“Willing to Obey”
Theology Girl-ReformedWomen Bible Studies 2/
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Php 2:12-13
“Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.” Psalm 25:12
“God accomplishes this work in you by changing your thoughts, desires, and inclinations and empowering your will to choose rightly. But you also have an obligation to seek to “work out your salvation.” “Let me reassure you again that God never removes our freedom or treats us like automatons, forcing us, kicking and screaming, to do what He wants. God places holy desires in our hearts so that our wills choose them. God gives us holy desires. He gives us the desire to worship Him.” 1/
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This is the spiritual thermometer or “where the rubber meets the road” test for us. Are we going to obey Christ or not? We are not talking about in this lesson the will to choose salvation or not as we know that Christ chooses us in changing our hearts to believe in Him and because before time in eternity past, He chose us in Him and at the appointed time in history, He revealed His Son in us. No, we are talking about children of God who have been born again and have the indwelling Holy Spirit and are enabled by His Spirit, prayer and submission to obey His Word in making right choices and choosing Christ rather than sin for a season. Elyse Fitzpatrick in her book “Idols of the Heart” reminds us that we are the only true “free” people because we have this enabling power. When God’s Word calls us to “be perfect” as our Heavenly Father is perfect, we can believe that we can press towards the mark of holiness “without which no man shall see the Lord” daily and follow Him. The command is perfect and although we are enabled we cannot do it perfectly but we can press toward it in obedience and love for our God and Saviour. As Scripture points out (Rom 6:16), we are no longer slaves to sin but servants of righteousness. We can choose to obey and the question is always WILL WE OBEY?
As I studied this chapter, I was, like you, convicted. The many times per day that we choose to do things which are not always good for us, or sinful, or self-centered or putting ourselves before Christ, our neighbor or others is probably more often than we would like to think. The warfare is ongoing and always raging. We sometimes choose those things which look to be good and often are the very things that bring us down or condemn us. We are sometimes so filled with our own wants, desires and needs that we miss the point of God’s Word and the blessing that obedience brings. As Fitzpatrick says, “if we’re glutted on the joys and pleasures of the world our minds remain unconvinced that the joy of the Master is better.” [Idols, p. 150] When the Lord says, “the joy of the Lord is our strength” this is truth and we had better grab hold on it because it is truth. It is best and for our good and so obedience (willing to obey) is obeying the Master and that brings joy of heart and life to us.
Thus, we are reminded by Scripture that Paul encouraged the Philippians to “work out” their salvation with fear and trembling and pointed them to the only hope that they had of accomplishing it: “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) The Scripture is pointing out that it is the work of God to work in our hearts, minds and lives to do His will, according to His work and pleasure and that means that as His child, we are to called to work with Him in obedience to those commands He has given us. Here is what Fitzpatrick says,
“We must strive earnestly to obey God’s Word. We must yearn for, seek after, pursue, and live for holiness. God has to originate and sustain this work. He does this powerfully through the operation of the Holy Spirit. If you’re His, He’s already working in this way in you. He changes you by making obedience and worship seem pleasant. He displays before your eyes all the wonderful happiness that obedience brings. He convicts of sin and shows the glories of Christ. He powerfully affects your whole heart, creating within you a longing for Him and then fully satisfying that longing.”
You have heard me say, “pray for a burning heart for Christ,” this is what we have when we understand and obey. Our hearts burn with love and desire for Him and it brings joy unspeakable. Why would we want anything else? We choose “mud pies” rather than the food of God and our only sustenance. Oh that we would choose Him and our hearts would burn for His will always and that we, rather than choosing those things that will burn up or that will not last, we choose Him, His Word, His way, His glory and joy. Pray that it might be so today in you and me. Praise Him that He is at work in us to change us for our good and His glory.
1/ Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart, , p.151, 152
2/ Theology Girl-ReformedWomen Bible Studies, “Idols of the Heart, Learning to Long for God Alone”; Excerpt: Lesson #9 Summary Comments, Willing to Obey, June 2004