Jesus, after going up a mountain to pray, “appointed twelve—designating them apostles—THAT THEY MIGHT BE WITH HIM and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mk. 3:14-15; emphasis mine). The most important point of this passage is that the disciples “MIGHT BE WITH HIM.” No greater privilege was ever bestowed upon mortal men than to have walked with Jesus as those first disciples did. Because of Christ’s work on the cross we are granted this same great privilege—to walk with Him in unbroken fellowship. The purpose for which God created mankind was to enjoy Him through intimate fellowship and to glorify Him in all we do. We will never bring Him glory unless we know and love the place of intimacy with “the One my heart loves” (Song 3:1-4)
Jesus designed discipleship to be relational. He wanted the disciples to be near Him so they could imitate His heart, lifestyle and mission. The only way they could grow in Christlikeness was for them to spend time with the Savior so they could know Him intimately and learn to obey His every command. According to Jesus, loving obedience was a non-negotiable part of discipleship. Those who refused to explicitly obey Christ either never followed Him (Lk. 19:22) or forsook Him (Jn. 6:66).
Our Lord’s standard of discipleship has not changed from when He first gathered around Him a ragtag band of followers. Because we live in the prosperous 21st century which is suffering under the ravages of humanism and moral relativism does not mean the Savior has altered His costly call to leave all and follow Him. We cannot be a genuine Christian, have a Christlike character or be pleasing to God until we enter into a personal relationship with Him and learn how to lovingly obey Him as Lord and Savior.
The church at large has erroneously believed that total obedience to God is not a compulsory requirement of discipleship. By perverting the love of God, we have concocted a deviant form of Christianity in which we claim that God would never impose upon His people the stringent obligation of absolute obedience. “We are all sinners” and “God knows my heart” are arguments used, not to state truth, but to justify one’s disobedience. What is being advocated is a cheap grace whereby we assert that since salvation is by grace we are not obligated to fully obey the Lord. These deceptions are from the pit of hell!
Obedience distinguishes a godly person from an ungodly one. The ungodly, whether church members or not, practice disobedience which is nothing other than self-idolatry and anarchy against Christ’s lordship. The Savior draws near to His obedient children, but is repulsed by the rebellious. He answers the prayers of His obedient disciples, but refuses to respond to the prayers of the disobedient unless they are the prayers of authentic repentance (Zec. 7:13). How arrogant it is to think God must answer our prayers and bless us when we live hostile to His very will.
The faith of our fathers is further corrupted by our embracing and propagating another damnable lie which claims that Jesus can be our Savior even if we have not surrendered to Him as Lord. The essential qualities that make Jesus Lord and Savior are indivisible. This means that for Jesus to be our Savior He must also be our Lord. The opposite is also true; if Jesus is not our Lord then He most certainly is not our Savior. Everyone that genuinely knows Jesus as Savior has pledged the entirety of their lives to Him as a Sovereign Lord and their lives become living testimonies to that fact. But all who refuse to submit to Christ’s absolute rule over their lives stand outside of His salvation and will face His wrath as enemies of God. Even so, Jesus is Lord regardless of our willingness to surrender to His lordship.
LOVE AND OBEDIENCE
There is yet another error that has gripped the church that relates to the subject of obedience. Many self-proclaimed Christians maintain that they love Jesus even though they live self-willed, rebellious lives. Such assertions express a vast ignorance of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and what constitutes love from God’s point of view. Love and obedience are irrevocably intertwined. As a result, they cannot be divorced from each other. Disobedience, whether it is perpetrated against God or man, is always a willful act of rebellion which is an expression of idolatrous self-love. Authentic love is selfless, therefore, it will not be rebellious. The only way we can have the will and desire to explicitly obey the Lord is that we must love Him supremely; otherwise, there is no compelling force to obey Him at any cost.
To love God supremely means that we love Him more than any person in our lives, whether spouse or children, parents or siblings, loved ones or friends. It includes loving Him more than our wealth, comforts or material possessions. To love Him supremely requires that we love Him more than our ambitions, dreams or desires; that we love Him more than our occupation, ministry, recreation or retirement; that we love Him more than our sin; and ultimately, that we love Him more than ourselves. The Lord firmly established that for our love to be acceptable to Him it must be with the entirety of our being (Mk. 12:29-30; Deu. 6:4-5).
When Jesus is our supreme love then He will be our supreme source of pleasure. Anything that robs us of intimacy with Jesus is sin, no matter how good it may be in and of itself. If Jesus is not our supreme source of pleasure then we have become idolaters, breaking the greatest commandment. And if we do not love being with Jesus more than anyone or anything else, we have proven ourselves to be idolaters. To love God supremely means we prize communion with Him more than any activity or form of entertainment. Take TV for example. When people spend more time watching TV then they do in prayer they have verifiable proof that they love their TV more than God, which means they are idolaters. To love God supremely we must mature in the faith to the point where we fervently enjoy the place of prayer and worship because we love being with Jesus above all else.
When we love God supremely we will obey Him supremely. He will be the definer of our lives, relationships, activities, morality and reason-for-being. His Word will be our life’s guide, which we will obey though it costs us our possessions or very lives. Those who love Him supremely will find it a joy to quickly obey His every word. With a burning passion they will strive to live pleasing to Him through a life of personal holiness. For those who love themselves and their sin above Christ, His commands are considered heavy chains and His service as harsh bondage.
CHRIST’S TEACHING ON LOVING OBEDIENCE
One day Jesus taught the disciples saying, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn. 14:15). Reiterating this thought He declared, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (Jn. 14:21). Then a third time, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (Jn. 14:23). The repetitiveness of Christ’s teaching on this subject emphatically proves that love and obedience are mandatory in the life of any disciple.
To add further impact to this point Jesus addressed the issue from the negative: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (Jn. 14:23). This forceful statement emphasizes the fact that anyone who does not obey Jesus does not love Him (this also applies to professing Christians). The Savior was confronting our natural propensity to self-love which is a form of idolatry. Anyone who alleges to love the Lord, but does not fully obey Him, possesses little more than sentimental feelings for God. In the end, these sentimental feelings will serve only to eternally haunt countless souls in hell who did not love Jesus and therefore did not obey Him.
Six times in two chapters Jesus proclaims this truth to firmly establish that love and obedience are indissoluble (Jn. 15:10, 14-15). The Savior was confirming His divine right to rule over His disciples as Sovereign Lord. He was defining for all generations the quality and standard of true discipleship, which unequivocally includes loving and obeying Him supremely. Yet many people make lofty claims about loving God while living like the devil. So let’s look at the logical conclusion of what it means to not love the Lord supremely. According to Jesus we cannot love God without wholeheartedly obeying Him; if we are not obeying Him then we are rebelling against Him; if we continue in our rebellion we place ourselves at war with Him; if we are at war with God then we have become His enemy; if we are His enemy then we do not have His salvation; this means we are left in our sins; if we are left in our sins then we are destined for damnation.
Through Christ’s atoning sacrifice we are freely offered the priceless gift of salvation. Though we cannot buy or earn this gift, it nonetheless, costs us everything. That is why our eternal destiny is uniquely tied into whether or not we live a life of loving obedience to God. According to our passion to know Jesus will be our desire to obey Him. Does your life boldly declare that you love the Lord or does blatantly declare the opposite?
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.