Obedience Makes Us Better Witnesses
The world around us is full of folly, selfish ambition, conceit, malice, lust, gluttony, rivalry, and any other sin one can quickly call to mind. Obedience comes across as odious so often because it prevents us from giving into our sinful hearts and looking like the world. Conversely though, when we obey God’s Word (James 1:25), when we bless those who curse us (Rom. 12:14), when we pray even for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), when we go the extra mile (Matt. 5:41), treat all as neighbors (Luke 10:29–37), guard our hearts from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), put away all slander (Eph. 4:31), etc., our Christian witness shines brightly in this darkened world (Luke 8:16). Having grown up in “the Bible belt,” I found that the thing that made Christianity seem so implausible to me as a kid was not its truth claims but the fact that the people who wore the crosses, went to youth groups, and made the public professions acted no different from the world. Conversely, as an adult I’ve had the opportunity to become close friends with a number of saints who strive day by day after new obedience to the Lord and His Word, and I’ve seen how transformative that is for me, the church, and a watching world. You never know who is watching and when. For some, your obedience may be an offense, pushing them away because they want to live in darkness and not the light (John 3:19). For others your obedience will be a comfort, drawing them in like a moth to the flame (1 Peter 2:9). Either way, when we obey God’s Word, it signals to the world that “there is something different there” that opens the door for genuine gospel-centered conversations and gives the credibility to speak truth into their life.
Obedience Is Always Rewarded
We may not see the results of our obedience immediately. In fact, we may not see the results of our obedience fully this side of heaven; yet obedience is always rewarded. Whereas the decisions we make about our earthly riches—whether to invest here or there; whether to take this job or that, etc.—are never guaranteed, our obedience to God and His Word is always rewarded. God promises as much in His Word, for He writes:
The rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:9–11)
Christ reminds us that when we are persecuted because of His Word (in other words, when we are persecuted because we obey His Word), great will be our reward in heaven (Matt. 5:11–12). And He further enjoins us to seek that reward and store it up where nothing may destroy it or take it away (Matt. 6:19–20). In a sermon on Romans 2:10, Jonathan Edwards states: “The glory of the saints above will be in some proportion to their eminency in holiness and good works here. Christ will reward all according to their works.” He goes on to describe variation in rewards like the variation in the size of vessels in the sea—a sea of happiness—where some are the size of thimbles and others the size of tubs or more. Our obedience here prepares us to be the ocean liners in the sea of satisfaction available to us one day, and then forever, in glory.
Obedience is hard. Make no mistake about it. Yet it need not be drudgery. We are no longer slaves but are free to live as we were created to live and when we do, we find ourselves more spiritually fit, more in love with our God, more able to witness, and more prepared for heaven than we could ever possibly imagine. Let us not grow weary of well doing (Gal. 6:9) but with renewed vigor and positive vision run the good race till one day we receive our crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).