The Ultimate Joy

There are some topics that we, as Christians, sometimes avoid because they’re just not things we like to think about. One of those topics is obedience. I’ve never sat down with a group of high-minded theologians and had a spirited, animated discussion about obedience where we all walked away pumping our fists and saying, “YEAH! Now THAT’S what I’m talkin about!”

 

But recently, Kinship Christian Radio Announcer Beth Crosby was sharing some thoughts and songs that really got me thinking about obedience and its course throughout my life.

 

During my misspent youth, (and I am guessing I am not the Lone Ranger) I thought of obedience to God as something mandatory that, if not done correctly, would result in a big boot from the sky squashing me like a bug

 

All stick, no carrot.

 

I spent a lot of time rebelliously gnawing on the carrot while dancing around the stick.

 

Eventually, that phase was replaced by a kind of Red Green approach to obedience. (For those of you who have never watched the Red Green show on PBS, it’s about a gray-bearded “handyman” who stereotypically attempts to solve all of life’s problems with duct tape and misinformation.) The show is famous for “The Men’s Prayer:”

 

I’m a man

But I can change.

If I have to.

I guess.

 

While begrudging obedience is indeed obedience, it lends itself to disobedience when you’re pretty sure no one is looking. This, of course, is why someone famous (UCLA basketball coach John Wooden) once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking.” 

 

This is why you will find nothing even similar to “The Men’s Prayer” in your Bible. God, in point of fact, had some pretty stern words for those who practiced insincere, half-hearted obedience:

 

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Isaiah 1:13 (NIV)

 

And I think that’s totally fair. The God who created everything, who rules the entire universe with mercy and grace, who knows absolutely everything about everything (including what you’re really thinking when you’re trying to look like you’re a perfect Christian), who took on human flesh and died to give us eternal life in a perfect relationship with Him –that God absolutely deserves our very, very best.

 

So, what does that look like?

 

Unfortunately, it’s taken me to the point in my life where the commercials on Jeopardy are aimed directly at my demographic to realize that obedience to God isn’t something designed to suck every ounce of fun out of life.

 

In fact, at the risk of having my Man-Card revoked, obedience is a great joy!

 

Look what David writes in Psalm 119:

 

Joyful are people of integrity,

who follow the instructions of the LORD.

Joyful are those who obey his laws

and search for him with all their hearts. (Vss. 1&2 NLT)

 

By the time he gets to verse 14, he’s absolutely gushing with praise of God’s rules:

 

I have rejoiced in your laws

as much as in riches.

I will study your commandments

and reflect on your ways.

I will delight in your decrees

and not forget your word. (Vss. 14-16 NLT)

 

And, as I reflect back on my life, the most joyful, meaningful, and best moments of my life have been when I have been doing what God called me to do. The things I did and experienced on mission trips, studying the Bible with other believers, times on the radio playing Jesus songs and talking about Jesus, times sharing Jesus with others, and times spent writing this blog have blessed me beyond measure. 

 

Times of love spent with my wife, my daughter, my family are times of obedience and walking in God’s will, too. 

 

Because, when we come right down to it, the greatest obedience is to obey those two greatest commandments I wrote about last week:

 

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)

 

Yes, we will have strife and trouble attempting to be obedient. Yes, the enemy of our souls, our own flesh, and the world will all do everything they can to distract us from this simple command to love, but we are assured that love wins. We are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

He will never stop loving us. 

 

And, yes, even Jesus wasn’t always joyful when He was being obedient, but He was assured and resolute that doing the Father’s will was always, always the right thing to do.

 

Even when it was hard.

 

Even when it made Him sweat drops of blood. 

 

But, keep in mind that what Jesus suffered on that cross finished it. It is finished. Done. Complete. The debt is paid in full and not one of us will ever have to suffer what He suffered to accomplish what He accomplished. 

 

Obedience isn’t something we duct-tape onto our foreheads to prove what great Christians we are. It isn’t something we begrudgingly recite hoping that someday we will actually believe it. Obedience is the ultimate joy in knowing that the battle is won. It is really, truly finished. Our obedience is not something we have to do to earn what He has already bought and paid for. Our obedience is the joyful outpouring of appreciation and gratitude and total, real heartfelt joy as children –as family– of the King of kings and LORD of Lords!

 

The joy of obedience is why Silas and Paul could sit in that jail singing hymns after having been severely beaten until the earth shook and all the doors burst open and the chains fell off. 

 

The greatest joy ever to come into the world came out of Jesus’ obedience on that cross.

 

HALLELUJAH ABBA FATHER! 

 

Today’s Praise 

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2

 

Note: To be absolutely honest, brothers and sisters, this blog post is an experiment. It’s exactly the same post as last week. (Which was titled “Joyful Obedience” and had a picture of a roll of duct tape.) Facebook’s tracking system showed that only two of you read that post, so this week I gave it a different title, picture, and opening paragraph to determine if it was the substance of what I wrote about that made it unpopular or the way in which I presented it. If you are reading this, thank you. I appreciate all comments which help me to better serve the LORD Jesus Christ.

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