Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 26 April 19:
Romans 13:3-5 — “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval…. But if you do wrong, be afraid…. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”
While the topic of the above verses is respecting governing authorities, how much more does it apply to respecting the authority of God in our own lives? How much better would life be if we would simply obey all of God’s commands? How much easier and more joyful would life be if we had a heart that truly wanted to obey God’s commands? And if Christians made economic decisions based upon God’s commands, entertained themselves in ways that honored God, and chose politicians who truly honored God, how would that change the political and socioeconomic landscape?
God’s commands are a product of His perfect love and are intended to give us fullness of life, that our joy might be complete. God’s commands are not hard to understand but difficult to follow when our hearts are selfish and unloving.
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct (Romans 13:3).” Stated in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” When we are confident in God’s grace and living in love, we are obedient as a natural fruit of love; there is no need to fear. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them (John 14:21).” John adds to Jesus’ words in 1 John 5:3 — “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” When we truly love God, it isn’t burdensome to obey His commands because we genuinely desire to do it, and it is our focus. Obedience is love that produces peace, not fear.
Romans 13:5 — “One must be in subjection…. for the sake of conscience.”
1 Timothy 1:5 says, “love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” We cannot adequately love God or others without a clear conscience. Guilt, particularly hidden guilt, puts up walls and separation between relationships. It generates feelings of vulnerability and defensiveness. It creates fear and doubt. It is an unpaid debt that hangs over us. The debt must be settled, either paid or forgiven. God offers forgiveness, as should we. Let no debt remain but the debt of love.
God cares about our obedience, but even more about the motives behind our obedience. In immaturity, we might obey God out of motives of fear, guilt, self-interest or even pride – much the same motives as a small child obeys a parent. As we grow in maturity, obedience comes more and more from a genuine, heartfelt desire to please, honor and love God – similar to the motives that cause young adults to still obey their parents, not “because of possible punishment,” but from a heart of love and respect.” The highest quality of character and maturity is selflessness; small children are naturally selfish, and even their obedience is self-centered – “What’s in it for me?” If you are motivated to obedience based on the potential for rewards or punishments, you are in one sense not much different than a small child or even an animal who responds to “stick and carrot” discipline. However, the children of the God of Love should be inspired by love to do what is right and true. It is the Spirit that overpowers the natural (flesh). Paul encourages us, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Romans 13:14).”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Apr 19: Obey today, and consider your motives.