To obey is better

My kids like to have my approval. A “Good Job!” from Dad goes a long way in their world. I guess we are all like that to some extent.

Recently we’ve gotten in this pattern in which I tell them something they need to do, and they tell me all about how they are going to do just that. “Go clean your room, please,” or “Be nice to your brother.” Then I get this long discussion about how they are going to get it really clean, or how they were just about to be nice, or how they were planning to not hit, it just didn’t work out but it definitely will from now on they will. And most especially, they’ll do really good “the next day.” For some reason with my kids they never say “tomorrow.” Its always “the next day.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” I tell them, “but don’t tell me you’ll obey, show me by actually doing it.” And then I realize that it works the same for me and God.

Jesus told a story about two sons. The father told them to go work in the vineyard. The “good” son said “Yes, Father!” but then didn’t go. The other son said “No way,” but then he went out and did the work. Which one obeyed?

“Religion” is easy. Keep a checklist. Go to church. Don’t do any of the bad things that are on the bad list. To get lots of points sing extra loud and hold up your hands during worship (if you go to a church where that’s on the good list), serve in a ministry, and have regular “devotions”. No need to go overboard on actually being devoted, as long as you do your devotions.

What I want from my kids isn’t lip service obedience. I want real obedience. What God wants from me isn’t lip service, its real obedience. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” In another place he said “If you love me, you will obey me.” James reminded us that faith that doesn’t play out in action is not truly faith at all.

When I reach the end of my days, I hope that nobody talks about how I talked a good talk. I hope they look at my life and that my actions speak about how I followed and served, that people will see obedience in action in my life. More importantly, I hope to someday stand before my Father in the throne room of heaven, and hear him tell me “Good Job!”

Well, enough talking about it. I have a ways to go. Who knows when my days will run out? Maybe I’d better stop talking about “the next day” and get started now.

This post appeared in the old version of this site, but since I still need to remember this lesson here it is again.

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