Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | May 30, 2010

The Grace of Obedience

“Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? (Galatians 3:2-3, The Message)

When I was first introduced to Jesus Christ in July of 1991, I had no doubt in my heart that I could not save myself. I was a sinner in deperate need of God’s grace, so on that particular day, I responded to God’s message to me, receiving Christ by grace through faith. Many Christians have a similar testimony in regards to when they first came to faith in Christ.

But after this initial experience, the path that many of us go down is very similar to the path that the Galatians began to go down almost 2000 years ago. After receiving Christ by grace through faith, we then try to please God through our own pre-determined self effort to obey him. We promise to obey His statutes. We try real hard. We embrace what we hear coming from the pulpit about the need for deeper commitment. This path leads to many a burned out and disillusioned Christian. The reason? Having begun our walk by grace through faith, we try to finish it through our own self effort.

My friends, we are all called to obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but our perspective on how this is accomplished can spell the difference between whether we are living in the exhausting reality of performance based self effort, or whether we are living in the grace of God through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

According to the scripture, obedience is accomplished by the grace of God:

“For the grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly and godly in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, purifying for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2: 11-14) We see through these scriptures that it is the grace of God that teaches us to repent, and that it is the Lord Himself who is purifying His own. And Paul, when addressing the church in Rome, proclaims; “Through Him (Jesus) we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1: 5-6). Called to what? Called to obedience to the faith….by grace. Just like Paul.

Grace that forgives. Grace that heals. Grace that brings eternal life. Grace that bring’s obedience? Yes! This is also the good news of the gospel.

Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s grace is effectively at work within us to transform us. “For it is God at work in you, to will and to work according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).

Obedience is not initiated by us; it is initiated by God. It is not our gift to God, but His gift to us. As with salvation, when we heard from God and simply responded in faith, likewise throughout our entire Christian life, we are to walk in communion with Him, hearing from Him and doing what He says in faith.

God is not looking for “duty obedience.” He is looking for “faith obedience”…the type of obedience that is birthed in Him through relationship, rather than his children merely busying themselves with doing good things just for the sake of doing good things. That which is birthed in the Holy Spirit will result in effective ministry and will have lasting, eternal impact.

I’m reminded on the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was busying herself with many things in trying to serve Jesus. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to what He was saying. Was Martha commended? No; rather, it was Mary who was commended. Why? Because it is only through communion and relationship that one can even begin to hear God’s voice and respond to Him in faith. Martha was all into “duty obedience.” Mary was positioning herself for “faith obedience” which is exactly what Jesus was after.

As salvation is accomplished by grace, through faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit, likewise obedience is to be accomplished by grace, through faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Within Christian circles we hear much about how Jesus died a substitute death for us, receiving the punishment that we deserved for our sins, and rightly we should. But just as significant is the fact that as Jesus offers a substitute death for us, He also offers us a substitute life…….

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God….” (Colossians 3:3)

The very life of God indwells His people. This is the life that we are to yield to. It’s not about us; it’s all about Him and His grace…..from beginning to end!

So in our walk with God, lets remember to depend on Him, allowing Him to work in us and through us for His glory. For if we are led by the Spirit, we will find that regardless of what God may be calling us to do, He will be the one providing the empowerment necessary to complete the work. Instead of wearing ourselves out in our own self effort to obey Him, we will discover that indeed His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, as we walk by the Spirit.


  1. Once again Harry. Excellent incite and comments. Thanks for writing and encouraging other to find, not only salvation in Jesus, but life indeed. When we lose our identity to pick up His and have him be revealed in fullness through us, we are plugging into the eternal purposes of God the Father. The outworking of receiving His word is faith, the outworking of faith is obedience, the outworking of obedience is seeing the fulfillment of God’s plans and purposes.


  2. I agree, excellent insight. At the onset of my walk with our Lord I struggled with a belief I was taught by the religious. They taught that grace gives us the power to obey God. The trouble with this teaching (or perhaps how I interpreted it) was that I was given the mindset that it was now up to me to change me. It was a ride on a nightmare-ish spiritual roller-coaster! The Holy Spirit has since illuminated the truth that as one fixes their focus on the love of God as demonstrated in the redeeming sacrifice of His only Son obedience, spiritual growth, emerge as fruit emerges from the branches connection to the vine. Thanks again for your insight.


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