Obedient or Not?

Posted on March 30, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

Jesus had a remarkable way of teaching and getting His point across. Sometimes it was  “in your face” confrontation, especially when it came to His intolerance of the pious, hypocritical religious leaders. He seldom gravitated to vague theological homilies though His listeners had difficulty grasping His references to His relationship with the Father. His remarkable way of telling stories and practical illustrations made applications with which the people could readily identify.

Often He told the story, but left His listeners to figure out the point He was making. Such is a brief account of two brothers in Matthew 21:28-31. “But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go. ‘Which of the two did the father’s will?’”

The answer was obvious–it was the brother who actually went and did the work rather than the one who responded with assent to his father’s request but never followed through. Actual obedience to God’s will begins with a heart of obedience–an attitude of submissiveness to His Lordship. Each brother recognized the authority of the Father to tell them what to do. Within the family structure a son really didn’t have the option of whether or not to be obedient.

However, just as it is with our own children–and in our relationship with our heavenly Father–there sometimes emerges a self-assertive rebelliousness. We know what we ought to do, we know obedience is expected, but we have our own plans and agenda and it is not convenient at the time. The brother who said he would work in the vineyard probably had every intention of doing so, but got diverted; the response wasn’t immediate so he never got around to doing what he said he would do.

We may have a heart to follow God and be obedient to His will, but we haven’t discarded the desires of the self-centered life that distract us. We haven’t come to the discipline that is required to recognize priorities and organize time and responsibility in order to be available when a nudge from God’s Spirit comes. We fail to seize the opportunity to witness to a lost friend when there is an divine impulse to do so. We know we ought to visit a home-bound neighbor, stop by and encourage someone who has had a setback in life, but we are too busy at the moment and, having deferred obedience, never get around to it.

I don’t know why the other son dared to refuse his Father’s instructions, a blatant expression of disrespect. But, like our own experience, when we walk with the Lord we are convicted when we realize our attitude is wrong, when we said something to offend or neglected to help someone in need. The obedient child of God is one who is sensitive to such conviction, readily repents of a selfishly motivated decision and does what they know God would have them to do.

Too much of our feigned obedience never gets beyond mere lip-service and repetitive vows to do better. The intention is there but too many things divert us and distract us from what our Lord would have us do.

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