Obedience sometimes sounds like a dirty word, especially in today’s post modern world. However whether we want to admit it or not, we all obey a master. We will either be a slave to sin or a bond servant to the Creator of the universe and Savior of mankind. For the forgiven sinner washed in the blood of the Lamb, this truth is understood and readily embraced. The challenge for those who have been born again by the power of God is that we too often forget that our own obedience must go beyond mere outward actions to something much deeper.
This is a tough subject to cover in a small post. Please do not think for one minute that this writer is giving permission to walk in disobedience toward God or those in authority, but there is a deeper obedience revealed in Scripture, one far beyond the confines of this physical body. We are called not only to offer God our bodies (the outward), but first and foremost our hearts and minds (the inward). “My son, give Me thine heart.” Proverbs 23:26. The reality remains, if we’ve truly given the Lord our hearts, then outward obedience ought to follow.
Jesus came from above, leaving His Heavenly throne, demonstrating total and true obedience to His Father in Heaven. Jesus taught the truth of God’s glory and man’s utter need for Him in hopes of exposing and rooting out the hypocrisy of those living under the appearance of obedience, but inwardly denying the Lord of glory. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men.” Isaiah 29:13. Again, Matthew 15:7-13 plainly reveals this truth. “You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draws nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And [Jesus] called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. Then came His disciples, and said unto Him, Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But [Jesus] answered and said, Every plant, which My heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up.”
It’s easy, especially in today’s Christianity, to fall into one of two basic categories: liberal or religious Christianity. Liberal Christian philosophy is rooted in allegorizing God’s Word and is often times viewed as the most malignant intruder to the true body of Christ. The other, although practiced by many, is the one Jesus actually spoke most harshly against. Ironically, although religious “Christianity” darns a thick cloak of righteous living, too often it’s unrighteous fruit is ripe, thriving in a toxic and tradition-based environment. Religious “Christianity” brings the outward appearance of obedience, yet just as with the Pharisees and other religious leaders of old, the heart is far from the True and Living God. In Scripture, this is said to be a form of godliness, but denying the power there of. (2 Timothy 3:5) Sadly, the man-centered doctrines of religious righteousness reach into many avenues of all our attitudes and actions.
Besides the two categories mentioned above, there is a third option only chosen by a few, one that is neither based on man’s reasoning nor religious conformity. This third option could be called the deeper Christian life. For most born again believers, the desire to obey the Lord is important, making it easy to confuse outward conformity with inward transformation. The religious wolves know this all too well, preying on unsuspecting sheep by teaching them the traditions of men for the doctrines of God. Instead, the Lord came to liberate mankind from this hypocrisy, eradicating error and rooting out unrighteousness by giving all who would choose to receive Him a new spiritual heart and mind, a soul and spirit centered on Heaven with Christ as their one true Light. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2. “Forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” 2 Corinthians 3:3. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26.
The inward transformation found in this deeper life brings to light a deeper obedience, one that truly requires the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Even though outward obedience, that is to say conformity, seems best, sometimes simply following what others claim to be the letter of the law causes us to entirely miss the life of the true law. The Pharisees chided Jesus more than once concerning this. “Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” Matthew 15:2. Another time the hungry disciples picked grain on the Sabbath. “And it came to pass, that [Jesus] went through the corn fields on the Sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful?” Mark 2:23-24. The Pharisees were so busy walking by sight, desiring outward conformity, that they were blinded to the reality of the Living Word literally right before their eyes!
One of the best Old Testament examples of this deeper, inward obedience is found in Exodus 32-33. Here’s an insightful exchange between the Lord God and Moses. In Chapter 32, the Israelites grew weary of waiting for Moses as he spoke with God, turning instead to false gods. “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” Exodus 32:1. Tragically, while the Lord was sharing His glorious Word with Moses, the people were at the bottom of the mount breaking the very first and greatest of all God’s commands.
God grew angry at the people’s deep rebellion, “And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.” (verses 9-10). God then specifically commanded Moses to leave Him alone so He could consume the wicked people. God also told Moses He would make a great nation of him, forgoing His previous promise to Abraham. Moses could have easily obeyed God, reasoning within himself that God told him to do these things therefore they must be done. Moses could have taken the outwardly obedient route. After all, God gave him specific orders, yet Moses chose to go a deeper way. He could have left the mountain and told himself he was obeying God. After all, God told him to leave. But the deeper path was one guided by loving discernment, not outward observation. Moses desired the God of His commands even more than God’s commands, lighting his path directly to the Lord.
Did Moses leave and allow God to destroy all the people? No. Instead Moses drew even closer to the Lord, speaking to Him in spirit and truth! He then lovingly brought the law and judgment of God to the people, giving them opportunity to repent. After that, Moses returned to the Lord, interceding on the people’s behalf. What a great picture of Jesus! What an amazing picture of selfless love, first for God and then for the people! No wonder God called Moses His friend! God’s love ought to be our true motivation for obedience and Moses is an excellent example of this deeper life, one that is not based on empty, outward conformity, but on a genuine and deep, deep love for God above all else.
At the end of Chapter 32, the Lord commanded Moses, “Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.” After the Lord dealt with the people’s sin, Chapter 33 reveals the beauty of what comes from this deeper walk with God! “And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. And Moses said unto the LORD, See, Thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and Thou hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Yet Thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, shew me now Thy way, that I may know Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight: and consider that this nation is Thy people. And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? is it not in that Thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory. And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee…” Exodus 33:8-19 [Emphasis mine]
Oh, to know Jesus so deeply, so intimately that we desire nothing less than Him! Moses deeply and obediently sought the Lord above all and God blessed him with His rest and presence. Moses desired nothing less than the glory of God and the Lord rewarded him by revealing His glorious goodness found in His name alone! The Lord blessed Moses with the knowledge of God. The Lord Himself was and is and always will be the true reward and marvelous treasure discovered by every saint choosing to walk in deep obedience unto Him!
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best! ’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest! O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me; and it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!” (“Oh, the Deep, Deep Love” ~S. Trevor Francis)
“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 heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of Me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:6-8