The Struggle for Obedience
Have you ever wondered what it was like for Noah’s wife? To spend over a year on an ark with all those animals, feeding them, and smelling them every day? We think our house is a zoo. We have no idea.
But then after a year cooped up on the ark, can you imagine stepping out onto a fresh, new world, clean, pure, and quiet? Man, the potential.
Yet, the renewed earth they looked out on still wasn’t Eden–and they still had the potential to sin.
Like the people of Noah’s day, our sin also deserves judgment. Just as Noah’s family found refuge in the ark, we find refuge in Jesus.
When we come to Christ in faith and repentance, He cleanses us from all our sin and shame. He washes us as clean and pure as that fresh earth after the rushing waters purged the evil and darkness from the land.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 84
Yet, we still have the potential to sin. We are redeemed but not yet made perfect. We are citizens of a new kingdom and yet still abide here on earth.
I imagine Mrs. Noah was disappointed to find that even after the cleansing flood, sin was still right there with them. The world was new and yet still the same.
In Christ, we are new creations, but our challenge is to not conform to the world from which we were rescued.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Romans 12:1-2
Jesus is our sacrifice for sin, but that fact doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to choose obedience. We are called to be living sacrifices and to not conform to the ways of the world.
I don’t know about you, but that is a daily struggle for me. I desire to do what is right, yet my heart can be so easily led astray by my own selfishness, pride, and greed.
And the world can sometimes seem so appealing.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”1 John 2:15-17
John is not talking about loving the people of the world, such as in John 3:16 when he said, “God so loved the world….” Instead, he is referring to the world of sin controlled by the devil.
Think about it: our sinful cravings, the worldly things that look good to us, and the boasting of who we think we are or what we think we have–none of that brings glory to God. It’s sin, plain and simple.
So, how can we live each day as new creations bringing glory to God?
First, we have to have a heart that wants to please God. If we belong to Jesus, our desire to please Him should outweigh all other desires.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'”Matthew 22:37
Second, we need to renew our minds in the Word. The more time we spend in the Word, the more our hearts and minds become aligned with God’s values.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit, have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”Romans 8:5
Third, empowered by His Spirit, we choose. That’s right. We have to choose to do the right thing, even when it hurts our flesh and makes us uncomfortable.
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”James 1:22
We may have to turn off the TV or computer, separate ourselves from ungodly relationships, walk away from gossip.
We may have to choose to set aside that little extra sleep to spend time with God; we may have to choose to close our mouths when we want to complain or argue; we may have to choose to let our spouse be right.
We may have to choose to not tell the lie that makes us look better; we may have to choose to turn the other cheek; we may have to choose to humble ourselves and let others be first.
Obedience is not our default setting. We have to be intentional to choose to obey. We do so because we love God, and we want to please Him.
And when we mess up, we ‘fess up. We admit our sinfulness, accept His forgiveness, and continue on our journey with Him, growing from faith to faith.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come to near to you.”James 4:7-8a
Obedience doesn’t come natural to our flesh, but it is the desire of our spirit if we belong to Jesus. And every day His mercies are new (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Like Noah’s wife, we run to the refuge of Jesus for salvation, and we step out into a new creation by faith–one that is groaning as it awaits the day when we will be made perfect forever (Romans 8:20-23).
What sin are you struggling to overcome? Confess it, resist it, and run into the arms of Your Father. Then continue on your journey as you follow hard after Him.
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