Read: Romans 8:11-14 |
The concept of “Intelligent Obedience” originates from the training of seeing-eye dogs. Guide dogs learn to obey the commands of their owner. Yet, they must also know when they need to disobey commands that can put the owner in harm’s way, such as when a car is approaching.
Spiritually, obedience is the essence of the Christian faith. In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. For believers, it is spiritually intelligent to be obedient to His will despite the challenges we see or perceive.
By taking up our cross, denying ourselves and following Him, he will guide us over, around and/or through the obstacles in our path (Matthew 16:24). In short, we are to be completely obedient to Him. Yet, since we have free will, we have a choice. If we use the collective intelligence of our heart, mind, soul to make a different choice than God directs, we are “intelligently disobedient”. [Got Questions: “What does the Bible say about obedience?”]
To obey God or not to obey God is our daily challenge, one decision at a time. God calls believers to have the spirit of obedience towards His commandments and not just to “obey” them.
Acts of Obedience
A mother ordered her disobedient son to sit in a corner. After a couple of minutes of sitting, he told his mother, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”
He obeyed, but he did not submit. Obedience is an outward action, while submission is an inward attitude. [Kent Crockett, Making Today Count for Eternity]
The Pharisees relentlessly pursued acts of obedience to the Old Testament Law to the point that they were submitting to the law more than they were to God. Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of their inner attitudes in obeying the “letter of the law,” but not the “spirit of the law”. He rebuked them sharply for their mistake. (Matthew 23:27-28)
Obeying the letter of the law leads to a rote and robotic obedience. Satan desires that we adopt this type of obedience because it is easy to twist it towards his ungodly purposes. He even tried to tempt Jesus with the “letter of the law” by using half-truths in order to shift Jesus’s obedience towards self-righteousness (Matthew 4:1-8). He failed!
Spirit of Obedience
The spirit of obedience is the persistent desire to be obedient to God. Living with a spirit of obedience, does not mean we will always be obedient. Yet, it does mean that we desire to be obedient – day-by-day.
God knows when we have the spirit of obedience, but we yield to temptation – sometimes more than once. I believe that Paul said it well in Romans 7:19, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” In these times, we are to confess and repent from our sin in order to receive God’s forgiveness and restoration (I John 1:9).
In Bonhoeffer’s book entitled “The Cost of Discipleship” written in 1937, he defines “cheap grace”. In essence, cheap grace is intelligent disobedience to God. The believer swaps out the cost of repentance, discipline, confession and obedience for selective access to God’s mercy and grace.
This intellectual approach is carnal and cheapens His grace by counting on His forgiveness before we commit an intentional sin. After all, we already know that since God never breaks a promise, we just need to confess the sin to receive His grace. To this, Paul would say, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1-2)
God commands our obedience to Him as His disciples. Otherwise, how would we answer Jesus’s question, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) Our obedience glorifies God. Resist the temptation to cheapen his grace by yielding to intelligent disobedience.
1. Discover –
A. If God were to grade you on your obedience to Him, what grade would He give you?
B. In what areas of your life do you find it easy to be obedient? What areas are harder?
C. Is your spiritual walk more aligned with the “spirit of obedience” or “acts of obedience” or “intelligent disobedience”? Do you wish it was something else?
2. Develop –
A. For the areas where is it hard to obey God, share with a prayer partner your area of difficulty.
B. In the areas where it is easy to obey God, has that area always been easy? If not, what changed? How did it now become easy? Can this approach be used on the areas that are hard now?
3. Demonstrate –
A. Share with your prayer partner a major area of your life that you have the “spirit of obedience” and an area that you are working on to get to that point.