1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
I am often asked by new, casual, lukewarm or struggling Christians “what are the basics of being a Christian?” I understand where they are coming from. Sometimes we just need some direction, some instructions… something we can get our mind around that is easy to understand so that we can begin to make real changes in our life.
For the new Christian, these are obviously things they have never known. For others who may profess Christ, but show no signs of Him in their life, maybe they have never been taught the basics of Christian living, or perhaps they were taught but it never made it from their head to their heart and changed their lives.
If you are a mature Christian, for several reasons I hope you don’t wander off during this series. First, have you evaluated your own life recently to make sure your foundation doesn’t have cracks or crumbling areas that need repair? If someone were to ask you this moment, “what are the basics of living a Christian life?”, could you tell them? Could you mentor them, train them and hold them accountable (discipleship)? Finally, no matter what the reason, or what stage of spiritual maturity you are in, it is NEVER a wasted effort to go back and spend time reviewing and reconsidering the “basics”. A mature Christian will understand that 1) there is always room for improvement, 2) there are always fresh ways to apply the same principles, and 3) it is a good thing to renew your mind periodically with the foundations of how to live a Christian life.
Why “foundations”? Foundations are the supporting structure, the floor, the surface, the start of something. The foundation of a house must be stable and well built for the rest of the house to be safe and steady. The foundation of a roadway must be carefully prepared so that the road will not crack, crumble and fall apart.
Likewise, a Christian must build a firm foundation on which to construct his Christian “house” (life). For the sake of these messages we are going to assume that true salvation has occurred, and that your foundation is being built on solid bedrock (Jesus Christ). Salvation through Christ is the start of your Christian building. We’re going to be teaching about the foundation you build after that point. Again, think of building a house. Jesus is the solid bedrock that you are going to build your house on. Now you’re going to learn how to build a firm foundation on which your Christian life will be constructed.
There can be no more simple, easy to understand or important aspect to your Christian life than obedience. There’s no mystery to it, there are no magic tricks, and there is nothing EASY about doing it.
Everything about your Christian life and growth, starts and stops with obedience. No matter how much Bible you know, if you don’t obey it, it is worthless to you. No matter how many ways you DO obey God, if you choose in ONE way to willingly, and knowingly, disobey Him, it will destroy your entire Christian walk. Consider these things about obedience:
- Deuteronomy 13:4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. (NKJV)
It doesn’t matter if you understand or agree with God. If you know to do something, or not to do something, you obey. God will give you understanding in His way, and in His time. Sometimes, I believe God doesn’t allow us to understand something simply to 1) test us to see if we will obey anyway; and 2), teach us to obey even if we disagree or don’t know why. It’s much like the Army officer who orders his men to “take the hill” under heavy enemy fire. It doesn’t matter whether the soldiers understand or agree; they must obey because their “Master” has ordered it. Our obedience without question also demonstrates our trust in God, that whatever He tells us to do, is the perfect thing we need to do.
- 1 Samuel 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. (NKJV)
It is better to obey than sacrifice. In other words, religious ceremonies, good works and Christian deeds are worthless if they are not done in obedience. No amount of Christian activity, or religious involvement, will do us any good if we are not simply obeying God’s Word and His direction in all aspects of our life. Remember, God knows your heart, your REAL heart. You cannot fool Him by being at church all the time, and involving yourself with all sorts of religious things that make other humans think you are really spiritual and Godly. The Lord sees through all that, straight into your heart. If you are not obedient, “religion” is useless.
- Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (NKJV)
True obedience, is obedience when no one is looking. The REAL you is the YOU that no one sees. It’s the you at home alone. It’s the you in the hotel by yourself. It’s the you in the car on the drive home. It’s the you that is the you when there is no one around. If you are not obedient when people aren’t looking, then you are not an obedient person. If you are a “good Christian” when you are around other Christians, but like the world when no other Christians are present, you should question whether you are a real Christian or not. True obedience isn’t about convincing other people you’re a Christian. True obedience is about doing everything God asks because you were bought and redeemed from hell, and now God is your loving Master.
Obedience is not something that is one sided: you obey God and that’s all there is. No, obedience comes with many blessings and rewards. We obey God, and there is much to be received from that obedience:
- James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (NKJV)
The person who hears God’s word and does it (obeys) is blessed in what he does. God will bless your obedience. You can rest assured that every single time you obey God, and do what He commands, He will bless your efforts. What does “be blessed” mean? It means you will receive and recognize some tangible benefit. It might be joy, or spiritual growth. It might be a physical blessing such as health or income. It might be happiness, or a surprising result you never expected. It will ALWAYS be a guilt-free satisfaction and peace that you are “right” with God because of your obedience.
- 1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (NKJV)
How many times have you asked (or been asked), “how can I know if I’m really saved?”. Well, I like to NOT complicate things and so I’ll just take the Bible at its word. The Bible says if you keep God’s commandments (obey) you can KNOW that you know the Lord.
- 1 John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (NKJV)
When we are obedient, whatever we ask from God, we will receive. Of course, if we are obedient, then we will only be asking for those things that are His obvious will, and that we know He wants us to have. If you are thinking right now of primarily material things (money, cars, houses, etc), then you are missing the mark. While God may very well want you to have those things, if that is the primary image that pops in your head when you hear “ask and you will receive”, then you still have a ways to go before understanding what this promise is. This promise is conditional on keeping His commandments. If we keep His commandments, we know His mind and His will. We will know what God wants us to have, then when we ask for it, He will give it.
- 1 John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (NKJV)
We can know that we are in Christ, and close to Him if we are obeying Him. Think about the times in your life when you felt like God was distant, or not real. You can bet, that 99.9% of the time, it was because there was disobedience (sin) in your life. Disobedience hinders our closeness and fellowship with God. Obedience draws us close to the Lord, and gives us assurance of His presence.
In my opinion, obedience is the first, and easiest, foundational Christian characteristic to understand. To the best of your ability, simply choose to do whatever God is asking, commanding or directing you to do. If you obey God in everything you know, and every way you can, with an honest heart, making no excuses, and not neglecting learning His commandments (Bible reading), then you have captured the core of the Christian life: find out what God says, and obey it.
The basic truth of Christian living:
Find out what God says, and obey it.
You can only obey what you know. That is where reading the Bible, having a spiritual mentor (such as Paul was to Timothy), and learning from other mature Christians and Bible teachers will help you to know what God has commanded. Primarily, it should come from reading the Bible, and asking God for wisdom (James 1.5).
If you are a new Christian, a struggling Christian, or a lukewarm Christian (profess Christ but live like the world), then OBEDIENCE will be one small step to get you moving in the right direction, one giant leap for your Christian growth. For mature Christians, obedience remains the primary source of your salvation assurance (1 John) and the primary characteristic that feeds the rest of your spiritual life.
Lord God, Help us not only to obey, but to understand how it pleases you, and blesses us. Help us to model obedience by our own example, and not just with words. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: If you are not growing spiritually, it might be that you are not obeying God in all things. If you lack assurance of your salvation, or feel distant from God, obedience is the most likely reason. If you are a new Christian, then obedience is your first step and learning to obey God will become the primary characteristic in your life that will allow you to grow as a Christian.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?