How important is obeying the words of Christ?

by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. (James 1:22-24 NASB)

How important is obeying the words of Christ? This is, of course, the essence of Lordship. Jesus Christ is Lord. That is not just a title nor is it something we say to revere him nor is it part of some religious controversy. No, He is Lord over all. He is one in essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in the Hypostatic Union of the Holy Trinity. God is Sovereign and because of his role in the Hypostatic Union, his submission in humbling himself to become a man, the Messiah, his obedience to the Father’s will in all of this as well as keeping the Law perfectly, he also, at the perfect time ordained by the Father, laid down his life as the propititiation for those he came to save.

Read Romans 4, 5 & 6. For an explanation of how this fits in eternity, read Ephesians 1. For how this all works for us in reality, carefully read Ephesians 2:1-10.

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)

Jesus Christ is Lord and as his disciples we are commanded by him to deny ourselves, take up our own crosses and follow him (Matthew 16:24). The cross to those our Lord spoke this to would have understood that he was referring to a violent, degrading death. He was demanding total commitment from them—even unto physical death—and making this call to full surrender a part of the message they were to proclaim to others. This has nothing to do with believers being called to “have their best life now.” No, this same call to life or death devotion to Christ is repeated in Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:27. For those who come to Christ with self-renouncing faith, there will be true and eternal life.

Those who are under the Lordship of Christ are those who have heard the words of Christ and obey them. On the other hand, there are multitudes of so-called Christians who claim to be real, but obeying the commands of Christ are seen to them as optional because, after all, in our culture, obeying some of those commands can make you a stand out and be labeled as a bigot or intolerant or a homophobic or a closed minded fundamentalist or all of these things.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NASB)

Doesn’t all this come down to if our values and focus are temporal or eternal? If we are temporally focused, that is, all about the flesh, the here and now, we will be like Demas who loved this present world and because of that, deserted Paul when he needed him most.

9 Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.11 Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. (2 Timothy 4:9-11 NASB)

If we are to be those who deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus, that is, know and obey his words then we must be those who work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), becoming living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship. We must not be conformed to this world, but be continually transformed through the renewing of our minds so that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1, 2).

What I just described is our sanctification. That transformation Paul talked about in Romans 12:2 is the development in us of the mind of Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not do this, God does this, but it does not happen if we are those who live for self and love this present age and do everything to please the flesh.

Those who hear the words of Christ and obey them are those whose spiritual foundation is the rock of Christ. The pressures of the age will come upon us and will threaten us in many and various ways that will make it seem that we have been separated from the love of God, but we know from Romans 8:31-39 that those pressures and threats are coming from our enemy and his seed, and there is not one thing they can do to come between us and our God. Yes, they may even take our physical lives, but all that does is hasten our departure to be with our Lord.

Those who hear the words of Christ and do not obey them are many in this dark age. They are all around us. Some are even very well known “Christian” leaders with huge ministries and large numbers of followers. However, our Lord says we shall know those who are his from those who are not by their fruit. That fruit is seen in whether their teachings actually restrain the flesh. If they are genuine prophets, not false prophets, then what they teach and preach will lead those who follow them to a life of repentance. The opposite is true of false prophets.

Be wise and discerning my brethren.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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