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What It Means to Obey God

If God is our Master, we obey Him

James 2.21–24

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • April 1, ad 2012


  1. God’s will. 
    1. Nothing More.
    2. Nothing Less.
  2. When it comes to God’s commands, 
    1. our job is not to reason why,
    2. our job is not to make reply,
    3. our job is but to do and die.


  1. Obeying God 
    1. If I know who He is,
    2. no debates exist on whether to obey Him.
      1. If there is a God, and
      2. we believe there is,
        1. we give Him our unquestioned, unhesitating, obedience,
        2. even if it means death.
    3. Have you played a sport?
      1. Did the coach let you negotiate on whether you had to do what he said?
      2. What happened if you did not follow his directions?
    4. Have you served in the military?
      1. After your leader issued an order, did he sit down to bargain with you?
      2. What if you decided to follow orders when you felt like it?
    5. Who is greater?
      1. Your coach or God?
      2. Your military officer or God?
  2. The Obedience of Abraham 
    1. James 2 uses Abraham to show we are justified by works,

      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. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (Jam 2.21–24).
    2. First, James referred to Genesis 22,

      1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him (Gen 22.1–3).

      1. Once they reached the designated place,
      2. Abraham went to carry out the command of the God of heaven,

        9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son (Gen 22.9, 10).
    3. By that action, James argued that Abraham’s faith proved itself, and
      1. in so doing fulfilled what happened earlier in Genesis,

        5 Then [God] brought [Abraham] outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness (Gen 15.5, 6).
      2. God asked Abraham to believe the promise, and he did.
        1. But did he so believe it
        2. that He trusted God to keep that promise no matter what?
          1. It is one thing to accept a promise intellectually,
          2. it is another thing to commit your life to that promise.
    4. God had promised Abraham that through the yet unborn Isaac,
      1. God would give Abraham more descendants than he could count.
      2. Did Abraham believe God would keep that promise?
        1. When you come to Genesis 22, and Isaac has been born,
        2. God commands Abraham to sacrifice that son,
          1. Abraham prepares to do it, because
          2. he believed that God would allow the sacrifice to happen, and
            1. to keep His promise,
            2. God would have to raise Isaac from the dead.
    5. That is not speculation, but
      1. the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 11 reveals what Abraham thought,

        17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead… (Heb 11.17–19).

        1. Abraham had never witnessed a resurrection.
        2. God had not told Abraham that his son would be resurrected.
          1. No, Abraham reasoned that God had to raise Isaac
          2. for God to keep His promise of countless descendants through Isaac.
            1. Abraham did not think that God would stop the sacrifice,
            2. believing that was not an option.
    6. That is the kind of obedience God wants from us.
  3. Our Job Is Not to Reason Why 
    1. Abraham did not need to know why God had ordered the sacrifice.
    2. Sometimes we can see why a command exists,
      1. at other times we cannot.
      2. Is it enough for us that God commanded it?
        1. Do we believe He knows what He is doing?
        2. Or do we believe that He has not thought it through completely?
    3. We need to think of who He is and who we are.
      1. We are the servants;
        1. He is the Master;
        2. We obey Him.
      2. We are the children;
        1. He is the Father;
        2. We obey Him.
      3. We are the creatures;
        1. He is the Creator;
        2. We obey Him.
    4. What if we disagree with His command?
      1. Do it anyway.
      2. He is God, and He is to be obeyed.
        1. If we disagree, we will find out in time,
        2. that it was not God who was wrong.
  4. Our Job Is Not to Make Reply 
    1. It is not our place to excuse ourselves.
      1. Remember Moses.
        1. He used every excuse he could find.
        2. It only got him into trouble with God.
      2. Remember Jeremiah.
        1. Initially he thought his youth would keep people from listening to him,
        2. yet, once God dealt with that,
          1. Jeremiah accepted his role, and
          2. delivered it with a fire burning in his bones,

            4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
            5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
            Before you were born I sanctified you;
            I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
            6 Then said I:
            “Ah, Lord GOD!
            Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
            7 But the LORD said to me:
            “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,‘
            For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
            And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
            8 Do not be afraid of their faces,
            For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD.
            (Jer 1.4–8)
        3. Once that happened and
          1. the word was in Jeremiah,
          2. he obeyed God, and
            1. the prophet could not contain himself,
            2. although he tried,

              7 O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded;
              You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
              I am in derision daily;
              Everyone mocks me.
              8 For when I spoke, I cried out;
              I shouted, “Violence and plunder!”
              Because the word of the LORD was made to me
              A reproach and a derision daily.
              9 Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
              Nor speak anymore in His name.”
              But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
              Shut up in my bones;
              I was weary of holding it back,
              And I could not.”
              (Jer 20.7–9)
    2. Likewise, Abraham did not excuse himself,
      1. knowing that God is right,
      2. knowing that God would be with him,
      3. knowing that God knows the best way.
  5. Our Job Is but to Do and Die 
    1. How does a servant work with his master?
      1. The servant obeys the master,
      2. even if it means death.
        1. However, before it even comes to that point,
        2. the servant has already given up his life.
          1. Yes, he has things that he does, but
          2. ultimately he lives for the master and
            1. readies himself at anytime
            2. to do the master’s will.
      3. That is how our Teacher and Lord lived.
        1. You see it in the Garden of Gethsemane
        2. as He prayed about the cross.
          1. Yes, Jesus expressed His desire for another way, but
          2. He stated that He preferred to do God’s will.
    2. Notice Genesis 22.3 again.

      3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him (Gen 22.3).

      1. After God had told Abraham what to do,
      2. he rose early in the morning and
        1. went to the place designated by God.
        2. Why?
          1. God said to do it.
          2. That settled the matter.
    3. Do you believe Jesus is Lord?
      1. Listen to the reasoning of Jesus as Luke recorded it in Luke 6,

        46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6.46–49).
      2. I can confess my belief in His Lordship, but
      3. I then I have to demonstrate my belief,
        1. otherwise, my lack of total obedience
        2. denies my confession,

          16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work (Tts 1.16).


  1. Have you read a command in the Bible that troubles you? 
    1. If it is in the Bible,
    2. God used the Holy Spirit to guide a man to write down the command of God.
      1. This is not what the church says.
      2. It is what God says.
        1. You can fight the church, but
        2. I do not advise that you fight God, because
          1. you will not win.
          2. Some people fight God, disagree with Him, and challenge Him.
            1. We are talking about the One
            2. who created the universe with the breath of His mouth.
  2. What would you think if I challenged Mike Tyson to a fight? 
    1. I would much rather challenge Mike Tyson to a fight,
    2. than to challenge Mike Tyson’s Creator to a fight.
  3. I advise you to be like light, like Abraham, like unclean spirits, like a storm. 
    1. God said, “Let there be light”; 
      1. and there was light (Gen 1.3). 
    2. God said, “Abraham…Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen 22.2). 
      1. “So Abraham rose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God had told him” (Gen 22.3). 
    3. Jesus said to an unclean spirit, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 
      1. “And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him” (Mark 1.25, 26). 
    4. Jesus spoke to a storm, “Peace, be still!” 
      1. “And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4.39). 
    5. Jesus says to you, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16.16). 
      1. And you…did what?