Don’t you do it!

We have two miniature pincher dogs in our home, Cuddles and Snickers, and they are frequently subject of posts on this blog site because of their continued antics.

On guard through the window
Two MinPins dutifully standing guard at the window!

We love them and think of them as our canine children.  And, like our human children and grandchildren, they push the limits at times and we have to say “don’t you do it!”

This morning was an example of what happens in our home at mealtime.  When we eat at the dining room table, the dogs, also known as “the girls”, are to be in their “place”. That is to say, they are to be sitting or laying down on the living room sofa until we finish our meal.  Then, we say: “You’re through,” and they come bounding off the sofa for their good girl treats.

This morning, Snickers didn’t want to wait for the magic words; rather, she was impatient and jumped down off the sofa.  She does this softly, anticipating that I would not notice and I probably would not except for one thing. 

My place at the table faces the sofa.  So, I can see her every movement.  The routine is this:  she jumps down, I say “Uh, uh, don’t you do it,” she trots in a loop around the coffee table, and jumps back up on the sofa.  She may remain there until we say the magic words that lead to the jump off the sofa and the treat, or she may not.  If not, I can see her and I repeat my admonition “Uh, uh, don’t you do it”.

This morning, when I said those words, I thought of God’s Word.  God instructs us how to live and how to behave in our world, in accordance with His desires for us to be obedient children, but there are many times that He has to say (in essence): “Uh, uh, don’t you do it!:. 

In Genesis 2:16-17, God gave this admonition:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Can’t you just hear:  “Don’t you do it.”  We know that God’s command was summarily ignored after the serpent successfully tempted Adam and Eve to sin.  Genesis chapter 3.

In Exodus we read of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-,5, 7, 13-17, and we see that they are a series of admonishments from God that are to be followed and most have “you shall not:” appended to them. 

3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them…  7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain… 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet … anything that is your neighbor’s.”

God is clearly telling us “Don’t you do it!” 

The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words from the Lord God warning that the people had not obeyed His words and punishment would be the result:

“But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’  But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.  From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.  Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.  So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.  And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.’”

Jeremiah 7:23-28

There are consequences to disobeying God’s commands.  Rest assured, you may not see the consequence immediately after your disobedience, but it will eventually catch up with you, either in this life or the next.  Judgment will come, it will be swift, and its result will be non-negotiable. 

Just as I see the “girls’” movements on the sofa, God sees us every moment of every day.  He is omniscient and omnipresent.  We can’t fool God; He knows our heart’s motive and what we re going to say even before we day it. Psalm 139. 

“Uh, uh, don’t do it!” is a warning for us to heed. Sometimes the warning comes when we are reading God’s Word.  Sometimes He speaks to us in that still small voice that is our Shepherd’s trustworthy voice. Indeed, Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and follow Him. John 10:27.  Sometimes it is our conscience telling us to avoid that misstep, that sin, that trap.  Sometimes the warning comes in the form of godly advice from a Christian brother or sister, pastor or elder. 

God issues the warning and desires that we should heed it.  Obedience brings rich rewards, and the discipline of obedience is worthy of our continued effort to grow in maturity as we seek to be transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior.  Make obedience a priority in this new year!

Father, I thank You that we receive warnings when we are about to go astray against your commandment. Train my ear to hear Your warnings so that I do not go against Your will. Good Shepherd, l pray that I would have me the strength and will to be an obedient sheep.

“DON’T DO IT!  UH UH -NO!”

It seems that we have recently focused on our canine children as illustrations of spiritual lessons for our daily lives.  Today is no exception as our MinPin doggie daughters, also known as “the girls”, have once again tried our patience.

We have tried to “train” the girls to stay put in one place while we are eating our meals.  The original intent of this routine was to stop them from barking while we are eating, and also to stop them from begging during the meal.  It has, for the most part, stopped the barking.  But, it has not been as successful with the begging.

Usually their “place” is the living room sofa as we are eating dinner in the dining room, in full site of them.  When we have finished our meal, we will say “you’re through” and they are to come bounding up to the table for a good girl treat, thankful to their parents that they are being so wonderfully rewarded.  That is what is supposed to happen.

Doggies ready to jump
Doggies ready to jump!

What actually happens is that they go to their “place” right away when we tell them to do so as we are sitting down to the table.  Then, when the wait is too long or if the aroma is especially exciting to them (such as the smell of bacon), they hop down and come over to the table where we are sitting.  At first, they would just run over and jump up at our side to tell us that they are there.  We, then, point to the sofa, say “Uh Uh – No, go back, place” and they run back, jumping up on the sofa and sitting as if they were good girls.

If we are engaged in serious conversation during dinner, they become stealth doggies.  They slide off the sofa and sneak through the kitchen so we don’t see them walking around.  Then they cut between us to get under the table in the hopes that something will have fallen through a crack.  We find out that one or both are under the table when we move our feet and hit something.  Then, we again, point to the sofa and say the dreaded words “Uh Uh – No, go back!”. 

I suspect that we are not the only ones that have this experience.  However, aside from the humorous smiles that their actions might induce, there is a parallel with my own life experiences and obedience, and it is not at all humorous.

As long ago as when the law was given to the Israelites, God said:

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22:31

Again, in the wilderness they were told:

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4

God is serious about our being obedient to His commandments.  In fact, Jesus used obedience to His commandments as the test of our love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:15, 21

In full recognition of the fact that we could not keep Jesus’ commandments through our own power, Jesus told His disciples that, after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to help them do that which He commanded them.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Moreover, the Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. He is the surety, the guarantor of our salvation. 

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Ephesians 1:13

Indeed, one of the Holy Spirit’s assignments with respect to believers is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

When God has told me to stay in a difficult situation, I try to jump out of it, a classic definition of disobedience.  When I do, it is as if I hear the Holy Spirit saying “Don’t do it. Uh Uh – No!”.   Often I obey that voice and repent from my attempted jump of disobedience.  But, there are times when I disobey intentionally and then, too, I must repent of my arrogant disobedience and seek forgiveness, asking the Spirit to strengthen me so that I am able to resist temptation. 

God has given us His Word and His Spirit who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.  The Spirit transforms us and renews our mind so that, as we are sanctified, we are conformed to the image of Jesus.  But that process is not linear. 

By that I mean, it is not a smooth road toward transformation.  We struggle and fail to obey the directives that are clearly given in Scripture and brought to our attention through the Holy Spirit.  Praise the Lord that when we have been disobedient, the Holy Spirit still is within us and He will tenderly guide you back into relationship with Him and with our Lord if you will confess your sin and repent. 

Next time you see your canine or Homo sapiens children disobeying your directive, stop and ponder whether there is something in your own life for which you need to confess and repent.  Is there some act of disobedience that you need to address?  Is the Holy Spirit saying “Uh Uh – No!”? 

The Psalmist knew the sweet fellowship with God that confession and repentance provides when he said:

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

Psalm 32:2-5

When David sinned, and kept silent, he was tormented day and night because of his guilt.  When he turned to God and confessed his sin, he was forgiven and he could say “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity”.  Happy is the one who does not stand before God covered in the guilt of his sin. 

Doggies patiently waiting
Obedient doggies!

Praise God that the Spirit says “Uh Uh – No!” preventing us from sinning, but praise God also that when we fail to be obedient, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him through confession and repentance. 

Father, I praise You for Your Holy Spirit and for the work that He does in my life as He guides me and leads me in the path that I should take.  Thank You too that Your Spirit also stops me from disobeying and, when I do sin, that He leads me back into the fold.  I praise Your Holy Name.

ARE YOU YOKED?

 

Although Jesus is not here physically right now to teach us, we are not left to wonder what He said while on this planet.  We have His words recorded in Scripture.  One of His commands is found in Matthew 11:29: 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

Matthew 11:29-30 ESV

We in the modernized world are not necessarily familiar with a yoke or being yoked together.  The yoke was the symbol of hard work. Yokes were used to control working animals, and sometimes they were put on the necks of slaves or prisoners.  A yoke could be made for one animal pulling a plow or threshing board alone, but it was often made to link two animals together as they worked.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a yoke as a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen, mules, or other draft animals working in a team.

yoke

 

You will recall that, prior to His ministry, Jesus was raised with, and presumably worked alongside, His step-father Joseph who, being a good Jewish parent, would have been responsible for teaching his son a trade.  While Scripture does not say that Joseph was a carpenter, we can presume that this was what Joseph did since Scripture says that Jesus did this type work. See Mark 6:3 [ESV] where we read:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? 

Furthermore, it does not stretch the imagination to think that Joseph, and likewise Jesus, made yokes to be used on the animals in the area.  They would most certainly have been familiar with the needs of the farmers and would have taken care to make the yoke strong while at the same time making it smooth so that it would not hurt or injure the animal that was going to be lashed to it.     

When the farmer wanted to train a young ox to pull a plow, he did not put the young animal in a single yoke attached to the plow.  The animal would not know where to go and it would not understand the direction of the farmer.  Nor would he put two untrained animals in the same yoke – they likely would be unmanageable and the field might be ruined. 

Rather, the farmer would yoke the young ox together with an old, experienced ox. The older ox would have had long experience serving the farmer and he would know the voice of his master, obeying the directives being given.  The young ox could feel the authority of the older animal through the yoke that bound them together, and the young ox could, thereby, also learn to obey the commands of the master.

Because He knows His children, He has made the yoke to be the exact size and strength that will be needed for each of us; no man’s yoke is too hurtful or punishing.  And, Jesus is further saying that He is yoked together with us.  He is able to teach us through the yoke.  We cannot go anywhere without Him.  He guides us because we are together with Him.  He prevents us from going astray by nudging us back into the right way.  And, He is ready to keep us from falling because He is yoked to us and His strength will carry us when we cannot do so on our own. 

The believer is working in tandem with Christ in service to our Father, and this is something that only happens in a life of faith.  Being yoked with Christ means being a disciple of Christ and having the mind of obedience that He had. 

The obedient life does not equate to lying on a bed of roses.  No “prosperity gospel” here! Rather, the life to which you are called as a disciple yoked to Jesus may mean missions in a far country; it may mean reaching out to the neighbor beside you.  It may require you to take steps of mercy toward someone who has hurt you in the past, or it may mean an illness, loneliness or some other hard situation to endure. 

When your yoke is difficult, remember Jesus endured humiliation, torture and death on the cross.  He experienced unimaginable horrors not because He deserved them but because we deserved them.  He felt the pain of sin and rejection by God because that is what we would have experienced if it were not for His sacrifice.  But that is not the end of the story, praise the Lord!

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 ESV

Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and lives, today, in Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  Because He lives, we too shall live.  He is the Victor over death and hell.  He has endured so that He could save His people.  This is the One who is yoked with you.  He is able to do all that we need to bring us to God as His children

We often try to serve God in our own strength by doing things our way. On our own we don’t know how to do God’s work.  Rather, we need to learn God’s ways somehow and we can do so by being yoked together with His Son, Jesus Christ.  He will teach us what it means to obey our Master through the direction that the yoke can give to us.  

When we obey Him, the yoke will be easy and the load light.  Then, our soul will be able to rest even while we work for God.

Father, when I try to run off on my own to do what I think is “your work”, please let me feel the pull of the yoke of Jesus Christ to bring me back to Your will.  Enable me to serve You in the power of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and in accordance with Your direction and Your will.

A TRAGEDY OF OUR TIMES

Newborn
Newborn child, wrapped in hospital blanket and cap; sleeping soundly in the cocoon of the blanket.  But, not all newborns are healthy and comfortable … some are born addicts, a tragedy of epic consequence!

 

A newborn baby is a gift from God.  See Genesis 33:5 and Hebrews 2:12.  They are to be loved, cared for, protected, nurtured, and taught of God and His Word.  This is not the future that many of our young ones have, however.

 

A while ago, the Knoxville News Sentinel, ran an article under the headline “East Tennessee Children’s Hospital treats drug-dependent babies”.   Most of these precious babies became dependent on drugs due to abuse of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications used by their mothers during pregnancy.  The article spoke of a two-week-old child that exhibited the “telltale signs of a baby agitated and in pain”.  The little boy had an open sore on his face from rubbing the skin raw; a scratch on his left cheek; tremors so severe that he was placed in a special area where nurses can watch him 24/7 in case he has seizures or stops breathing.

 

This little guy is experiencing untold horrors placed upon him by the actions of his mother prior to birth.  The article states that the pain for these infants is excruciating.  The medical personnel who treat them say the infants suffer from nausea, vomiting, severe stomach cramps and diarrhea that is so severe the skin can blister like a severe burn.  And the babies are inconsolable.

 

I cannot judge this child’s mother for what she did or did not do.  I don’t know what circumstances she found herself in other than that she was going to have a baby.   I can only pray for this woman, her little baby and his recovery from an addiction that he did not cause but which will likely continue to plague him for the rest of his life.

 

It would be bad enough if this little tyke was the only child so afflicted.  But the numbers show that the club into which he was born is not exclusive to him.  Tennessee statistics show that in 1999, drug dependent babies were hospitalized 55 times.  In 2011 that had figure skyrocketed to 672 infant hospitalizations due to addiction.  In 2015, the Tennessean newspaper blog advised that in 2014 there were 921 drug dependent babies born in Tennessee.

 

And, these numbers have not gone down.  In an April, 2016 news article about the end of a Tennessee law related to incarceration of mothers of drug-dependent babies, USA Today discussed the status of Tennessee’s fight for these helpless babies and stated:

 

“Roughly 1,000 babies suffering from drug dependence have been born every year since 2013, when the state began requiring all hospitals to report them to the health department.”

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, as cited in a USA Today article entitled Born into suffering, the number of drug dependent babies admitted to intensive care units nearly quadrupled from 2004 through 2013, from 7 to 27 per 1,000 hospital admissions.  Vanderbilt University researchers said in the Journal of Perinatology that one affected baby was born every 25 minutes in 2012.  That figure is likely higher now.

 

We cannot continue to harm the unborn generation by killing babies through abortion or by rendering infants incapacitated because of drugs ingested by their mothers.  This must stop; but we must recognize that both actions are merely symptoms of the underlying spiritual war raging in our world.

 

I don’t have any pill, plan or panacea that would stop this travesty.

 

But I do believe in God and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of our souls.  I do believe that He came to earth and died on the cross for my sins and for the sins of all who would repent and claim Him as their Savior.

Used Easter in Canterbury (C)
Easter display at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, England

 

I do believe that the power of sin and evil was defeated when Jesus rose from the dead, the event we celebrate as Easter.  I do believe that He will come again and that He has already won the cosmic struggle which is evidenced by the depravity that we see in our world today.

 

And, I do believe that He can reverse this tide if we repent, seek His strength to withstand the pull of addiction and utilize all the tools He has provided for support, withdrawal assistance and reintroduction of mothers and families into a drug-free existence.

 

Jesus used little children as living examples when he taught His disciples:

 

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Mark 9:36-37. (NIV)

 

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 10:14-16. (NIV)

 

I look at my own grandchildren and praise the Lord that they are healthy, growing strong and in loving, supportive families.  They remind me that I must come to the Lord with the same open, trusting and loving heart that they exhibit when they come to me.

 

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

 

They also remind me that there is a dramatic contrast between their lives and so many children for whom a loving and supportive family is a mere dream, and for those children my heart weeps.

 

In humble obedience, I believe that we all must pray for these little children.  I believe that we must take part in caring for these little ones, trying to give them as much of a life as we can.  We need to work with the mothers during pregnancy to stop abortions and the use of drugs.  And I believe we must work toward addressing the situations that create the desire to abort children and abuse drugs in the first place.

 

Above all, we need to point the mothers to the Savior who loves them and their unborn child more than they could ever know.

 

Father, this horror is too big for me.  I feel helpless against its magnitude.  But You are all powerful and all wise, and I believe that You are the answer to the problem of addiction of any type.  Guide me and give me strength to follow Your lead in doing what I can to help these precious infants who are suffering so upon their birth and to help their mothers understand that drugs are not the solution to any problem.

 

ON OBEDIENCE, BOUNDARIES AND PRAISE

On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson prayed for our nation in Washington, D. C., and said:

 

Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“[O]bedience to Thy law” … It took just a paltry two hundred years for our society to break through the restraint of obedience to God’s law into a society which is fast approaching the description found in the book of Judges in Scripture:

… Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 [ESV]

 

For some reason, our society has apparently equated obedience to God’s Law with an unwarranted and unwanted restraint on our freedom, as setting up boundaries that we do not want to recognize. The problem, of course, is that without any restraint, there is anarchy and license which results in degradation of the individual, the family and the society. Like it or not, adults as well as children need boundaries and, although the lines may be far different for each, they are present nonetheless.

 

A fence is a visible boundary which serves a multitude of beneficial purposes. We accept the freedom of movement within the fenced yard and, at the same time, we recognize that the fence provides a type of security and protection that would not be there without its presence.

 

Indeed, often we forget the fence is there … we just take the benefit from it. I was looking out the window during breakfast one morning and saw something shining back at me.

 

Sunlight on fence
The fence when something was shining, revealing the presence of the fence when it otherwise was camouflaged.

 

Upon closer inspection, the glow was a result of the sun shining off the fence along the lot line. Most of the fence was hidden in the mass of branches, limbs, leaves, and shade so that I had forgotten it was there. But the sunlight revealed its position as it served to protect the back yard and to define where we could run and play without interference.

 

Fence in the sun
The fence up close revealing more clearly the sunlight shining on the fence.

 

That fence shining in the sunlight reminded me of God’s Law. It too is a type of fence that sets boundaries for our lives, precepts that God wants us to implant in our hearts. Because man cannot conform to the conduct that God mandates in His Law, there was put in place a system of burnt offerings and sacrifices that foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb that would fully atone for sin.

 

The Old Testament Prophet Samuel eloquently expressed what God wanted from His people in 1 Samuel 15:

 

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 than the fat of rams.

1 Samuel 15:22

 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses, in easy to understand language, the tenets of the Reformed faith in question and answer format. The very first question and answer pair is:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

Question 39 asks and answers:

Q: What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A:   The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will.

Question 40 and 41 then go farther and teach that God requires obedience to the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments.

 

This obedience to God’s will was reiterated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He responded to a question propounded to Him:

 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 [ESV]

 

Obedience – a concept that is passé, that is “old fashioned”, that is “outdated”, that is “inconvenient” – and it is a concept that is based on Scripture.

 

True Christianity is not defined by the culture of this world but is based on Scripture and the culture that is reflected in the Kingdom of God.  Obedience might not be what our culture teaches, but it must be a way of life for the Christian. Not so that we “follow the rules” but so that we give praise to God as we live a life pleasing to Him through His Son and the power of His Spirit. Let us be known as a people who obey our Lord and His commands, even when we are labeled “old fashioned” to do so.

 

Father, I pray that I would honor You by obeying Your commands and the commands of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Forgive me when I have fought against the restraint that you placed on me; open my eyes to see that even the fence of Your Law is based on Your holiness and justice, and love! Thank You for loving me enough to give me boundaries, for my protection and for Your honor and glory.

OBEDIENT LOVE FOR THE LORD AND FOR OTHERS.

Obedience … it is a hard lesson for children to learn and often we, as adults, still have difficulty accomplishing it.  Obedience comes easy when it concerns something that I want to do anyway.  When the task being asked of us is fun or something we are interested in, obedience is not hard at all.  It comes, almost, naturally!

Obeying, when doing something you are interested in, is fun!
Obeying, when doing something you are interested in, is fun!

But when it relates to something that is difficult or outside my own comfort zone, then it is hard to obey.

As a child, I remember telling my Mother that I loved her.  Then, later in the day, when she asked that I do something for her, I hesitated and waited until it suited me, rather than her.  At bedtime, I said I loved her and she replied: “Really?  That surprises me.”

Her statement caught me off guard and my eyes teared up when I asked “Why, Mommy?”  Her reply echoes in my heart even today: “If you loved me, you would do what I say rather than ignore my direction or argue with me.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus talked about love and obedience when He said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15 [ESV]  He continued on with this thought in verse 21:

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:21 [ESV]

So, what are Jesus’ commandments?  While there are a number of things that He said we should do, they are summarized in Matthew’s Gospel where He says:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:37-39 [ESV]

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes it even more pointed – incredibly, He tells us we are to have the same love for others that He has for us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 [ESV].

What is His love for us like?  It is overwhelming.  It sent Jesus to the cross as a substitute for our sin so, if we believe in Him, we could live with Him forever.

The cross of Christ tells of the magnitude of His love for us.
The cross of Christ tells of the magnitude of His love for us.

Do we love others like that?  We can’t be their substitute for sin because we also are sinners.  But, do we live our life in such a way as to put others first over our own desires and wishes?

  • What about starting with our family members – surely we can love like Jesus loves when we are talking about those to whom we are related!  Too hard to do?
  • Well, perhaps we can love strangers who don’t know us, and who we don’t know. Those people we could love like Jesus loves us!   Maybe, but probably not!
  • Well then, how are we ever going to love those we don’t like if we have difficulty loving those in the two categories above? The difficulty of it is irrelevant — the command is still there.  We are to love even those we don’t like. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:30-37.

In fact, Jesus even went one step farther — we are to love our enemies!

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:44-48 [ESV]

Obedience – we show our love for our Savior by the way we obey His commands.  Not just the convenient ones or those that are easy.  We are to be obedient to all of them.  I recognize that we cannot do it in our own strength.  Indeed, this is totally against our human nature and we need to have His Spirit flow through us to enable us to love like this.  When we fail, we must confess that failure and seek His grace for the power to love as He commands.

What if people could see, on a daily basis, evidence of our relationship with Jesus by how we love others?  At home, at work, at school?  On the bus, the playground, the elevator?  In the grocery store, the mall, the post office?  Do we exhibit love to our boss or our co-workers or to the server at the restaurant?  Do we show love to the person next to us on Sunday morning?

Beloved, what has been your response to His love?  Has it made any difference in your life?

Do we have obedient love for our Lord and Savior?  Do we obey Jesus’ commands?

Does our love to our neighbors reflect our love for Jesus?  Jesus said that it will.

So, I guess the real question is

“How much do we love Jesus?”

Father, may I express my love to your Son, my Savior Jesus Christ, by ministering to those He loves, whether they may be among my friends or not.  May I express my love to you, Father, by studying your Word and praying, listening to the Holy Spirit urge and direct me as I walk the path you have provided for me. Thank you Father for your love and presence in my life, and for your Holy Spirit who comforts, encourages and strengthens me.  Forgive me when I have turned a blind eye and ignored pleas for assistance.  Please give me grace that I may love others as you love me, through the power of your Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father.