You can see it everywhere: blatant rebellion against God and His standards.
The world seems determined to pursue every kind of sensual pleasure and distortion of the way God intended for humans to live. Such behavior is encouraged and celebrated, with outspoken proponents hailed as role models.
Regardless of what popular culture may say about it, the Bible calls it disobedience. The Apostle Paul refers to those “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).
Paul’s choice of the word disobedience carries an important implication: that God is our rightful Master.
“We don’t see God as the Creator and therefore as the One who has the right to set the rules by which we live,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Perkins’ organization works to counter a culture that seems intent on disobeying God. “I think the greatest example of that right now in the world is the issue of being able to define your own gender,” Perkins told Decision. “It’s the height of rebellion, saying ‘No, God, You didn’t create me. I’m going to determine myself who I am—even to the point of denying biology and reality to declare my own gender.’”
While it’s easy for Christians to point out the world’s disobedience, perhaps we need to take a closer look at our own.
“The church, by and large, is afraid to speak,” Perkins said. “Jesus spoke to this [gender] issue in Matthew 19, where He said, ‘Have you not read from the beginning, that God created them male and female?’ So these are not our words or thoughts or ideas. These are the words of Scripture. And if we are to follow Jesus, then we have to align with what He said.”
Nearly 25 years ago, in his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby pointed out a simple but powerful truth about aligning with what God has said. “When God spoke to Moses,” Blackaby wrote, “what Moses did next was crucial. After Jesus spoke to the disciples, what they did next was crucial. … Our problem is that when the Spirit of God speaks to us, we go into a long discussion with Him questioning the rightness of His directions.”
Blackaby’s point was that instead of debating with God, we should simply obey—immediately. “The moment God speaks to you is the very moment God wants you to respond,” he wrote.
Evangelicals know that the primary way God speaks is through the Bible, the written Word of God. They should also be familiar with passages such as “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22) and “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
Perhaps we simply assume that because we have put our trust in Christ, we are doers of the Word—that we are doing what Jesus has commanded.
But is it possible that we are picking and choosing which of Jesus’ commandments to obey, conveniently ignoring or delaying when a command seems hard or unpleasant? Partial obedience won’t cut it, if Jesus’ words to the churches in the Book of Revelation are any indication.
Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for its works, its endurance and its intolerance of evil. But that did not stop Him from rebuking them for losing the love they had at first. He warned that if they did not repent, He would “remove their lampstand,” presumably meaning they would cease to exist as a church.
He commended the church at Thyatira for its love, faithfulness, service and endurance. But they had some who tolerated the teaching of sexual immorality. Jesus said that unless they repented, the punishment would be death, adding, “I will give to each of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23).
So much for partial obedience.
What about us?
- Do we neglect to tell others the Good News of salvation? That is disobedience to our Lord (Matthew 28:19-20).
- Do we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves? That too is disobedience (Mark 12:31).
- Have we failed to reconcile with someone we know has a grudge against us? Disobedience (Matthew 5:23-24).
- Are we eaten up with worry about food and clothing? Disobedience (Matthew 6:25-34).
- Do we know a fellow believer who lacks food and clothing, yet we’ve done nothing to help? Disobedience (James 2:14-16).
What will it take to bring the church to full obedience?
“I think it has to come from our pulpits,” Perkins said. “Pastors have to challenge people in the pews to live out their faith in an increasingly hostile culture. I think what is lacking is courage. More than anything, the church needs the courage to be obedient.”
Perkins points to another issue that requires the courage to be obedient: public displays of the cross, which atheist groups seek to dismantle wherever possible. Billy Graham pointed out that the cross is offensive to many: “The cross of Christ is an offense because it condemns the world,” he preached. “It says to us, ‘You are sinners.’ We don’t like to be told we are sinners.”
Perhaps because of this, even some pastors avoid the topic.
“Many Christians want to shrink back from controversies surrounding the cross,” Perkins said. “‘Oh, that’s not a big deal,’ they say. ‘Let’s take down the crosses. Let’s not fight with the atheists on this.’ But Jesus said, ‘If I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.’ If we shrink back from holding up that standard of righteousness and grace, men, women and children will not come to know Him. The consequences of our lack of courage to obey God are eternal.”
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.