TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. Obeying God

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Chapter 23  Part II

Obeying God

See also:

The concept of obeying God permeates the whole Bible – the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. It is fundamental to a functional and healthy relationship with God. A related concept is that of following Jesus Christ, which likewise is relevant to all aspects of the Christian’s life.

Note the section cross-referenced above, which has been placed in 21. Being Right with God, in the second half of the chapter which is entitled Staying Right with God. It is obviously also very pertinent to this topic, Obeying God.

Obey God

Keep God’s commands and obey him

Deut 13:4  [Moses, to the Israelites:] You must follow the Lord your God and revere only him; and you must observe his commandments, obey him, serve him, and remain loyal to him.  NET

Obey all God’s commands

Josh 1:7-8  [God, to Joshua:] Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. 8This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful.  NET

The Mosaic Law (the law given through Moses) was what God’s covenant with Israel was based on. Under the new covenant instituted by Jesus Christ, believers are still to obey all the law’s commands that remain pertinent under the new covenant. These commands are basically those pertaining to the believer’s spiritual relationship with God and their relationships with other people.

Obey God always – forever

Ps 119:112  [A psalmist, to God:] I am determined to obey your statutes at all times, to the very end.  NET

Do God’s will . . .

Ezra 10:11a  Now give praise to the Lord God of your fathers, and do his will.  NET

1Pet 4:2  From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires.  GNT

. . . Do what pleases God

1Thes 4:1  [Paul, to the Thessalonian believers:] Brothers and sisters, we taught you how to live in a way that will please God, and you are living that way. Now we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to live that way even more.  NCV™

Obey Jesus Christ

Matt 28:19-20  [Jesus, to his disciples:] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  NET

We should obey God because he is our God . . .

Ezek 20:19  [God, to the Israelites:] I am the Lord your God; follow my statutes, observe my regulations, and carry them out.  NET

. . . It is no good expressing commitment to God and Jesus Christ without obeying them

Ezek 33:31  [God, to the prophet Ezekiel:] So they come to you in crowds as if they were really ready to listen. They sit in front of you as if they were my people and hear your words, but they will not obey them. With their mouths they tell me they love me, but their hearts desire their selfish profits.  NCV™

Luke 6:46  [Jesus, to those who merely professed him as their Lord:] Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do what I tell you?  NET

Implicit in both of the above verses is the pointlessness of such words and actions.

We should obey God because of the great things he has done for us . . .

Ps 105:43-45  [A psalmist, referring to God’s deeds for Israel:] When he led his people out, they rejoiced; his chosen ones shouted with joy. 44He handed the territory of nations over to them, and they took possession of what other peoples had produced, 45so that they might keep his commands and obey his laws. Praise the Lord!  NET

We should obey God because of all that he has done for us and moreover because our obedience is in fact one of the chief objectives of all his deeds for us (v. 45a). A corollary of this is that if we do not obey we will forfeit God’s blessings which are a key part of all the things he does for us.

. . . and we should obey Jesus Christ because he died for us

2Cor 5:14-15  [Paul, to believers:] For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.  NET

Christ’s love shown in him dying for his people compelled Paul to live for Christ.

 Questions for Section A

Learn God’s Commands – and All His Word

In order to obey God we need to learn his commands. Moreover, we should learn all aspects of God’s word.

Learn God’s commands

Deut 5:1  Moses called all the people of Israel together and said: Listen, Israel, to the commands and laws I am giving you today. Learn them and obey them carefully.  NCV™

Ask God to teach you his commands

Ps 119:26b-27  [A psalmist, to God:] Teach me your statutes! 27Help me to understand what your precepts mean! Then I can meditate on your marvelous teachings.  NET

Persistently read and study God’s commands – and all of God’s word

Deut 17:19  It [a copy of God’s law] must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this law and these statutes and carry them out.  NET

Ezra 7:10  Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the Lord, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel.  NET

Acts 18:24  At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.  GNT

Having “a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures”, Apollos is a good example of one who would have persistently read and studied all of God’s word.

Listen carefully and pay attention to God’s word and commands

Ex 15:26  He said, “If you will listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what he considers right, if you pay attention to his commands and obey all his laws, I will never make you suffer any of the diseases I made the Egyptians suffer, because I am the Lord, who heals you.”  GW

Listen carefully to Jesus’ teaching

Mark 7:14  Then he [Jesus] called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand.  NET

Pay attention to all Christian teaching

Heb 2:1  [The writer, to believers:] Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  NET

Accept God’s word

Job 22:22  Accept instruction from his mouth and store up his words in your heart.  NET

John 17:8  [Jesus, to God:] I gave them the teachings you gave me, and they accepted them. They knew that I truly came from you, and they believed that you sent me.  NCV™

We must accept and so believe God’s word - both his commands (cf. Job 22:22 ) and other truths of the faith (cf. John 17:8 ).

Note: Not listening to God’s word has ill consequences

Jer 6:19  [God:] Hear, O earth, I’m about to bring calamity on this people, on the fruit of their plans, because they didn’t listen to my words and they rejected my instruction.  ISV

 Questions for Section B

How to Obey God

See also:

The previous section largely looked at learning God’s words and commands, which is necessary in order to know what God wants us to do in obeying him. This section discusses how, on learning God’s commands, we should set about obeying him.

Note also the supplementary teachings in the above cross references, which indicate that obedience to God is produced by such things as love of God, fear of God and faith in God.

Do what you learn of God’s law and word . . .

Ezra 7:10  For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.  ESV

Matt 7:24  [Jesus:] Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock.  NET

. . . Do not just listen to God’s word

James 1:22  But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.  NET

Ask God to help you follow his ways and commands

Ps 25:5a  [David, to God:] Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me.  GNT

Ps 119:33-36  Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes, so that I might observe it continually. 34Give me understanding so that I might observe your law, and keep it with all my heart. 35Guide me in the path of your commands, for I delight to walk in it. 36Give me a desire for your rules, rather than for wealth gained unjustly.  NET

Submit yourself to God

James 4:7  So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.  NET

To persistently obey God, we need to first submit to him.

Obey God wholeheartedly

Ps 119:69  [A psalmist, to God:] Arrogant people smear my reputation with lies, but I observe your precepts with all my heart.  NET

Rejoice and delight in God’s commands

Ps 119:14  [A psalmist, to God:] I rejoice in the lifestyle prescribed by your rules as if they were riches of all kinds.  NET

Ps 119:47  [A psalmist, to God:] I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, 47for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.  ESV

Be careful to obey God

2Ki 17:37a  You must carefully obey at all times the rules, regulations, law, and commandments he wrote down for you.  NET

Note: God’s and Jesus Christ’s commands are not too difficult

Deut 30:11  [Moses, to the Israelites:] This commandment I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it too remote.  NET

Matt 11:28-30  [Jesus:] Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.  NET

The “yoke” referred to was probably that which lay across the necks of oxen. In saying that the “yoke” and “load” of following him is “easy” and “not hard to carry” (v. 30), Jesus may be alluding to the fact that as he is “gentle and humble in heart” (v. 29) he will not require anything that is beyond us. Also, far from being tiresome, his “yoke” of discipleship is the way of life that best fits us – the most comfortable and suitable “yoke” – and it benefits us in many ways. Rather than weighing us down, it is actually uplifting.

 Questions for Section C

Blessings of Obeying God

See also:

General promises of blessing

Luke 11:28  But he [Jesus] replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”  NET

John 13:17  [Jesus, to his disciples:] If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  ESV

Note that Jesus is referring primarily to his instruction and example regarding humble service of other believers (cf. vv. 4-16).

God’s and Jesus Christ’s love

Ps 103:17-18  But the Lord continually shows loyal love to his faithful followers, and is faithful to their descendants, 18to those who keep his covenant, who are careful to obey his commands.  NET

John 15:10  [Jesus:] If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  NET

God’s help

Isa 64:5  [Isaiah, to God:] You help all who gladly obey and do what you want …  CEV

The realization of God’s promises

Gen 18:19  [God, referring to Abraham:] I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then the Lord will give to Abraham what he promised him.  NET

Heb 10:36  For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised.  NET

Peace and rest

Isa 48:18  [God, to the people of Israel:] If you had obeyed me, you would have had peace like a full-flowing river. Good things would have flowed to you like the waves of the sea.  NCV™

Jer 6:16a  The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.”  NET

The “path” corresponds with God’s way, i.e. life lived in obedience to him.

Other present-day spiritual blessings

Luke 8:21  But he [Jesus] replied to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  NET

John 15:7  [Jesus:] If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.  NET

Being in Jesus Christ involves knowing, believing and obeying his words. This produces prayer that is consistent with Jesus Christ’s purpose and will – prayer that will be answered.

Note: Ill consequences of not obeying God

See also:

Hos 9:17a  [Hosea, referring to the people of Israel:] My God will reject them, for they have not obeyed him …  NET

Num 32:23  [Moses:] But if you do not do this, then look, you will have sinned against the Lord. And know that your sin will find you out.  NET

The final clause is implying that sin (or disobeying God) brings its consequences – it “catches up with you”.

 Questions for Section D

Epilogue: Follow Jesus Christ

To follow Jesus Christ involves not just simply following his commands, but also following him and his example. In doing so, we follow Christ not only as our leader, but also in companionship with him. This concept is an important aspect of discipleship.

Follow Jesus Christ . . .

Matt 4:19b-20  [Jesus, to Peter and Andrew:] “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” 20They left their nets immediately and followed him.  NET

Mark 8:34  Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  NET

To “deny” ourselves involves setting aside our own desires, no longer having ourselves as the focus of our lives. For a person to “take up his cross” implies a willingness to bear any cost – even to give up one’s life – in order to follow Christ as his disciple.

. . . Be a disciple of Jesus Christ

John 8:31  Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples …  NET

A disciple is one who seeks to learn and follow the teachings of another, even to the extent of becoming like the teacher (as reflected in the following two subsections).

Follow Jesus Christ’s example

John 13:15  [Jesus, to his disciples:] For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you.  NET

1Cor 11:1  [Paul:] Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  NCV™

Follow Jesus Christ’s example of love and service of others

John 13:34  [Jesus, to his disciples:] I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  NET

Matt 20:26-28  [Jesus, to his disciples:] It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave  -28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  NET

Make Jesus Christ your Lord . . .

1Pet 3:15  But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.  NET

. . . Live for Jesus Christ, pleasing him

2Cor 5:15  And he [Christ] died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.  NET

Col 1:10  [Paul, to the Colossian believers:] We pray that you will also have great wisdom and understanding in spiritual things 10so that you will live the kind of life that honors and pleases the Lord in every way. You will produce fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God.  NCV™

Be willing to give up everything to follow Jesus Christ

Luke 5:27-28  After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” 28So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.  NCV™

Luke 14:33  In the same way,” concluded Jesus, “none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.  GNT

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians