Obedience and joy

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…” (1 Pet. 1:1-2; NASB)

Though far from my first act of disobedience, it is my earliest recollection of my own rebellion.  The evil deed was a failure to use soap in washing my hands — an act unlikely to get my picture placed on Post Office bulletin boards, to be sure, but a willful rejection of my parents’ authority nonetheless.  So I received the just consequence of my action….

Have you noticed that whether one is four, 44, or 84, we all struggle with obedience?  Yet obedience was, as Peter points out, a fundamental purpose of the death of Christ and the gospel.  Christ died on our behalf so that sin might be removed from us and replaced with His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:18-21) and so that we might be made able to obey the Father.

Yet we fail to understand the fullness of joy found in obedience.  In his book, The Pleasures of God, John Piper points out the good news of obedience — reasons that we can delight (yes, delight) in obedience.

God’s pleasure in obedience is good news because it is a demonstration of faith in Him:  “God is happy with our obedience when our obedience is the overflow of our happiness with God.  God is delighted with our obedience when it is the fruit of our delight in him.  Our obedience is God’s pleasure when it proves that God is our treasure” (p. 257).

God’s pleasure in obedience is good news because everything God commands is for our good (and His glory):  See Lk. 5:31-32; Dt. 6:24; 10:12-13.  “Jesus dictates.  Jesus commands.  But all his commands are like a doctor’s prescription, or a physician’s therapy.  They are not arbitrary.  They are meant to make us well and happy….When the Bible tells us that God takes pleasure in obedience we should rejoice, because that means the doctor cares whether we get well.  If he took no pleasure in our doing tasks assigned to make us well, he would not be a God of love” (pp. 248-9).

God’s pleasure in obedience is good news because his commands are not too hard for us (you might want to read that sentence again, along with Dt. 30:11; Mt. 11:28-30; 1 Jn. 5:3).  “God’s pleasure in obedience is not like the sadistic pleasure of a heartless coach who likes to see his recruits sweat and strain under impossible conditioning exercises.  In fact he pronounces a curse on such moral taskmasters:  ‘Woe to you teachers of the law!  For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers’ (Lk. 11:46).  God is not like that.  With every command, he lifts not just his finger, but all his precious promises and all his omnipotent power and puts them at the service of his child.  ‘No eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him’ (Isaiah 64:4).  His commands are only as hard to obey as his promises are hard to believe….The Word of God is only as hard to obey as the beauty of God is hard to cherish” (pp. 250, 257).

We might summarize the Biblical truth about obedience this way:  we struggle with obedience not because the obedience in itself is difficult, or that God has left us unable to obey (see Jn. 14:16ff), but because we have failed to believe that obedience is the path to the greatest happiness — happiness in God.

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