A Challenge to the Christian
God has called every Christian believer out of obedience to His Word to pursue the kingdom of heaven, so that His will might be made manifest (plainly seen) on the earth. In the parable of the wedding invitation in Matthew 22, there is an important principle at work. The first requirement God has for us, is to make a willing response. Just as we must choose to accept Christ first before we receive Salvation from God; we must choose to obey God first, so that He can work through our lives in the measure and way that He wants to. Many are called to an appointment in God, who never enter into the fullness of what God has planned for them, because of their failure to make a willing response.
Are you actively seeking out the will and purposes of God for your life? Are you following His instructions? Have you done what He has said?
- Many are called, but few are chosen!
- If we do not fully obey Him, we will not see His purposes fully outworked!
Unwillingness Leads to Compromise
In the Book of 1 Samuel, King Saul was rejected by God as king, because he did not fully obey the Word of the Lord. Generations before, God had given the Israelites a great victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17: 8–15) and God had made a promise to Moses that He would completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Generations later, God told Saul through the Prophet Samuel to utterly destroy all the people of Amalek and ALL that they had; including all of their ox, sheep, camels and donkeys, leaving nothing alive.
“Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey”.(1 Samuel 15: 3)
God was at work fulfilling His promise to Moses, but Saul only partially obeyed the Word of the Lord. The Bible says that Saul and his people were unwilling to utterly destroy them.
“But Saul and the people spared Agag (king of the Amalekites) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them”.(1 Samuel 15:9)
When confronted by the Prophet Samuel, Saul revealed he was in self–deception. He believed he had obeyed the Word of the Lord when it was perfectly clear he hadn’t.
“Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.’ But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”.(1 Samuel 15: 13 & 14)
The Danger of Self Deception
The danger of self-deception is that we actually believe we are walking in the will of the Lord, when we are walking in disobedience. The Apostle James explained, that self-deception comes when we do not do what the Lord says.
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness (things that defile and make unclean) and overflow (abundance) of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”.(James 1: 21 & 22)
- We need to completely lay aside all things that would cause us to compromise.
- When we hear His Word but do not do what it says, we deceive ourselves.
- Partial ‘obedience’ is not obedience at all, and opens the doorway to self- deception.
Just as God instructed Saul to eradicate all of the Amelekites and all that they had, God wants us to lay aside all those things within us that would cause us to sin or to compromise. When Saul did not obey, his disobedience led to self-deception; he began to make excuses to justify the decisions he had made, but his statements were contradictory. Whilst implying it was okay to have kept King Agag alive; at the same time, he acknowledged the people should have been utterly destroyed. He also acknowledged that the plunder, sheep and oxen had been taken, but that he knew they should have been utterly destroyed. These were the spirits of compromise and confusion at work. Saul then tried to justify his disobedience by spiritualizing, or giving a ‘godly’ reason as to why they had saved the plunder – “to sacrifice to the Lord”.
Self-deception attaches itself to spirits of compromise; confusion; contradiction and self-justification. All of these show how self-deception works.
Instead of taking responsibility for his own disobedience, Saul blamed the taking of the plunder on the people, even though he was clearly involved.
“And Saul said to Samuel, ‘But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. ‘But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal”.(1 Samuel 15:20 & 21)
The Seriousness of Rejecting God’s Word
God viewed Saul’s disobedience as stubbornness and rebellion and a rejection of His Word. He likened these things to the seriousness of the way God views witchcraft, iniquity and idolatry. And because of their seriousness, God rejected Saul as king.
“So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king”.(1 Samuel 15: 22-23)
Obedience in a leader is particularly important. Because where we allow compromise in our own lives, we will allow compromise in those who follow us.
We need to fully obey the Word of the Lord. Rejecting God’s Word will result in God rejecting His plans for our lives.
- God views the obedience of His Word as of utmost importance.
- Rebellion is as witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
- When we reject God’s Word, we reject God’s plan for our lives.
Our attitude is just as important to God as our obedience. In 2 Chronicles the Bible says of King Amaziah, who reigned in Judah:
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:2, NIV). The NKJV says: “But not with a loyal heart.”
Just like King Amaziah, we can be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord, but still be doing it with an attitude that is displeasing to God. There is a difference between servile obedience – obedience that responds out of duty, obeying God simply because He is God; and worshipful obedience – obedience that responds out of a reverence and a willing submission to God. Servile obedience obeys out of a wrong kind of fear. Worshipful obedience is an act of worship, and obeys out of a Trust in the unchanging nature of God.
God wants us to be loyal and obey Him with a whole and undivided heart!
The danger of a disloyal heart lies in its subtlety. Thought there is an outward display of obedience, there is an inward leaning that will eventually lead us away from the will of the Lord.
Because of King Amaziah’s disloyal heart, he turned away from following the Lord. Taking the gods of another people, he burned incense to them and bowed down to them. He ignored the words of the prophet who said:
“Why have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand?” “I know that God is determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice”.(2 Chronicles 25:15 & 16)
When King Amaziah turned away from the Lord, his own people then plotted against him and killed him.
“After the time that Amaziah turned away from following the Lord, they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there”.(2 Chronicles 25:27)
Obedience is an Act of Faith
In contrast to King Amaziah is the story of Abraham. God had given Abraham (then called Abram) a promise that He would give Abraham a son. God took him outside to look at the stars and said:
“So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). The Bible says Abram “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness”.(Genesis 15:6)
God made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would inherit the Promised Land:“On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land” (Genesis 15:18).
He also made a covenant that He would make Abraham the father of many nations: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations”.(Genesis 17:4)
Though Sarah’s maid had conceived a son through Abraham (called Ishmael) before Isaac was born; God told Abraham that it would be through his son Isaac that the promise of His covenant would be fulfilled:
“And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before you!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. ‘But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year”.(Genesis 17:18-21)
Abraham was already 100 years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Then God tested Abraham saying:
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you”.(Genesis 22:2)
Though Abraham also had a son named Ishmael, God called Isaac Abraham’s only son.
God was making it clear, that He was asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the very son of God’s covenant with Abraham. Because it was through Isaac’s seed that God’s promise was to come: “For in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21:12).
Though this must have made no sense to Abraham, he obeyed and did as God said. He took Isaac, the son through whom God’s promised covenant was to come, to sacrifice as a burnt offering before the Lord. But as Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son, the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said:
“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your ONLY son, from Me”.(Genesis 22:12)
God was effectively saying, “I know now that even that which I have promised to you in covenant, you will not withhold from me”.
And just as God did with Abraham, God will test us at the very point of His promise, to determine if there is anything we will withhold from Him, and if we will trust Him to bring it to pass. God wants those who fear Him, who are prepared to put Him first and give Him everything. He wants those who will serve Him with a whole and loyal heart. Just like Abraham,
We do not need to understand what God is doing in order to worshipfully obey the Lord.
When Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed on the altar before the Lord, it was an act of worship before Him. Our whole- hearted obedience toward the Lord is an act of worship also.
A Prayer of Commitment to God:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank You for the lessons in Your Word that both instruct and guide me. Help me not to take lightly the things that You have revealed to me today. Help me to persevere in seeking out Your will for my life and the purposes and plans that You have for me. I repent of all the times when I have not fully obeyed the words that You have spoken to me and when I have been unwilling to respond with a whole and loyal heart. Increase my trust in Your loving nature, Lord God, and help me to worshipfully obey You.
Help me to walk now in the fullness of the truth that You daily reveal to me, and I ask you to show me any areas of my life where I have walked in self-deception, or where I have been deceived. I thank you for the promise in Your Word which says: “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). I ask for all of these things, in Jesus’ name, Amen.