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2 approaches to your spiritual life

Courtesy Pixabay
Courtesy Pixabay

Some people attempt to obey God’s Law in hopes of earning the Creator's acceptance, while others seek to obey the Lord because they know they have already been accepted. 

Do either of those two approaches describe your spiritual life?

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Obedience is the fruit of faith, just as apples are the fruit of an apple tree. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15:5).

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Likewise, the Apostle Paul described “the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5). This obedience is a byproduct of knowing Christ. The Lord produces good works in the hearts and lives of those who are saved, redeemed, justified, born again and forgiven.

Do followers of Christ obey God perfectly? Of course not. And yet, Christians want to do God’s will and we desire to grow in our life of discipleship. In order to grow, we need to be convicted by the Holy Spirit and corrected by the Word of God whenever our thoughts, words and actions deviate from God’s holy will for our lives.

The apostle Paul wrestled with this spiritual dynamic in his own life after his conversion. He wrote, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19)

What evil things did Paul keep on doing? 

One possibility is that Paul found himself becoming anxiously impatient in his zeal to reach the lost for Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is patience, and all of us by nature tend to be quite impatient.

Another possibility is that Paul may have at times harbored some resentment toward those who were persecuting him. And even if a grudge persisted in his soul for as little as a few minutes, it would have been enough for Paul to recognize that it was coming from his sinful nature.

At any rate, Paul was completely committed to obeying Jesus. The apostle was filled with the Holy Spirit and constantly wanted to do God’s will. You see, believers obey the Lord because the Holy Spirit lives within us. And Christ, who is the vine, also dwells within those of us who are blessed to be the branches.

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). 

The Lord told His people many centuries ago: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

The Holy Spirit is grieved whenever we harbor wicked thoughts in our heart. Scripture instructs us: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

The Holy Spirit is continually leading and teaching every follower of Christ. As the Apostle John explained: “The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit — just as it has taught you, remain in Him” (1 John 2:27).

What has the Holy Spirit been teaching you lately in your life of discipleship? Perhaps you have been giving into worry, sexual lust, resentment, jealousy or a judgmental spirit. Any one of those sins is more than enough to disturb your peace of mind and your warm fellowship with Christ.

It has been said: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” And while we often fall short of the mark, God’s grace motivates us to want to do the right thing. The Lord is the Potter and we are the clay. Jesus is the author of our faith and the architect of our Christian life.

“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19). This is our calling as Christians. God did not save us so that we could spend time deliberately giving into temptation. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).

The love of God motivates us to want to live a holy life. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Believers are forgiven as a result of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. We cannot take an ounce of credit for the forgiveness which God has freely given us.

And Christians are called to share God's love with others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Obeying the Lord without first trusting Christ as Savior is impossible. God only accepts the good works of those who have first entered his family through faith in Jesus Christ. And this is why Jesus preached: “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).

Following Christ is the supernatural result of trusting Jesus to forgive your sins. Believers obey the Lord because we belong to Christ today, tomorrow and forever!

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10: 27-28).

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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