I teach theology to high school students, and as any teacher will tell you, we are apt to have interesting, but off-topic, discussions with our students. But at times, these unplanned, sometimes beautiful and sometimes hard conversations become just plain hard to manage. One particular day, I had to stop trying to teach whatever the content of the day was meant to be. I asked my students to stop talking amongst themselves, to come back to the task at hand, and they did… just as soon as they were done with whatever they were talking about. Needless to say, I was at my wit’s end.
So I decided a come-to-Jesus moment was in order. I addressed their behavior, their lack of focus, and their unwillingness to give their attention to the lesson. My students were not happy. To these students, their unrestrained conversation demonstrated their devotion to the topic at hand—after all, they were excited to talk about theology!
Their enthusiasm and willingness to engage were great. But as their teacher, what I value most is respect for me and their fellow students. That respect is shown through obedience to the structure and rules of my classroom. My students didn’t like this message any more than Judah did when God admonished them through His prophet Jeremiah for failing to pay attention to His commands:
“When I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt,
I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice. However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you’” (Jeremiah 7:22–23).
God values obedience to Him even more than offerings, sacrifices, and worship (Proverbs 21:3). Obedience is what indicates faith. Obedience did not buy God’s love, but it did show that His people believed Him when He said, “I am the LORD, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things” (Jeremiah 9:24).
Obedience is the evidence of our confidence that God is who He says He is: the one true God, the one worth listening to. We know He still delights in these things because of the cross, when Christ Himself was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). There we see His faithful love for sinners and His justice for sin. On the cross, He displays a kind of compassion and righteousness that is far beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8). Christ’s compassionate obedience to the Father should lead us to raise our hands in worship of Him, but it should also lead us to live a life of obedience to God.
Written by Matt Redmond