This is an excerpt from my book Joy of Prayer.
I don’t think obedience is as simple as just doing what God says, because sometimes we don’t hear Him say anything to us; and sometimes what He says is not all that clear. God does have definite commands for us to obey, but beyond those commands we must try to figure out what pleases Him, what His will is, and how to be in a love relationship with Him—because when we love Him we will obey Him.
Obedience is doing what God commands. In 1 John 3:22 it says, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commands…” The word “keep” in this verse means to fulfill or to obey. In the NIV it says, “…because we obey his commands.”
His commands are all those things that He has commanded us in His Word. They are all His words to us, all His instructions or teachings to us (Jn. 14:23). And the most important commandment to us is to believe in Him and to love one another. This is the heart of obedience, and it is the commandment that He was talking about in 1 John 3. Hence, all His commands can be summed up in one word—love. In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Therefore, obedience is to fulfill or to do all that He has told us to do in His Word, especially to believe in Him, to love Him, and to love others.
Obedience is doing what pleases Him and what His will is. This is the second part of 1 John 3:22, “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we … do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”
Here then are two things that we must consider in our obedience. The first was that we must “keep His commandments;” that is, we must be obedient to the commands He gives us by way of scripture He puts on our mind. But secondly, we must be obedient in doing all the things that we think will please Him. These are the things that we may not have a scripture verse for; however, they are things that follow Biblical principles and will help us to be better Christians—things that we just know in our heart will please Him.
R.A. Torry comments:
A true child is not content with merely doing those things which his father specifically commands him to do. He studies to know his father’s will, and if he thinks that there is anything that he can do that would please his father, he does it gladly, though his father has never given him any specific order to do it. So it is with the true child of God. He does not ask merely whether certain things are commanded or certain things are forbidden. He studies to know his Father’s will in all things.
Obedience is doing what comes naturally when we are in a love relationship with Him. The most natural thing for a believer to do who is growing in his love relationship with God is to obey Him. E. M. Bounds has said, “Obedience…is the outflow as it is the very test of love…obedience is the conserver and the life of love…obedience is love, fulfilling every command, love expressing itself.”
Hence, our love to God and His love to us is the reason why we obey Him. But His love to us should not be the motive for our obedience; that is, we should not obey Him so that He will bless us with His love. We should obey Him because we love Him and so that He will be blessed and pleased in us.
Here is a test of the motive of your obedience: if God does not bless you and you get angry and sin, this shows that your obedience is with wrong motives. It is conditional. Hence, we ought to obey just because we love Him. And if we are not blessed we ought to continue obeying Him anyway. The answer then is to grow in your love for God. Learn to love Him regardless of what happens. Then you will find yourself obeying Him. This is unconditional love. It is the kind of love we have learned from God and from His Son. For He gave His love for us while we were His enemies (Rom. 8:8-10).