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The New Way of Obedience

The Scripture is clear that followers of Christ obey Christ. In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

God’s Word also plainly distinguishes between the kind of obedience that was demanded of the Mosaic Law and the kind of obedience we strive for as followers of Christ. This distinction is crucial because many well-meaning Christians have merely exchanged the Old Testament set of laws for a New Testament set. This exchange is not God’s intent at all!

The Scripture explains that no one is or was ever “declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20) The law defines what sin is and exposes sin in our life, but doesn’t have the power to make us more like Christ. Romans 7:5 reveals further that because of the weakness of our flesh, our sinful passions are actually aroused by the law. A simple, relevant example of this that we ask today is, “How far over the speed limit can I drive without getting a ticket.” The presence of law arouses in us the desire to push the limits of that law.

The Bible goes on to remind us that our relationship to the law was one of slavery (Romans 7:25) and that Christ has delivered us from that slavery to the law, “so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6) As we’ll see in a moment, the fact that Christ set us free from the law does not mean that we now live lawlessly or without restraint.

Galatians 3:12 informs us, “The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’” Law is not an instrument of faith and grace. Paul pointed out to the errant Galatians that even taking on one part of the law (i.e. circumcision) obligates one to obey the whole law (Galatians 5:3). Paul then sums up by explaining, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4) The law is neither helpful for salvation nor for becoming more like Christ.

Instead of living by law (whether old or new) we are to live by God’s Spirit. The old way of the law was never designed or intended to make us holy and righteous. Only God can do that. As we surrender our lives to Christ and follow Him, His Holy Spirit dwells in us. His Spirit gives us the desire to obey Him. Our chief question is no longer, “How far can I push the limits of the law?” But our chief question becomes, “How far can pursue pleasing my Lord and Savior?”

For a follower of Christ, the way of obedience is the way of faith and grace. We are totally dependent on Him to transform us, so we trust Him to do so and we diligently pursue all means to cultivate our relationship with Him, thereby inviting Him to change us. This is what abiding, remaining, or living in Christ is all about (John 15:1-8). Paul also explains our relationship with Christ in terms of “living by,” being “led by,” and “keeping in step with the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:16, 18, 25).

In our relationship with God as His child, our motivation and desire is to be like Him and to please Him in all that we do. This motivation and desire propels us way beyond a mere adherence to a law. In Christ, we delight to live in the light of His holiness and long to become more and more like Him! This involves more than mere avoidance of sin, but also a seeking and striving to think and conduct ourselves like our heavenly Father.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” (Ephesians 5:1-2) “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-9) Our goal as followers of Christ is to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.” (Colossians 1:10)

©2011 Rob Fischer