"As obedient children." 1 Peter 1:14
It is an unspeakable privilege to be the child of God. But there is an influence and responsibility connected with it also. Children are expected to be witnesses for their father, laborers for him, and followers of him also. Happy are the children who have such a father, to whom all these relationships may be happy and honorable. Such a happiness belongs to the children of God. But all these relationships depend upon the present title. They must be obedient children. Obedience has reference to commands, as imitation has respect to example. The children of God are all obedient children. If any will prove their rightful claim to the title, they are to prove it by their obedience. Am I one of God's adopted children? Then must obedience to him distinguish my whole character. But to be obedient,
1. I must UNDERSTAND his commands. There can be no real obedience without this. I may accidentally obey when I am ignorant; but I cannot systematically obey unless I am informed. God has not left me ignorant of his will. He has given me his word. He has spoken in it most plainly and simply. I need not be mistaken. I cannot be unless I choose to be. He has taught me what he requires of me, and I must study and understand his will. He commands me to repent--to turn from every sin--to believe in and to love his beloved Son--to walk with him humbly and submissively in all things--to be benevolent, faithful, and sincere in my relationships to men. But for this I must study his commands. The possession of his word is a great privilege, and I must faithfully improve it. Thus shall I understand what he requires. There is no relationship of my life to which his commands will not be adapted. If I truly seek to know his will there, I never can be at a loss to understand it. This will give me the path of a scriptural, spiritual walk of holy obedience to God, in which I can go forward intelligently and clearly.
2. I must not hesitate in FULFILLING them. When God clearly speaks, there is no room for discussion or opinion. The reason or justice of the command God perfectly understands. My part is to fulfill it. I am simply to do that which he orders, whatever it may be. If the precept is clear, there can be no question. If it is not, then I am to study his word, and endeavor to understand his will. But when his will is known I cannot hesitate. Obedience may be inconvenient. It may require much sacrifice. It may sometimes be painful, or even apparently dangerous; but even then the rule is already laid down for me. I am to fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell, who can preserve me in every danger. There is no one else to fear. Obedience to him cannot but be happy, secure, and gainful in the end.
Oh let me follow out this simple spirit! Lord, what would you have me to do? I would gladly follow and obey you in all things. Give me strength that I may do it. But ah, if I hold back, and hesitate, and argue, and try to avoid that which he clearly sets before me, how can I be one of his obedient children? Every question whether manifest duty is to be obeyed, is a temptation. Let me cast them all aside, and arise at once, and obey the will of God.
3. My MOTIVE must be, to do the will of God. I must not obey Divine commands because they are convenient and easy, or only when they are convenient and easy. This is not obeying God, but my own will. It is a mere following of my own pleasure. I must not obey because others obey. I may thus be led to follow a multitude to do evil also. No; I must obey because it is God's own command. This must be enough. And this must be alone. It may make me singular. It has often made others a gazing-stock to men. But I cannot mind that. This is the way which he has laid down before me, and I must walk in it. The fashion of this world will often oppose it. The pride of man will often despise it. The wisdom of man will sometimes scoff at it. All this may be; but God is wiser than men; and it is far better to obey him than them.
The difficulties of such obedience are always greatest at the beginning. Men cease to trouble after they begin to despise. They will leave me alone. Happy will it be for me. But I wish to be able to say of my whole course of life, "This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning me." God has spoken. I believe. Therefore I obey, not conferring with flesh and blood.
4. My RECOMPENSE is his acceptance. I hardly dare to think or speak of any recompense to myself. So great is my sinfulness, that I can deserve nothing but the wages of sin, which is death. But God has been pleased to proclaim such a thought to me, in various shapes. It cannot be wrong, therefore, for me to consider it. He will not forget my labors of love. He will accept me according to that which I have, if there be a willing mind. He will acknowledge a cup of cold water given truly in his name. The reward will not be the reward of my obedience, but of the perfect obedience of my Savior. But the acceptance is of my works for his sake. And this acceptance is sure. Men may not approve. I may even fail to do what I desire to do. I may sometimes appear even to produce the opposite result. But God knows my motives, my desires, my efforts, my obstacles, and he will accept me in much in which others may condemn me, and in which I may condemn myself. To this point will I look--I will try in everything to please him, and look to his acceptance for my reward. How glorious and satisfying will that reward be! One welcoming smile of Jesus will more than repay me for all the trials which any obedience has cost.
5. Nothing can be more DESIRABLE to me than such an obedience to God. Intelligent, unhesitating, simple regard to him, and a constant reference to his acceptance. Oh that I may thus walk with him. Not fashioning myself after any of my former lusts; but striving to be holy in all of my life, because he is holy. Thus shall my life proceed, in a simple, clear, and happy path, until I meet my gracious Lord in glory. And he will receive me.
Lord, I come to you for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There your blood-bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign.
Show me what I have to do,
Every hour my strength renew;
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die a joyful death.