Last week, I shared a manuscript from Sister White on the result of disobedience. As a follow-up to that, it seems only right to share the counter-balance: the blessing of obedience!
“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the first commandment of all?” Christ’s answer was direct and explicit. “The first of all the commandments,” he said, “is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment.” “The second is like, namely this,” Christ continued; for it flows out of it and is founded upon it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
“And the scribe said unto Him, Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth; for there is one God; and there is none other but He; and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”
This response from one of the scribes, the plain statement of his convictions, was more than the scribes and Pharisees thought to hear. Truth that condemned their own traditions and example had been expressed by Christ, and voiced by one of their own number.
When Jesus saw that the scribe had the moral courage to speak the truth before the frowning Pharisees, and that “he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask Him any question.”
The law of God is not made up of so many separate precepts, some of which are of great importance, while others are of less importance, and may be ignored. Christ presents the commandments as a divine whole. Under two heads, love to God and love to our neighbor, all the precepts are bound together in a sacred unity. These two principles are immutable, as eternal as the throne of God. By them man’s character is tested, and he is shown to be obedient or disobedient. Those who obey the first, loving God supremely, will pour out the riches of God’s goodness in love and compassion to their fellow-men. They will do far more than merely acknowledge the truth; they will offer far more than a ceremonial worship; they will give to God the whole service required by Him; for supreme love to God is an evidence that the truth is an abiding principle in the heart.
But when man fell, the law of self was set up. This law harmonizes with the will of sinful humanity. There is no strife between them. But when the Word of God speaks to the conscience, telling of a higher than human will, even the will of God, man’s will desires to go its own way, irrespective of consequences. The charm of obedience was broken by Adam’s disobedience. A sense of the importance of obedience as an absolute necessity, ceased to exist in the mind. And now man thinks, If I choose, I can obey God; and if I choose, I can disobey Him.
Christ came to this earth to show the human race how to obey God. He might have remained in heaven, and from there given exact rules for man’s guidance. But he did not do this. In order that we might make no mistake, He took our nature, and in it lived a life of perfect obedience. He obeyed in humanity, ennobling and elevating humanity by obedience. He lived in obedience to God, that not only by word of mouth, but by His every action, He might honor the law. By so doing, He not only declared that we ought to obey, but showed us how to obey.
Our only safety is in dying to self, and depending wholly on Christ. We need to keep ever before us the reality of Christ’s humanity. When He became our Substitute and Surety, it was as a human being. He came as a man, to render obedience to the only true God. He came not to reveal God as wanting in power, but God in all His fulness. He came to show what God is willing to do and what He has done that we might be made partakers of the divine nature. While enduring the contradiction of sinners against Himself, our Saviour lived a perfect human life. This He did that we also might be perfect. He is everything to us, and He bids us look to Him, for “without Me,” He says, “ye can do nothing.”
The obedience that Christ rendered is exactly the obedience that God requires from human beings today. It was the obedience of a son. He served His Father in willingness and freedom, and with love, because it was the right thing for Him to do. “I delight to do Thy will, O My God,” He declared; “yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Thus we are to serve God. Our obedience must be heart-service. It was always this with Christ. If we love Him, we shall not find it a hard task to obey. We shall obey as members of the royal family. We may not be able to see the path before us, but we shall go forward in obedience, knowing that all issues and results are to be left with God.
In keeping God’s commandments there is great reward, even in this life. If we are obedient, our conscience does not condemn us. Our hearts are not at enmity with God, but at peace with Him. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb. Moreover by them is Thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward.” “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them.”
The grace of God is the line of demarcation between God’s children and the multitude that believe not. While one is brought into captivity to Christ, another is brought into captivity to the prince of darkness. The heart of the one who responds to the drawing of Christ glows with the Saviour’s love. He shows forth the praises of Him who has called him from darkness into marvelous light. He can not help using his talent of speech to tell of the grace which has been so abundantly bestowed on him; for he has enlisted with those who are striving to advance the glory of God, and has thus become a channel of light. Willing and obedient, he is one of the number called by Inspiration “a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.”
— E.G. White, Signs of the Times, January 25, 1899