Do you feel a tension in your gut? Is anger now in your heart? If you are a servant to obedience, what I have to say will likely cause you some stress. That's ok. Stress helps us grow.
Swallow one or two times, and then come on.
Faith is the only form of obedience that God recognizes. All other forms of obedience are but the works of a dead flesh, and Jehovah is the God of the living. It is from faith to faith that the righteousness of God is made manifest, and it is by faith that just men live before a holy God. If you have set out to establish a personal righteousness before Almighty God, you lack true understanding of who you are and who He is.
"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," (Hebrews 11:4-6).
Now these men, and all the many others who are listed in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, had works that followed their faith. They also had failures, great moments of disobedience, selfishness, and hardheadedness. Yet God's favor remained upon them and all that they touched: not because of their perfect behavior, neither for their sorrow over getting it wrong, but rather because the promises and purposes of God will not be altered.
There are many men like this, men who lived before the time of law and men who came during the time of law: Joshua, Caleb, David, and more. To look at these leaders, and the life they lived; to see the strength in their heart makes clear their walk as one of faith.
Yes. We know that they fell short, sometimes exceedingly. We know also that they sometimes professed great deeds and labors. But we also know that their walk was based upon faith in God not in themselves. Not a faith that God would honor their personal goodness and obedience, but rather that God would be merciful to those he has chosen.
The apostle Paul called those who lived by the rule of righteousness through law "Foolish," (Gal. 3:1). "The law is not of faith:" he wrote, in quoting from the Book of the Law, "but, The man that doeth them shall live in them," (Gal. 3:12). The law is not established as a three strikes type situation, nor even as a million strikes arrangement. It is a one strike and you are out deal.
Many Christians understand the purpose and intend of Paul's words on this matter. They also grasp the points made in the book of Romans when he wrote that it was either law or faith, never both. Yet most fail to perceive the full power of faith, so they end up going back to the law in some other form, rebuilding, as Paul further wrote, those things that have been torn down and disposed of.
Indeed, a very special problem has developed in modern Christianity. For sake of understanding, I will call it the concept of opinion as identified as an obedience to an inner voice.
Now do not take me wrong. God often speaks to his children through the inner voice of reason and truth. But this is not what has happened in today's world. You see, rather than practicing obedience to the written words of scripture, we have turned to a freedom of the inner witness, so called. By this I mean that we now count ourselves right before God based upon how well we follow a perceived inner voice. So even as we walk in known sins, we proclaim rightness with God that is based upon how well we follow our vain imaginations. In effect, we make the truth of known scripture to no effect when we say that God can only bless us if we are fully obedient to that supposed inner speaking.
We are taught opinion rather than scripture, man's doctrine rather than truth. We end up either fully bound to the law, or fully bound to our own self-works. Yet righteous is by Christ and Him alone. So to is justification. God looks not at the heart of self-works, but rather at the heart of faith.
Save through this one single act of obedience, that of believing in Jesus Christ as our sole source of righteousness, can a man stand before God without fear of rejection. When an honest man comes face to face with Almighty God, there is no proclamation of right standing through works and obedience. There is only a humble acceptance of grace and mercy. Here is the proper response of man before God:
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts," (Isaiah 6:5).
When I was lost, and completely ignorant to the grace and goodness of God through Jesus Christ our redeemer, he came to me. Now, as weak and feeble as are my best efforts, I seek to know the God that liberated me from myself. Day by day, I live in his blessings, never once being so foolish as to believe that I have merited his love.
Now understand: I strive to be submission to God's will. I seek always to follow his directions and instructions. But before I count myself right because of obedience to the inner voice, I look at the known truths of scripture. When I do this, I see that I am never in God's favor due to my own right ways of living and doing. Indeed, but for the sacrifice of Jesus, I am cursed as is any sinner.
Those who think they earn God's grace are self-deceived, or perhaps deliberately wicked. The bible says that none are good save God. Who can count themselves in the center of God's will while thinking they got there themselves? Such viewpoints lead into three sins: that of pride, frustration, or self-deception.
There are works, and there are right ways that a Christian should live. There is an ongoing moving toward full sanctification. There are rules of harvest, sometimes bearing out in this life, and sometimes bearing out in the next life. There are bible truths that work, for the most part, even for unbelievers. Yet good works, right living, obedience to the inner voice, and a goal of holiness are but the expected behaviors of a servant. Before boasting of obedience, one must stop and honestly examine the points of disobedience that ever remain in their life.
As for me, I stand with Paul when he writes: "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain," (Gal. 2:21).