Sunday, March 17, 2013

Can we obey God's Will?

Are we really able to obey God’s Will for our lives?

The scripture – God’s revelation to us – reveals His Will, and Jesus, God’s Anointed Prophet, makes it remarkably clear what is expected of us by God. And that all human beings have the ability to choose to obey God and the admonitions and teachings Jesus, or freely reject them, and reject God Himself, is amply attested to by all the Scriptures.

One such example: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (Deut. 30:19)

Now, one might say, “Isn’t the will of someone who has never heard of God’s Will for our lives weakened, and in some cases, depraved, by the constant habit of moral degeneracy?” Definitely. The wills of those who have sinned persistently have weakened by their own previous actions.

But even so, God’s holy Spirit enlightens us, and, through the clear teachings and ministry of Jesus, and those Followers who become the salt and light to the world, they are enlightened and awakened to God’s great Purpose for us – to live Righteously, and they may do so, relying on God’s Grace and the example of His Son.

The Gospel would not have set out so clearly the rules and precepts of virtue, piety, the excellent maxims of charity, humility, purity, temperance, integrity, honesty, and diligence in well-doing, if we didn’t have the ability to obey them – and the duty to do so.

The declarations of Jesus that no one shall enter into heaven who did not do not the will of his Father, and that God will render to everyone according to their works, would be meaningless – and unjust – if we were unable to obey, even after having been enlightened by God as to His Will, and strengthened by God’s fellow-workers.

Without the ability to obey God, the commands of His Son to have faith, to perform Good Works, or to even love and serve God by imitating him in all things, would be mere suggestions, and unworthy to be uttered by a Just God, and unworthy of our attention.

Without all of these Scriptural encouragements, the example of Jesus, and the ongoing help of God’s holy Spirit and the Light given by those who Follow Jesus, many to whom the Good and Beneficial Message Jesus preached would remain unreformed servants of sin.

But whose fault is that? If we are unable to obey, blaming some imaginary, hereditary sin-stain in our souls, then we throw up excuses at God, simply because we (as Jesus says) love darkness rather than light, and are really refusing to repent and Follow Jesus fully.

God provides us an Eternal Destination, and shows us a road that leads to it, and the means – which are like a car that is given to us to drive towards it. And He gives us gas in the car, and a key to start the car. And a precise map to that Destination. And co-pilots to encourage us along the way. 

We are told about the Destination, and the free gift of a car to take us there. We must get into the car, must start the car, and remain on the road. 

If we do, we reach the Destination. If we veer off the road, or fail to use the car, or don't accept the key, or stand next to the car, hoping that by simply thanking God for the car, or merely praising the gift, or praising the car, will get us to the Destination, we would have failed to reach the Destination, and we have deluded ourselves. And we would have no excuse for it.

I’m indebted to Rev. John Jortin for much of the wording and ideas in this sermon today. Thanks, John!

By the way, Rev. Jortin was an Anglican minister preaching in England in the mid-1700s. Clear and plain preaching on obedience has LONG been missing from pulpits, creating millions of lost, deluded christians.

Rev. Jortin’s preaching (like that of Jesus before him) rips away all excuses for disobeying God:

“To suppose men entirely passive, driven like mere machines to do good or to do evil by fatal, irresistible impulses, deprived of choice or liberty, and incapable of doing any thing, or taking any step towards amendment, to exaggerate the weakness and corruption of human nature contrary to the plain feelings and inward conviction of every rational agent, contrary to many clear expressions of scripture, contrary to the very use and design of admonition and exhortation; this surely is a strange method of bringing men to a sense and to a love of their duty. It is rather calculated to promote a false and presumptuous security, or a total dejection and despair, according as it operates on different temperaments. 
On the contrary, a persuasion that by God’s favor we can draw near to Him, if we will, is the only consideration that can excite us to exert ourselves in working out our salvation. Without this persuasion, there can be no hope, and without hope, there can be no endeavor. Let us then make it our choice and our occupation to serve God, and never plead want of power and of ability. Such thoughts are injurious to the Gospel, and to the Grace of God, Who will never be wanting to us while we are not wanting to ourselves.”

Amen. Let us therefore serve God by using our God-given moral ability to do so, using the free Gifts of His Grace that have been provided to us, following His chosen Son’s perfect example in all things.

Selected Scriptures:

"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Deut. 30:7-14

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Deut. 30:19

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve YHWH, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH.” Joshua 24:15

“And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.” Deut. 11:32

"But those who do what is true come to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God." John 3:21

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 

"Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." John 14:24

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3

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