THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE (LESSON 2)
Have you ever had instructions to follow? Maybe they were instructions on a bottle of medicine, or instructions that your doctor gave you to help you recover, or maybe instructions for some do-it-yourself project that you were working on. Whatever the instructions, if you are like most people, you probably only "kind of" followed the instructions. You used the instructions as a starting point and then just figured out your own way of doing things. Well, there are times where if you don't follow the instructions 100%, it can mean you will have a high price to pay later. As a matter of fact, if you don't follow, for example, your doctor's instructions, it may even mean the difference between life and death.
Did you know that being obedient to God's directions and instructions will also mean the difference between life and death? We all have something inside of us that is worse than cancer, is worse than AIDS, is worse than a brain tumor or anything else that we need a doctor's care for. I'm talking about sin. And we need to be "healed" from our sinful condition. Whether or not you decide to obey God will mean the difference between being "born again" and having eternal life in heaven, or dying once here on earth and then suffering and dying eternally in hell. We might be able to get away with not being obedient to some instructions, but you will miss out on more than you know if you do not obey what God's Word tells you about living and salvation.
But oftentimes instead of being smart and going to the one who can heal us, God, and listening to His instructions and obeying them, we will hide from God, run from God, or even try to tell God (by our actions) what we think is best for us. And why do we do it? Because we don't want to have to change our routine or the way we are living. We want to be in control. We think we have all the time in the world. But the simple truth is if you are stubborn and choose to do things your way over God's way, you are going to end up wasting a lot of valuable time, you will end up doing things that you will later regret, and you will possibly miss out on God's gift of salvation. You will miss out on a better life that you could have had if only you had been obedient to God.
Let's read a Bible account of a man who had trouble being obedient, and let's see how he almost missed out on something God had in store for him. All of us can learn about the importance of obedience from what the Bible has to say about this fellow. This man's name was Naaman. We are going to be in 2 Kings 5:1. "Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper."
* This man Naaman was a lot of things. He was a commander of the army, an honorable man, and he was a man who the Lord was leading to victory. Naaman had a lot going for himself. But Naaman was also a leper. Naaman's skin was covered with an awful disease called leprosy. This disease could eventually spread all over your body. A leper would have these stinky open sores that later could become dark and hard, or they could have lesions with thick skin like an elephant. If you had leprosy, you might even be considered unclean and have to be segregated from the rest of the population. And if you came to town, you would have to yell "unclean, unclean" so that people would stay away from you.
Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with you. Well, the leprosy that Naaman was covered with is similar to the sin that you and I are covered with. And our sin can and will separate us from God just like Naaman's disease would eventually separate him from the rest of the people in town. And no matter how great you are right now or how much you think you have going for you -- respect, wealth, admiration, youth -- none of those things will cleanse you from your sin just like none of those things could spare Naaman from his leprosy.
Now, back to the story. 2 Kings 5:2-4, "And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel."
* So here we have this young girl who works in Naaman's house. She spreads the word about this man of God named Elisha who, through God, could cure the disease that Naaman has. She knew of the solution to Naaman's problem, and hoped that Naaman would go and be healed. Needless to say, I'm sure Naaman got excited when he heard this promising news. He wanted to meet this man of God that could make him well, and he immediately set off to go find Elisha. And like Naaman, many of us at some point heard of Jesus and how He could save us from the weight of our sins, and we wanted to personally get to know Jesus. (Side note: Can you remember who first shared the good news of Christ to you? And have you done like this young lady in the Bible and told others about the One who could save, namely Jesus Christ?)
Well, now we are going to come to the part in the Bible where there were some instructions for Naaman to follow. Let's see if Naaman is obedient.
Skip down to 2 Kings 5:9-10. "So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean."
* All Naaman had to do to be cured of his leprosy was to wash himself in the Jordan river seven times. That sounds easy enough; right? And, similarly, God has given us a simple way to be saved of our sin. Does anyone know how the Bible says we can be saved? The Bible says that if we confess our sins and turn from our sins (repent) and sincerely ask Christ into our heart as our Lord and Savior, that we will be forgiven, cleansed of our sins, and covered with Christ's righteousness (1 John 1:9; Matthew 3:2; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Romans 10: 9-10; Proverbs 28:13; Acts 3:19). But for some reason, we make God's instructions to us into something complicated. We want to add to the salvation found in Christ, ignore it altogether, or make up our own version of it. Some people even maybe get mad because they feel that God wants them to do something that is different than what they had in mind.
Well, let's see how after Naaman heard the simple instructions, he tried to tell God what to do. 2 Kings 5:11-12, "But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage."
* Did you catch that? First Naaman was mad that Elisha didn't speak to him in person, but instead sent word through a messenger. Then Naaman became indignant because Elisha's instructions were for him to go to the little Jordan river. Naaman wanted Elisha to perform some big ritual and wave his hand and call upon the name of the Lord. Naaman wanted some drama, and all God called for was simple obedience. Naaman even complained about the choice of the river. He felt that there were bigger, better rivers that he should wash in. He might have even thought, "Look at these sores. That's not going to do it." Naaman was going to miss out on being healed by God because he couldn't follow God's simple instructions and because he wanted to tell God what to do. So Naaman left, still covered with leprosy, wasting time.
* How many of you have read about how Jesus died for your sins? You've heard that you can ask Him to save you from hell, but you have never asked Him into your heart because you were expecting some kind of big ritual? For example, many people would rather try to "earn" their salvation by doing "good deeds" or chanting some meaningless prayers over and over instead of trusting and believing that Jesus paid the price on a cross at Calvary. Don't miss out on what God is offering you just because you don't quite understand or can't comprehend His grace. Don't try to tell God how you should be saved. You don't need any special rituals. You don't need a bunch of sacraments. You don't need to stand in front of convenience stores passing out literature. You don't need some high-ranking official from some ornate church to breathe on you. You need to be obedient to God's Word, turn from your sins, and accept Christ's gift of dying on the cross for you. Even being baptized is not what saves you. Baptism is an outward showing of the change that God has done for you inside. You need to repent and stop doing things your way and do what God tells you. And if you are sincere, that change that starts in your heart will begin to impact your whole life.
And if you are one of those people who comprehends what the Bible says about salvation and you hear God's instructions but say to yourself, "I'm not ready to give my heart to Christ yet," you are also just like Naaman in that you are just wasting precious time. You are covered in sin, and time is just running out. Whether you are 18 or 80, you don't know if you will make it to next year. Stop putting it off. You don't want to die in your sinful condition. Stop wasting time and start following God's instructions today! No matter how much sin you have already piled on, Christ's blood can make you pure, but only if you are obedient to God's instructions.
Anyway, let's see what happened to Naaman next. Remember, he left mad and still covered with leprosy because he would not be obedient and do what God's prophet told him. Fortunately for him, he had some friends nearby to talk some sense to him. 2 Kings 5:13, "And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee to do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"
* These men showed Naaman the foolishness of his actions. They made him see that it should be no harder to do something simple that God commands than it would be to do some great feat. And the same is true for us. God does not tell us to give $10,000 to the church to be saved. God does not tell us to say 1 million Hail Mary's. God does not tell us to walk on fire. For many people, if God did give them an "assignment" to gain salvation, they would feel more comfortable doing that than just obeying God's words and putting their trust in Jesus Christ. But God does not want our sacrifice. He wants our obedience! And we could not earn our salvation no matter how hard we tried on our own, anyway.
Well, let's see how Naaman finally got it right. 2 Kings 5:14, "Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
* Did you read that? Once Naaman finally did what God told him to do, he was made clean, brand new! And the same is true for us when we stop running and rebelling and start obeying. We are then "born again." The Bible says that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the verse above, we read that Naaman's flesh became as that of a little child. And the Bible tells us in Matthew 18:3 that for us to be saved, we, too, have to come to Christ as little children. How are little children? They are obedient, trustworthy.
Let's see what Naaman did after he was healed. 2 Kings 5:15, "And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant."
* Naaman finally followed God's instructions and was cleansed of his leprosy. And when he obeyed what God told him to do, then he saw the power of God working a miracle in his life. And Naaman was now a different man, a man who wanted to now give back a blessing.
The same thing can happen to you. If you stop thinking you have things all figured out and instead start being obedient and listening to God, then God can make you into a brand-new person, a better person than you ever thought you could be. And you too will begin to say, "Lord, what can I do for you?"
* And as you walk with God, you will begin to see that it is not hard to be obedient. You start to realize that what God has in store for you is better than what you had planned for yourself. Yes, there will be some changes in your life, but they aren't hard to make. Do you think that when Naaman got out of that water he put those same old dirty clothes on? Of course not. I bet he gladly got rid of those leprous clothes. And I'm sure that once Naaman was cured of leprosy that he stayed as far away from lepers as he could. And I bet Naaman probably went home and burned some of the old stuff that he used to use -- things that were tainted with his old disease. And we have to do the same. If you have been born again, get rid of those people, objects, and habits that are from your old sin-covered life. When you unload the baggage from your sinful past, you truly will stop struggling with being an obedient child of God.
And, again, to those who believe that they've gone too far to be saved and changed by God, remember, God specializes in making whole again those who are covered in sin. When no one else would touch the lepers, Jesus did. In Luke 5:12-13, it reads, "And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy; who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him."
Jesus wants to touch you, too. Won't you ask him to cleanse you of your sin?