The shaking of the church has begin, both from within and without, and God is beginning to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the tares. The choice to obey God or others is more critical than ever. It determines both the here and now and our eternal destiny, but we must count the cost and fix our eyes only on Him.
But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
All of us will find ourselves in situations where we have to make a choice. Some may be of little consequence by our standards. Others may be more of a challenge. As yet, most of us haven’t been dragged before the Sanhedrin or its local equivalent for preaching the Gospel. I say as yet because of the concerted international efforts to marginalise Christians as prejudiced and judgemental. Those early apostles and disciples may yet present a very real example of what we could all face in the very near future. Schools, institutions, and government are leading the way in promulgating legal prohibition of Christianity. Sadly, the reality is that this could be sooner rather than later. Already, we encounter the challenge in smaller arenas, like our work environment for example. To follow Jesus means we will continually have to choose to obey God or others.
To obey God is included in the greatest commandment.
If we work through the Pentateuch, we’ll find that to love God and to obey God are never separate commandments. In John 14:15, Jesus also said: If you love Me, keep My commandments. Worship includes obedience. We cannot worship Him in Spirit and Truth if we are in rebellion – and disobedience is rebellion. 1 Samuel 15:22-23 puts it very plainly: Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king. Nowhere does the Bible ever add ‘if it’s safe to do so’ when it commands us to obey God.
We can, based on what the Bible says, go so far as to say our obedience is the measure of our love. Worship is the expression of our love. It’s the manifestation of the place we give God in our lives. What this means is where God stands in relation to self. In circumstances of choice, to we choose to obey God or to obey self, first of all. Obeying others is, in fact, obeying self because we’re protecting ourselves. It could be from the disapproval of others, the scorn of others, or other more serious consequences. The reason is irrelevant. If we choose to obey self or obey others to protect self, we choose to disobey God. We can justify it any way we want, the spiritual truth and its implications will never change. In the end-time climate, we have to recognise the serious implications of this choice.
To obey God means counting the cost.
Jesus, and later Paul, reminded us that tribulations would come. They both talked of marking the signs of the times and preparing ourselves for what is to come. This wasn’t empty talk. We face a two-pronged assault by the enemy. On one hand, the world is moving relentlessly toward a one-world order in preparation for the coming of the Antichrist. Part of this is the concerted move to outlaw the true Christians and expel them from all tiers of governance, education, or societal roles. On the other hand, we have the insidious infiltration of the church by false teachers, prophets, and doctrines. But in all of this, the commandment to obey God remains. True worshipers will have to count the cost of following Christ in a far more painful way than ever before. This is the harsh and even frightening reality facing anyone who claims to follow Christ.
The Bible talks of the church being shaken, and it has already begun. The current happenings in the world and the church manifest this truth. The choice whether to obey God or not will be how the sheep are separated from the goats and the wheat from the chaff. Believers will face the refiner’s fire through this choice. We will either come forth as gold or as dross. But we will all have to count the cost. For those who choose God, it will be the cost of persecution. But for those who do not choose God, it will be the cost of eternal damnation. It’s a one or the other choice that has eternal consequences, and comfortable Christianity will never prepare us for it. Prophetically, I believe the end-time church will be the Acts church – small, full of power, and relentlessly persecuted. But we must still obey God.
Obey God and count the benefits.
It’s important that we look at both sides of the matter. Counting the cost alone only causes fear and anxiety. To make an ‘informed choice,’ as the world calls it, we have to look at both the cost and the benefits. The eternal benefits when we obey God are simple – eternal life, heavenly treasure, and the forever presence of God. The cost, in eternity, is nothing – only damnation if we don’t obey. From a here and now perspective, the benefits are the continued indwelling presence of God, His miraculous, supernatural intervention, and seeing His power at work in abundance. The costs still apply, but the benefits match and exceed them. We will face persecution. That’s a given, but the power and supernatural intervention of God will fulfil His purposes and bring us into His presence, both now and for eternity. He is greater than all.
We may have to face imprisonment, but He never leaves us nor forsakes, and His power can work as well behind bars. His purposes will still be fulfilled. Even if we face death, nothing in this world can alter our eternal destiny. We have the assurance that everything we endure will reveal the power and glory of God. When we obey God, we have access to every single one of His promises already fulfilled in Christ. In everything, we’re assured of victory – not a worldly victory, necessarily, but a spiritual one. Like Jesus who went before us, there is nothing in the world or the heavenlies, or under them, that can separate us from God. As citizens of heaven we have His name which is above all names. We have His seal of the Spirit. His power is at work in and through us in every single situation.
The courage to obey God.
There is no doubt that it will take courage to obey God in the future. Even now, we will all have moments when we make the wrong choice for the sake of expediency. But we to consider the choice long and hard and make up our minds before it’s too late. We may think we have enough courage right now, but spiritual courage is very different to natural courage. The latter will inevitably fail us, and we only receive spiritual courage from Christ. We need to make the right choice now and allow Him to prepare us. When we choose to obey God, He will strengthen us and empower us through the Holy Spirit to lives of worship. We have to build our worship relationship with Him now, because it’s only when we love Him with all that we will have the courage to obey Him, no matter what.
Thank You, Lord, for Your warnings of the coming tribulations and the shaking of Your church. Draw us into Your presence and into lives of worship. Empower us to love You with our all, so that we can find the courage we need in You. Teach us the right way and guide our choices, so that at the end, we will be found among the sheep and not the goats. Refine us now, Lord, before the trials come, so that we can choose obedience and eternity with You.