As Christians, we have a vast number of commands that God has given us in his word that we must obey in order to please him (sanctification not justification). But the concept of obedience for us is more than a golden retriever rolling over at the word of his master. For the Christian, obedience means to do God’s will, God’s way, for God’s glory. That definition rolls of the tongue so simply, but it’s not that easy in our day-to-day experience, is it? We often fail to complete all three of these aspects of obedience together.
It may be that you do God’s will in the way that he desires, but instead of doing it for his glory you do it for the recognition you will receive in acting out this biblical façade. Other Christians can’t see our hearts so we can very easily conform to an outward Christ-likeness that we know will receive respect from those who love the Lord.
You can also do God’s will for God’s glory, but do it in a way that God never prescribes. It is certainly God’s will that the unborn are allowed to live, but when people start blowing up abortion clinics for the glory of God, obedience crumbles to pieces.
Finally, you can do something for God’s glory and do it in a godly way without it actually being God’s will. This is done when we lie to someone thinking that the truth would be too hard for them to hear.
Even if just one of these three elements is missing, we have failed to obey God the way we should. King Saul provides us with a perfect example of this in 1 Samuel 13. He was told to wait for Samuel to give a burnt offering and peace offerings to the Lord before he fought the Philistines in battle. After it had been seven days, however, and Samuel hadn’t come, Saul decided to make the offerings himself. It wasn’t that burnt offerings were displeasing to the Lord, and Saul said he made the offering to seek the favor of the Lord (v. 12), but the disobedience came with Saul acting before Samuel came to give him instruction as he was told (10:8). In response to this disobedience, Samuel says, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you…. now your kingdom shall not continue” (vv. 13-14).
God desires our obedience and obedience involves these three elements. And I know this kind of thorough devotion seems overwhelming, but remember that God, in his goodness, has given us the Spirit and promised that his grace is sufficient for the task (2 Corinthians 12:9).