Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Do You Want to be Blessed? Obey!

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Obedience is the pathway to blessing. It’s the means of protection. It’s the means of joy. It’s the means to finding God’s best in our lives. Every time you find the call to obedience in the Scripture, it’s really an invitation to be blessed. Do you want to be blessed? Obey!

Leslie: It’s Monday, October 22, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. For the last several weeks we’ve been seeking Him. Nancy’s going through the characteristics of personal revival. We’ve explored humility, honesty, repentance, grace, and holiness. It’s been great. This week we continue with obedience. If you’re following along in the Seeking Him workbook, today you’ll start on page 125. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: I think most of you are probably familiar with the story of Helen Keller. You may have seen the video or the play called The Miracle Worker. When Helen was 19 months old, she was struck with a fever that left her blind and deaf. When she was 6, her parents hired a tutor whose name was Anne Sullivan, to come and help this child develop some skills.

When Anne first came to live in the Keller home, you remember that Helen was very wild, uncontrollable. She was undisciplined. She often threw temper tantrums and nobody could manage this child. Helen later attributed those temper tantrums to her frustration over her inability to communicate.

In her autobiography, Anne Sullivan, the tutor, the teacher, tells about a scene that happened when she first came to the Keller home. It’s actually a letter that Anne wrote to a friend shortly after she arrived at the home. You may remember this scene if you’ve seen the movie. It’s the scene where Anne’s starting to teach Helen table manners. Here’s how she describes that.

I had a battle royal with Helen this morning. Helen’s manners are appalling. She’s puts her hands in our plates and helps herself, and when the dishes are passed, she grabs them and takes out whatever she wants. This morning I would not let her put her hand in my plate. She persisted, and a contest of wills followed. Helen was lying on the floor, kicking and screaming and trying to pull my chair from under me. She kept this up for half an hour.

Anne goes on to describe some of the things that took place during that half hour. Then she says:

Finally she came back to her place and began to eat her breakfast with her fingers. I gave her a spoon, which she threw on the floor. I forced her out of the chair and made her pick it up. Finally, I succeeded in getting her back in her chair again. I held the spoon in her hand, compelling her to take up the food with it and put it in her mouth.

In a few minutes she yielded and finished her breakfast peaceably. But when she had finished, she threw the spoon on the floor and ran toward the door. Finding it locked, she began to kick and scream all over again. It was another hour before I succeeded in getting her napkin folded.

Then Anne, the teacher, says this telling sentence. 

I suppose I shall have many such battles with the little woman before she learns the only two essential things I can teach her: obedience and love.

Then in another letter to a friend, Anne wrote:

I saw clearly that it was useless to try to teach Helen language or anything else until she learned to obey me. I thought about it a great deal, and the more I think, the more certain I am that obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, yes, and love, too, enter the mind of the child.1

Now, it’s true of children, but it’s also true of adults. Obedience is the gateway through which knowledge and love can enter our minds. Obedience. I think obedience is one of the most basic, fundamental, foundational lessons in life. It’s like learning to walk. Until you have acquired that basic skill, you’re not going to get very far in life.

Until we have learned obedience . . . and by the way, let me say, moms, you need to pray that the Lord will show you how to teach your children obedience while they’re very, very little. That’s a lesson that will provide a foundation for them to survive and thrive all the way through life. It’s not just for children, as we said. It’s something that as adults we need to learn. Obedience. It’s a key to experiencing personal and corporate revival.

Webster’s Dictionary says that "obedience is proper submission to authority. It’s performing what is required or abstaining from what is forbidden." Obedience. It’s a conscious response to a known command. We know what we’re supposed to do and then we do it.

Obedience is a huge theme in the Scripture. In fact, in the Old Testament alone there are 500 references to words like obey, keep, observe, depending what translation you use. The presupposition in the Scripture is that God has the right to tell us what to do. Why? Because He’s God. Our responsibility is to obey. Why? Because we’re not God.

It’s interesting as you go through the Scripture, you find references to the fact that nature obeys God. Everything God tells nature to do, it does. The wind, the waves, the planets, the stars—they all do exactly what God tells them to do. Evil spirits obey God’s commands. Angels obey God. According to Psalm 103, they do His bidding. They do His will. Yet, we human beings, the highest of God’s creation, often disobey God.

You think how audacious that is that all of creation would obey God. Even all the spirit world would have to obey God, but we disobey God. They have no choice but to obey. The trees have to put out their leaves when God says it’s time to do it. They have no choice, but God has given us a choice.

He exercises absolute authority over nature, and He can do the same to us. He could force us to obey Him, but He gives us the freedom to choose. Why? Because God wants lovers. He wants loving obedience, willing obedience, glad-hearted obedience. God is after a relationship with His people.

Now when we think of obedience or disobedience, we may think of it in cold or harsh or impersonal terms. Here’s the law. You have to obey it. But when obedience is used in the Scripture, the tone is one of warmth and love. That’s because God’s commands are always for our good. Always.

The phrase, “That it may go well with you. Obey these commands that it may go well with you.” You’ll find that phrase eight times in the book of Deuteronomy alone. For example, Deuteronomy chapter 4, “Keep his decrees and commands, which I’m giving you today,” Moses said, “so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD God gives you for all time” (verse 40, NIV).

God says, “I want to bless you. I want it to go well with you. I want it to go well with your children. So what do you need to do? Obey My commands.” Obedience is the pathway to blessing. It’s the means of protection. It’s the means of joy. It’s the means to finding God’s best in our lives.

Every time you find the call to obedience in the Scripture, it’s really an invitation to be blessed. You want to be blessed? Obey. That connection between obedience and blessing is all the way through the Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. Obey and you will be blessed. Disobey and you will reap conflict. You will be cursed.

Deuteronomy chapter 11 is one of several passages that show that theme. Moses said, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today” (verses 26-28).

Now which do you want? Do you want to be blessed or do you want to be cursed? Well, of course, we want to be blessed, but we don’t want to obey. We want the blessing without the obedience. Over and over again, because they wanted the blessing, God’s people promised to obey Him. You read that all through the Old Testament.

In Exodus chapter 24, after Moses gave the Ten Commandments to the people, Moses took the Book of the Covenant. He read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (verse 7).

Do you know it wasn’t days later after Exodus 24 where those words are spoken that we come to Exodus 32 where the people make that golden calf? Within moments they’ve broken all ten of those commandments. “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” All the commandments broken.

Aren’t we that way? “Lord, I’ll obey You.” We go to a special service at church where we’re really moved or you listen to a program on Revive Our Hearts and you’re heart is stirred. You’re in the Scripture in your quiet time in the morning and God really speaks to you and you say, “Yes, Lord, I agree with You. I’m going to do what You say.” And you haven’t been out of your quiet time three minutes before you’re screeching at your kids, acting like a total nonbeliever. “Yes, Lord, I’ll obey.” Then we’re being selfish, proud, angry, and irritable.

The people of Israel discovered the same thing you’ve discovered and that is we can’t obey. In fact, a major purpose of the Old Testament is for the people to realize and for us to learn we cannot obey God on our own. That’s why the Old Testament, Malachi 4, verse 6, ends with a curse, because the people could not obey God.

You can’t obey God. Jesus is the only person who has ever lived who perfectly obeyed His heavenly Father. But because Jesus lives in us, we have a new life, a new power, and we can now obey God because we have the life of Christ within us. That’s why it’s so important that we learn to surrender to Christ within us, to let Him live the Christian life in and through us.

I love that verse in Philippians chapter 2, verse 13: “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). It’s God within us, it’s the Holy Spirit of Christ within me that gives me the desire to obey God and then gives me the power to obey God.

Ezekiel chapter 33 has a passage that I think is fascinating and it actually describes what I think is true in the average church today. Let me read this passage to you and see if this sounds at all familiar.

Ezekiel chapter 33, beginning in verse 30, God says to Ezekiel, “The children of your people [the Israelites] . . . speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’” Come and listen to the word of the Lord.

“So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words [Ezekiel], but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed,” God said, “‘you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument.’”

We love your music. We love your calm, soothing voice, Ezekiel. You’re such a great preacher. I added that into the passage. He says, “You are to them as a very lovely song [as someone who can sing well or play well on an instrument]; . . . for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”

I thought, "I wonder how many pastors have that same feeling today?" People come to church and say, “Come hear our preacher. He’s the greatest in town.” God says, "They come and they listen to you. They sit and they take notes, but they don’t do what you say."

The word in the Old Testament Hebrew that is translated obey is a word that also means to hear. To hear the Word of God is not supposed to be a passive experience. It requires an obedient response. Remember what Jesus said in Luke chapter 6? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but you don’t do what I tell you to do?” (verse 46, paraphrased). There’s something wrong with this picture, Jesus is saying.

Then He gives that word picture, you remember, at the end of Luke 6. “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose [not if, but when], the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (verses 47-48).

What’s the rock? What’s the foundation that house was built upon? It’s the foundation of obedience to the Word of Christ. “But,” he goes on to say, “the one who hears [My words] and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (verse 49).

You want to know why there are so many lives getting ruined around you even in our churches today? One of the huge reasons is because we’re hearing things, the teaching of God’s Word, that we’re not obeying. We have no foundation for our lives so when the storms of life come, as they do and as they will, we have nothing to base our lives on.

So Jesus says in Matthew chapter 7, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (verse 21). Jesus says, "It’s not enough to hear, it’s not enough to say with your mouth, 'I agree with this. I’m an evangelical, born-again, Bible-believing Christian.'" You can say that, but if you don’t live it, Jesus says you give evidence that you are not even a child of God. You have no basis for assurance of salvation if you are not a doer of the Word of God.

So that’s why James says in chapter 1 of his epistle, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (verse 22). As I was studying that passage for this series, I realized what you may be deceiving yourself about is the fact that you’re even a Christian at all. If you are consistently hearing the Word but not putting it into practice in your life, you are deceived.

Deuteronomy chapter 29, Moses says, “Beware lest there be among you a man or a woman or a clan or a tribe [we could say a man or a woman or a family or a church] whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you [among God’s people] a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (verse 18).

What kind of person is that root who bears poisonous and bitter fruit? It’s a person “who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’” You get that picture? It’s a person who hears the words of God. He’s going to continue living his life the way he always has and he says, "I’m okay. I hear it. I’m not doing it, but I shall be safe though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart."

Now that passage says to me there’s a danger of our getting inoculated against obedience. We think because we’re hearing the word of God that therefore we’re safe. We’re okay. All the while we’ve been accommodating and adapting to the culture around us excusing disobedience to God’s commands or maybe just blind, not even realizing.

We’ve heard so much. We know so much. We have so much of God’s Word and yet in many cases we’re neglecting what we know. Moses says beware because a person like that or a family like that or a group of people like that is a root that will produce poisonous and bitter fruit.

You say what does it matter if I have half-hearted or half-way obedience to God? Your life will be a root in the body of Christ, in your family that will cause a poisonous and a bitter fruit. When you disobey God, it’s not just a problem between you and God. It is that, but it’s also an issue in the church. So when we talk about the need for revival in the church, that’s why it’s so important that all of us as individual believers become committed to a lifestyle of obedience.

I want to tell you there is no substitute for obedience to the Word of God. I don’t care how much you pray. I don’t care how much you study your Bible. I mean I do care. But when it comes to the final analysis, how much you’re involved in ministry, all the kinds of Christian service you do. You can do all those things, but if you’re not obeying the Word of God, it’s useless. Worse than that, God says, "I don’t want all that stuff if you’re not obedient."

A. W. Tozier said, “Revival will come when prayer is no longer used as a substitute for obedience.” There is no substitute for obedience.

I think one of the most powerful examples of that in Scripture, of course, is the story of King Saul. You know the story in 1 Samuel chapter 15. “Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD’” (verse 13). I have obeyed God.

Now what had God told Saul to do? Go and kill all the Amalekites and destroy all the loot. So the prophet Samuel comes to Saul and Saul says, “Blessed are you, Samuel. I’ve obeyed what God told me to do.” You feel like saying, “Saul, who asked?” He’s disobeyed, and he’s already defensive because he had only partially obeyed. He hadn’t destroyed all the Amalekites. He hadn’t destroyed all the loot. Samuel knew it. God knew it.

“Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?’” (verse 14). If you’ve destroyed all these animals, what’s all this noise I’m hearing? “Saul said, ‘the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction” (verse 15).

Samuel says in verse 18, “The LORD sent you on a mission [Saul] and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”

“Saul said to Samuel [now just imagine how foolish this is], ‘I have obeyed the voice of the Lord’” (verse 20). Now did he really think he had? If he did, he was deceived. So are we so often. We say, “I’m obeying God.”

Saul said, “I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, the sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God” (verses 20-21). He’s making excuses. He’s blaming. He’s rationalizing. He’s justifying himself. He is deceived.

Samuel says, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen [obediently is better] than the fat of rams.”

Now let me just make that a little more personal here. Some of you have been listening to Revive Our Hearts for weeks, months, years. Some of you have read every book I’ve written and a lot of other great books by other Christian authors. You listen to Christian radio. You go to church Sunday after Sunday. You hear the preacher. You have heard the truth, and you maybe even agree with what you’ve heard. The question is are you doing what you’ve heard?

I want to tell you that in order to experience true revival most of us don’t need to hear one more truth than we already know. We just need to obey the truth we already know. When we do, we will experience, I believe, true revival.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with an important challenge. It’s easy to hear the truth on the radio and just keep going along our way. It’s a lot harder to obey what we’ve learned. A group of women in Wisconsin have been challenged in the area of obedience and other qualities of personal revival like humility and honesty.

Their small group went through the workbook Nancy co-wrote called Seeking Him. A woman from the group wrote and said, “Thank you so much for the blessing of Seeking Him. We have completed the study with 47 women—life-changing for all of us.”

Would you love to see the members of your small group experience personal revival? Why not go through Seeking Him? Each day the members will go through the personal Bible study in their own workbooks. Then your group can get together to watch Nancy teach related material on DVD and then discuss the study together.

For more information on how to get started, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. When you visit our site, you can also find articles and information on the issues most affecting your life. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com and then click on “Topics.”

These helpful online articles, this radio program, and everything we do is possible because listeners pray and they give. When you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, ask for your thank you gift, the 2008 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The calendar is called “Prayers from the Heart.” Each month’s page brings you a printed prayer from Nancy.

To see this attractive calendar for yourself, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the calendar when you donate by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be back tomorrow to give a definition of obedience to God. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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.

1Helen Keller. The Story of My Life. (1902 reprint, New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1961), p. 263-65.

 

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