I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Yodit Kifle Smith
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and
His commandments are not burdensome..."
(1 John 5:3)
Think back to when you were a child and you were told do a chore around the house. Did you do it right away to the best of your ability or did you, like me, wait until the last minute and was just glad that it was over? I don’t know if I can honestly say that as a child, I obeyed only because I loved my parents and it gave me joy to obey. I think, more often than not, I obeyed to simply be compliant and for the obvious reason of not getting disciplined (aka spanked).
Why and how we obey speaks volumes about us. As children of God, we are commanded to obey Him. A life of obedience to His Word and His ways is what identifies us as His children. “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him…” (1 John 2: 4) However, it can become very easy to obey God simply out of compliance and not love for Him. Compliance isn’t rooted in authentic relationship based on love. It’s more of a distant relationship based on fear. And not the reverential fear of God that Scripture talks about, but a fear that is tainted by the outcome of punishment. A fear that thinks more highly of the approval of man than the glory of God. Compliant obedience is not about the desire to obey as much as it’s the outcome if I don’t obey. The Pharisees in the New Testament "obeyed" God. But we find that their obedience came out of the desire to look righteous before others than to be pleasing to God (Matthew 23). As believers, this pattern is exhausting. It’s not sustainable. It will drive us away from God because it has not allowed us to taste the joy that treasures Christ and His work in our lives and the joy that comes from our obedience to Him.
Obedience that flows from love and delight in God isn’t exhausting. The Psalmist describes the joy and sustenance that obeying God’s word brings all throughout Psalm 119. This kind of obedience isn’t tainted by the fear of outcome. In fact, this obedience knows that we can’t obey God on our own strength. In and of ourselves, we aren’t bent towards obedience; rather, disobedience. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in us to desire obedience to God. It’s reliant on the grace that comes only from Him-a sustained grace that is received from knowing Him and wanting to know Him more.
Where has your obedience been coming from lately? Have you found it coming from a compliant place? Are you reading the Word of God out of obligation and legality or can you like the Psalmist say, “Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). Are you saying you forgive with your words but keeping unforgiveness in your heart because you don’t trust God to be your vengeance? Has going to church become a Sunday thing to cross off your list? Has serving become a chore?
If we find ourselves in any of those places, the prayer is that God would restore the joy of our salvation and uphold us with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12). May we be reminded of the love He has shed within our hearts (Romans 5:5) so that we would overflow with obedience to please Him. May we find rest in the truth of His Word that His commandments are not burdensome. May we ask the Lord to lift our eyes a little higher to see Christ and treasure Him. May our obedience be the result of rooted joy in our faith.
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
Psalm 119 (highly encourage you to take the time to read this whole chapter)
1 John 2:4
1 John 5:3
2 John 1:6
Questions to reflect on:
1. How have you been approaching your obedience to God lately?
2. If you have found that you are being compliant instead of joyful in obeying, where do you feel the change began?
3. How have you seen the difference in your life when you are being compliant in obedience VS. joyful in obedience?