Why should we obey? And why does it matter?
I know I’m not the only one. One of the children asks, “Why?” And I answer with the dreaded “Because I’m the mom and I said so.”
Sometimes I fall into the trap of believing that God expects me to obey him this way—because he’s God and he said so. Though he would certainly be justified in demanding obedience on his authority alone…he doesn’t. Duty is one motivation God uses to spur us on to obedience, but it’s not the only one.
I’ve been reading A Hole in Our Holiness (Kevin DeYoung). He says,”One of the main reasons Christians get tired of hearing about the law is because they never hear why they should obey the law. The imperatives hit us like a ton of study Bibles because we aren’t given any motivation for obedience.”
The next four pages go on to list dozens of reasons that should motivate our hearts to obedience. The list alone is worth the price of the book.
I’ve been struggling to pursue God with my whole heart, in the manner I know God has called me to. I have a tendency toward complacency during pregnancy and it always takes some fresh motivation to push me back in pursuit of the Lord again. Sure, I can manage to avoid blatant sin for a while, but living in holiness is so much more than just avoiding the glaring sin. God wants my whole heart and my best effort, even when I am tired.
God has called believers to be separate—different, in a way that brings glory to him—from the rest of the world. Sometimes (probably most of the time, if we’re honest) we need encouragement and motivation to press on when we are satisfied with “good enough” or we feel like it’s not worth the extra effort to obey the Lord in all things. DeYoung’s list did that for me this week.
Here are just a few of the reasons he gives for obedience; different motivations for different circumstances:
God knows all and sees all. “For God will bring everything into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccles. 12:13)
Christ’s example. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:2)
Our own assurance. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Pet. 1:10)
Jesus’ return. “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming day of God.” (2 Pet. 3:11-12)
To win over our neighbors. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so they when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:12)
To lift up a nation. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34)
The folly of sin. “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt 7:26-27)
Created for good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
Love for Christ. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Fullness of joy. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10-11)
Union with Christ. “For if we have been united with him in a death like this, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like this. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Rom. 6:5-6)
I want to make this list into a banner and hang it on my wall. I need to read it every day. My kids need to read this every day. We all need encouragement to obey, not just because God said so, but because God knows all and sees all, to follow Christ’s example, to hasten the return of Jesus, to avoid foolish sin, to lift up our nation and win over our neighbors, to experience fullness of joy and have union with Christ…
Praying that my obedience is motivated by truth and my resolution to obey wholeheartedly comes not from my own strength, but from the power of God working in me.
For an expanded list, you can listen to Kevin DeYoung’s sermon. The 2nd half of the sermon covers a large portion of his list from the book.