Living By Faith Blog


Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

How to Obey God — Self-Pushing or Spirit-Empowering?

How can I obey God?

Imagine coming upon someone who’s pushing his car along the road.

You assume he’s out of gas.

So you stop, roll down the window, and offer to drive him to the nearest gas station.

But think of how shocked you’d be if he said –

Oh, that’s OK, I don’t use gas.  I just get to where I want to go by pushing my car.


You’d think that was crazy.

Because cars are not supposed to be pushed — by us.

They are supposed to be powered — by gasoline.

But too often that’s exactly how we try to obey God.

By what power do we obey God?

Jesus doesn’t just give us commands which he wants us to push ourselves to obey.

He also gives us gasoline — reasons and promises and warnings in God’s Word – by which the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey.

When we pray over the reasons, promises, and warnings in Scripture — the Spirit changes our hearts, motivates our hearts, energizes our hearts so we want to obey God.

How do you obey God?

Most Christians know God’s commands.

But do we know the reasons, promises, and warnings accompanying those commands?

For example — we all know that Jesus commands us to love our enemies.

But do we know the reason Jesus gives for that command — the reason which He wants to motivate us — the reason by which the Spirit will empower us?

What is the reason?  “Love your enemies … and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35).

But if we haven’t known that was the reason — then that reason has not empowered our obedience, which means our obedience has probably involved more self-pushing than Spirit-empowering.

How to obey God

When Jesus gave the command to love our enemies, He did not just tell us what to do — He also told us how.

He wants us to start by considering the greatness of the reward — the joy of seeing Jesus Christ face to face — knowing Him, fellowshiping with Him, worshiping Him.

When we consider the reward of seeing Jesus — the Holy Spirit will change our hearts.

He will satisfy us with the joy of Jesus, and stir us to want more of the joy of Jesus.

The result?  The pain our enemies have inflicted will be so comforted by the joy of Jesus — and our hearts will be so filled with the joy of Jesus — that we will overflow with love to our enemies.

This is not easy

I’m not saying it’s easy to obey God.

It takes effort.

But the effort doesn’t focus on making ourselves do what we don’t want to do.

The effort focuses on trusting God’s reasons, promises, and warnings until — by the Spirit’s work — we are full of joy in Jesus and want more joy in Jesus.

When we are full of joy in Jesus and want more joy in Jesus we will obey — every time.

That’s why wherever you see a command in God’s Word — if you look closely — you will find a reason, a promise, a warning nearby.

Because that’s the gasoline the Spirit will use to empower us to obey God.

Questions?  Comments?  Feedback?

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Category: Motivation for Obedience, The Work of the Spirit


15 Responses

  1. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    A very funny example, Steve (grin, grin),

    In this case the absurdity of one’s doing would be obvious, wouldn’t it? As for my obedience, this is not so clear all the time (for me at least). You are right, when I’m full of His joy, obedience “happens” somehow automatically without me considering whether to obey/love or to struggle until I’ll be able to obey, i.e. WANT to obey due to a preceding change of my heart by His Spirit.

    Concerning the “love your enemies” issue and the Scripture you mentioned, the following deliberations crossed my mind. Out of myself I would have never wanted to love anyone who hurt me. Never! But there are too reasons that convinced me of willingly doing it.

    The first one is rather profane and doesn’t sound very pious at all: Since I was depressed by painful feelings torturing me, which arose again and again, as well as I felt pursued by perennial recurring thoughts of certain persons on my mind, I simply wanted to get rid of both thoughts and feelings in order to feel FREE.

    As soon as I felt free – thanks be to Jesus 🙂 – and able to love the men whom I unknowingly hated before (my previous gang rapers, that is), I clearly saw why I should love them. And that brings me on to my second motivation: They couldn’t help but being cruel, sadistic and nasty because they didn’t know God’s Love and Grace. For we as Christians have become partakers of His divine nature (through the indwelling Spirit), I suppose that we should be Light in the world reflecting His Love in order to draw sinners to Jesus. I don’t know whether I am right here, but at the end of the day this convinced me to love them and every other person who hurts me today as well. However, never forgetting that it’s His power to make me love my enemies, of course!

    BTW…One of those men apologized to me, and I can say that I was very glad about it. Thus I do understand why God wants us to repent; I guess HE is awfully happy about it too (way more than we could imagine).

    Many Blessings,

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I praise God for His grace in enabling you to forgive, Susanne. Thank you for sharing your story with us. May others be encouraged to love and forgive their enemies because of what God has done in your life.

  2. Breanna Alexander says:

    Mr. Fuller,
    Thank you so much for another encouraging post! I almost daily check your blog and am always challenged!

    I love your analogy of the car! It makes the point so well!

    It seems to often take such a mental effort to chose to be Spirit empowered instead of self-reliant! There again, it takes turning away from self and turning to Christ! I find that if I am not spending the time praying that I ought, I often am using a lot of self-effort instead of allowing the Spirit to empower me.

    I so appreciate how you focus so often on being satisfied in Christ! It has been so helpful to me! Just recently I found myself being satisfied in something other than Christ, and it was pulling me away from focusing on Him. It was a love song that I came across. And it’s not that I think it is wrong to listen to a love song. However, for me as an unmarried young lady, it causes a lot of struggle, especially when there is a video to go along with the music. It was like I came face to face with, I am desiring in a strong way to have my deepest love needs fulfilled and satisfied. Am I going to choose to satisfy my flesh with this song/video, or am I going to embrace Christ with all my heart and be satisfied to the core of my being in Him and His perfect love for me? By God’s grace, and the working of His Spirit, I was enabled to turn my heart back to Him and embrace satisfaction in Him as I confessed my sin and focused on who He is and what He has done for me. But I don’t think I would have been able to see it so clearly and deal with it the same way, if it hadn’t been for your almost daily encouragement through your blog. Thank you so much!

    Wishing you every blessing in Christ Jesus,
    A sister in Christ,

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Breanna,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story about the love song. It is so encouraging that you saw it as a battle for your heart, and that the Father gave you grace to set your heart back on Christ and His perfect love.

      And thank you for your encouraging words about the blog — it gives me great joy to hear that it’s helping pursue and enjoy heart-satisfaction in Christ.

      Steve Fuller

  3. Ash says:

    Hi Steve,

    You wrote this:

    He wants us to start by considering the greatness of the reward — the joy of seeing Jesus Christ face to face — knowing Him, fellowshiping with Him, worshiping Him.

    I was just wondering, do you have a scripture for this? I think this point is really good but I struggle to “consider the greatness of the reward,” especially when I sin automatically or reflexively, without thinking. I have found that sometimes there is no temptation period for me; I just respond with impatience or entertain lustful thoughts or become anxious in a second, with no time to stop & realize I am sinning or to consider the rewards of future grace. Does anyone else know what I am talking about? I was wondering if maybe anyone had some scripture that they used (by meditating on it & reciting it to themselves and trusting it throughout the day) to consider the greatness of His rewards, & thus, find empowerment by the Spirit to destroy sin. Anyone have any thoughts about this?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great question, Ash.

      Here’s some of the Scriptures I use —

      Psa 16:11 — in Your presence is fulness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forever.
      Isa 55:2 — why do you spend your money for what is not bread, and your labor for what does not satisfy?
      Jer 2:12-13 — my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
      Mat 5:8 — blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
      Mat 13:44 — the man who discovers the treasure in the field, and sells everything so he can buy the field.
      Phil 3:8a — I count everything to be loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
      Phil 3:8b — I count everything to be rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
      Heb 11:6 — God rewards those who seek him
      Heb 11:26 — Moses suffered in Egypt for he was looking to the reward
      Heb 12:14 — pursue the holiness without which no one will see the Lord

      Do these resonate with you?

      And thanks for your question.

  4. Ash says:

    I have been resting on Matthew 5:8 these last couple days. That verse really struck me, & I have memorized it (pretty easy for such a short verse) and I have preached it to myself often. I want to be pure in heart, I want to see God!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Sounds powerful, Ash. And tomorrow I’m posting your question with some of my thoughts in response. I’m hoping it will be helpful for many.

  5. nwokorie Chinenye Linda says:

    I want to love God,fear him and be in his presence forever.

  6. Mathew says:

    Would you agree then that all obedience to any of God’s will is by his grace? And therefore all glory from our choices to obey God belong to God? Any scriptural support for your views would be appreciated! 😀

    I ask because sometimes, I see myself obeying God, and feel confused as to who deserves the glory for my obedience. Is it God who is working in me to cause obedience, or am I the main decision maker in my obedience due to my own decision to follow him? If I am the decision maker for obedience to God, doesn’t that imply that I should receive some sort of “glory” or favor due to my choice to obey God?

    I would love to hear your thoughts and relevant scripture! thanks

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Yes. All obedience to any of God’s will is by His grace alone, purchased for you through the death of Christ. And therefore all the glory goes to God alone.

      Here are some Scriptures which teach that —

      1 Cor 15:10 — “but by the grace of God I am what I am…”
      1 Cor 4:7 — “what do you have that you did not receive?”
      Luke 18:27 — “what is impossible with people is possible with God”
      1Cor 6:10-11 — Some of you were immoral, idolaters, etc. “But you were washed, you were sanctified …”
      Rom 6:17 — “thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart.”

      I hope that helps.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  7. Santha Kumar says:

    Very good site.Thanks.

  8. LaToya says:

    Hi, Just had a quick question.. What do you mean when you say pray over the reasons, promises and warnings? Does pray over mean meditate? I struggle with obedience but I desire to obey God.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Good question. I certainly would include meditating as part of praying over the reasons, promises, and warnings.

      The reason I like to emphasize prayer as part of that, is because it is so powerful to pray God’s word.

      I hope that helps –

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

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