What does the Bible say about obeying God? How can you walk in obedience to God? How can you overcome a spirit of disobedience in your life towards God?
“Obedience to God” is a massive topic in the Bible, therefore this article will just scratch the surface of all that could be talked about when it comes to overcoming a spirit of disobedience in your life. Nonetheless, here are 3 very important ways you can become more obedient to God as a Christian.
(Note: When I say a “spirit of disobedience” in your life, I don’t necessarily mean a demonic spirit who is waging spiritual warfare, although spiritual warfare is certainly an important topic. When I say “spirit,” I mean the main underlying thrust in your life. For example, if you live with a spirit of joy, this means your life is full of joy. But if you live with a spirit of disobedience, this means your life is full of running from God.)
1. To Overcome a Spirit of Disobedience in Your Life, Focus on the Spiritual Health of Your New Heart in Christ
Anytime you want to talk about changing your behavior from a biblical perspective, you have to start by working from the inside out. One of the core differences between Christianity and every other religion or self-help method is that Christianity starts by changing your identity first which then changes your actions while every other belief system seeks to change your identity by first focusing on your actions.
Jesus likened all this to a tree and its fruit. If a human being is a tree and their actions are like fruit from a tree, Jesus said that to change your actions you must first become a new and healthy type of tree (Matthew 7:15-20).
When most Christians think about the human heart, the first Bible verses that usually come to mind are Jeremiah 17:9-10 which state:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’”
Here we can see the similarity to what Jesus said about the health of a tree being the ultimate factor in what kind of fruit it produces being similar to the heart of a human being the main determining factor of how obedient to God they will be. Here we can see that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. God would not call us to obedience without first actually solving the root problem of our disobedience.
In other words, if you try to obey God while living from your old sinful nature, you will never be able to overcome disobedience in your life. To become obedient to God, you need a new heart, a new nature. This is exactly what God offers us through the gospel of Jesus Christ:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If you believe that you are nothing but a wicked person with an evil heart, you will never live a life of obedience to God. God does not call you to obey him while leaving you with a wicked heart. When you place your faith in Jesus Christ and depend on grace alone for salvation, God gives you a new heart so you actually have the capability to repent of sin and follow Christ in your life.
If you are a Christian, you are saved, you are justified, you are made pure, and you are a new creation in Christ. You have a new heart. If you want to obey God in your life, you have to fully embrace this incredible truth.
2. If You Want to Obey God, the Bible Says You Must Control Your Mind Rather than Letting It Control You
We’re now moving one level outward from the source of our problem. Our deepest issue was our sinful hearts, but once God gives us a new heart through the gospel of Jesus Christ, this does not automatically mean we will always obey God. Now we have to make choices that will cause obedience to occur in life, and one of the most important choices you can make is what you will think about.
Again, Christianity works form the inside out. After the heart, we now need to focus on the mind if we really want to produce good actions in our life. What you think about is what you walk towards. Our thoughts are like the wheel of a ship. When you turn the wheel, the ship doesn’t change direction immediately like a little sports car. But if you give it a little time, that giant ship will turn towards where you turned the wheel towards.
Likewise, when you start thinking about something sinful, you might not choose to act on that thought right away. But if you let those thoughts persist, you will actually start to gradually turn towards the object of your thoughts. This is why it is so important to control your thoughts and to refuse to think about unholy things if you want to live a holy and obedient life. Romans 13:12-14 (NIV) states:
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Notice we are told to “put aside the deeds of darkness” and to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and not think about how to gratify the desire of the flesh.” Our deeds and our thoughts are always connected.
Therefore, to truly live in obedience to God, we must not let our thoughts control us. Rather, we must take control of our thoughts through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must do as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), “ . . . we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Perhaps Romans 8:5-8 summarizes it best:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
If we want to overcome a spirit of disobedience, it is clear that we must set our “minds on the things of the Spirit.”
3. To Increase Your Obedience to God, You Must Submit Your Body to God
At times, Christians focus on the spiritual, which is absolutely correct to do, but we often neglect those parts of our reality in the physical realm which are also extremely important according to the Bible.
Your body itself is an extremely important variable in your ability to obey God. Romans 12:1-2, for example, shows us the direct link between our minds and bodies:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
One of the ways we can submit our bodies to God is by submitting to how God made our bodies. For example, do you know that you will be far more susceptible to sin if you do not get enough sleep? A good night’s rest is not the main variable in obedience to God. But it is, nonetheless, an important variable. If you don’t take care of your body, you will be far more vulnerable to temptation, for as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27:
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
A lack of discipline in how you control your body will increase your vulnerability to disobeying God’s commands. God made our bodies a certain way. We need sleep, a healthy diet, and sometimes we even need medical interventions to assist our bodies and brains to function as God originally designed them to run before fall of man occurred.