Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Obedience in Action

Leslie Basham: The Bible says obedience combines inward heart attitudes and outward actions. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It doesn’t just say, “If you’re willing to obey God’s commands, you’ll be blessed.” It says, “If you’re willing to obey and you actually obey.” It’s not just saying, “I’ll do it.” It’s doing it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, September 25.

If you ask your child to start cleaning up and he just stands there, there’s a word for it: disobedience. It doesn’t really matter if he was thinking about cleaning up or intending to clean up. Obedience involves some sort of action. We’ll consider this, continuing in a series called "Obedience: The Acid Test of Love."

Nancy: Several years ago after I’d finished speaking at a conference, I got a letter from one of the ladies who had been at that conference. She was sharing with me how God was continuing to work in her heart as a result of what she had heard that weekend. In her letter she said,

Several times during the conference you used the phrase, "Wave the white flag of surrender."

It’s a phrase I love. It’s a visual image. It’s a great word picture, and I had used that phrase during the conference. If you’ve heard me any length of time on Revive Our Hearts, you’ve heard me use it a number of times. I challenge people, and I challenge myself, “Wave the white flag of surrender.” Say, “Yes, Lord,” to whatever God is saying to you.

So when I got home from the conference, I went to my husband’s closet and got out one of his big white handkerchiefs. It is now in the front of my Bible. When I begin reading the Word in the morning, I literally wave it before the Lord, declaring my intention to submit to what He has to say to me.

Before she reads the Scripture, she waves that as her white flag. What she is saying is, “Lord, whatever You have to say, I will obey. I am waving the white flag of surrender.” She said,

I know God doesn’t need it, but it serves as a reminder to me. [And then she said something that may sound a little bit strange to some people.] Then I sit before the Lord with that hanky draped over my head as I read. (If people were to see me, they might throw a net over me!)

As I read that, I thought of that passage in 1 Corinthians 11 that talks about a woman having her head covered as a sign . . . of what? A sign of submission.

Now, believe it or not, we get repeated emails and letters from women wanting to know what I think about women wearing head coverings, and about 1 Corinthians 11. I’m not going to go into that text here. I’ll be glad to put something on ReviveOurHearts.com that will explain what I think that passage is teaching.

But there is one thing clear in that passage: The point is that a woman is to have evidence that she is living under God-ordained authority.

And that head covering, whatever it was in 1 Corinthians 11, is a sign. It’s an external symbol of something that’s going on in her heart—that is, that she is saying, “Yes, Lord,” to whatever God wants from her. She’s under authority.

“I’m coming under the authority of Your Word,” was what this woman was wanting to say by putting that hanky over her head.

As we think about obedience to the commands of God and surrendering and waving the white flag of surrender before Him, I want to remind us that God’s commands are not burdensome. God intends them for our good.

That’s what 1 John tells us—that the commands of God are not burdensome. They are desirable. They are to bless us. That’s the point Moses makes to the Children of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 32. Listen to verses 45–46. "When Moses had finished speaking all these words to Israel,” and “all these words” are all the commands that God had given Moses to give to Israel;

When Moses had finished speaking all these commands, he said to them, "Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law."

Let me just say parenthetically here, it’s important not only that you teach the commands of the Lord to your children, but that you do them, so your children can see your example of obedience to the laws of God. Your children are more inclined to catch who you are and what you do than they are to be molded by what you say.

You need both. You need to be teaching God’s laws and commands to them, but you need to be doing the commands of God. You need to be doers of those commands.

Moses goes on to say in verse 47, “For it is no empty word for you.” This law, these commandments, these are not just an empty word. These words are “your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

What is Moses saying? “These words”—the Ten Commandments and the other commandments that God gave—the Law of God—they’re good for you! It’s your life. You will live by this word. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God (see Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).

Now, the Israelites had to learn that they did not have the power in and of themselves to obey the Law of God. They were given the Word so that they could be convicted as lawbreakers.

That’s why I thank God we have a New Covenant. Thank God we have the cross. Thank God we have Christ, in His indwelling Holy Spirit, who makes it possible for us to live in obedience to God’s law!

But God’s law, God’s Word, is for our blessing. It’s for our good. We live not just by having the Word of God, but by being obedient to the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

As you study the commands of God, you’ll notice that every one of God’s commands is tied to a promise. Let me read something that I read about that subject recently. This author says,

Every command of God is built upon a promise from God. Every divine call to action (obedience) is, at the same time, a divine summons to trust in God’s promises (faith). [Trust and obey.] . . . Disbelief always shows up as an act of disobedience, since every promise carries with it a command.1

So you have the promise that leads to the command. If you trust the promise, then you can obey the command. If you don’t trust the promise, then you will not obey the command. He says, “Every time we disobey God it is because we are not trusting His promises.”

Trust and obey. Trust the promises. Obey the commands. That’s why that song is so right that we learned as children. “There’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust [the promises] and obey [the commands].”

Now as I’ve said, we need to be familiar with those commands. As I was working on this series, I made a list of some of the commands we find just in the New Testament. This is a short list.

I’m not saying this to put us into a place of legalism, or to say, “You need to leave here and strive and struggle to obey the law of God in your own energy, your own flesh.” You can’t.

But if you are a child of God, you have the Holy Spirit living in you, who gives you the desire and the power and the grace to obey everything that God commands you. Because every one of His commands is tied . . . to what? A promise. We trust the promise; we’re enabled to obey the commands.

There are many more commands than these, but let me just read some of these. As I do, ask yourself, “Am I obeying this command? I know it, but am I doing it? Is this a command I consistently obey in my life?”

By the way, don’t try to write all these down. We’ll have a list available on our website, and we’ll have Scriptures that go alongside of them, so you can check that out. But just listen and perhaps jot down specific ones that God speaks to you about.

For example, we’re commanded to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, when there’s been a breach in the relationship (see Matt. 5:23–24). Is there anyone in God’s family with whom you need to be reconciled? There’s a breach and you’ve just let it go; you’re not dealing with it. You’re just letting the conflict go on.

I can’t tell you how often I meet people or how often I get letters from women. They have a longstanding broken relationship that they’re not doing anything about—a parent they haven’t talked to in years. There’s a conflict in a relationship.

God says if you’re coming to church and you’re going to offer your sacrifice, before you make your offering, go and try to be reconciled to your brother. If you realize there’s somebody who has something against you—or if you have something against someone else—in either position, you take the initiative. Go and seek reconciliation.

Are you obeying that command?

We’re commanded to love our enemies and to forgive those who sin against us (see Prov. 24:17, Matt. 5:44). Is there someone who has sinned against you, who has offended you, who has wronged you, that you have never forgiven? You know God’s command; are you doing it?

We’re commanded not to be anxious about the necessities of life—what we’ll eat, what we’ll wear, where we’ll live—those basic necessities of life (see Phil. 4:6, Luke 12:29–31). God says, “I’ll take care of those things.” So we’re told, “Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious.”

You know that command. Do you find yourself in the course of the day, as I often do myself, being anxious, fretting, being stressed out over things that you have no control over? God says, “Don’t worry about anything. Don’t be anxious.”

Are you obeying that command?

We’re commanded to do to others as we would have them do to us. Think about the way you talk to your mate. Think about the way you talk to your children. Think about the way you treat that person in your workplace who gets on your nerves.

Is that the way you would want others to treat you? Everybody knows the Golden Rule, even people who don’t know anything about the Bible or about Christ. They know that one command: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matt. 7:12, Luke 6:31.)

Are you living by that command? Not just do you know it, but are you doing it?

We’re commanded to be generous (see Deut. 15:11, Matt. 5:42). Not to hold back but to be generous, to be givers. You find that all through the Old and New Testaments, many times. Are you generous, or do you find yourself holding onto things?

I talked to a woman the other day. She and her husband are in their retirement years, but there are some major physical issues, some major potential financial issues.

She said, “I find myself in this season of life being tempted to hold onto things for fear of the future. But,” she says, “I just know that God’s way is to give. Not to hold on—to give; to trust that He will meet my needs. I just have to keep counseling my heart to be generous.”

Here’s a woman who wants to not only know God’s Word, but to do it, to obey His commands.

We’re commanded to love one another. We’re commanded to share with those in need (see John 15:12, Heb. 13:1). Do you know someone in need, someone that maybe you’re carrying a burden for? Have you asked God, “Lord, is there anything You want me to do to help to minister to that need, to share with that person?”

I’ve been convicted recently about how many clothes I have in my closet that I don’t wear. I’ve been pulling out those clothes—and I need to do more—and sending them to our ministry's Blessing Barn. It’s a place where people can bring things, and others on our staff can come and benefit from those things that they may need.

I sent some things back to the Blessing Barn the other day, and I got an email from one of our staff saying, “Thank you so much." This really met a need for some of the women in our ministry. I should have done it a long time ago.

Sharing with those in need: It’s a commandment. Don’t just know it; do it.

We’re commanded not to repay evil for evil (see Rom. 12:17–19). Is there someone who has wronged you, and you’re giving them the silent treatment, or giving little digs, or you’re speaking evil about them to others? We’re commanded: Don’t repay evil for evil.

You know that command. Are you obeying it?

We’re commanded to flee from sexual immorality, to run from it (see 1 Cor. 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Not to toy around with it, not to play with it, not to think about it, not to indulge in it, but to run from every form of sexual immorality. That relates to what we see, what we do, what we hear, what we read, our thoughts—every form of sexual immorality—we’re to run from those things, to flee from those things.

Are you flirting with sexual sin? Are you flirting with a relationship that is an illicit one? Are you toying with or making allowance for an Internet relationship or a flirtatious relationship in the workplace? You’re playing with fire.

You know God’s command. Are you obeying it?

You say, “Oh, it would be so hard to deal with that.” God will give you grace when you wave the white flag of surrender and you say, “Yes, Lord, I will obey.” There’s grace for that.

We’re commanded to speak truthfully to each other (see Eph. 4:31, Col. 3:9). Not to lie to each other, but to speak the truth, every man with his brother “for we are members one of another,” Paul says (see Eph. 4:25). Is there anything that you’re not being honest with your husband about? Are you leaving a better impression of yourself by things you say that are not honestly true?

It’s a command of God to speak truthfully.

In Ephesians 4 we’re commanded not to speak any unwholesome words. That word unwholesome means “useless words; vain words; empty words.” How many times a day do most of us violate that command?

We know that command, Eph. 4:29. Let no unwholesome (or useless) talk come out of your mouths, but only words that will minister grace to the hearer—words that are good for building up.

You know that command. How do your words measure up to it?

We’re commanded in that same passage to be kind and compassionate and forgiving when others wrong us. How are you obeying that command? What’s the climate of your home? Tenderhearted and kind? Compassionate?

You say, “Yes, I wish my kids and my husband were that way.” My question is, “Are you that way?” Are you obeying those commands that you know?

We’re commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Did you know that not to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a sin? We’re commanded, all the time, perpetually: always being filled with the Holy Spirit. Are you filled with the Holy Spirit right now?

Were you filled with the Holy Spirit at 7:30 this morning when you were getting ready to come to this session and you and your husband were passing each other, maybe having some words? Were you filled with the Holy Spirit in how you dealt with him? Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

We’re commanded to obey those who exercise authority over us, in our homes, our churches, our government, our society . . . to obey those who have authority over us (see Eph. 6:5–6, Rom. 13:1–4).

You know that command. Are you doing it?

We’re commanded—man, this is a tough one. We’re commanded to do all things without complaining or arguing. You say, “Boy, I wish my children would get that one.” Listen, your children have a better chance of getting that one if you get it.

Do all things without complaining [murmuring] or arguing. If we would just obey that one command in our homes, how different would things be?!

We’re commanded to rejoice in the Lord always (see Ps. 100:2, Eph. 5:19). Always to rejoice in Him—that’s an area where the Lord has been dealing in my own heart this past year. I find that so often I’m serving the Lord but not serving Him with gladness.

That’s a command I want to obey. Serve the Lord with gladness. In everything rejoice. Give thanks. Don’t worry about anything. Instead give thanks. Pray about everything.

We’re commanded not to be idlenot to be busybodies. How are you doing at that one?

We’re commanded not to speak evil against one another (see Ps. 15:3, Ps. 19:14). Boy, this whole sin of gossip in the church, critical speaking—we know those commands. Are we doing them?

We’re commanded to pray about everything (see Luke 12:29–31). You know that command. I know that command. Are we doing it?

There’s a verse in Isaiah that I think we need to remember as we think about the commands of God. God says to His people in Isaiah 1:19–20, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

There’s that theme again; we’ve looking at it throughout this series. Obedience brings blessing“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” But disobedience brings curses and conflict. “If you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I just want to look at that little phrase willing and obedient. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat of the good of the land. It doesn’t just say, “If you are willing to obey God’s commands, you will be blessed.” It says, “If you are willing to obey and you actually obey.”

It’s not just saying, “I’ll do it.” It’s doing it. “Willing and obedient, you shall eat of the good of the land.”

As I was thinking about this session, I thought of the passage in Matthew 21:28–32 where Jesus said to those who were listening, “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’” There’s a direction. There’s a command.

“And [the son] answered, ‘I will not.’” He refused. He rebelled. “But afterward he changed his mind and went.” He repented. He went. He obeyed the command.

And then the man went to the other son and said the same thing to him: Go and work in the vineyard. And that son said, “I go, sir.” Respectful, willing, seems to be submissive, but he did not go. He was willing, but he was not obedient.

Jesus said, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”

Now, the first one was wrong to refuse and rebel. But he repented! The second one said, “I’m willing. I’ll go.” But he didn’t go.

I wonder how many of us are like that second son. We say, “Oh, God, I want to obey You. I want to wave the white flag of surrender. I want to say, ‘Yes, Lord.’ I want to be an obedient Christian.” We say we’ll do it, but we don’t do it.

Isaiah says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat of the good of the land.”

What is it that you’ve been willing to do, as far as God’s commands go, but you’re not actually doing? Maybe it’s seeking forgiveness from your mate or from one of your children for the way you’ve sinned against them. You’ve known you needed to do that. You’ve known you needed to clear your conscience, but you haven’t done it. Willing and obedient.

Maybe it’s a phone call you need to make to a parent or an in-law. Maybe it’s a note you know you need to write, or a relationship God wants you to reconcile. You’re willing, but you just haven’t done it.

Maybe it’s taking steps to honor your parents. You’re willing, but you need to obey. Maybe it’s something God wants you to give, and you’ve said, “Yes, Lord, I’m willing; I’ll do it,” but you just haven’t done it.

You want to. You’re willing. Now the question is: Will you do it?

Song:

You’ve heard the words
And know they’re true,
For now they ring inside of you.
They’re calling you to come away;
Now will you come or stay?

You want to, now will you?
You want to, now will you?

The truth that burns within you
Like a bed of fiery coals
Contains the power to liberate
A thousand captive souls.
But if the truth will ever set you free
Depends on you.

You want to, now will you?
You want to . . . now, will you?2

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She’s challenged us to always equate obedience and action. Serving the Lord involves your to-do list and calendar along with your heart attitude.

That message is part of a series called "Obedience: The Acid Test of Love." Nancy writes about this topic in her workbook, Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.

When you go through this workbook, you’ll read about a topic like Obedience. Then Nancy leads you through a series of questions to help you pray and make the material personal. You’ll then be challenged to decide what you’re going to do about what you’ve learned.

When you study the other topics like brokenness, humility, honesty, purity, and clearing your conscience in this way, you’ll experience the joy of personal revival.

We’d like to send you a copy of Seeking Him when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for Seeking Him when you donate by phone. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

None of us can obey God without His power working in us. We need prayer. Tomorrow, wise, godly leaders pray for obedience. I hope you’ll join them. Now we’ll pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Is there something that you want need to do? You’ve said, “Yes, Lord, I’m willing,” but you haven’t done it? The question is now, will you do it?

How many of you would say, There’s a command of God, one or more that I’ve heard today or that God has brought to my mind, something that I know the Lord wants from me? I know the command, but I’ve not been doing it. God has spoken to my heart, and by His grace and the power of His Spirit, I’m waving the white flag of surrender, and I’m saying, “Lord, I’m not only willing, but I will obey what You have told me to do.”

If that’s true of you and God’s been speaking to your heart about the need to be obedient in one or more specific matters, would you just lift your hand in the air? I want to pray for you as we close this session.

Lord, You see that many of our hands are in the air, and other things will come to mind as we ponder what You’ve been saying. I thank You for the honesty of these women. I thank You for the ministry of Your Spirit, calling us not just to be willing but to be obedient.

Thank You for the power of Your Holy Spirit who lives within us and will enable us to do all that You have told us to do. May our lives demonstrate the blessing that comes from saying, “Yes, Lord” and then doing what You have said. 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.

1Scott Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith (Crossway, 2001), pp. 86–87.

2"You Want To, Now Will You." Steve Green, Birdwing Music, ASCAP.

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