We have “great joy” set before us in obedience. Christ is the greatest example.
Philippians 2:5-9— “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” ESV
Yes, Christ was obedient to the point of death “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2:b). And the first part of this verse tells us that Jesus Christ is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” He sets the standard. He is the example to follow.
To avoid obedience, we sometimes look for escape clauses, an excuse not to fully submit. For example, in his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us to not only look out for our own interests but also the interests of others. If we aren’t watchful, soon our service is whittled to what is convenient, best for us, without much concern for others. Or we focus on the “if possible” in the direction we find in Romans 12:18 to live at peace with everyone and avoid those we label “disagreeable.”
Categorizing some behavior requirements as legalistic is also a way to wiggle out of obedience. The legalist believes there are certain things we must do in order to be right with God. However, we become right with God when we receive the gift of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.1 Obeying God’s commands isn’t something we have to do, it is something we get to do because they reflect Jesus and as a new creation we can be like him.
Christ did not look at obedience as legalism. He saw it as a way to the Father’s will, and so it is for us. It is the blueprint for walking worthy of our calling which is God’s will. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he asks that they “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” so they might “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:9-10)
Our salvation doesn’t end when we receive the free gift of salvation, for we continue to break the bonds of sin that keep us from being all we were created to be in Christ. These bonds are broken when God’s ways become our ways and they are written on our heart through obedience… putting into practice what is taught until it is our nature.
Philippians 2:12-13—“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” ESV
God is at work in us to give us the will to put into action all His commands. It is His pleasure to do so. Pastor Tony Evans wrote this in his commentary: “The reason the Philippians could ‘work out’ their salvation was because God had already been ‘working in’ them. God had already deposited within them that which was to be worked out. He gives us the desire and ability to obey. Obedience is not based on our willpower, but on God’s power working in us.”2
In obedience we will find immediate joy because we will glorify God by demonstrating His love to others in our actions. And if we are glorifying God here on earth, we will surely hear those words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved
Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay
1-What Scriptures did you once struggle with but now find they are part of your nature? How did you learn to walk in them?
2-Do you have a story of joy in obedience? Please share it in the comment section!
1-Each month I send a resource sheet to email subscribers. The September resource is a refresher on the scriptures that give a clear message of salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s important to use God’s word when delivering the gospel message. Subscribe and I will make sure you receive this sheet.
2-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary published by Holman Bible Publishers Nashville, Tennessee, 2019.