Does Obedience Keep You Close to God?
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
How many times have you heard that your obedience is the determining factor keeping you close to God? For me, in my 37 years, a lot. It’s as if what Jesus did at the Cross was not enough, and that I gotta do “my part.”
“God helps those who help themselves!” has been belted out toward me over this subject, but those six words are not in the Bible. Those six words are actually the opposite of the gospel message. The reality is, God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves.
James, who shared a mother with Jesus, quotes Old Testament Scripture to a group of people who absolutely refused to believe this truth:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (See James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34)
Who was James directing this verse at? The unbelieving twelve tribes of Israel (see James 1:1). The Hebrew people who believed their amazing Law-obeying would keep them close to God. James knew those days were over because Jesus Christ had came and went. The brother he grew up with–but didn’t believe in until after the Cross (see John 7:5)–replaced the notion of “I will do everything God commands!” 613 commands to be exact, not just 10, as we like to cherry-pick today (See Deuteronomy 4:2, 6:25, Hebrews 8:13). Jesus’ half-brother understood that the New Covenant was here to stay and the obedience of faith was all that mattered (see Romans 1:5, 16:26, Galatians 5:6).
Yet, 2,000 years later we like to bark, “Be obedient to God’s Word!” at sheep-like faces who just want some respite from life’s difficulties. Don’t get me wrong, proper outward living is good. But for Christians, we have become obedient from the heart which has infused proper inward living. Good-looking outward living is sinful when it comes from an unbeliever. Poor-looking outward living when coming from a believer is fake.
We are naturally obedient. Sinning is not a part of who we are. Sinning, for a Christian, is the same as a dog meowing or a cat barking. Could you train them to do such a weird thing? Yeah. But such will never alter their identity. Same with us Christians and sinning. It’s always awkward–always. Even if we go a lifetime in denial. Our lives aren’t that long anyway, so don’t believe the lie that you enjoy sinning. You don’t. You are exactly like Jesus on the inside (see 1 John 4:17).
It is a natural thing to live out the Spirit of Christ within us (see Galatians 5:22,23, John 15:5). We don’t need to be yelled at, but instead, taught who we have become by our one-time faith in Jesus. Whoever we think we are, that’s how we will live. Teach a Christian the truth about their obedient heart and watch how much they begin to actually obey God’s Spirit within them. Or, teach a Christian the demonic lie of “You are a sinner!” and watch the trail of fire behind them as they peel-out like the Delorean from Back to the Future, sinning as fast as they can.
Paul tells the Romans about this supernatural epiphany in regard to their authentic identification:
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17,18)
Do you see that we are obedient from the heart? That means it’s a normal thing to obey Christ within. And do you see we’ve not only been set free from sin, but even more, we’ve become slaves to righteousness? That means we are locked inside of a cell of holiness, never to escape–ever! We are slaves to right-standing with our Creator!
How is this possible?…Because we’ve been supernaturally reborn as children of God. Our spiritual genetic makeup has been replaced with Christ’s own perfection. This happened from the instant we believed we were forgiven by the Son of God (see John 1:12, 3:7, Colossians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:17,21). Friend, you might not have felt anything when this event occurred. However, we are not saved by feelings but by faith. Even better, just so you don’t think you need to have a huge “amount” of faith–like the people up on stage keep shouting at you–Jesus becomes your faith after salvation (see Hebrews 12:2). So you can go ahead and rest. Be yourself, and relax (see Hebrews 4:11).
Unfortunately, those who find their identity in their behavior–individuals who struggle with an addiction to legalanity and might not know it–religious obedience for closeness to God is paramount for them. Why? Because they believe their devout actions, habits, and attitudes are on a much grander scale than the “lay Christian.” The good news, for them and everyone else, is they are way off base.
The Type A personality, like myself, can easily latch on to this miserable lifestyle. Repenting until our repenter falls off can become an obsession. What does that even mean? Exactly. We don’t even know how to repent, but we’ll say we do. Overlooking sins, belittling others, and incorrectly justifying sins, all because we want to be sure we stay close to God by way of our “turning” from sins. It’s a joke. Satan inflames our sin-consciousness. Grace douses it. How? By convicting us of our righteousness and not of our sin. Only unbelievers are convicted of their sin. Only unbelievers are of this world, we are not (see John 16:8, 17:16).
My own former addiction to legalism tilted my mind toward the direction of suicide quite often. Sifting through the sins of others in order to compare mine to theirs (we won’t say but we think) haunted me. “If God helps those who help themselves then I’m gonna help myself more than you! I’M BETTER THAN YOU! I’M CLOSER TO GOD!”
Our self-righteous self-talk soon forgets about Jesus, therefore causing our thought life to fall into the disgusting gutter of religiosity. Unbeknownst to us, of course. The enemy covertly places obedience-filters over our spiritual eyes as we try and try and try and try to be good, to stay close to God. He and his demons will say things like:
“You better read your Bible!”
“You better not look at that porn!”
“You better not let them see you’re in pain!”
“You better do mission trips!”
“You better not skip church!”
“You better not drink!”
“You better not act like you have a problem with alcohol!”
“You better _____________ (fill in the blank for yourself)!
You better, you better, you better–or else you’re not close to God. We’ve swapped the Law of Moses for hellishly influenced self-made laws. These are brand new commandments and we don’t know it. They have no value at all and only cause us to look away from the Cross therefore forgetting our one-time spiritual cleansing (see 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Just think about it. If doing religious stuff keeps a person close to God–supposed “obedience”–how do we know if we’ve done enough to be close? We don’t. The devil sure wants us to think there’s a gauge–as he first did with Adam and Eve–but that’s not the truth. There’s no blessed assurance in quasi-grace theology. We must come to the point of jumping off the cliff of Thou Shalt and diving into the ocean body of Undiluted Grace, head first, arms stretched out. Bellyflop if you have to–but jump.
Friend, do you believe your closeness with Dad is continually fluctuating? Is it one day at 70%, the next 39%? Is your union with God modified when you forget to have a devotional? When you lose your temper, forget to tithe on your birthday money, or think about having sex with a person who’s not your spouse, has that caused you to fall off to just 8%?…Or worse, 2%? And what are you going to do exactly to get your percentage back up?
Can you see how the enemy attacks our thoughts when we believe our actions and attitudes keep us close to God? Like a shark on a pork chop this mindset stands no chance. This idiot wants you to think you’re not close to God so you’ll live that way. Recognize him.
Please, listen, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus you’re as close to God as you can possibly get–this moment. You are hidden inside of Him. If the Omnipotent One has hidden your spirit in Himself–like a ring in a ring-box–who could possibly find you to remove you? Even you can’t overpower God’s ability to stash you away (see 2 Timothy 2:13). Who do you think you are? I say with all love and respect but who do you think you are that your sins are more powerful than the Cross? Get over it. God knew exactly what He was getting into with you and He still just had to create you. Why? BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU.
Just look at this; how He’s not only close to you, but you and He are one:
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
Christian, you are in God, right now, as you read this, in the spiritual realm. In Him. Paul informs the Corinthians of the same thing:
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
Do you see anything in either of these passages about Paul shouting, “Stay obedient to stay in God!” or “Continue in obedience to continue to be one with Him in spirit!”? Of course not. Because any part of our identity which is not obedient has died (see Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:3). We are now obedient from the heart! We have an obedient identity! And we’re currently seated with Christ in heaven at this exact moment! Our spirits, that is (see Ephesians 2:6).
We are always in one of two places, spiritually. In Adam, which is in sin. Or in Christ, which is in perfection. Once we are in Christ we can never go back to being in the supernatural loin of our original sinful forefather. We’ve died to sin–to Adam–then crucified with Jesus on the Cross, and then supernaturally resurrected as sinless. We are now literally in Jesus Christ (see Romans 5:12-19, 6:6-11, Ephesians 1:3). Yes, literally.
So if we are organically obedient and in no need to do anything to be close to God, what do we do when we sin? Stop it. Turn from it. Sin is not natural to you, Christian. Likewise, if we are as close to God as we can possibly be right now, why should we do any good works? Because good works is natural. Like a Labrador Retriever chasing a tennis ball, you want to do good works. Good works is organically fulfilling to you on a very deep level.
Loving others, forgiving people, doing the right things and being patient? All of this stuff doesn’t cause our closeness to God, but grows from our closeness to God. Do you see it? Believer, you are close so live out your closeness! You are a branch so let the vine live through you! (See John 15:5).
So today, my friends, know this: We don’t get closer to God by obeying commandments, a pastor, or by straining to live out seven steps from a motivational author. We get closer to God by death. Spiritual death, and spiritual resurrection. We get hidden in Him by Him afterwards–never to be found again. Not by Satan, sin, nor death. We don’t need our ears tickled through being told to do more, be more, or to do our part. Our part was to believe Jesus was obedient to the point of death on the Cross; and we did that, Christian. We are now obedient from the heart and as close to God as we can possibly get!
A prayer for you: Dad, today I’d like to give you thanks for causing me to become obedient from the heart. What an awesome concept. You’ve rigged this thing to where I can’t get away from it! By my one-time faith in Jesus, you’ve made me a slave to righteousness! How awesome! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of these dear readers just want some rest, they want the pressure to go away. They want rest from religion. They want rest from sinning. They want rest in their minds. Please remind them that Jesus IS their rest. Remind them that Jesus was the one who was truly obedient, and our faith in Him is all you require to be close to you. What a graceful gift. Teach us more, Father, about what He’s done and what you’ve done to us, through Him. In His name, amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Check out my other bestselling books here!