Years ago there was an illustration making the rounds that still has a point to make today. A preacher was visiting a new family. In the course of the visit the subject of reading the Bible came up. The mother asked her eight-year old son to go into the living room and bring “the book” they were always reading. The boy returned with the Sears Catalog. We smile at this little illustration but sadly, it contains a major reality relative to the status of Bible reading today.
In a recent article circulated by Christianity Today (6/5/2015) it was stated that in a United Kingdom survey it was revealed that one in three British children don’t know the Nativity story is part of the Bible. However, 27% think Superman is in the Bible. In this same article it was stated that 88% of American homes have a Bible, many have four Bibles. Less than 40% of Americans read the Bible regularly.
Unless one has been exiled on Mars or has just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle sleep, he realizes the family in our country is in deep trouble and its growing deeper. Yes, and even families which claim to be Christians and “churchgoers.” One teenager said, “I’m sitting on the edge of the pew waiting to graduate from high school, reach my 18th birthday, and quit this forced on me church going.”
Surveys and polls continually reveal that we, across all religious lines, lose approximately 85 percent of our members between 18 to 25. We have watched the divorce rate maintain a 50 percent average each year relative to the number of couples married each year. The breakdown in the family is seen in the violence, abuse, crimes, and unhappiness behind four walls in most neighborhoods.
The social and psychological Einstein’s of the 21st Century continually drum beat the causes and effects with very few sustainable solutions. Whatever the solutions might be, I personally believe they must start by affirming and putting into practice the words of one of the greatest leaders whose words we read in Joshua 24:14,15: “Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: …And if it seems evil unto to you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE you THIS DAY whom you will serve; …but as for me and MY HOUSE, we will SERVE THE LORD.”
Wouldn’t it be great if the fathers in our congregations as well as in our nations would take a stand with Joshua and say AMEN? Sadly in our day, the proverb which was circulated in Israel applies to our day: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2). Even worse are those fathers who have followed in the steps of Eli. God informed Samuel about the judgment He was going to bring on Eli’s house and family; one reason was the failure of Eli to discipline his sons: ”For I have told him that I will judge forever for the iniquity which he KNOWS, because his sons make themselves vile, and he DID NOT RESTRAIN THEM” (1 Samuel 3:13).
Most of us have heard these two sayings: “The family that prays together stays together” and “As the family goes so goes the nation.” Whatever we do as a nation or church begins in our homes. We leave the house to go to work and to attend the assemblies of the church. It is in our homes where we, for the most part, determine what we will do once we exit the door. This brings up the once popular subject and practice of Christian families engaging in “Family Devotions” or “Family Worship Time.”
When was the last time you heard an emphasis from the pulpit, classroom, or in the bulletin about family devotions? When was the last time, if ever, your family engaged in planned family devotions? I can remember when seminars, workshops, and lectures were popular subjects, as well as articles and bulletin articles.
Whatever happened to family devotions? One preacher answered, “They were never started.” It is worthy to be noted, because it was written for our learning (Cf. Romans 15:4), that God instituted family devotions for the Nation of Israel: “And these words, which I have commanded thee this day, shall be in thine HEART: and thou shall TEACH them diligently unto thy CHILDREN, and shall TALK of them when thou SITES IN THINE HOUSE, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou LIEST DOWN, and when thou RISEST up” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). What do you suppose would happen if every Christian family started practicing this command every day?
OBSTACLES TO FAMILY DEVOTIONS
I doubt if a Christian family would come right out and express their disapproval of having a family devotional; perhaps a few would but they would be the exception and not the rule. As I observe, read, and am challenged in my own life, I have observed various obstacles which stand in the way of families, even those with good intention, having planned family devotions. Here are some of those obstacles:
Can you think of additional reasons why some families don’t have family devotions? How about your family?
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONDUCTING FAMILY DEVOTIONS
Here are a few suggestions for starting and conducting family devotions;
The strength and ministry of the local congregation are the results of what each family brings to the church. Positive and biblical family devotionals will make positive contributions to the Lord’s church.
Some of us remember these statements:
When you hear the word FAMILY what comes to mind? Sadly, when some hear family in cause’s painful memories; others are filled with happy memories. From the first family—Adam and Eve—until the most recent family, families have faced challenges. Some families have grown stronger and closer together, while others have deteriorated.
Whatever happened to family?
“There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families” (Margaret Thatcher). If society is composed of families, it follows that if there is something wrong with society there must be something wrong with families. What do you think?
In recent years there has been a proliferation of TV reality shows depicting various constructs of families, from “Housewives” to the Duggars, Duck Dynasty, etc. All of these have had an effect on families. The bubble burst relative to the “perfect family” image of the Duggars when a son committed adultery.
Whatever happened to family?
Social science studies, as well as government surveys, and commonsense observations have clearly documented the breakdown of the 21st century family. Houses, instead of being homes, have become no more than motels where mom, dad and all the kids gather in their own mental space to spend time on their social media gadgets. I heard recently that the “Average family” in the USA shares one common meal a month around the dinner table. Houses are now being built without formal dining rooms. The rise of fast food locations is another evidence how families are being fed. Some wives and mothers brag about the fact that they no longer cook at home.
It is obvious that the once traditional American family has been replaced by what social historians refer to as “the nuclear family.” Marriages once involved couples who grew up in the same community and knew each other; their marriages expressed the same values as the community they grew up in. Today, this is no longer true. Marriages are engaged in by couples who met online, in a bar, on vacation, at work, etc. The issues of ethnicity, culture, values, education, geography, and more have to be negotiated, in most cases with great effort by each partner in the marriage. Perhaps this challenge is one of the reasons the divorce rate is 50 percent in our nation. When the issue of same sex marriage becomes part of the mix, the challenges facing the traditional family and society explode.
Whatever happened to family?
The family structure that once was a haven of love, a training center, a safe place, a sanctuary of spiritual practices, and place dedicated to the welfare of each member, is dying a slow death. And in some homes it has died, as each family member is doing his or her own thing. Values that were once taught and practiced in the family and showed up in the work place, school, neighborhood, and in churches, have gone the way of the rotary telephone.
Families in neighborhoods where they once knew each other and talked over the backyard fence, have been replaced by families locked behind walls with alarms, fences, guard dogs, and garages where cars speed in and out. Many neighborhood have become islands of isolated strangers. Neighbors peep through their windows to spy on their neighbors.
Whatever happened to family?
Think about this. The family is where we all start our journey in life. From the training and examples we have been exposed to, we were prepared to go out into the world with a negative or positive attitude. They formed our basic values, beliefs, fears, prejudices, and habits in life. Abraham Lincoln said, “I am what I am because of my mother dear.”
Whatever happened to family?
10 FACTORS IMPACTING FAMILIES
In my personal opinion, based on research and 50-years of ministry, that there are 10 major factors, with numerous subsets, impacting today’s families:
Whatever happened to family?
It’s an irony that many churches that claim they are “a family” are composed of members who aren’t really practicing family in their physical homes. Which comes first? Does a family learn how to be “a family” at home and then take it to the congregation? Or does a family learn how to be a family in a congregational setting and then take it to the home? Which comes first?
Whatever happened to family?
Regardless of the answers we give to the question—whatever happened to family?—; there is no doubt there are many, however we always go back to the first family: Adam and Eve. The deterioration of their family unit, which later involved one son killing his brother, started with Eve obeying the voice of Satan, followed by Adam’s disobedience (Read Genesis 1-3). The word SIN, especially in the Greek language, means “To miss the mark, target, etc.” God has a “target” for the family. It is to glorify Him (Ephesians 3:21)
Whatever happened to family?
God gave Israel a commandment that required a set of behaviors in the home as well as in daily life. Notice Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today, shall be in your HEART. You shall TEACH them diligently to your children, and shall TALK of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall BIND them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall WRITE them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” From these core behaviors all values would emerge in the daily life of an Israelite and his worship of God. This serves as a biblical, positive and workable model for families today.
Whatever happened to family?
It is easy to cry wolf and talk about the symptoms of the declining family but the need is to offer some biblical, positive, and workable solutions. Here are a few:
Whatever happened to family?
How are things with your family? What is your intentional plan to make sure your family is being taught, led, and encouraged to be what God desires?
As I travel around the brotherhood I am asked more and more frequently, “Whatever happened to leadership training?” This question is relevant in light of the decline of leadership in the church; especially the training and equipping of men to serve as elders and deacons. I recently came across these phrases by an unknown author:
“When the ship is sinking, it not the time to train the crew in abandon ship drills.”
“When the last inning is played, it’s not time to call for a pinch hitter.”
“When the sheep have been scattered, lost their way, or eaten by wolves, it is not time to ask for volunteers to be shepherds.”
The best time to take out fire insurance is before there is a fire. The best time to learn how to swim is before you are going down for the third or last time. The best time to train competent leaders is before there is a crisis. Most congregations are in their present state because it is where past leadership decisions and actions have brought them. Where the church will be tomorrow and years from now depends on leadership training, decisions and actions of today.
Back to the question: Whatever happened to leadership training? Here are some of my answers to this vital question:
1. Some congregations have never engaged in a regular, curriculum based, and advanced training for all levels of church leadership.
2. Some congregations have failed, for whatever reason, to see the need for the ongoing training of leaders. They seem to be blinded to this need.
3. Some have given up the training of leaders because it didn’t accomplish what they thought it should accomplish.
4. Some gave up training future leaders because they didn’t have an “expert” or competent person to do the training.
5. Some congregational leaders don’t want to admit that they have a need for additional training. Some don’t want their own weaknesses to be exposed.
6. Some haven’t had a leadership training program for years because they are not aware of the outstanding materials, workshops and lectureship being conducted in this field.
7. Some, sadly, have shifted from the biblical emphasis of church organization and leadership to a “majority” rule approach.
Training leaders in the local church is a needed work. Pursuing a leadership role in the church is also an honorable desire. It is not by accident that the first qualification of an elder is “desire” (1 Timothy 3:1). Desire is not limited to elders. All church leadership must stem from a desire to follow Christ. This attitude is one of humility (Philippians 2:4-9). It takes time to develop leaders. The Hebrews’ writer affirmed that “by reason of time one becomes a teacher” (Hebrews 5:11-14).
The local congregation should be an ongoing leadership training school. This school equips all members for ministry (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16). It trains members in how to be “workers with God” (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). This leadership school equips leaders to pursue the eternal mission given by God to the church (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Mark 16:15, 16). This school is committed to bringing glory to God through the church (Ephesians 3:21). This leadership school will commit the work of the church to faithful men who shall in turn pass it on to others (2 Timothy 2:1-3).
Imagine the curriculum for a congregational leadership training school as a stool with three legs. Each leg represents a major subject that is essential to properly and biblically training leaders in the church. These three legs are: (1) knowledge, (2) character, and (3) skill. Let’s take a brief look at each subject:
KNOWLEDGE is essential in the leader’s preparation. He must first know God’s word. The Bible is his guide and safe manual for leading himself and others. Knowledge of basic people differences and needs will help a leader do his work more effectively. Successful leaders must know the times and challenges in which they are leading. This means that the congregational leadership school will have a curriculum that teaches the basic subjects leaders need to know.
CHARACTER is the heart and soul of a leader. A leader may have knowledge and many other things but without character he will not be effective as a leader. Sadly, some leaders are “characters” instead of having character. The Bible has numerous character traits that will equip the leaders in this needs area. The traits of love in 1 Corinthians 13; the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-26; the thinking agenda of Philippians 4:6-9; and of course the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-13). Character is displayed in behavior and is molded through behavior disciplines.
SKILL is needed for a leader to use his knowledge and character properly in leading God’s people. Many times a man is given a leadership role he does not posses the skill to perform. Some are assigned leadership roles, not because they have the skill, but because it will “help him be faithful.” This is putting the cart before the horse. Jesus spent approximately thee-and-a-half years in training his Apostles for the leadership roles they would later perform in the church. The Holy Spirit came and continued their training. We must not ask a leader to perform something he does not have the skill to do. The church is an equipping school.
Think of the three legged stool model. Imagine a stool with only one strong leg, say for example a leader has good knowledge but is weak in character and skills. Perhaps he is strong in character but lacks in knowledge and skills. Maybe he is the “Jack of all trades” skills wise but is lacking in knowledge and character. The challenge of the congregational leadership school is to equip each leader in all three areas. This takes planning, time and dedicated effort in an ongoing school of leadership.
Whatever happened to leadership training in your congregation?
Congruence (n) “1 the state or quality of being in agreement; correspondence; harmony.”
Concurrence (n) “1 A happening together in time or place
2 a combining to produce or bringing about something 3 Agreement; accord.”
Do you know what these two words have to do with Christianity? [ ] Yes [ ] No. The title of this lesson may have tipped you off. It has to do with our walk of holiness before God and others. They refer to the consistency God demands relative to what is outside in our behavior, being in harmony with what is inside. There is a congruence—consistency. It is an affirmation that holiness is not being faked—it is real from the inside out.
Here are some Scriptures that reveal God’s demand for holiness by His children:
God has called us to be HOLY, which means He has called us “to be set apart” (Greek, hagios). He has set us apart to practice holiness in our lifestyles in every situation we are in.
HOLINESS! Few words in and out of theological circles are as misunderstood, misused, and mocked as holiness. We hear such remarks in reference to holiness exercised by people as:
“Holier than thou”
“Fake or hypocrite”
As we noted in the previous Scriptures, HOLINESS is a commanded virtue. However, it also carries with it the challenges of being consistent—inside and out. Holiness is an attitude that drives a person’s character and lifestyle. Holiness is the external revelation, hopefully, of what is in the heart (cf. Jeremiah 6:19; Provers 23:7).
A group of Christians went from Sunday morning services to a restaurant for lunch. During the meal one of the Christian men, a church leader, treated the waitress in a very rude and unChristian manner. Needless to say it was very embarrassing to the group; it cast a dark negative shadow over Christianity. People judge us by our behavior, which flows from the heart (Proverbs 23:7)
Holiness is not just a practice at the church building or in some special religious service. It must be part of life 24-7-365. A person—especially a Christian—is known by his . . .
Holiness is not just the correct externals by which people tend to judge us by; after all, only God knows what’s in our hearts (cf. Hebrews 4:12). The Bible has a very strong word to describe this inconsistent behavior: HYPOCRITE. A hypocrite was a “play actor”—someone assuming a part and playing it on stage. In ancient times it included wearing a mask to conceal one’s true identity, or to take the audience’s mind off the person playing the part. For example men played the role of women because females weren’t allowed to participate in theater.
Jesus was very direct and explicit in his rebuke and condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees who were the masters of “playing a part.” In Matthew 23:13-29, Jesus pronounced eight “Woes” on the scribes and Pharisees. One example is in 23:15, in what we would call evangelistic efforts, we read: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
Our daily walk is a continual revelation of our holiness. It reveals our external behavior but not a clear revelation of our inner state of mind. People can “Fake it until they make it.” The number one environment where we must practice true holiness—inside and out—is in the home. Each family member is judging the consistency of other members; even though it may not be brought up in conversations until an argument occurs. Eyes and ears are always open.
Parents have an awesome responsibility to live a holy lifestyle in and out of the house. The 9-year-old boy who was stationed in the back window of his father’s car to let dad know if a police car was approaching, knew it was a major contradiction to what he had taught his father about honesty and obeying the law. Obviously this is an application of “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.”
Holiness is not a pseudo behavior demonstrated only in words, dress, or body language. While these three expressions may exist; it will only be as a byproduct of commitment to Christ and following His word. Genuine holiness stems from “being an imitator of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). It flows from “being poor in spirit” and being willing “to mourn” as you extend mercy to others. It stems from “being pure in heart” (cf. Matthew 5:1-12). And all these attributes stem from the “imputed righteousness” of Christ (cf. Romans 4:13-25).
Holiness is demonstrated by the “fruit of the Spirit” existing in our lives: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its pleasures and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).
Others can see holiness in us, even though they don’t know what to call it, as we love the unlovable and one another: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). These is manifested when we “speak the truth is love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Holiness is expressed in our daily worship and obedience to God: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, HOLY, acceptable to God, which is you reasonable service. And be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1, 2).
We maintain our holiness by daily “walking in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). What are you intentionally doing to maintain your holiness—inside and out—before God?
Why did God give us, and preserve for us, a written document called the Holy Bible? Was it so we would buy it and He would get a royalty? Was it for coffee table decoration? Did He give us the Bible to confuse us? The answer to these three questions is NO.
Obviously God gave us the Bible to read, understand and apply to our lives. Since the German printer Johan Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type, and on which the Bible was the first book printed, the Bible has been a best seller. Millions of copies in numerous versions are sold each year. But are people reading these Bibles they are buying and receiving as gifts?
Reading in the USA has fallen off drastically in the last few years. Back in 2004 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) noted an alarming occurrence in the reduction of our consumption of books. Later in 2007 a study titled To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, the picture is even darker. From data gained in two dozen studies the NEA concluded that voluntary reading for fun (i.e. reading not required) was declining at an alarming rate.
As far as I am concerned since the Bible is not “required or forced reading” in our society, it falls into the category observed by the NEA. Not only is the decline in Bible reading occurring among Christians; it is becoming less visible in Bible classes and pulpits—it is not being read.
Several years ago in a New York Times article, Steve Job is quoted as having said this about reading: “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception in flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”
Someone may ask, “Well how about all those sales of Harry Potter books and books sold when endorsed by Oprah Winfrey’s recommendation? The truth is these are only isolated examples; the larger picture shows we are not a reading nation. For example a first-year college student will spend an hour or less in doing reading that is not required for a class; even that reading will be more of a scanning than a real reading.
Back to our question: Why aren’t Christians reading their Bibles for the mere joy of it, and not just to lift out words to fill in the blanks in study books? Last Sunday in a textual study of First John I asked about 100 persons, how many of you read First John last week? Less than half held up their hands. In fact, some had not even brought their Bible to the study.
God gave us the Bible not just to check off a daily reading chart, which is great, but for numerous reasons:
Reading the Bible will help us add to our faith, knowledge and other virtues (2 Peter 1:5-11).
Reading the Bible will give us a positive, God honoring, thinking agenda (Philippians 4:5-9).
If these 15 reasons for reading God’s word are not enough to motivate you to want to read the Bible, take a few minutes and go and read Psalm 119.
We need to ask another question: Why aren’t we taking time to read the Bible? There are several answers:
We are in a hurry and don’t “have time” to read God’s word.
There is too much information coming at us every day, we don’t want more from Bible reading.
We feel like since we have obeyed the basics for salvation we don’t need to read for additional information.
The preacher and Bible class teacher will read to me in class or from the pulpit; that’s all I need.
There is a perception that there will be no consequence for not reading; so why read if there are no “tests” or consequences.
I have a Bible and can look up answers or passages if I need to.
Some don’t read because they are poor readers or have never liked to read; the Bible is no exception.
Think the Bible can’t be understood or it is too boring to spend time reading it.
Reading the Bible is not seen as being very important in the scheme of their daily activities.
They have not been challenged or encouraged to read the Bible; no emphasis in their congregation to read.
They, especially men, are spending spare time, and even work time, playing electronic games on cell phones, lap tops, play stations, computers, iPods, etc. (Kids are starting at very young ages). Some are even so addicted that they play them during worship services or Bible classes.
There is no emphasis in the family, past or present, on the importance of reading the Bible.
There are additional reasons why many Christians don’t read the Bible: these 12 are only a sampling.
Obviously reading the Bible is a choice; once you have made the decision to read your Bible here are a few practical tips:
Designate a time for reading. You know your schedule and what will be the best time; be flexible.
Start your schedule with 15-minutes of reading. This will be deliberate and meditative reading of a portion of Scripture. You may increase is as you develop the reading habit.
Keep a reading log in which you record your reading and any questions drawn from your reading.
If you are in a weekly Bible class try to read Scripture related to your class; do the same relative to the sermon.
Do your reading in various translation of the Bible; this will help you understand certain portions better.
Be attentive and alert during your reading; being too tired or lazy will hinder your comprehension.
Don’t stop! Let Bible reading be a lifetime discipline; the more you do it the more you will enjoy and benefit
From your reading always ask yourself, what one intentional thing can I practice from these verses? This is the take away.
There is also the challenge of sharing some of your reading with others; your excitement may encourage others to read the Bible.
Consider making Bible reading a family practices; what better way for the family to bond.
There are book clubs in some congregations where member get together and discuss book they have read, why not a Bible reading club? Reading—not study!
Prayer for wisdom and a spirit of concentration relative to your Bible reading. The challenge is to decide to read the Bible and just do it.
One of the first songs I learned after becoming a Christian was Trust and Obey:
When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey
(J.H. Sammis & D.B.Towner).
The two words—trust and obey—aren’t very popular in our day; especially obey. Like so many other virtues in our society and churches, the word obey is consigned to the ancient attitude of “Nobody tells me what to do.” Disobedience is rampant in our classrooms, on our streets, in our churches, in our families, in business dealing, etc. We live in an age where promises are made to be broken.
What is obedience? Yes, I know it is a dumb question to ask. Why? Because everyone knows the meaning of obedience. Do they? Webster defines obedience as: “Compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority; compliance.”
Everyday life is filled with orders requiring obedience. The teacher enters the classroom and says, “Now everyone be quiet and write down what I am about to say.” We come to an intersection we normally drive straight through but a policeman directs us to take a detour. A father tells his son that he cannot go out and play until he completes his homework. The song leader says, “Let’s stand and sing number 702.” We realize that the first three examples—the teacher, policeman, and father—many times are argued with or rejected, creating conflict.
Whatever happened to obedience?
The study of obedience is an interesting study. Obedience is a reflection of the socially acceptable norms in a society. In my studies and observations I have discovered there are several major contributors to a person being obedient:
Obedience usually occurs when you are told to do something by someone in authority; conformity usually happens as a result of social or peer pressure: everybody is doing it. Adolf Eichmann was executed in 1962 for his role in the Holocaust, in which six million Jewish people, as well as others were murdered by Nazi Germany. Eichmann was declared sane by six psychiatrists. How could a sane man do such terrible crimes? Eichmann wrote in his jail diary why: “The orders were, for me, the highest thing in my life and I had to obey them without question” (Extract quoted in the Guardian, 12 August 1999, p. 13). In his mind he was only be obedient!
Jesus warned about BLIND obedience to the Pharisees of His day: “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14). Religious and spiritual blindness has eternal consequences.
Obedience is important for numerous reasons. The Hebrews’ writer takes us to what, in my opinion, is the number one reason for obedience: He wrote: “[T]hough He was a Son, yet He learned OBEDIENCE by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who OBEY Him” (Hebrews 5:8, 9). This is clear. Eternal salvation is based on obedience. Nothing is more important than this (cf. Mark 8:36-38).
The motivation for obedience is not fear, coercion, or shame but LOVE. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), and “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). We respond to God’s love for us (cf. John 3:16).
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (cf. Romans 1:14-16). What is the Gospel? Paul answers this question: “Moreover, brethren, I declared to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you FIRST of all that which I received: that Christ DIED for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was BURIED, and that He ROSE again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The death, burial and resurrection of Christ are physical and historical facts. The question now is, how do you obey facts? Paul gives us the answer. In Romans 6:1-16 the apostle reminds the Romans how they embraced the Gospel—death, burial and resurrection—which was duplicated by them in immersion (baptism). In 6:17 he wrote, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you OBEYED from the heart that FORM of doctrine to which you were delivered.”
The Greek word for FORM is tupos and means “type, impress.” A good way to understand tupos is relating it to what happens when a Notary Seal is applied to a document. The imprint on the metal seal, not the seal itself, is impressed on the paper. In obeying the Gospel a person doesn’t literally die, isn’t literally buried, and literally raised form the dead. In baptism a dead spiritual person dies to sin, is buried and raised to “walk in newness of life.”
The consequences of disobedience could fill volumes. The major one being to miss heaven and eternal life. In Revelation 22:14 we read, “Blessed are those who DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”
The Galatians were warned by Paul concerning the danger of drifting away from the Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). In Galatians 3:1 he wrote this: “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.” Since Adam and Eve, Satan has been trying to trick us into disobeying God.
When the Christians were ordered to stop preaching the Gospel (Acts 5:27, 28), here is how the Apostles responded: “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to OBEY God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Regardless, we “seek the kingdom first” (Matthew 6:33).
Whatever happened to obedience?