God in his grace has not only given me a new motivation to obey, but a new ability to obey. That ability begins with Him giving me a new heart that is righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:23 tells me that this new nature I have is created after the likeness of God, in true righteousness and holiness. Now I no longer obey to become righteous and holy, rather my obedience is the evidence of what God has already done in me. I can stop striving to become someone and something different from who I am…as though I could do that! What if my behavior did not create holiness, but was the result of holiness?
When I become a Christian, what I am doing is trusting in the sinless life of Christ and the punishment of Christ as the basis of my relationship with God instead of my behavior, my effort, my trying harder. And then, just as I am depending on the life and death of Christ for a relationship with God, so God is depending on the life and death of Christ for a relationship with me! He sees Christ’s sinless life as mine and Christ’s punishment as mine and so is as pleased with me as He is with his son. He declares me to be righteous.
For this we are thankful…deeply thankful. We express this thanks regularly. Many would say this is why we obey…we obey because we are so thankful. Our motivation is rooted in a feeling, in an attitude.
I believe we have a more significant and reliable source of obedience…and that is a transformed heart. Romans 6:17 talks about how we are not who we used to be, slaves to sin, but now we “have become obedient from the heart.” (ESV) We have a heart that can obey and wants to obey. Obedience is no longer just rooted in a thankful attitude, but in a new heart!
The first verse I memorized once I finished The Navigators’ Topical Memory System during my sophomore year of college was Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” I don’t remember why I memorized it and I wish I never did because for the next thirty years I used that verse as a template for understanding my heart! For thirty years I distrusted my heart and would not listen to it…after all it could not be trusted. It was deceitful and misleading.
Now I know better. Jeremiah 17:9 does not describe the heart of a believer. It does not describe my heart. When I trusted Christ I was given a new and transformed heart. Romans 6:17 (ESV) describes it as a heart that can and wants to obey. Ephesians 4:23 describes my new nature as “created after the likeness of God, in true righteousness and holiness.” This is why being out from under the law and being released from the law does not result in me running wild and sinning more. I have a heart that does not want to do that…can’t imagine doing that. I do not have to be afraid of the freedom that Christ set me free for!