Ian E Purdy
Genesis 2: 8, 9, 15-17
Matthew 26: 39
Mark 4: 35-41
John 14: 21-23
I have in mind to say a few words about obedience. In one sense it is a very simple matter; I do not suppose there are too many in this room who do not understand what it means to be obedient. My burden this evening is that we might understand a little better how precious it is to the Lord Jesus for each one of us to be simply obedient to Him; not just to know what it means, but actually to be obedient.
This first scripture speaks about disobedience, and most will know it well; I do not intend to speak much about disobedience: I would rather occupy you with the positive side of this matter; obedience. It was in God’s mind from the beginning, from the very time that man was created; God had in mind this matter of obedience.
I trust we will be helped to contemplate the second scripture rightly and speak well of the obedient One. In relation to the third scripture, we might speak about the authority of the Lord Jesus in a general way, and in the fourth scripture, if the Lord will, we will perhaps consider what it is for you and me to be obedient, what springs from the heart in simple love for Christ.
It might be until now that, when someone has spoken about obedience, you might have tended to think rather negatively about it; I have known that. It might bring to mind rules and regulations; but when we are growing up we often need them. This matter of obedience is not just a simple matter of following rules and regulations. It is plain to see that it could not actually be specified what every single one of us should do at every moment of every day, but in the Holy Scriptures we have a wonderful, concise setting out of what the mind of God is, and what the mind of the Lord Jesus is, and if we consider prayerfully it will always be very clear to any lover of the Lord Jesus exactly what it is that the Lord has in mind for you to do. It might not be clear just immediately; it may take time to understand it, but in time if you are minded to understand what the Lord Jesus would have you to do and you are prayerfully before Him about it, I can assure you He will not disappoint you. Although there might not be a very specific rule or regulation about any particular juncture in your life, He wants you to know what His mind is about everything. He wants to share that with you and He wants you to be obedient to it.
It is very interesting how this matter is set out in Genesis. God placed man in a garden. It was not a garden like we might be used to that is overrun with weeds and is a great deal of trouble to till and to keep right. God placed Adam in a sphere that was a very pleasant place to be, “and the tree of life, in the midst”, and every tree in that garden was “pleasant to the sight, and good for food”, a most gracious provision of a loving God. He made one stipulation: “but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it”. If it was so important for them not to eat it, why did He put the tree in the garden? In the midst was the tree of life and there was every other tree that was good for them but He placed there the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and they were not to eat of it; so why was it there? It seems to me that it is a bit like your life, dear young believer, dear young brother or sister and older ones too. You are set in a sphere where there is very much for your blessing, very much for your encouragement, for your help, for your growth but round about you see things that you know very well you should not touch, you should not have anything to do with them. I believe that if you know the Lord Jesus and you read the scriptures prayerfully you will gain that discernment, if you do not have it already, to know what is for your good and what is not. God does not separate you in that sense so that you cannot touch what is for your harm but He gives us clear commandment, very clear instruction as to what we should follow after and what we should not, and then it comes down to: will we be obedient? Will we obey Him? That is what it came down to for Adam; was he going to obey God or was He not? God delights in our obedience; the Lord Jesus delights in our obedience. I read recently, and I thought it was very precious, that obedience refreshes the Lord, as being the fruit of His own grace in our hearts, C H Mackintosh, Notes on Genesis (chap 18). That is what He is looking for from your life and mine. He wants us to be obedient. He wants us to simply follow His word and that is what Adam was set in this garden to do, “to till it and to guard it”. You might well say that they were the most congenial circumstances that man could be put in and, yet more wonderful, God comes to Him. We understand from later verses that God came to Him in the cool of the day, to walk with Adam and to speak over matters, but that one thing that God had said He was not to do, Adam failed in.
It brings out in beautiful contrast the One who never failed, the obedient One, the Lord Jesus. We can read many scriptures about the obedience of the Lord Jesus; at every step His every word and every action was perfect obedience. He never strayed one hair’s breadth from the will of God, but I think there is a very beautiful example of the obedience of the Lord Jesus in this verse that we read. We referred to it in the reading too, the One who was obedient even unto death. The Lord Jesus in contemplating this awful matter shrank from it in His holiness but He says, “not as I will, but as thou wilt”. It was by the obedience of that One that we are constituted righteous, Rom 5: 19. The Lord Jesus went into death and that the death of the cross; He was made sin. The obedient One, the One in whom the Father had all His delight, perfect delight, went into death; when the matter of sin was dealt with God could regard with delight the obedience of the Lord Jesus, the One who glorified Him in going into death. The obedience of the Lord Jesus was not just that He did not do the things that He was not supposed to do, but He also did everything, and only did that which His Father desired for Him to do. Thus He glorified the Father. He delighted His Father in His obedience, and that, dear friend, dear brother and sister, is what I trust we can get through to. Obedience is not a negative thing; there is great glory for God in it. You might think of it as being very restrictive, you might think of it as being very negative, but there is something in your simple obedience that is delightful to the heart of God, which is delightful to the heart of the Lord Jesus. It might just be some very small matter but if you do it in simple obedience to the Lord Jesus there is great delight for divine Persons in that. It might be that there is something that you know that you should be doing or that you should not be doing. It is rather like a stone in front of the wheelbarrow wheel. You cannot move forward until that matter is dealt with. It may be you have considered it many times, it may be that it has been spoken about in meetings many times, over and over again, but you have been a hearer of the word and not a doer. I would exhort you beloved brother, beloved sister, that you might take up this matter of obeying and just do it; for the glory and pleasure of divine Persons.
When we come to Mark’s gospel we see the Lord Jesus going on a ship with His disciples and “there comes a violent gust of wind, and the waves beat into the ship”. I suppose it was on the face of it quite dangerous and they were fearful. I suppose you and I would have been no different. They wake up the Lord Jesus and “he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Silence, be mute”. I would like to draw your attention to the One that even the winds and the sea obey. We often get discouraged about what is going on round about. The wind may be what causes the agitation, and the sea might be a bit like us when we become agitated, but the Lord Jesus is able to calm both. Oh that we might be strengthened in our faith in relation to this. He has authority over the sea and over the winds; He has authority, as we see in other scriptures, over unclean spirits. It says later on, He has “authority over all flesh”, John 17: 2. The One that we trust in has authority over everyone and He has authority over you and me. We might sometimes wonder, 'How do I know what the mind of the Lord Jesus is for me, how will I know what it is?'. We have already said that the Scriptures are very clearly the word of God, and you will find in them an answer to all your questions about what the Lord’s mind is. Sometimes we find it difficult to understand at any juncture, what is it that we should do because being obedient means first of all that we have to know what the Lord would have us to do. You have to be hearers before you can be doers. It comes down to a matter of prayer. We can read the Scriptures as much as we would, and that is a good thing, but it really comes down to a matter of prayer as well, to understand what the Scriptures would say to us.
It is very interesting that in one of the incidents later on they go to fish and they caught nothing. Then the Lord Jesus says to them, “Cast the net at the right side of the ship and ye will find. They cast therefore, and they could no longer draw it, from the multitude of fishes”, John 21: 6. John recognises that it is the Lord. He immediately recognises that it is the Lord, the One who had told them to do this. When they see the result of it they can recognise it was the Lord that said it. Over time you will learn to recognise the voice of the Lord in this way. It can take some time; it might be that when we are young we do not recognise it all the time, but as time goes on and we are obedient and prove it, we learn to recognise it.
The last scripture is what I really wanted to get to. The Lord Jesus Himself says, “He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me”. That is the only right spring for obedience, dear friend. Do you wish to please the Lord Jesus? Do you love Him and desire to give delight to Him? The One who was obedient even unto death, the One who suffered for you, do you want to please Him? This is the way to please Him: to be obedient, to have His commandments and to keep them. It is simple; there is nothing complicated about it. When we try and please other people you will find there will be conflicting things; sometimes it will be impossible to please everybody else. When it comes to obedience to the Lord Jesus, it is all beautifully simple. He never asks us to do anything that is impossible. It may be that it requires a great deal of exercise. It may be that it requires a great deal of sacrifice or sorrow. It might be that we wonder how it can be done. The Lord Jesus never asks us to do anything that is impossible. Everything is possible with God of course.
I feel particularly impressed that sometimes we might shrink back from doing what we know is right for fear of what someone else might think. Sometimes we might wonder what our friends might think, what our brethren might think, and in one sense it is right to consider for our brethren. Whenever we know that the Lord Jesus would have us to do something, it has to be our overriding priority. Do not consider what your friend might think. I expect we have all been in that situation. I know what it is like to think to myself, 'I really should not do that or have anything to do with that thing but it might offend that person or it might upset them and I do not want to do that'. Dear friend, this is too important a matter. We are speaking about the authority of the Lord Jesus; His is an absolute authority which you cannot trifle with. You cannot take into account anyone else’s thoughts or feelings about it. If the Lord would have you to do something you must do it, but what a blessing comes thereby. It may be that you do suffer some reproach, it may be that you do suffer some loss in a temporal way, but consider the promise of this verse that we have been reading; the Father Himself will love you. The Lord Jesus will love you, and He will come and make His abode with you. Is there anything more precious to you than that? Is there anything that we should let stand in the way of such a precious promise as that, that the Lord Jesus Himself will come with the Father and make His abode with us? Dear friend, if you have never proved that, if you have never proved what it is just in the secret of your own room or wherever it might be, to seek the presence of the Lord Jesus and without any sense of need on your part, to just open your heart and listen to what He would say to you, ask Him to make Himself known to you and to open your eyes to see His glory, to open your eyes to see what His will is for you as to what He would have you to do. If you have never done it I would encourage you to do it. It is a very great privilege that we have.
We were speaking in the reading about how the systems of men would put up all sorts of barriers. It is a very great privilege we have, dear friend, to seek the presence of the Lord Jesus and enjoy His company. It is open to you; do not let anything stand in the way, but you have to deal first of all with this matter of obedience. You will not find that repose in His presence that I commend to you, if there is some matter outstanding. Is there something that He has spoken to you about that you have not dealt with? Dear friend, do not let it stand in the way. It is a simple matter; I trust I am not making it too simple, but it really is simple to be obedient to the One who loves you, to the One that you love, and prove the blessing of entering into His presence. I have been speaking of this in an individual way; it is an even greater thing in a collective way to enter in with others that are like-minded, others who are obedient to His word, those who gather to His Name, and those who love Him and together enjoy His presence. I would appeal to you, dear brother and sister, dear friend, that if there is some little matter or some great matter that is standing in the way of you enjoying this I would urge you, simply be obedient. Oh what a precious pathway the Lord Jesus has set out for us. He has gone before, He is our model, He is our example, what a perfect example He is as the obedient One and all we have to do is to follow Him and to be obedient.
May He bless the word, for His Name’s sake.
24th October 2014