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28 July -“Don’t tell me what to do!”

There was once a little boy who was standing up on the seat, and his father said, “Son, sit down.” The little boy replied, “I don’t want to!” His father said, “Son, sit down.” He said, “No!” And his dad jerked him down into his seat. He looked up at his dad and said, “Daddy, I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”

Too often that’s exactly how we can be too. We appear to be doing and saying the “right” things, but on the inside we are standing up; harbouring rebellious “don’t tell me what to do” attitudes in our hearts.

However God encourages us to have an attitude of willing obedience in order for us to experience and live a purposeful, and blessed life.

The bible even says, “If you are willing and obedient you will eat the good of the land’” (Isaiah 1:19). Many people are willing, but they’re not obedient. Many are obedient, but they’re not willing.

Bring up the word obedience and we usually react. Try telling people that they need to eat better, exercise more, keep good company, read the Bible diligently; that they need to take every word from God seriously, that there are no optional commands, that we cannot add or subtract from Scripture, and that we need to pray persistently – and you will hear the accusation “Legalism, and “Don’t pressure and tell me what to do!”

Yet the Bible is filled with passages like the ones listed below, that make it clear that to really know and love God we are to cultivate a willing and obedient heart and lifestyle. Jesus even said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him’, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).

Unfortunately being as we sometimes are, we can have some obstacles to obedience. Here are a few to watch out for, and hopefully remove from our lives:

1.“What’s that, Lord?” – when it comes to obeying God we can suddenly have a case of “spiritual deafness”.

Ever notice sometimes children cannot seem to hear you tell them to do something they really do not want to do; yet they can instantly hear even the smallest whisper from Mum and Dad when something is said about “ice cream”. We can be like that when it comes to obeying God. We say we are willing and obedient, but then ask God to define and clarify over and over, or we try to negotiate “Did God really mean “all” of my old sinful ways of life, or just the stuff that I don’t really enjoy anymore? Can I have a timeline on this? “Let’s just wait and talk to someone else again, or read another book on the subject.”

2. “I am confused”

There are times when we may need some clarification and help to understand what the bible is saying, but for the most part the bible is easy to understand. The thing is once we read it and do understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.

“I have another question?”

There is nothing wrong with asking questions, but sometimes asking another question is nothing more than a delay tactic:

In Matthew 19 the rich young ruler had asked Jesus the question, “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life” (19:16). Jesus then told him – keep God’s commandments (19:17). Then he asked another question, “Which ones” (19:18). So Jesus told him which ones (19:18-19).

The rich young ruler still continued to ask more questions because he actually knew what to do, and instead was delaying and trying to find some “wiggle room” out of his convictions.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers the following insightful view of this situation:

Doubt and reflection take the place of spontaneous obedience – it is a retreat from the reality of God to the speculations of men, from faith to doubt. The rich young ruler of Matthew 19 had hoped to avoid committing himself to any definite moral obligations by forcing Jesus to discuss his spiritual problems.”

Keep on posing problems, and you will escape the necessity of obedience, and your initial conviction of the right course of action to take”.

Eventually, if we keep going “around and around” with more questions and delaying tactics we will end up confused, feel far from God, and simply do nothing!

Today check how willing and obedient you are? It takes an ongoing daily inventory of our heart attitude and actions. God wants to give to us, and bring purpose and blessing our way. We just have to make sure we are listening and being both willing and obedient every day.

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