1 John 3:23-24

We may live a life that seems full of faith and people think that we are great but, when we come before God in prayer, we are filled with doubts and fears that keep our prayers from being answered. That is why it is so important to walk in total obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit if we want powerful boldness in our prayers and a wholehearted confidence in God. When the Spirit of God tells us to do something, we must do it. As we do, our confidence in God will rise in us. It won’t be something that we have drummed up mentally or talked ourselves into; the confidence will be there. Instead of being consumed with doubts and feelings that the word of God isn’t going to work for us, we will find ourselves full of faith in His word. We shall begin to trust God, "flow" with Him and come to a place of peace and rest. Even though our sins are paid for and forgiven, a life of disobedience will cost us so much in our relationship with our loving Father and the power of our prayers for others. (Hebrews 4:16)

The simple life

John (like Jesus before him) makes the commands of God so simple: just believe in the name of His Son and love one another. (John 13:34) At the end of the day, this is what being a Christian is all about. Everything we do should be measured against these two criteria: do we believe in the name of Jesus (or, in other words, are we walking by faith in Christ) and are we walking in love with all people? (Hebrews 11:6) To please God, we must, first and foremost, believe in Jesus Christ and love Him. True faith never exists by itself; it is always expressed through obedience and obedience is always expressed through love. (Galatians 5:6 and James 2:17) Faith is the tree and obedience is the fruit. To believe in the name of Christ is the same as to believe in Christ Himself. Jesus’ name tells us who He is, defines His character and represents His authority. He is Christ the "Saviour", immortal redeemer and "Lamb of God". He is the "Word", the "true vine", the "King of kings" and "Lord of lords"; He is unapproachable light. (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16) All these are names of Jesus.

Living in obedience

Obedience means yielding to authority and complying with commands and directions. As we have already seen (in Study Four), obedience is directly related and interrelated to loving others. We can check how much we love the Father by seeing how much we obey His word. We can have open access to heaven by obeying all that God asks us to do. We can have a clear conscience (as we saw in the previous lesson) if we obey God’s commands. We have been given the Spirit of the living God in order to obey so, really, it is the only way to walk the journey of life... yet so simple!

Because we have the Holy Spirit and are no longer under the curse of "the law of sin and death", living the Christian life is not about rote obedience and strict conformity to rules and regulations, it is about wanting to be obedient because of love that comes from the heart and overflows in a desire to please our amazing Father who has shown us the ultimate love. We just want to say "thank you" by following the guidelines He has given us. My experience is that this happens when our focus is totally on Jesus and His word. Deuteronomy 8:1 tells us to obey God's commandments. We do this by obeying God with our:

Body: accepting the word of God as our guide in matters of our strengths, talents and gifts, our sexuality and our relationships, rather than doing our own thing. We need to recognise that our bodies have been given to us by God to be used for pleasure and fulfilment according to His rules, not ours. (Exodus 15:26; Matthew 26:39)  They are His Temple, (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Soul (or mind): choosing to think how God wants us to think and seeking to know Him through His word. In this way, His principles and values form the foundation of all that we think and do. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Philippians 2:5)

Will: giving ourselves completely to God. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Joshua 24:15)

Emotions: loving God more than any other relationship, activity, achievement or possession! (John 14:15-23; Deuteronomy 30:2)

Spirit (our "born-again", inner self): listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and doing what He says, not what we think is best or have always done. (1 Samuel 15:22)

Finances: deciding that all of the resources we have ultimately come from God and that we are to be managers of them, not owners.

Past: putting the past behind us and constnatly pressing forward. (John 13:17; Isaiah 43:18)

Present: knowing that everything we have comes from God. (1 John 2:3-4; Deuteronomy 30:14)

Future: recognising that the main purpose of our life’s work should be to serve God and others. (Philippians 2:8; James 1:22)

Some examples of obedience

It is worth looking at some of these examples of people throughout the Bible who have obeyed God:

  • Abraham (Genesis 11:31; Genesis 25:9-10)
  • Noah (Genesis 6:9-10)
  • David (1 Chronicles 21:18-24; 1 Samuel 17:1-58; 1 Chronicles 29:1-30)
  • Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:1-21; 2 Chronicles 9:1-31)
  • Moses (Exodus 2:1-25; Deuteronomy 34:1-12)
  • Levites (Exodus 32:26-29)
  • John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-17)
  • Jesus (Romans 5:19)

Getting back on track

Do you want Jesus to be real to you on a daily basis, showing Himself true to you and working on your behalf in all your problems? Then obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit is the choice that you need to make and you will experience this life of victory. Have you been through a time when God seemed so real when you prayed and read His word, listened to a sermon or talked to a friend but, recently, everything seems to have dried up spiritually? Perhaps you are still doing Christian work, don’t have any sin in your life and are praying and reading His word but nothing seems to be working.

Think back to the last thing that God told you to do. It was probably nothing big, just a seemingly minor issue, but minor things can block the flow of the Holy Spirit every bit as much as major ones do. We listen for God when we need life-changing guidance (for a new job or house), but when He tells us to speak to a neighbour, or refrain from taking a third biscuit, we don’t think it at all important. Remember: no matter how insignificant God’s instructions may seem, obeying them is no small thing. It is the simple acts of obedience that will make you walk in holiness, victory and close fellowship. (Hebrews 12:14; Luke 6:49; 2 Corinthians 6:14)

Blessings of Obedience

As well as giving us many examples of godly men and women obeying God, the Bible also lays out the many blessings that follow when we make it a habit to obey God in our lives.

  • Healing (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 28:1-14)
  • The saving of life (Genesis 7:5 - Noah)
  • The sight of God's glory (Leviticus 9:22-23)
  • Miracles (1 Kings 17:13)
  • Peace (2 Chronicles 14:1-6)
  • Victory over temptation (Luke 4:1-13)
  • The key to living as Jesus did (1 John 2:6; Hebrews 5:8)

Dangers of disobedience

Sometimes, when we get direction from the Holy Spirit, we don’t take it too seriously and think that we will obey, but not just yet. This may be because it doesn’t quite fit into our plans at the moment, or we can’t be bothered or we are offended, so we drop the idea. In dropping the idea, we are actually hardening our heart to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Deep down in our hearts, we know that we are wrong, but we don’t want God to tell us His way so we proceed along our disobedient path. This is such a dangerous path to follow because, as we refuse His guidance, our hearts harden, we hear less of His voice and draw ourselves away. He will take us back into fellowship as soon as we confess and repent but, in the meantime, we can get into a real mess of our own making. This is particularly true today, with all sorts of pressures (financial or moral) coming our way. Many people are under pressure and, instead of asking God what He will do, they try and sort the problem themselves, often putting themselves outside the Father’s protection and making the problem worse. God wants us to stand still and see Him work on our behalf. (1 Samuel 12:16)

The children of Israel regularly got into trouble through disobedience. God told them what to do, but they wouldn’t do it - often because they were afraid and didn’t believe God or trust Moses. On occasion, they actually thought that they would be destroyed if they did obey but, as far as God was concerned, it was disobedience. The result was that they hardened their hearts and openly rebelled against Him. (Joshua 7:1-26) Eventually, God sent them off on a deviation into the wilderness because they had become so "stiff-necked". A journey that could have taken them about eleven days, turned into a forty-year slog.

This resulted in the loss of a whole generation of Israelites (who grew old in the desert and died) before God finally led His people across the Jordan River and into the "Promised Land". Even Moses missed out because he had allowed himself to be overcome with frustration and, in anger, had disobeyed God's instructions. (God had asked him to speak to a rock in the wilderness, to call forth water from it. Instead, Moses had struck the rock, not once but twice! (Numbers 20:11-13) A whole generation missed out on all the blessings God had planned for them and, instead, He chose Joshua and Caleb who had put their faith in God and obeyed Him. They had "guarded their hearts" and voted to follow God in the face of a tide of protest from the people as a whole. (Proverbs 4:23)

We cannot afford to play around with sin by disobeying the simple leading of the Holy Spirit, be it: "don’t lust after that man", "spend time with me", "do that friend’s ironing" or "show love to that person". Don’t ignore these promptings. God is well aware of our time restraints. Likewise, He could be talking to us about things we should not be doing or attending. Often we don’t ask God about things we want to do, in case He refuses us. We push ahead and then wonder why we are tired and never have time to pray! When God tells us what to do, let's decide now that we will be obedient immediately. Then we shall walk this life journey with peace in our hearts, a clear conscience and joy from intimate, close fellowship with our Father who loves us passionately. We need to order our lives according to the word of God and the promptings of His Spirit.

Remember the amazing thought in John's gospel: "Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father and I too will love him and show Myself to him." (John 14:21) What a promise as we decide to walk the way of holiness, being in one mind with God, turning away from the ways of the world outside the kingdom of God and living in agreement with Him. We have this fantastic promise that our God wants to live with us and show up on our behalf in all of our life situations. We must love God with all our hearts by obeying His commands. He will show His love to us in powerful new ways, pouring Himself into our hearts as He has done for His children through every generation. There is power and love available that this generation needs to see, but there is also a price of obedience that needs to be paid. Are we willing to pay it today?

Click on the button below to load the QUESTIONS for this study in a new browser tab. You can opt to print the question sheet or simply follow the questions and write down your answers in a notebook or a separate file on a computing device, such as a laptop or mobile 'phone.