Willful Obedience

“You must wholeheartedly obey all of these commandments and ordinances that the Lord your God is giving you today.”—Deuteronomy 26:16 (TLB)

If you’ve been going to church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone say, “We’re living in an age of grace.” Biblically, this is true: We’re in a period of human history when God is offering grace and the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ before He returns to judge the world, when His grace will no longer be available (Isaiah 55:6; Acts 17:29-31).

However, some Christians wrongfully assume this “age of grace” grants them permission to live however they please. When obedience is brought up with people who subscribe to this “hyper-grace” theology, the phrases “legalistic,” “Pharisaical” or “Old Covenant” are quick to follow. Why is that? I believe it’s because the flesh (our will) doesn’t want to submit to anything other than itself.

While the Bible does warn us against religious rule-following without a heart for God (Isaiah 29:13), it also says in 1 Samuel 15:22 that obedience is better than sacrifice. In fact, in 1 Samuel 15, we learn that King Saul was rejected by God because he deliberately disobeyed the Lord’s instructions with regard to a battle with the Amalekites. Contrary to God’s orders, Saul plundered the Amalekites and then arrogantly offered a sacrifice to the Lord on his own terms, thinking he was justified in doing so!

Sadly, if we choose to live in willful disobedience to God’s Word, our sacrifices, like Saul’s, are of little use. Jesus went so far as to say in Matthew 5:23-24 that if we come to the altar to offer a gift to God and remember that our brother has something against us—whether justified or imagined, whether they have reason or you did nothing wrong—we should leave it there and be reconciled first. If we choose not to and give our offering anyway, aren’t we acting disobediently and expecting God to bless us on our terms, the way Saul did?

Why is obedience so important anyway? Matthew Henry explains it this way: “God is more glorified and self more denied by obedience than by sacrifice. It is much easier to bring a bullock or lamb to be burnt upon the altar than to bring every high thought into obedience to God and the will subject to his will.”

In other words, obedience is the highest road we can take because it’s the same one Jesus took to the cross. But remember, we don’t obey God out of obligation, fear, or mere rule-following, but rather from a heart of gratitude because Jesus did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves: obeying God’s commands perfectly. 

DIG: Is there an area of your life that you know you have not surrendered to God?

DISCOVER: What is it that’s holding you back from surrendering it fully to Him and obeying His Word?

DISPLAY: Cry out to the Lord and ask Him for the strength to obey, giving thanks to Him that His grace is sufficient for you even in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

About the Author

Rob Nieminen

Rob Nieminen is a seasoned writer and editor who has written devotionals for Calvary since 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He serves in the Worship Ministry at Calvary Boynton Beach and is an avid reader, an erratic golfer, and an aspiring photographer who loves to cook and spend time with his family.