He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die. (Proverbs 19:16, NKJV)
Many who claim the name of Christ easily disparage Christians who are careful to follow the word of God as “hyper-conservative,” or even as “legalistic.” When the Scriptures are consulted, there is no doubt that careful obedience is precisely what faith demands. The progressive mindset is willing to broaden and expand the definition and application of truth. Pontius Pilate could be the progressives’ poster child, for it was he who said, “What is truth?” God has revealed truth in an understandable and believable way. Furthermore, its commands can be kept, for by so doing, one guards his very soul from sin’s death. When one is careless with the word of God, he is being careless with his soul. The evangelist Timothy was commended for carefully following the apostle’s teaching and manner of life (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Instead of sneering at those who keep the commands of God, follow their example. Your soul is worth keeping God’s commands (read Matt. 16:24-26).
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9–11, NKJV)
Jesus reminded His disciples that now is the time for diligent work in the service of God (Jno. 9:3-4). Now is not the time to rest. God has created good works in which we must walk (Eph. 2:10). So, we must not be sluggish and neglectful, but energetically obedient in doing the will of God. Notice in verse 11 that obedience is equivalent to being “diligent to enter that rest” that awaits us, since not to be diligent amounts to disobedience. Here is another place where faithful obedience is defined as the “work” we do – not to earn heaven, but as our dutiful, faithful obedience to our Master. Death brings blessed rest “from their labors” to those who die in the Lord, and “their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Please do not confuse the diligent work of obedience with an attempt to earn one’s way into heaven. Obedience to the Lord is our faith doing His works, all the while anticipating our eternal rest.
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:1–2, NKJV)
Christ expects Christians to obey the truth. Our obedience is not meritorious; we do not earn the right to be saved in heaven through our obedience. Obedience is the natural and completing action of belief; without obedience, faith is incomplete and powerless to save (Jas. 2:17-26). Obedience to Christ is the reasonable response of observing the crucified Christ, who has been put on full display by the gospel. Like a billboard on the roadside, the gospel announces the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to the world as the means of our salvation (something the works of the law of Moses could not do). The “hearing of faith” describes the gospel, “the faith” preached by the apostles (Gal. 1:11, 23). The faith (gospel) produces personal faith, and personal faith is made complete by obeying the truth (Rom. 1:17; Heb. 5:8-9). Are you obeying the truth in faith, or are you relying on something less than the gospel and complete faith to save your soul? Live each day by faith in obedience to the truth of Jesus.
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. (James 2:20–23, NKJV)
James makes two piercing statements in today’s passage: “Do you want to know?”, and “Do you see?” The necessity of faith and works (of faith, that is, obedience) is easily demonstrated in the action of Abraham when he offered Isaac on the altar. Do you want to know that faith without works is dead (v. 20)? Some do not. They want to cling to the false teaching that faith only saves? (It does not, for James said a man is “justified by works and not be faith only,” Jas. 2:24.) Do you see that faith is complete only when it is combined with obeying the Lord’s command (v. 22)? When Abraham’s faith was made perfect (complete) by his obedience, his faith was accounted to him for righteousness (v. 23). This does not mean you earn your salvation. It means that incomplete faith will not save you. It is made whole by obeying God. We are friends of God when by faith, we obey Jesus (Jno. 15:14). Do you want to know? Do you see?
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14–16, NKJV)
Like the serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness to save Israel from deadly snakes, Jesus has been lifted up on the cross to save mankind from sin’s eternal death. When the Israelites were bitten by snakes, God required an action of faith on their part in order to live and not die. The bitten person would only live when he had faith to look at the serpent on the pole (Num. 21:8-9). Faith alone that God would heal the snake bite was not enough; they had to act in faith and look at the serpent on the pole. Likewise, belief in the Son of God as our Savior from sin requires more than a mere belief that He is the Christ, the Son of God (the demons believe as much, Jas. 2:19; Mk. 1:24, 34). Saving faith is an obedient faith. Without faith acting to repent of sins, confess faith in Christ and be baptized, one’s sins remain (read Acts 2:36-41; 8:35-39). Let us never forget that Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3, NKJV)
The proof of loving God is in obeying the commands of God. Jesus affirmed this truth and applied it to Himself in John 14:31. He said, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do.” We dare not attempt to separate love and obeying the commands of God. Such love is not “legalism,” as some charge. Nor is obeying God’s commands “burdensome” to such love, but a joy. To say we love God while not obeying His commands is self-deception. It is only words, not the love of God.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:30, NKJV)
If we seek rest from the heavy burden and bondage of sin, we will find rest in the Savior when we surrender ourselves to His yoke of obedient service. The rule of His authority over us restrains our feet from sin and directs us in paths of righteousness. We gladly learn His word and obey it from the heart (Matt. 11:28-29). Make no mistake, every disciple of Jesus wears a yoke. Christ’s rule over us is gently pleasant (“easy”), without the burdensome grief of sin’s weight (“light”). Christians express their love of God by obeying Jesus: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jno. 5:3). The way of the transgressor is hard, filled with pitfalls and dangers. The way of the Savior is easy and light, gently leading us to our heavenly home.