[Note: this is a continuing part of a series reproducing a sermon. An explanation can be found here.]
Obedience is a part of the Christian life, but it does not define the Christian life. But even when we get these things straight, we still are left wondering WHAT to obey. There is no shortage of those willing to volunteer their expertise on this matter. So, where do we find clarity on what to obey? Again, we need to grapple with two critical components:
II. Obedience is directed by Scripture and understood in community.
When Jesus says, “You will keep my commandments…” it is natural to ask, “What are his commandments?”
In an article about NCAA sports, it is mentioned that an Oklahoma State baseball player a few years ago was suspended for violating “NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52”. We easily wonder if the “Jesus Code of Obedience” is so precisely defined. For some of us, it is.
Clearly, though, if it is Jesus’s commandments that we are to obey, then to find them we must find them in the only place where his words are recorded.
A. Obedience is discovered in Scripture.
The commandments are the words of Jesus. They are the imperatives that Jesus gives such as this:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
But Jesus does not break it down, does he? There is no “Jesus Bylaw on love: 184.108.40.206” His law is clear, but its application something to be worked out.
Elsewhere, he says this:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
His commands speak of acting in a certain way, but they also speak to how we respond to him. To ‘act’ is obedience; to ‘rest’ is obedience. Both point to paths of obedience. But with both, the application is daunting. The obedience that is discovered in Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – covers all of life.
Locating the norm of obedience in the Scriptures is important because we otherwise have unreliable moral compasses. I think back to the day that I was sitting with a friend who was actively in the process of leaving his wife and pursuing a relationship with another woman. He found it easy to dismiss my cautions, because he was, he said, following his heart.
If I break that down, it meant that he was conforming his life to his inward desires. He was trusting his heart which the Scriptures themselves say is not to be trusted. It is broken, it is deceitful, it is often blind. It is in the Bible where the commandments of Jesus are given by which obedience is to be measured. Our inward desires are not to be trusted.