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I am a procrastinator. I've always put off — a least for a little while — what I know I need to be doing. I even learned how to procrastinate when I’m in the middle of procrastinating.
I get my stuff done eventually, and I don’t dilly-dally out of spite. I've simply never felt the drive to discipline myself into starting anything early.
Then I put my trust in Jesus. Jesus is a major roadblock to a dilly-dallier. Because what accompanies following Jesus is a thing called obedience – and not a when-I-want-to obedience, but an immediate one.
Our obedience to God is not optional. As our recognition of God’s greatness increases, our response to His commands becomes more immediate. Over time, obedience becomes an involuntary reflex. Obedience becomes who we are, not what we do.
If obedience is something we have to continuously stay on top of, it becomes a burden. But obeying Jesus isn’t about making sure we do one thing and don’t do another. Jesus tells us obedience is the result of time spent with Him and flows naturally from our love for Him: “If you love Me, you will obey Me” (John 14:15).
3 Stages of Obedience
1. Submitting your life to Jesus
This is the start of our relationship with Jesus. Submission is always voluntary. Jesus will not force us to follow Him, but He will never stop inviting us. Submitting your life to Jesus is simply saying, “Jesus, I need you in my life. I believe you died for me and rose from the grave. I promise to follow your authority and direction the best I can from this day forward. Not my will, but yours be done.”
2. Getting to know Jesus
A strong relationship isn’t built overnight. It is, by nature, ongoing and growing. We get to know Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer and in reading the Bible. When times are tough and uncertain, Jesus has given us a helper in the Holy Spirit who reminds us how Jesus dealt with life’s struggles and decisions. The more we get to know Jesus, the clearer we can hear and understand His desires for us.
3. Obeying Jesus
As much as we try to be consistent, we will find it impossible to obey in our own strength. Jesus does this for us. Our life of faith and obedience is the result of the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Know that the fruit you bear is Him, not you. This fruit shows everyone around you that you belong to Jesus.
As long as the branch remains on the grapevine it receives the nourishment to produce fruit. Obedience is supernatural evidence of abiding in Jesus. All of our good deeds and true successes come from His nourishment, not our own natural abilities, good sense or cleverness.
God helps us abide in Him by showing us His love through discipline. In John 15:1, Jesus calls His Father the gardener. A good gardener reaps a good harvest only after much work. Rocks need to be removed, weeds pulled, and plants watered. But there’s also pruning. Jesus goes on to say in John 15:2, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
When I was a young teen, I saw my grandmother “destroying” her rose bushes (or so I thought).
“Nana,” I said, “You’re killing your roses! You've cut off too much!”
“Oh, honey,” she said, “I’m not killing them; I’m pruning them. You know I always have beautiful roses! Come spring, you’ll see why I’m doing this.”
She was right. Her wise, pruning hand knew exactly which parts of the branches to lop off so those bushes could be even more fruitful.
We are like talking, feeling, emotional rose bushes that yell out when God wants to get rid of something we hold dear. But pruning is one role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. Remember: God’s ultimate goal is for us to be even more fruitful.
Obedience is a tough lesson for us to learn; and immediate obedience even more difficult. We all have our moments and seasons of rebellion. When this happens, remember: submit, listen, obey.
God is abundantly gracious. He is love and forgiveness. Through His grace, we experience the fruit of immediate obedience.