Obedience

And the apostles said unto the Lord, increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come in from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:5-10 KJV)

In response to Jesus’ teaching on forgiving those who offend us, the disciples were overcome with the enormity of their responsibility, and cried out, “Increase our faith.”

Jesus’ reply teaches us that it does not take enormous faith to obey, in fact if our faith is only the size of a mustard seed we can accomplish great things. 

He then goes on to teach us that as His servants obedience is our duty, it is the least we can do. A master expects this from a servant, an employer likewise expects his employees to do what their job requires. In the same way we are to obey our Lord Jesus Christ.

We often pray for strength and willingness to obey, and this is not entirely wrong, as we do need God’s help in our battle against sin in this world, and he encourages us to seek Him for grace in time of need (Heb 4:16). Yet we often substitute prayer for obedience, waiting for a sudden burst of heavenly energy, or for God to somehow make us obey. This is a subtle trap we must endeavor to avoid. 

God does not command us to do that which we are unable to do, and therefore it is only reasonable and right that we do as He commands. Often it is our own unwillingness, our selfish wills desiring to gain mastery that stands in the way of our obedience. Yet God is faithful in strengthening our hearts, and establishing us in our walk with Him. We can depend on His grace to give us all we need as we obey Him from day to day (2 Peter 1:3-8; 1 These 5:23-24).

Holiness

In their lost state, the unregenerate individual is a selfish individual. such a one is devoted to self, seeking to gratify the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pursuing the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We read in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, 

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Eph 2:2-3 KJV)

This is selfishness, a life ultimately devoted to self. Even the good things a selfish person does are done with an eye toward self; a concern for how this action will ultimately affect me. This is sin, and it is what separates one from union with God. The selfish individual will not submit to the authority and rule of God over his or her life, and as a consequence, they have no spiritual life within them.

It is God’s purpose that we should be Holy, that is, entirely devoted to Him and for Him. Instead of living for ourselves, He has called us to be Holy, to live for Him and His glory.

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. (Eph 1:4 KJV)

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2 KJV)

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16 KJV)

To be separated from sin and self, and devoted to the service of God, requires that our actions be pleasing to God. Holiness is not merely a judicial action on the part of God whereby He “sees” us as holy, while we are yet serving sin, but it plays out in our day to day lives as we separate from the things of this world, and follow Christ in obedience. 

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living god, as god hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:14-18 KJV)

This separation begins with repentance. A truly repentant individual will see that the selfish life they have lived has offended God, and has separated them from Him. A repentant individual will hate his sin for what it has done, and forsake it in its entirety. This is the beginning of coming out and being separate. There can be no mercy found at the cross of Christ if one still desires to harbor one sinful habit in their life, or desires to control one aspect of their life, for Jesus has told us, 

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Matt 16:24-26 KJV)

This is what true holiness is; it is losing ourselves, our control, our plans and purposes, our sin and selfishness, and yielding up ourselves to follow Jesus no matter the cost. It is not a one time decision we make for Christ, but it is to be lived out each and every moment of every day we walk upon this earth. The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14 KJV). This was written to Christians, urging them to continue on in a life of love and obedience, being found right with God and man. This is the clean hands and pure hearts spoken of in Psalm 24:3-4. These are the people who will stand in the presence of the Lord. Jesus tells us “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matt 5:8). There is no room for mixture in a pure heart, or it is no longer pure. A pure heart will naturally extend itself in works of love and service toward God and those around us.