You can learn a lot about someone’s life, attitude, and spiritual makeup by the way they think of obedience. The heathen openly declare their abhorrence toward obedience, implying if not stating, “No one can tell me what to do.” On the other hand, there are many who claim to possess a strong faith in Jesus whose doctrine proclaims quite clearly, “I do not really have to do that.” There are also plenty of Christians who acknowledge the necessity of obedience to God in doctrine but yet appear oblivious to it in practice. Yes, our obedience—or the lack thereof—does betray much of our underlying spirituality. However, there remains yet another consideration that we can ignore when it comes to obeying God. We can congratulate ourselves for obeying God when so many others have not—and this is not insignificant (2 Thess. 1:7-9)—while failing to reflect on the attitudes with which we approach obedience, which also matters.
Most parents understand the difference between a child who submits grudgingly and a child who complies happily. In fact, the distance between the two lies so far apart that it is difficult to call both of them by the same name. Yet, when it comes to spiritual matters, we often treat grudging obedience as sufficient. But, my friends, grudging obedience does not stem from faith and love but from obligation and fear. We should seek higher motivation than this (1 Jn. 4:19). In Psalm 40 David speaks of the benefits and blessings of trusting the LORD, and the Messianic aspect of the psalm brings this to the fore even more. Thus, the portion quoted by Hebrews, using the Septuagint version, deserves special attention. “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart’” (Psa. 40:6–8). These words, this mindset, and this behavior all describe Jesus Himself as He lived in the flesh (Heb. 10:5-7). Thus, they deserve our attention and emulation to the highest degree. But what do they tell us about obedience?
God does not want just an external obedience that attempts to mollify His wrath while attempting to justify self. To the contrary, God wants true obedience, the kind that begins within, not only accepting the will of God as stated but also making your own will conform to it (Rom. 12:1-2). Having God’s law in our heart is thus not a matter of memorization but of internalization. The obedience God deserves comes not only from knowing what He wants, but wanting it ourselves. In this way, we give because we want to give—not because we have to give. We worship because we love to worship—not because we have to worship. We reach out to the lost—not because we have to evangelize but because we have come to love them as God does. When we lose ourselves in God’s will and live first in His Word and then in His world, anything but obeying Him would seem strange, out of place, and even repulsive to us. The more, then, that we allow ourselves to be caught up in just how much God has loved us and done for us, the more we will come to delight in obeying Him.