As I prepared this series I was struck by how good and wise God’s commandments are, and how many blessings can be experienced if we obey them. So I thought I would share some thoughts about how we are to respond to these commandments.
Some Christians put a lot of emphasis on the truth of justification by grace alone through faith alone (Eph 5:8-9) and do not focus on the importance of righteous living. Their thinking goes that, because God has already saved us, we do not have to follow rules and regulations. The grace of God is seen as freedom from the law of God. Other Christians go the other way and see the Christian life mainly as one where we obey rules and regulations. There are lists of ‘dos and don’ts’ to follow. Righteous living is seen as a way to avoid God’s anger against us and to earn His favour. In this way of thinking, there may even be an underlying fear that not doing this may lead us to lose our salvation.
Both these views are wrong! We must neither neglect a holy life nor think of the Christian life as only following a list of rules. On one hand, righteous living cannot be separated from the true faith (Jas 2:14). If we are really saved, our lives will be full of good works and fruit of the Spirit (Eph 2:10, Gal 2:23). As children of our Heavenly Father, we will reflect a family likeness. Because God is holy and good, our conduct is likewise to be holy and good (1 Pet 1:15, Mat 5:45, Eph 5:1). So a desire to be holy is a sign that one is a child of God.
On the other hand, we must be careful to understand that good works are evidence of salvation, not the means of it (Eph 2:10). We must not feel that having been once saved through faith, we now stay saved by works. Instead, in obeying God’s commands, we must rest in faith in all Christ has already done for us, not what we must do for Him. As His children, we already have His favour by grace – it cannot be earned. It is God who enables us to please Him (Heb 13:20-21). It is God who does the good work in us so that we can do good works through Him (Php 2:13). Our good works are not a goal in themselves, but a way to give glory to God (Is 43:7, Eph 1:11-12).
So it is good to have the correct ideas of obeying God! However, the wonderful thing is that obedience to God’s commands is more than a way to avoid His anger or to bring Him glory. When we follow His ways, we ourselves will experience goodness and blessing through our communion with Him (Ps 16:11. Ps 34:8). We will feel His fatherly pleasure and approval on our whole lives. Everything that God commands in His Word is actually for our good – to maximize our satisfaction and happiness. So we will never lose out by living a holy life! We will truly find that His commandments are “…more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. …in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps 19:9-11). Let us then always seek to know God’s will better and to do it more faithfully, for our own sakes!