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Is Your Obedience Firing On All Four Cylinders?

Why use only one cylinder?

Imagine you had a 4-cylinder car, like the VW bug I drove many years ago.

What would happen if you tried to drive with only one cylinder firing?

It would be tough.

You’d lack power.

You’d do a lot of pushing.

Four-cylinder obedience

God calls us to obey Him — to love, forgive, speak the truth, pray, be sexually pure, care for the poor, and so forth.

But He also gives us reasons — four kinds of reasons — like four powerful cylinders — to motivate our obedience.

But what I’ve found is that many Christians try to obey without using these reasons — or maybe only using one or two of them.

The result?  It’s tough.  They lack power.  They do a lot of pushing.

So — here’s the four kinds of reasons God gives us to fully empower our obedience.

First — because of all Christ has done for me in the past.

Ephesians 4:32 illustrates this kind of reason —

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

In this verse — what empowers forgiveness?  Something Christ has done for me in the past — forgiving all my sins.

How does that work?

Let’s say someone stole $10,000 from you.  That’s hard to forgive.

But think of all Christ has done in forgiving you —

  • paying for all your sins
  • giving you a new nature
  • adopting you into His family
  • giving Himself to you as all-satisfying Treasure

When you think of all you have in Christ it will be like remembering you have $10 billion in the bank.

That will so fill and satisfy you that you will be able to forgive a $10,000 loss.

And what empowered that obedience?  Remembering all that Christ has done in the past.

Second — because of all Christ has secured for me in the future.

Heb 10:34 is a powerful example —

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

Believers had been thrown in prison for their faith.

In those days prisoners would only eat if someone brought food from the outside .

But believers knew that if they brought food to those in prison, their faith would become known — and they would be arrested, or at least have their property plundered.

So — what did they do?  They took food to their fellow-believers.  And when their property was plundered — they accepted this joyfully.

Why?  Because they knew they “had a better possession and an abiding one.”

This is a different kind of reason.  It’s not what Christ has done for them in the past.

What empowered their obedience was what Christ has secured for them in the future.

Third — because of what God promises us if we obey.

Philippians 4:9 is an example of this kind of motivation —

“Practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

If Paul’s readers practice the things he’s written — the God of peace will be with them.

Of course, there is a sense in which God is always with His people.

But Paul promises that if they obey they will experience even more of God’s peace-giving presence.

What Paul wants to empower their obedience is the promise of God will do for them if they obey.

Fourth — because of what God warns could happen if we don’t obey.

You can see this in Matthew 7:15 —

“For if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus knows that sometimes sin blinds us so badly that we need to be (spiritually) whacked upside the head with a warning — so we wake up to the danger we face.

That’s what He does here.  If you don’t forgive others, you won’t be forgiven.

Not because we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others.

No.  God’s forgiveness comes only through trusting Jesus Christ.

But — if I am genuinely trusting Christ — my heart will be so humbled and filled that I will overflow in forgiveness for others.

So if I’m not forgiving — Jesus warns that we might not truly be trusting Him.  And if we persist in this unbelief — that would show we are not saved — which is why we would not be forgiven.

So this is another kind of motivation — Jesus warns us about what could happen if we don’t obey.

Firing on all four cylinders

Have you struggled with obedience?

If so — how have you motivated yourself?

Have you used any of these cylinders?  Or only one or two?

In His Word — God has given us four cylinders.

Use them.

What has motivated your obedience?

I’d love to hear your thoughts — leave a comment below.  Thanks!

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(Picture on everystockphoto by wonderlane.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience


10 Responses

  1. What wonderful reminders! Wow! I’d have to say that I would tend to use only one or two or the cylinders, not all four. I appreciate the encouragement to use every aspect that God has given us to equip ourselves with. It is so easy to either not fight as I aught, or to do a lot of self pushing that wears me out quickly and leaves me feeling defeated. To learn to fight using all four tools given us is a good reminder. Thanks for sharing and for the encouragement!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I’m with you, Breanna. In the past I would usually neglect all four — or maybe use a weak version of the first one.

      So glad you found this helpful — and I hope you are firing on all four cylinders today!

  2. Ron R. says:

    I must confess that I don’t always run on all 4 cylinders. Sometimes a don’t always think about all that Christ did for me on the cross ( including the road to the cross); Many times I do not think about what is in store for me- the rewards for being obedience; and I know that I don’t always think about the peace that he promises the moment I do obey; But the one the struck me is what could happen if I don’t obey! I don’t want to get whacked upside my head for disobedience. Help me Lord in my disobedience.

    Thanks for sharing this Steve!

  3. Ash says:

    Very practical stuff right here! I never thought of my obedience has a 4-cylinder engine. I would say that my obedience is generally motivated by the 2nd and 3rd cylinders. But how much stronger would my faith be and how much more joyful would my obedience be if bygone grace and the promise of punishment were to strike me more fully. I pray for a fresh reverence for the bygone grace of the cross, and a more heart-trembling, God-fearing belief in the punishment of disobedience.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I love how you put it, Ash– “I pray for a fresh reverence for the bygone grace of the cross, and a more heart-trembling, God-fearing belief in the punishment of disobedience.” Wow.

      I pray that for me, too. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your heart.

  4. Bill Schuler says:

    Thank you Steve for the encouragement! It must give you great pleasure to serve God through your work here in this blog. It will be awesome when we get to heaven and find out it’s eternal value!

  5. Cindy says:

    Thank you. It is a good reminder. I have thought of obedience to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and each other as a date on a meat wrapper in the refrigerator section. I can abide and trust the use by date, I can freeze the contents or open it after the date. In all cases God has provided. In all cases my obedience allows me free choice and the ‘blessing’ that comes with it. I choose to listen (mostly). The use by date does wonders when I commit to HIM!

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