Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Faith is only real when there is obedience”. James, the brother of Jesus tells us faith without works is useless (James 2:15-17). What good is it if we see someone in need and wish them well as we walk by (James 2:15-16)? Saving the best for last, Jesus teaches us that God loves those who obey Him; those who obey Christ will live with Him forever (John 14:23).
Obedience is not optional for followers of Jesus. It is proof of our devotion to Him. Quoting James again. “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. (James 2:18).” Our faith isn’t faith at all unless we obey Christ. Obedience is not an add-on. It is the essence of what it means to follow Jesus.
This is where modern Christianity, especially in the West, has gotten it so wrong. We don’t hear a lot of sermons on obedience. This is tragic because the Bible is clear that those who know Jesus, those who Jesus knows (Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 7:22-23), will obey Him. They will take up their cross, surrender everything, and follow Him. Salvation can’t be earned, but it must be proved. Doing good things will not get you into Heaven any more than raising your hand and saying a prayer during the invitation of a church service. They both lack obedience. And they both miss the mark.
Faith demands obedience. It cannot exist without it. When we surrender our life to Jesus, we agree to walk in obedience to Him. We cannot claim Jesus as our Savior and live life as we always have. You can have Jesus, or you can have this world, but you can’t have both. Our God is jealous; He will not tolerate a split devotion (Matthew 6:24). Only He is worthy of our obedience, and when we give ourselves to other things, we declare those things to be more worthy of our focus than the all-loving, all-powerful God of the universe.
This isn’t a “works-based” theology; it is what the Word demands. We are never excused to a life of ease. Our calling is to the work God designed for us since before time began (Ephesians 2:10). He instills a specific combination of skills, talents, and passions in each of us. With these, we accomplish things in obedience to Him for His Kingdom and His glory. But He has given us the choice to decide whether that’s how we will live. He will not force obedience. We must choose it.
While the choice to obey is ours, the fact remains faith demands obedience. We can choose faith or not, but if we choose it, obedience is a must. There is no other way. Jesus did not take the easy way out in securing our salvation. We have no option to take the easy way out in following Him. We either love Him enough to obey Him, or we do not. If we reject Jesus, we can do anything we desire; but if we choose Jesus, we must obey everything He requires of us.