All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 5

May 2, 2013

A Better Way?

From Pastor Bordwine


Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!

(Psalm 119:5)

Do you agree that the concept of personal obedience is irrelevant within the context of living the Christian life? Many believers have been taught that references to obedience on the part of Christians somehow contradicts the gospel. As a matter fact, there is currently a vigorous debate going on within the evangelical Church regarding this question. One particular school of thought is that any talk of obeying God once a person becomes a Christian is somehow contrary to the message of salvation by grace through faith alone.

There are two major flaws in this thinking. First, it cannot be reconciled with the multitude of passages in which the writers of Scripture command some behavior while condemning other behavior. This implies, of course, that choices have to be made in the Christian life. And those choices, by necessity, must be made according to some standard. If we say that seeking to conform our lives to the commands of Scripture through simple obedience is not an option for the believer, then what do we have left? Some source of authority will inform our conduct. If the Bible is eliminated as a possible source, then we have only the leading of our own hearts. Keep in mind, however, this statement from the prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

Salvation does not bring with it an immediate perfection of our sense of discernment. The Word of God teaches the very opposite when it tells us that sin remains as a powerful influence in our flesh this side of heaven even after we are born-again. Apart from the Bible, therefore, there is no other source on which the Christian may rely for moral guidance if our desire is to reflect the character of God.

I said that the thinking described above has two major flaws. The second flaw is the complete mischaracterization of the idea of obedience in the Christian life. We do not seek to know and obey the Scriptures in order to impress God or established merit in His eyes. Our desire to know and obey the Scriptures comes from our sense of thankfulness to God for what He has done for us in Christ. For the Christian, attempting to bring our lives into line with the commands of Scripture is an act of humility because we have come to understand that we are not capable of righteous living apart from instruction concerning what constitutes such an existence.

I quoted from Psalm 119 above. This Psalm contains the conclusions of David as he meditated on the law of God. Throughout this Psalm, we find numerous references such as the one above: “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” David repeatedly expresses his desire to develop the highest regard for the commands of God. It was his prayer that his life be a reflection of the will of God as revealed to us in the Bible.

Clearly, David understood that walking before the Lord requires direction, correction, and encouragement and that is what we find in those passages where God tells us how to live. Again, these commands are not given so we might achieve or maintain our place before God, but are given so that we might know what pleases Him. Our love for God and for the Savior prompts us to seek that which David sought, which is a life characterized by holiness.

It is greatly troubling to know, as I mentioned above, that there are those who completely reject the notion of a believer showing concern for the Word of God as a source for moral guidance in our lives. This is in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself declared: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Our desire to express our love for God in our conduct is the work of the Spirit and is a natural response from those who have been delivered from condemnation and given eternal life.

Be on guard, therefore, as you avail yourself of all the sources of Christian teaching that are accessible these days. Take time to read Psalm 119 and pay attention to the many ways in which David described his dedication to the commands of God. By adopting David’s attitude toward the Word, you will find joy and, far from contradicting the gospel, your thankful obedience will confirm its reality and power.