I have to come to realize that obedience is simply not a part of most our spiritual paradigm here in America. We come to church, I think, with the intention of hearing from God, of being engaged by the message, even being wowed by something new and fresh. But few of us walk out the doors with any intention of really doing whatever it is we have heard spoken.
Sometimes this may not happen because the teaching offered was simply poor and did nothing to admonish its hearers to pursue obedience in a particular area of their lives. But, this same thing occurs in churches where the preaching is often sound and substantive and clear. I have become convinced that the problem is not always with the sermon, but with the spiritual worldview of the hearers. They simply approach their faith with no real focus on responding to God’s Word in obedience. Sure, we’d never deny that we are supposed to be good Christians and do what God tells us to, but any real obedience comes typically only when it is convenient and personally beneficial.
We simply don’t disciple people to value obedience. Most of our discipleship focuses on knowledge disconnected from faithful practice of these commands and truths discovered. Knowledge is by no means a bad thing. However, unless it leads to obedience, it is of little value. How often is reading our Bible the first thing we tell new Christians to do? Again, this is certainly not a bad thing. But what if the first thing we did with a new believer was show them that the Bible tells us we are to share our faith with those around us, and then sent them off to share the gospel with three people the following day? See the difference?
Unfortunately most of the Christianity lived out around us has focused essentially on experiencing God rather than obeying God. We skip from one experiential high to the next thinking that we are somehow partaking of real Christian faith, when in reality, we’ve missed it. Nothing about our lives has changed. We haven’t put aside our own desires on a daily basis to commit our lives to the purposes of God. We don’t even think about obedience.
Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19-20 to teach those we are discipling to obey everything He has commanded us (for a further explanation of Matthew 28:19-20 see the blog post entitled ‘A Call to Make Learners’). Our call is to teach people to obey. If we don’t teach people to obey, then we have failed, and whatever we have taught them is of little consequence.
Obedience is the evidence of genuine conversion. Obedience is the goal of every true follower of Jesus Christ. Obedience is what we do. We must shift our spiritual worldviews to make obedience to the commands of Scripture our first priority.