3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
– Psalms 23:3
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
– Philippians 1:6
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
– Philippians 2:13
Have you ever heard of the following:
“Let go and let God”
“God will help those who help themselves”
There are truths in those sayings as the essence of the first is that we should stop struggling so much, but trust God in all things which includes areas of obedience, while the second is that we should obey. However, both of those quotes are also wrong because of our inability to obey and God’s help is not dependent on our part.
You might ask, were we not changed since we’ve been saved? If we were changed, then can we not now obey God? The answer is yes, but in part.
Yes, we were changed when we’re saved (2 Corinthians 5:17), as we’re no longer slaves to sin but a slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:16-18). Our minds are no longer carnal, that is a mind bent on sin, but on righteousness (Romans 8:6-7). With that said, our flesh is still carnal. We will still be tempted and feel the pull of temptation to sin.
In Romans 7 Paul spoke of that at length, saying:
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
What we need to understand is just as we have the complete inability to earn our salvation because of our carnal mind and flesh, we are also unable to obey Him because of our flesh. This is where Paul says in the same chapter, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.
I was struggling to obey throughout most of my Christian life. My obedience goes up and down like a line graph on an economic chart. However, I began to understand how to obey when I first accepted Reformed Theology, as everything that is good is by God’s grace alone.
But I did not truly understand until I’ve watched Tim Challies’ “The Great Sermon Series” on Youtube, and there he featured Matt Chandler:
Tim Challies. Matt Chandler’s Radical Reminder that “God Is For God”. Tim Challies, Youtube.com, May 18, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAKiAm4aX_U
It was in that video Pastor Chandler shared Psalms 23:3, and explained that our obedience is up to God, and He leads us to obey for His names sake. It is for His glory. By listening to that video I’ve learned two things
1. If God wants us to give Him glory, He will make us obey (Ephesians 2:10)
2. That He wants us to utterly depend on Him and not on our ability (John 15:5)
3. And not on our flesh
This is further solidified after watching a video of Paul Washer “Paul Washer Testifies to How God Always Provides” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8OR61p-gbU) that I became convinced. God wants us to not trust not on the arm of the flesh but buy God alone.
I have also realized that our complete reliance on God gives Him the greatest glory because all credit goes to Him, and not us (John 3:30 & Romans 9:16). So that we are prevented from boasting.
Given those epiphanies, we should both trust and obey God. We should have confidence that God will lead us to ever greater sanctification and obedience, and that we should obey anyways because it is right, but we must understand that it is up to God.
If we want greater and greater obedience we must first pray and cry out for it, and continue to obey. Second, we must trust on God alone; trust and prayer goes hand in hand.
However, if He does not then we should check our motives (James 4:3), because some of us want fame; a saintly image before our peers; and some of us will become overbearing as a result. And still some of us will continue to give credit to ourselves as a result.
If our obedience is of the flesh, and as a result of it became harsh and/or haughty, He will cause us to fail in order to humble us. He may even allow us to sin for that purpose.
Paul Washer said that it was so necessary for Peter to fail when he denied Jesus three times, so that by his failure he comes to sufficient understanding of his total inability. As a result of his failure he wouldn’t have become the leader of the church had he not failed.
But He will grant us obedience if we want only to please, serve, and glorify Him.