What is obedience? Here is a great picture: Matthew chapter eight:

When [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion [that is a Roman soldier who was responsible for one hundred soldiers] came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And [Jesus] said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (verses 5-8).

Here is the description of obedience:

For I too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, "Go," and he goes, and to another, "Come," and he comes, and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it (verse 9).

That is a great definition of obedience: “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (verse 9).

The Scripture says, “When Jesus heard this [verse 10], he marveled and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.’” Jesus linked together obedience, an understanding of authority, to the whole issue of faith.

The ministry I’ve served with for over 25 years—Life Action Ministries—takes teams into local churches to teach these revival principles. One of the things we do is teach a definition of obedience—and that is what I want us to learn today.

Obedience has three parts: doing exactly what I’m told to do, when I’m told to do it, with the right heart attitude. Let me say it again. Obedience is doing exactly what I’m told to do, when I’m told to do it, with the right heart attitude.

Let’s just take that definition apart and look at each of the components. Obedience is—What is the first part?—doing exactly what I’m told to do. Complete, absolute, exact obedience—we need to learn to obey in detail—to obey to the letter of what God has said.

Every detail God gives us in His commandments is important. I think of Noah building that ark. God said, “There’s going to be a flood, and you need to build a boat that will take you to safety, and here is what that boat is supposed to look like.”

God gave specific instruction and materials that were to be used. He showed Noah how this ark was to be built. What if Noah had said, “I think I could do it a little differently, and it would still work”?

I don’t think so! That ark would not have provided the safety it did, if Noah had not followed God’s instructions “to-the-T.” Remember all those chapters in Exodus? When you’re reading through the Bible that is usually when you get bogged down.

It’s when it gets into those long chapters of all those descriptions about the details of the tabernacle. In fact, you get them twice in Exodus, because the first time God tells Moses what all the details are, and then you have it repeated when it says Moses did all those details.

Detailed instructions—it’s the part where you probably want to gloss over or skip through because it’s verse upon verse upon verse of details! Why did God put all that in the Scripture?

To bore us? To confuse us? To frustrate us? I think God wanted us to understand that detailed obedience matters. Obedience is doing exactly what I’m told to do.

Jesus said in Matthew chapter five, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (verse 18). The details matter to God.

Then Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

Remember the great commission in Matthew chapter 28? Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to [obey] all that I have commanded you” (verse 19-20a).

That is what “disciple-making” is all about. As you’re disciplining your children, you are teaching them to obey everything that Christ has commanded us.

We might think about partial obedience sometimes. What’s the big deal? Imagine Eve there in the garden saying, “It’s just a bite. It’s just one piece of fruit. I mean, what’s the big deal? Isn’t God being legalistic to tell me I can’t eat that particular fruit from that particular tree?”

I don’t know what she was thinking, but if she was thinking anything like that, look where that bit of partial obedience led us. God didn’t say, “You can’t eat from all the other trees.” She obeyed in that sense, but the one thing God said not to do—she didn’t obey in the detail.

God said to Lot and his family, “Don’t look back.” Lot’s wife thought, “Just one little look. What will it matter?” She lost her life—and one act of disobedience can ultimately take our lives. God knows that. That is why He says, “Obey everything!”

Achan took a few little things that were forbidden from the enemy. What does it matter? He lost his life, his family lost their lives, and the nation of Israel lost a battle at Ai, because one man disobeyed in one little matter.

Love obeys to the letter. Love obeys to the end. Love says, “God, I love You so much that I want to obey everything You have commanded.” Have you ever thought about what would have happened if Jesus had stopped obeying God one day before the cross? If He hadn’t obeyed all the way to the finish line?

Aren’t you glad He obeyed all the way in the details? Obedience is doing exactly what I’m told to do. It’s also doing it exactly when I’m told to do it. If no timeframe is given, then obedience means that I’m supposed to do it is now—immediately.

You say to your child, “Get your mess off the kitchen counter before dinner.” That means that anytime between now and dinner is okay for the child to obey. But if you say, “Get your mess off the counter,” the implication is: “Do it now.”

We ought to assume that we should obey now, unless we’re given a different time frame. Doing exactly what I’m told to do it when I’m told to do it—now—if I’m not told otherwise.

Think about this question: What if it took God as long to respond to us when we cry out to Him as it sometimes takes us to obey God? God comes racing to the scene of our need, and He wants us to race to obey Him—to be quick to obey Him.

I love those verses in the Gospels that tell us, when Jesus called those early disciples, it says, “Immediately, they left the nets, their fishing gear, and they followed Him” (Matthew 4:20).

When God said to Isaiah, “Who can we send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8, paraphrase). Quick obedience—quick responsiveness to the call of Christ.

Not just being obedient to God’s commands, but obeying Him when it comes to times of temptation. When is the best to obey in order to resist the temptation? Now! If you play around with it, you dilly-dally, if you toy with the idea of sinning, if you think about it too long, chances are you’re not going to obey.

Instant obedience is a protection against great disobedience down the road. Obedience is doing exactly what I’m told to do, when I’m told to do it, with the right heart attitude.

What is the right heart attitude? It is the heart attitude Jesus had when He said, “I delight, O God, to do Your will” (Psalm 40:8; John 4:34, paraphrased). Joyful obedience; glad-hearted obedience; wholehearted obedience.

Who can you think of in the Scripture who obeyed God—finally—with the wrong heart attitude? An Old Testament character? Jonah. Jonah obeyed God. He did what God told him to do, but he didn’t do it when he was told to do it, and he didn’t do it with the right heart attitude.

That was reluctant obedience. That was coerced obedience. Listen—you will obey God sooner or later, and isn’t it true that so often, after we’ve had our temper-tantrum and we’ve gone our own way and we’ve done our own thing, that we come back and say too late, “I want to obey God”?

That’s what happened to the children of Israel when God told them to go into the Promise Land and they wouldn’t because they didn’t believe God. Then after God said, “Okay, you can wander in the wilderness for 40 years,” people said, “Okay, we want to obey You now.”

God said, “No. Too late.” They sent forces out and they tried to go in, but they got defeated. They couldn’t do it because God said, “You didn’t obey Me—now. You didn’t do it when I said to do it. You didn’t have the right heart attitude.”

Let me ask you, “How thoroughly do you obey God? How completely, how totally, how exactly do you obey Him? Are you often guilty of partial obedience, or cosmetic obedience? It looks like you’re obeying, but you’re not doing all God has said to do?

How quickly do you obey? Something I’ve learned over the years—that you may want to teach your children as well—is that delayed obedience is disobedience. Obey now and when you obey, what is your heart attitude?

Is it, “Oh, I just have to do this.” Is it reluctant? Is it coerced? Or is it joyful, willing obedience—“I delight to do Your will.” I love that verse in the Gospel of John chapter two, at the wedding feast of Cana when they ran out of wine, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, calls the servants together over to the water pots. She says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (verse 5, paraphrase).

That’s a challenge that I want to give you. I want to be a woman who has that message to others (and to myself, as well). Whatever He says to you—whatever He says—if it’s hard, if it’s easy, if it’s challenging, if it doesn’t make sense, if it goes against everything you ever thought to be true, whatever God says to you, whatever Jesus says to you through His Word—whatever it is, whatever it costs, however hard it may look—whatever He says to you, “Do it!”

All the way through the Scripture, the concept of obedience is linked with relationship. It’s a relational term. Obedience flows out of a personal relationship with God. It’s something that’s motivated by love. It is God’s kids who obey Him.

We see through the Scripture that when we obey, we demonstrate that we have a relationship with God. We demonstrate that He is our Father. We demonstrate that we have genuine faith; that we have truly been born again into the family of God.

Obedience is one of the most important and essential elements and expressions of true faith. You read about this particularly in the first Epistle of John. First John chapter two. Listen to these words:

“And by this we know that we have come to know him” (verse 3a). Now, the book of 1 John was written to give people assurance of their salvation. How do you know for sure you’re a child of God?

People sometimes write us at Revive Our Hearts and they say, “How can I know that I’m a Christian?” First John chapter 2:3 tells us one of the ways we can know:

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (verses 3-6).

Then you go to First John chapter three, beginning in verse five, and you see this same theme:

You know that [Christ] appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him [no one who belongs to him] keeps on sinning [habitually or doesn’t live in sinful habit patterns]; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. [So John says,] Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning . . . No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God (verses 5-9).

If God is your Heavenly Father, your inclination will be to obey God: “By this it is evident [verse ten of 1 John chapter three] who are the children of God.”

“It is the people who have their name on the church roll. It is the people who are involved in small groups for Bible study. It is the people who live really good lives.” Is that what it says?

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

John is saying here that to prove that you are a child of God to yourself or to others, takes more than just intellectual assent to the gospel, more than just saying, “I believe.” It has to be demonstrated in the kind of obedience that is characteristic of children to their parents.

Not only does obedience demonstrate genuine salvation, but it also demonstrates genuine love for God. It’s how we show that we love God. We show that by obeying Him. It’s how we demonstrate our love for Christ, and over and over again in Scripture—interestingly enough, again in the writings of John—this time in the Gospel of John, chapter 14.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (verse 15). If you love your husband, you will do the things that please him. And if you love God, you will demonstrate it by obeying him.

John 14:21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” The Jews of the Old Testament prided themselves on having the Law of God. “We’re Abraham’s children. We have the Ten Commandments.”

Therefore, they thought they were spiritually okay. But Jesus says, “No—whoever has my commandments and keeps them [obedience], he it is who loves Me. That’s the one who’s related to Me.

And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:21-23).

That kind of obedience—loving, wholehearted, complete obedience—was what Jesus modeled in His relationship with His Heavenly Father. I love that verse in John 14:31 as Jesus and His disciples are getting ready to leave that upper room scene, and they’re going to the place where Jesus knows He will be betrayed and handed over to the Romans.

Jesus says, “But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31). Where were they going? Into the jaws of death.

Jesus said, “Even if it kills Me, I want the world to know that I love My Father, so I’m going to obey His command.” What evidence does your life give to the world, that you love your Heavenly Father? Do they see you obeying God even when it’s costly? Do they see you demonstrating your love for Him?

I want us also to see that obedience is the means through which we can experience the reality of Christ and His love in our lives. Jesus said in that passage that we just read, John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them . . . I will love him and manifest myself to him.” There is a paraphrase of that verse that says, “I will love him and make Myself real to him.”

Do you want to know more of the love of Christ in your life? Do you want to draw closer to Christ? Do you want to sense His nearness and His sweetness and His intimacy in your life? Jesus said, “If you have My commands and you obey them, I will manifest Myself to you. I will make Myself real to you. You will experience My reality in your life” (paraphrase).

Then He says in verse 23 of John 14, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Isn’t that what you want in your life—for God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to make themselves at home in your heart?

“We will come, and we’ll make our home with him.” You can experience the reality of Christ in your life in a greater way through obedience. Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments—you are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 14:15, paraphrase).

That’s the way to experience intimacy with Christ. Now, as we think about obeying Christ as a means of showing our faith and showing our love and experiencing greater intimacy with Christ, remember that in the whole context of John chapter 14 and 15 (where we’ve been reading), and in 1 John (where we started out), there is one major command of Christ that comes up again and again and again.

What is the command? That we love one another. Now, I believe Jesus is talking about obedience to all of His commands, but isn’t it interesting that that’s the one command that He brings up in this context of obedience?

“If you love me, you will obey me, and this is my command: that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (paraphrase). You read it in John 13, John 15, 1 John 3, and 1 John 4—this is the commandment we have from Him.

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (paraphrase). As we pull all of this together, let me ask you a couple of questions. Are you obeying His command to love others as He has loved you?

You say, “Yes, I love people.” Do you love all people? Are there any brothers, sisters, or people in the family of God that you don’t love? Maybe they’re not loveable. It may be your mate. It may be a particular child. It may be a relative—someone that you don’t love with 1 Corinthians 13, agape kind of love.

If there is someone that you’re not loving in a Christ-like way, you can’t say that you’re obeying His commands. “If you love Me, you’ll obey Me. If you obey Me, you will love one another” (paraphrase).

Based on your obedience quotient; based on your lifestyle of obedience, what evidence is there that you are truly a child of God? If that’s how you get proof—assurance; evidence of your salvation—how much evidence is there that you are a child of God?

We can’t be bitter, cantankerous, and ornery; feuding with people; not getting along with people; having rifts between us and other people and say we’re Christians. Jesus said, “People will know that your profession is true if you have love for one another.”

Let me say it again. You have no basis for assurance that you are a child of God if you do not obey the commands of Christ, and one of the primary commands He tells us to obey is to love one another.

It’s not enough to claim that you love Him. It’s not enough to say that you love Him. Are you obeying Him? Do you love others as He has loved you?

Leslie: Loving your neighbor isn’t just a suggestion. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us what obedience to God looks like in day to day life. She’ll be right back to pray.

A new appreciation for obedience often follows revival. So does a passion for purity, holiness, honesty, and repentance. These are all qualities of revival that Nancy covers in a workbook she co-wrote called, Seeking Him.

If you feel dry, then experience Seeking Him. If you’ve drifted from God and miss a close relationship, experience Seeking Him. If your faith lacks excitement or energy, experience Seeking Him.

Seeking Him is our gift to you when you make a donation to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy ended today’s program with a reminder: obeying Christ means loving others like He loved us. Nancy is here to pray that we will do just that.

Nancy: Lord, this is a very high standard You call us to. Yet as You adopt us into Your family and make us Your children, You give us the power to obey You and the power to love people we could not love apart from You.

Lord, may our lives demonstrate the reality of our profession of faith. May our lives demonstrate how much we love You, and may our lives experience increasing intimacy with You.

May You be able to make Yourself at home in our hearts because we obey You. May we obey You because we love You, and because we love You, may we obey You. As we obey You, help us to love others—as You have said that we should love others, as You have loved us.

Thank You, Lord, not only for Your commands, but for Your grace and the power of Your Holy Spirit to obey them. I pray in Jesus name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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