Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Obedience to God is the only way to enjoy life!"

Day #196

Scripture Reading:  Proverbs 28 …

Living to please God in obedience to His Word sounds unappealing to those without the Spirit, but to those who know God's love in Jesus Christ and who have within us the desire to SHOW our love to God … not to earn our salvation, but out of thankfulness for His GIFT of salvation … for US obedience to God arises from a desire to honor and glorify Him, our Father in heaven.  We are keenly aware that we live in a world where obedience to God, if given at all, is offered for all the wrong reasons - whether out of fear of judgment or out of a desire to GET something more from God.  That is NOT the obedience that brings God's blessing!

In Proverbs 28 Solomon records his insights, given by the Spirit of God, concerning rulers and those whom they rule over.  He speaks about the law and our relationship to the law, and as he does so he points out the contrast between rebellion and obedience, as well as the difference between an outward obedience and an inward obedience.  He begins with an interesting word picture:  "The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion" (28:1).  It is a guilty conscience that causes the wicked to flee, for fear that someone will see what they are doing.  The righteous, those who live in obedience to God's law, can be confident and bold in knowing that what they are doing is pleasing to God.  This is the foundation for the rest of the proverbs that follow:  those who have a relationship with the LORD act one way … those who don't act another way.

Even in the days of Solomon, the Spirit of God was at work in a chosen few, giving them wisdom and understanding.  Such wisdom and understanding, if it is of God, always leads to a desire for obedience.  "... a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order" (28:2).  Where you see disorder and rebellion you see a lack of understanding and knowledge from God.  "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.  Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully" (28:4-5).  These truths are essential to living life in the freedom of Christ, for by His Spirit we understand the alternative is bondage to the old sinful nature, which leads to death!

Keeping God's law doesn't SOUND like freedom, but IT IS!!  As the apostles went out preaching the Gospel, some misunderstood this and became opposed to the Law of God, as if the Law itself was bad.  Paul explained in Romans 7 that it was not the LAW that was the problem, but the sinful human nature that didn't want to keep it and in fact, couldn't keep it!  But through the work of the Spirit of God those who place their faith in Jesus are set free from the control of the sinful nature.  To the Galatians, Paul wrote, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ... You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Galatians 5:1,4).  We are not free FROM the law, but free to KEEP the law, out of gratitude and thanksgiving to God.

Disobedience is always serious and carries with it serious consequences.  "If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable" (28:9). Solomon speaks here of your attitude towards riches as a symptom of the problem for many.  God tells His people to be content, to give generously and to help those who are in need.  That kind of selfless obedience ... obedience that requires sacrifice, is not the product of those whose hearts are not on pleasing God.  Even when those without the Spirit do such things, they rob God of His glory by taking credit for themselves rather than giving glory to God.  In all these things God calls us continually to testify to the world that it is HIS grace that is at work in us and that whatever good we do, we do in the name of Jesus, giving praise and thanks to Him.

With clarity and resolve Solomon writes, "Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble" (28:14).  The wicked man and the wicked ruler are always trying to take advantage of other people.  In the end, "he whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall" (28:18).  And "a faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished" (28:20). Such simple statements of truth, but how few heed the lessons they teach. Day after day most people set their minds on self and find no joy in labor or in helping others or in giving or in serving.  Instead, they complain and find little or no satisfaction in life.  They think we who follow Jesus and who seek to live in obedience to God do not know how to have "fun."  Little do they know that obedience to God is the ONLY way to enjoy life!!

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, "everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).  What is the foundation of YOUR life?  The very first Psalm reveals the truth of Solomon's words here in Proverbs: "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:1-3).

Discover the joy of obedience to God as you set your heart and mind on things above, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  It will not always appear that obedience brings blessing, but in the end, obedience to God IS the only way to enjoy life.  Knowing God's forgiveness and grace through faith in Jesus compels the heart of all who believe to desire obedience, and to find in serving God the greatest joy this world has to offer.  

"Heavenly Father, it is so easy to get drawn into the foolishness of the old nature and to find fleeting pleasure in disobedience rather than true joy in obedience.  Forgive my sin and continue Your work in me, helping me to delight in Your truth and to live in obedience to Your commands, knowing that in doing so I discover true freedom and experience true joy as I live out my faith in Jesus.   In Jesus' Name, Amen"

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