Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obedience and Faith: you can't have one without the other

“18 Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

20 but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be eaten by the sword;

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 1:18-20

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.“

Titus 3:8


In Isaiah’s prophecy we see God telling His people that he will clean them of their sins. That the red stain upon their souls will be turned white as wool with this condition: they be willing and obedient.

Then we see Paul urging Titus, right after proclaiming salvation by faith alone in the mercy of God through Jesus, to insist on right living according to correct doctrine as seen chapter 2. Orthodoxy leading to orthopraxy. Right thinking that leads to right practice.

He is clear in pronouncing our salvation as solely dependent upon God’s mercy and grace. But he is quick to remind Titus of the purpose of this insistence: ”...so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.“

In preparing to speak at Thrive High School Camp about discipleship I have been pondering what it means to be a believer and a disciple of Jesus. What I have found is that many people disassociate belief and obedience. They think that a saving faith in Jesus is simply acknowledging His atonement on the cross for our sins. They think that being a Christian means having that knowledge imbedded in their hearts. And to be true there is a great truth to that. None of our actions will ever be effective in changing God’s view of us. It is only up to His loving mercy.

Salvation IS through repentance and faith in Christ alone.

But in thinking about that statement more deeply I have come to realize that even that very first step of repentance is the first step in a lifetime of steps towards obedience to Jesus.

You can’t have one without the other.

There are folks who say that good works are a result of faith. The good fruit born of the good tree. But repentance is not simply a turning form sin. It is a turning towards God. It is an about face. It is a step of obedience.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship writes, ”Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.“

They are forever intertwined.

The true believer’s life is marked by this devotion to do good works.

Too often man will justify their sin by proclaiming God’s promise to forgive those in Christ Jesus. It is a false sense of comfort. This kind of grace is self imposed and unbiblical. It justifies the sin but does not justify the sinner.

A true believer in Christ is a person broken before the Lord because of their sin but bold in life because of God’s forgiveness.

God’s grace does not simply wash us clean but it also urges us to get back up when we fall and keep on contending for our faith.

Accepting God’s forgiveness is the same as saying, ”Yes Lord, I will follow you.“


As a pastor I am called to bring the people that God has placed under my care to an understanding of this concept. That being a Christian, being saved means becoming a disciple of Jesus at great cost to our flesh. It is a renunciation of one life for another one.

Sometimes we put a few coins into a vending machine to get some Funions or something. But when we place that last coin in nothing happens. The coin is stuck and so we don’t get the bag of chips.

The Gospel for far too many is like that last coin. It is in their minds. They have knowledge of it. They may even feel the weight of Christ’s sacrifice but it hasn’t dropped into their hearts. And so it does not produce emotions and affections that bid them to obedience. Their is no bag of chips and God is left waiting.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says:

        ”Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not         realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet         the test!“

It’s not too popular to question ones salvation. People often feel judged and become indignant when their faith is questioned. ”Who are you to judge?“ they ask.

But Paul’s admonition to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith means that there are people who are deceived into thinking that they are saved but their actions show no objective evidence.

I praise God that the coins have dropped in my heart. I am not perfect by any means but through obedience and constant repentance I am assured more and more that Christ is my savior.

I think instead of becoming indignant we should welcome the challenge to test ourselves.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your grace. Please forgive me of my disobedience. Holy Spirit, please continue to form and mold me that your grace would flow out of me through my actions in obedience to you.

In Jesus Name, AMEN