We have spent some time looking at the reality of God’s grace in the life of believers. I would like to turn our attention for a few days to the call of obedience. What I mean by this is that now that we have been born again to a new life in Christ, we must submit ourselves to live in a manner of life “worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
This idea—live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ—is something I have encountered in several places in the New Testament (Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 1 Thes. 2:12). It is interesting because every single time I read it, I intuitively know what it means. It is a call to conform all of my life so it reflects the person of Jesus. If this is what Paul is asking of believers (and I believe he is), we have to confront our tendency to buck at what it entails for our lives.
There is another passage that I find horribly inconvenient. It is found in 1 Samuel 15:22-23. The context is Samuel’s admonition to King Saul about how he had disobeyed the command of God to destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions. Saul did not do this, he saw the spoils of war before him but failed to control the people. Then to make matters worse, Saul tries to “make things right” with God by saying that what was kept was going to be sacrificed to God as an act of worship!
It is in this context that the prophet tells the disobedient king,
22And Samuel said, “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 listen than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23 ESV)
Obedience is better than sacrifice.
Obedience is the greatest challenge of the Christian life because we are called to put aside our judgment of what is best and submitting to God’s judgment of what we should do. Every time we fail to obey, we guarantee displeasing God. Every time. There are no exceptions here. We struggle to see God at work, we miss seeing God’s favor in our lives, we falter in our labors because we are not obedient.
In this season of Lent, I want to challenge you to consider where you are not being obedient to God. Once you have identified it, the proper response is to repent and begin to obey. God is faithful and just to forgive. His word has promised that he will (1 John 1:9).