Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Sometimes a simple question is exactly what you need to hear, like this one from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Is your obedience complete? Or do you have just almost obedience? Do you have full obedience to everything you know that God wants you to do? Do you delight to obey Him?

Leslie Basham: It’s October 8, 2019. This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Revival simply means “coming back to life.” Nancy’s been in a series called, “Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.” She’s been helping us to wake up and come back to life in areas like holiness, humility, and honesty.

This teaching series is based on the book she co-authored with Tim Grissom called Seeking Him. You can find it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today she’s going to talk about obedience.

Nancy: Well, as I was getting ready to head to the studio to record this morning, I received an email that hit me like a punch in the stomach. It was just such a fresh reminder of why we need these truths we’re talking about in this Seeking Him series.

Somebody whose name many in this room would be familiar with, have been inspired by, have learned from . . . this news that another marriage is in trouble came out on social media. Somebody sent that to me to make me aware of it, and I just thought, Oh, Lord, I need these truths every day of my life. You need these truths every day of your life.

The enemy knows what temptations lurk, what situations are ahead, what crisis we may be facing in the days ahead. These are foundational truths of living and walking in the Christian life—seeking Him intentionally, proactively, learning the principles of humility, honesty, repentance, grace, holiness. I hope that these words are taking on fresh and new meaning to you as we’ve been walking through this series.

And now today we come to another really important concept in this process of seeking Him. You may not feel today that this is the most important lesson you’ve ever heard, the most important truth you’ve ever heard. This is maybe not the most exciting principle in the series, but I tell you, this is so foundational that if you get this, if I get this. This will be a protection from the assaults of the enemy in so many areas of our lives where otherwise we would not be protected. It’s the concept of obedience.

Now, I kind of heard a mental groan in some people’s heads—you didn’t know I could hear what was going on in your head, did you? But when I said that word, it’s not a word that we’re naturally drawn to—obedience. I mean, who just loves to obey? No one is born eager to obey. Am I right? Every parent knows this when you try to teach your children. Yet obedience is one of the most basic lessons in life—for children and for adults. And it’s foundational in our relationship with Jesus.

And, here’s what I love: it is the pathway to incredible blessing and flourishing.

So if you think, I’m not sure I want to be told I need to obey. Who wants to be told you need to obey? And yet, if you were told that you could flourish, that you could experience God’s great blessing in your life and obedience was one key to that, maybe you would be more interested in knowing why it’s so important.

Now, just for starters here, we’ve got to remember that God is the sovereign Creator and Lord of the universe. That means that He has the right to tell us what to do. He’s God, and we’re not.

So we see in the Scripture that nature obeys Him, that evil spirits obey His command, and that angels obey Him. They have no choice but to obey. God exercises absolute authority over all the forces of heaven and hell and earth and creation.

Only humans have the freedom to disobey God. Think about that. And how audacious, really is it, that those of us who can know God, who can experience His reality in our lives would be the ones who could choose to disobey Him.

Now, God could, of course, force us to obey, but He gives us the freedom to choose to obey Him. He wants us to obey Him willingly, out of love not out of have to. God is seeking a relationship with His people, and obedience become a beautiful key part of that relationship.

Now, like some of the other themes in Seeking Him, (humility, repentance, holiness), this whole idea of obedience could seem cold, or harsh, restrictive. It could seem like an obligation, (you have to obey God). But as you study this subject out in the Scripture, the tone is one of warmth and love, connected with obedience. You see, God’s commands are not burdensome. They are a reflection of His character, and they are always for our good and for our blessing!

Listen to this verse from Deuteronomy chapter 4: 

Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time (v. 40).

What an amazing promise! “That it may go well with you and with your children and that you may live long in this land that the Lord is giving you.” What do you have to do to experience that? “Keep His decrees and commands.”

That phrase, “That it may go well with you,” is found eight times in the book of Deuteronomy, which is a book of commands, a book of laws, a book of repeating the commands and the laws, lest the people forgot them the first time—which they did. And when He reminds them to obey, He reminds them, “This is so it may go well with you.”

Could you just tell yourself right now: “When God gives me direction, when God gives commands, it’s so that it will go well with me.” It’s so it may go well with me.

You see, obedience opens the door to well-being, to joy, to protection, to God’s best in our lives. And the call to obedience is an invitation to be blessed. This is a theme throughout the Scripture.

Deuteronomy chapter 11: 

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 (vv. 26–28).

So there’s blessing promised. It will go well with you. This is a way to flourish. This is a way to experience intimacy with God, right relationship with Him. And over and over again in the Scripture, God’s people heard these words, and they said, “Oh, yes. We will obey You.”

Exodus chapter 24, verse 7: 

Moses took the Book of the Covenant and 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.

Now, what pastor wouldn’t love to have that response to his sermons. Right? “All that God has said in His Word, we’ve heard what you said. We’ll do it, and we will be obedient.” And you’re going, “Yes!”

The problem is that God’s people didn’t have the power to obey God. They couldn’t do it. So within days of that passage I just read in Exodus 24 we come to Exodus 32, and that’s the incident with the golden calf where the people broke all of the Ten Commandments that they had just received. They got the Ten Commandments. They said, “All that you’ve told us, we will do.” Days later, they’re breaking all of them in one fell swoop.

You say, “That’s kind of discouraging.” It is! We need to be reminded that Jesus is the only human being who has ever lived who perfectly obeyed His heavenly Father. And because He lives within us, we have the power to obey God because, according to Romans chapter 8, verse 8: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” They can’t obey God. Now they can do some good things, they can do some right things, but they cannot be truly obedient to God if they don’t have the power source of the obedient life of Christ within the, enabling them, giving them the desire and the power to obey God.

So what is obedience? Well, obedience involves receiving direction and responding to that direction.

You can’t expect a child to obey if you haven’t given him or her clear instructions. Right? And God has given us clear instructions, which is why it’s so important that we know His Word and we know what He expects of us.

Now, interestingly, the Hebrew word that is translated “obey” many times in the Old Testament is a word that also means “to hear.” To obey is to hear. To hear means to obey. When you see that all through the Old Testament, “Hear what I’m saying, hear what I’m saying, hear the Word of the Lord,” it’s a word that means “hear and do something about it.” You don’t just hear it with your physiological ears. It’s not passive. It means to hear and act accordingly, to do what God says. That’s obedience.

And so we read in James chapter 1, in the New Testament, 

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty . . . 

We tend to think the law is confining, it’s restrictive. But James says this is the law of liberty. This is what will set you free. The one who looks into it . . . 

. . . and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (vv 22, 25).

Obedience brings blessing.

Obedience must be complete and absolute. And there’s a great illustration of this in Matthew, chapter 8, when a Roman official came to Jesus and had a conversation with Him, wanting Him to come and heal one of his servants. And the man said to Jesus, “I am a man under authority. I have a boss, and I have soldiers under me. And I say to one of those soldiers, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (see v. 9).

That’s a great picture of obedience. Whatever God says, we do it. We do it completely. We do it exactly. We do it absolutely.

James 2 says it this way: “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Complete obedience.

I can just picture Eve there in the garden—wanting to obey God, mostly. And she’s got this one restriction here, and I can imagine her thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just one little bite of one piece of fruit. What difference does it make? It won’t affect anyone else. God’s just being legalistic”—that’s a term people like to throw around when they don’t agree with the Word of God. You see, one little thing matters. It mattered to Eve. It matters to us.

Jesus said, as He was leaving this earth to back to heaven, He said to His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” And what do you do with these disciples? “You teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). Obey everything I have commanded you.

So obedience has to be complete and absolute all the way across. But there’s also a heart attitude involved in obedience—a heart attitude that is willing and wholehearted and joyful to obey God.

I love this verse where David says in Psalm chapter 40, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (v. 8). I delight to do Your will, Your law.

Can you imagine saying, “I love to obey God! I love to do His Word, even when it doesn’t make natural sense to me. Even when it’s hard, I delight to do Your will”?

And, of course, we know from the New Testament, in Hebrews chapter 10, verse 7, that this same verse is applied to Jesus who was David’s greater son. It was predicting, prophesying that when the Messiah came, He would come to this earth, leaving the glories of heaven, coming down to this broken, fallen, prodigal planet, delighting to do the will of God, even when that meant it would take Him to a cross, to the place of death. “I delight to do Your will.”

Is your obedience complete, or do you have just almost obedience? Do you have full obedience to everything you know that God wants you to do? Do you delight to obey Him?

Now, again, this doesn’t come naturally for anyone, including me—at all. It’s not my natural bent. It’s not my natural inclination. Those who are in the flesh want to do what the flesh wants to do, and there’s this battle that goes on. But if you have Jesus living in you, there is that Spirit of God in you that delights to do the will of God and wants to obey Him.

Now, a lifestyle of obedience to God and His Word is evidence of two really important things. And I want to just mention those briefly.

First of all, a lifestyle of obedience to God is evidence of genuine salvation—true faith.

Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord. . .’ You think, That sounds like a really godly person! Right? “Lord, Lord.” Jesus said that not every one of those people “. . . will enter the kingdom of heaven . . .” Some of those people are lost. They’re unregenerate. Not everyone who says the right things theologically will enter the kingdom of heaven. But who will? “. . . but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (v. 21).

You say, “Are you saying that obedience can save you?” No. We could not obey God enough to be saved. But He says, “If you have believed in Christ, then the evidence that you have true, saving faith is that you will obey the will of the Father.” It’s an evidence of true salvation.

We usually go to Matthew to find the Sermon on the Mount, but in the parallel account in Luke chapter 6, Jesus says it a little different way. He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?” It makes no sense!

He goes on to talk about two kinds of people: Those who hear His words and do them. And He says, “Those people are like a house that is built on a solid foundation that withstands the torrential floods—those who hear His words and do it.”

And then He says, “There are those who hear His words, and they do not do them.” They hear the words of God. They go to church. They are in small group. They listen to Revive Our Hearts. They do studies like this Seeking Him one. They hear His words, but they don’t do them. And Jesus said, “Those people are like building a house on ground that has no foundation. The floods come, and the house will be ruined” (see Luke 6:46–49).

Whether we obey the words of Christ or not is tied to our eternal destiny. There are people listening to this discussion today, this teaching today, who don’t know Jesus. They haven’t placed their trust in Christ. They look like good Christians. They do a lot of good Christian things. They go through a lot of motions. But they don’t have Christ, and one of the evidences is that their heart is not to obey the words of the Lord.

First John chapter 2, verse 3: “By this we know that we have come to know him.” How can we come to know? Do you have doubts about your salvation? Do you wonder if you really are a true child of God? Here’s one evidence the apostle John gives us in 1 John. He says, “Hey, here’s how we know!” “. . . if we keep his commandments [obedience]. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (vv. 3–4).

Now, I was thinking about this this morning, and another verse came to my mind in Romans, chapter 6. We all obey someone or something. We’re all obedient. The question is, Who or what are we obeying? And we obey the one that we belong to, the one that we’re a slave to.

Now let me just show you how that word appears here in Romans chapter 6, beginning in verse 16: 

Do you not know [the apostle says] that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, [there are two masters he talks about] you are slaves either of sin [you obey sin], which leads to death, or you’re a slave of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed (vv. 16–17).

You’re a slave of sin, or you’re a slave of righteousness. You obey sin, or you obey God. And your eternal destiny is tied to that. So a lifestyle of obedience is evidence of true saving faith.

But there’s something else that a lifestyle of obedience is evidence of, and that is love for Jesus. How do you know if you really love Jesus? You obey Him, because obedience to God flows out of relationship with God.

You see this many times in the gospel of John, and especially as Jesus was in those latter days with His disciples. He was preparing them for His crucifixion and then for Him to go back to heaven. He was going to send the Holy Spirit to them, and He talks a lot about obedience.

He says in John 14:15, “If you love me . . .” And, of course, they’re saying, “But we do! We love You! And they were going to miss Him terribly. If you love Me, what’s the evidence? “. . . you will keep my commandments.”

Look for that in the gospel of John, in the epistle of 1 John. You’ll see this an evidence of love for Jesus, because when you love Jesus, you want to obey Him. When you have a relationship, a love relationship with Him, you want to obey Him.

So do you have true faith? Do you really love Jesus? How can you know? Look at your obedience.

Now, I want to say just one more thing about God’s commands before we wrap it up here, and that is that God’s commands are tied to His promises. God’s commands are linked to His promises. And we’ve seen a little bit of that, a blessing if you obey, but here’s another verse in Isaiah chapter 1, verse 19.

The prophet says, “If you are willing and obedient, [Not just willing to obey God, but you actually do it! If you are willing and obedient] you shall eat the good of the land.” There’s a promise. If you obey, there’s a promise.

Now, here’s the thing: if we trust God’s promises, we’ll obey His commands. And when we disobey His commands, it suggests that we don’t really trust that He will keep His promises. So ask yourself, if you’re struggling with obedience in an area of your life: “Do I trust that God will keep His promises to me?” If you trust Him, then you can obey Him.

I’ve been thinking about just some of the commands in Scripture. There are many, many commands. And reminding ourselves that we cannot obey God in our own strength and our own energy, but that by the power of Christ living within us, (and we’re going to talk about the Holy Spirit coming up in this series), we have the power to obey Him. So just think about just some of the commands in the New Testament alone.

We’re commanded to:

  • Be generous (Luke 6:38).
  • Share with those in need (Rom. 12:13).
  • Love one another (John 13:34–35, 15:12, 17).
  • Love our enemies—not just the people sitting in this room, not just the people we like, but we’re commanded to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27).
  • Pursue reconciliation when relationships have been broken (Matt 5:23–24).
  • Flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). (And we’re going to be talking about some of these things in the next several sessions, but I want to kind of set the table here. These are commands of God that are linked to promises of blessing.)
  • Speak truthfully (Eph. 4:25; Col. 6:18).
  • Not to speak evil against one another (James 4:11; 1 Pet 2:1).
  • Not to speak unwholesome words (Eph 4:29; 5:4).
  • Not to complain or argue (Phil. 2:14; James 5:9).

Like, we could take any one of these and just camp on it for a while. Right? I mean, that one should go in a prominent place in many places in my house—“No complaining, no arguing.” How different would our lives and the atmosphere of our homes and our workplaces and our churches be if we were to actually obey these specific commands of God?

  • Not to repay anyone evil for evil (Rom. 12:17).
  • Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12–13). (Another subject we’re going to come to in the next couple of sessions.)
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). That’s not an option! We’re going to talk about what that looks like, too.
  • Obey those who have authority over us (Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22; Heb. 13:17).

And let me say, by the way, if I’m under God’s authority and in obedience to Him, then when I’m told to submit to my husband, when we’re told to submit to the spiritual leaders of our churches, when we’re told to submit ourselves to the civil authorities, it’s not such a threat. It’s not so difficult if we realize our first obedience is to God.

If I’m under His authority, then I can obey the authorities God has placed in my life because I trust that they are not ultimate. They are not supreme. They do make mistakes. But God doesn’t make mistakes. So I’m in a place that is protected. I’m safe. I have a refuge through obedience to God.

We’re commanded not to worry about anything (Phil. 4:6). I mean, that’s one to take home! Not to worry about anything!

I have a sister who would remind me at times over the years when I would be anxious about something. she’d be like, “What are we going to do about this? or “What are we going to do about that?” And she’d just remind me, “Remember: Worry’s a sin.” Thank you, Sister! (laughter)

Remember, worry’s a sin. Well, it’s in God’s Word: “Don’t worry about anything.” 

“Not anything?” Not anything.

Now, again, if you trust God, if you have a relationship with Him, if He lives in you, then you don’t have any reason to worry about anything because you know that you’re not in control anyway, God is, and He never makes mistakes.

We’re commanded to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 3:1; 1 Thess. 5:15). How do you do this when your world is upside down and inside out?

There are women in this room who are struggling with some major life issues right now. And it’s not saying that by rejoicing your problems are going to go away, that you’re not going to have really, really hard days.

But it’s saying that through the fog, you can lift your eyes up, and you can rejoice that God is on His throne, and He is good, and He doesn’t make mistakes, and He loves you, and He is caring for you in the midst of this very hard place.

Well, that’s just a handful of commands. There are others. I daresay that most of us in this room know those commands. I didn’t tell you just now anything you didn’t already know. And probably most of us in this room, if not all, would say, “I agree with those. I agree that that’s what God says.”

The question is not: Do you know them or do you agree with them? The question is: Are you obeying them? Are you doing what you know you ought to do?

Most of us don’t need to hear any new truths in order to experience the blessings of revival and intimacy with Christ—we just need to obey what we already know to do.

In 2012 my husband’s late wife, Bobbie Wolgemuth, was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. After 30-some months of treatments and battling that disease, the Lord took her home to heaven. Three months before that day, before the day she went to be with the Lord, Robert captured a video.

She didn’t know she was being videoed. He was in the second floor of their home in Orlando, taking this from the window. Bobbie was down on the street, walking. She would often take walks. She tried to stay healthy. So she was walking down the street, and she was singing. She was singing, “Trust and Obey.” And Robert got a clip of his precious wife Bobbie singing, (walking, not knowing anybody was watching or listening), “Trust and Obey.” That’s the way she wanted to live her life.

I don’t know where obedience will take you, but I know that He can be trusted. And I know that “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

So I leave you with this word from John chapter 2, verse 5, where Jesus’ mother Mary said to the servants at that wedding feast in Cana, when they had an unsolvable problem, she said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Do it.

The instructions Jesus was about to give to those servants, they made no sense at all, humanly speaking. Crazy! Nuts! But she said, wisely, and I say to you, “Whatever Jesus says to you—whether it makes sense or not, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, whether you think it will be the right way to joy or not—whatever He says to you, do it. Do it. Do it.”

Dannah: What a powerful story! It reminds us that obedience isn’t just following the rules. It’s walking in step with the Lover of our souls.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us the joy that comes when we pursue obedience, when we seek the Lord and walk with Him.

Some women have been listening along to this teaching with us, and we’re going to hear how God spoke to their hearts in just a minute, but first: Would you explore this topic of obedience further with Nancy? She writes about it in the workbook, Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.

This is a five-day per week Bible study, and it’s going to take you on a journey of personal revival. You’re going to dig into topics like having a clear conscience, honesty, repentance, being filled with the Holy Spirit. These are basic things that every believer needs to think through, and this workbook helps you do just that.

Nancy’s also taught all these messages on video. In fact, the teaching you heard today was taken from the DVD that goes with the Seeking Him study. We would love to get a copy of that in your hands when you make a gift of any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send you one copy of the Seeking Him workbook.

Again, that web address is ReviveOurHearts.com, and while you’re there, look for more details on how you can also get more copies of the workbook or the DVDs that go with it. You can also make your gift by calling us at 1–800–569–5959.

Okay, so this is important: Do you carry around a lot of guilt? We want to help you find true freedom.

Nancy: The gospel is the only way to clean up a guilty conscience. First John tells us “that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

Dannah: Nancy will help you find freedom in Christ, tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts.

Now, today’s message on obedience had a big effect on the women gathered in our live audience. So as we close, let’s listen in on some of what the Lord has been doing in their hearts.

Woman 1: I was really struck by when Nancy said, “We obey the one that we serve.” And I thought, How often we can be lord of our own lives, so we’re serving our flesh rather than the Lord. That was just a similar truth in a new way.

Woman 2: I had a dream the other day that was very convicting. In the dream I told somebody, “I love Jesus.” And that person said, “You love Jesus? But you love many other things.” And so that was very convicting. So this message was very timely because, yes, whatever we love, we obey. 

I think I was wondering, So how do I know if I really love Jesus? So, yes, I really loved the message.

Woman 3: This is very near and dear to my heart because I have a nine-year old boy. I’m constantly saying, “Obey. Just obey!” But I was telling him the other day, “I don’t think you’re listening to me completely. I think you already think you know what I’m saying before I say it. And maybe I’m saying a new thing to you. Maybe I’m telling you something a little different. You need to completely listen to me.” And so God convicted me today of those words.

And then the very last thing that she said, ‘Whatever He says to do, do it. It might sound crazy, but that’s not for us to decide. It’s for us to obey.”

Woman 4: As you were saying also at the end there, something happened in my life recently where I obeyed. I felt the Lord saying something, and I obeyed in faith, went forward in faith. And I thought it was all going to be rainbows and roses because I obeyed, and it didn’t turn out that way in the short term. It turned out that God had something for me to learn, and so it wasn’t all rainbows and roses right off the bat. It wasn’t instant gratification. But as I’m going through this period with the Lord, it’s obviously heading toward a much better place.

And it was just interesting the way you said, “You don’t obey because you think it’s going to bring you joy, or you don’t obey. You just obey, and then you leave the results to God.”

And I think in the short-term I was, like, “Wait a minute! I obeyed! Why isn’t it all rainbows and roses?” But in the long-term, we trust that it will be.

Woman 5: This reminds me that we’re trying to teach our grandchildren the lesson of listening and obeying by using an obstacle course when we meet with them in the summer for grand-camp. Your teaching reinforces that in my own heart, too. We have them go through an obstacle course blindfolded, and they have to listen to PawPaw’s voice carefully to go through the correct way, but meanwhile, the other grandchildren are calling to go the wrong way.

And we have to learn to listen to the right voice in going through our journey of life. And at the end, there is blessing, there is reward. Thank you for reminding me.

Woman 6: I remember a few years ago an older lady came to me. She confronted me and told me I was not obeying authority and God would never bless me because I was being disobedient. And I took that step of obedience. I obeyed, and I did the right thing. And God blessed me. I can see all throughout my life His hand because of that act of obedience.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you discover the joy of obedience. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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