Before we can answer this question, we must first define obedience. Obedient to what, exactly? God’s laws? God’s personal instructions to us? The sayings of Jesus? It seems to me that folks living in Old Testament times had an easier time figuring this part out. At least they knew exactly what it was they were supposed to be obedient to: the Law of Moses. Indeed, scriptures such as 1 Samuel 15:22 and Psalm 40:7-9 make it perfectly clear that God appreciates obedience more than sacrifice. Problem was, of course, that nobody succeeded. The Bible tells us we are sinful by nature and are incapable of keeping the law. Old Testament saints were instructed to do their best and then bring sacrifices to the temple as an offering to cover their failure.
Jesus then came and was sacrificed once and for all as the final sin offering. Romans 8:1 proclaims the joyous news that Christians are no longer condemned for their sin, and Romans 6:14 assures us that we are no longer under the law which we are incapable of keeping anyway. Before we run out on a drunken Christian crime spree, however, we should stop to consider the fact that the law is still there for us to read. We have God’s recorded laws, so we can understand His heart and see how it is He would have His people to live. So, put down that bacon-wrapped shrimp. Just kidding. Maybe.
If we are no longer under the law, but under grace, how should we then live? The answers can always be found in the words of Jesus, our Lord. John 14:15 flat-out tells us that Jesus expects obedience from his followers. Luke 6:46 drives this point home even further. All right, then, what did Jesus tell us to do? What are his commandments? Where is that list?
I have answered this question many times before by pointing people to Matthew 22:36-40. In this passage, Jesus spells out the behavior of an obedient person. Notice how love is required. Such great love, in fact, it is doubtful any of us are capable of mustering it. Not on our own, anyway. We need to constantly seek the Lord and ask for Him to put that kind of love in our heart, to help us.
I think we have finally stumbled upon the key to obedience. It’s a matter of having our heart right with God and honestly seeking His guidance. This doesn’t mean we Christians can now simply trust our instincts, either, unfortunately. We are still sinful by nature. We need the guidance of God’s Word. Without it, we stumble much more often and much farther. We need to stay in fellowship through prayer. Without it, our lifeline to God’s will is cut. Seeking the Lord through daily prayer and Bible reading is how we stay spiritually tuned in to God. We must approach it with humility, and with an attitude of wanting to obey. Do these two things and you will become an obedient servant, one loved and rewarded by the master. Jesus, ever our flawless example, prayed often and could quote scripture seamlessly for any situation. If Jesus himself prayed and studied the scriptures, that should speak volumes to us.
Here are some Bible verses about seeking the Lord that help answer our original question. God does reward obedience, but in the age of grace it is more accurate to say that God rewards faith.
1 Chronicles 28:9