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Obedience - Confession & Rules ofLife

Sun, Aug 23, 2020
Duration:21 mins 53 secs
Being a Christian implies obedience to god'swill. when we fail we confess and God will forgive us. We improve buy practice so a rule of life helps us.

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Hi everyone, my name's Natalie and I'm one of the ministers at St Hils. I'm really glad to be with you this morning and I wonder if you feel, like Chris and Chloe, that there are lots of rules at the moment?

Have any of you left home without a mask, and had to pop back inside to pick it up? We have, many times!
Or maybe you've been checking out your 5km from home radius to find out how far you can go when you exercise or pick up takeaway? Yep, we've worked out that KFC is just inside our 5k radius.

Or maybe you've got to the checkout at the supermarket and had the register beep or flash red because you had too many bottles of milk or packets of pasta? Not that we're hoarding in our house of course, but we drink a lot of milk!
It does feel like there are lots of extra rules at the moment. And all those extra rules are here for a good reason – to keep people safe and to try to bring our covid numbers down. But even if we think the rules are here for a good reason, we may still find them hard to keep. We may still feel stressed or frustrated by them.

As we continue in our series on spiritual disciplines today, we're thinking about obedience in our relationship with God. And with obedience, the practices of confession and developing a rule for life.

Now some of us might feel a bit the same about obedience to God as we do about iso rules. That it's hard to obey God. And that some of his rules make us feel stressed or frustrated.

In fact, you might feel a bit like the great Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn who said:

"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun."Katharine Hepburn

So: is the Christian life of obedience really all about missing out on all the fun? Or does the Bible's picture of obedience look a bit different to this?
We'll see this morning that obedience to God isn't so much about obeying rules as about our relationship with him. And that obedience involves faith and love.

Let's explore those ideas now. There's heaps about obedience all through the Bible, but today I'm looking mainly at John's gospel and 1 John.

So firstly, obeying God is about faith and knowing God

1 John 3:23 says this –

23And this is his [God's] command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ
So our very first act of believing in Jesus – the way we come into God's family, is an act of obedience. And we remain in Christ by continuing in that same path of obedience.

Let's go back to 1 John 2:3- 4.

3We know that we have come to know him [Jesus?] if we keep his commands. 4Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar …

And John 15:9-10, 14 -

9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love….. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

We can only say we know Jesus if we keep his commands. John really emphasises that in 1 John 2:4 – if we say we know Jesus but don't do what he commands we're liars. That's pretty strong – obedience is a mark of our knowing Jesus – of our continuing relationship with him.
And John 15 spells this out even further. We remain in Jesus' love by obedience – by keeping his commands. In fact, we're his friends if we do what he commands.

So we can't know God if we don't obey him. Obedience to God is the way we trust in Jesus, know him and remain in him.

So obedience isn't about following a set of impersonal rules. Obeying God is about pursuing a relationship with Him in Christ.

Every human relationship needs work to stay alive, doesn't it? If you're married, date nights might help you keep the flame burning. With a friend you might walk together; play x-box or ‘words with friends'; you might be movie buddies or cycling buddies. With God, obeying him is a non-negotiable part of staying alive with Him.

So, firstly, obeying God is about faith and knowing God. Secondly:

Obeying God is all about love

1 John 2:5

5 But if anyone obeys his [Jesus'] word, love for God is truly made complete in them.

1 John 3:23

23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 5:2-3

2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.

John 15:12,17

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. … 17 This is my command: Love each other.

So, to summarise! We love God by obeying his word. And we obey God when we love each other. And we love each other by loving God and carrying out his commands. And God commands us to love each other.

John really does go in circles. But he's making a point. Obeying God is inextricably linked with loving God and loving his children. Jesus said it in the gospels when he was asked about the greatest commandment in the Law. Matthew 22:37-39 -

37 Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'

Chris and Chloe's song really was on point. And I loved their reflections about practical ways that they could work on loving God and loving others. We spend time with the people we love. So getting up early to spend time with God is a great way of loving God. Or carving out time in another part of the day. Maybe you used to commute to work and now you don't. Could you spend 10 minutes with God then? Spending time with God reading the Bible is also how we'll get to know his commands really well, so we can love him by obeying him each day.

And being gracious with each other seems a wonderful expression of love at the moment. How much grace do we all need? We're all a bit anxious. We've all had our routines turned upside down. Some of us have lost our jobs, are worried about finances, are concerned about our kids or other family members. How beautiful is it that loving each other is a way we obey God. So, fire up your imaginations and think of ways to love each other right now.

This week I received a delivery of a gorgeous hamper. A bottle of wine, dips, cheese, crackers, chocolate – such a treat. It was a thank you gift, and I felt so spoilt and very loved and appreciated. It was a beautiful expression of godly love and care. So send someone a care package, or a card. Pick up the phone and call, send a text, walk with someone. Jesus says to us: Love each other. It's a beautiful command.

Obeying God is about faith in Him and knowing Him. And obeying God is all about love – loving him and loving each other.

Hopefully this framework has helped us feel a bit more positive about obedience to God.

But if you're like me, the problem with obedience isn't just how you feel about the concept of obeying God. It's also that it's often hard to actually do it. I stuff up regularly – more than I'd like to admit.

So for a few minutes now we're going to focus on two practices that can help us grow in obeying God. These are the practices of confession and developing a rule for life.

Now I've really hit the jackpot with this sermon I think. Because if obedience doesn't sound super exciting, working on confession sounds even worse! Who wants to spend time introspectively remembering all the ways they've stuffed up and bringing them to God?

Brian and I love watching Gruen on TV. Maybe you've seen it too? It's a TV program focussed on advertising and hosted by the comedian Wil Anderson. One of the segments is called ‘The Pitch'. Two advertising companies are given a brief to create an ad for an ‘unsellable' product. I feel like confession seems like an unsellable product on face value. So here goes my ‘pitch' for confession.

Confession

I want to go back to 1 John 1 and 2. Starting at 1 John 1:8 –

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

2 1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Confession reminds us of the heart of the gospel. That we all sin. That Jesus is the righteous and obedient one who died to pay the price for our sin – indeed for the sins of the whole world. And that because of Jesus we are forgiven and purified from all our wrongdoing when we confess our sins to God.
Confession isn't about wallowing in our sin. Confession isn't about flogging ourselves with guilt. Confession is about coming to our faithful and just God. It's about admitting our wrong. And accepting the gift of forgiveness God offers in Christ.

If you're a parent, you may have experienced your child coming to tell you something they've messed up. A mistake or a bad choice they've made. I wonder how you react when your child apologises? I know we all want to react by saying, ‘I forgive you'. But sometimes we're angry or hurt instead and our reaction isn't so helpful.

Because Jesus gave his life for our sins, God always forgives when we come to him contritely. God isn't the angry parent we may have feared as a child. Rather, God is our forgiving and loving heavenly Father.

So how can we do confession?

First, this takes time. To confess our sins to God means having some awareness of our own behaviour. So making time for self-reflection is essential. And maybe it would help to have a set of questions that shape your self-reflection. Or a couple of verses from Scripture that you're focusing on obeying. So that you can hold yourself objectively accountable. Some people find journaling helpful with accountability – you can have your questions for yourself in your journal and answer them each week or each month. This means you have a longer term accountability structure happening.

When it comes to prayer, I'd say that confession is the most neglected type of prayer. So here are two very simple acronyms to help you to remember to include confession when you pray.

First, the teaspoon prayer: Thank you, Sorry, Please. Including space for confession in our regular prayer time helps keep God's gracious forgiveness fresh for us. And it helps us to keep working on obeying God because we have a regular time to reflect on our day or week. This is a great way to pray with kids. You can do the confession out loud with younger kids. You may want it to be a silent confession sometimes as well. We've prayed this way regularly as a family and we find it really helpful.

Another prayer acronym that includes confession is:

Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (or asking). This one's better for older kids or adults. You may want to journal prayers like this, as well as pray them out loud.

Another way of building confession into your life is to set up an accountability partner or trio. A small group of people with whom you can be completely honest, who'll remind you of God's love and forgiveness, but who also agree to keep you accountable and spur you on in obedience to God. People who will ask the hard questions you need to hear.

You might want to use prayers of confession that you find in the Prayer Book. Or perhaps a Psalm to help you come to God in confession. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 are both helpful prayers of confession.

Perhaps you might want to do something physical as a reminder of God's forgiveness. At conferences when Brian was a student, they used to write their sins on a piece of paper, write the words of 1 John 1:9 across it, and then tear it up as a sign of God's forgiveness.
So there's a few idea around confession to help us grow in obeying God.

Finally, A Rule for Life or Forming Godly habits

The idea here is really like Chloe's idea of regularly spending time with God in the morning. Building into our life habits or rhythms that will help us to grow in obeying God. To grow in godliness. Always remember of course, that this kind of change isn't something we do on our own. The Holy Spirit is at work transforming us as we continue in Christ.

So what might this look like for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself that might help you find a rhythm to grow obedience to God in your life.
What is the shape of your day or your week, and where does time with God and his people fit into it?
When and how do you routinely read the Bible and pray?

When and how do you express love for God's people?

When do you give yourself space to reflect on Scripture and how your life mirrors what you read?

Is there a particular aspect of godliness that you've committed yourself to work on? Patience for me has been a quality that I've been working on for the last year or two.

Could you set yourself goals for godly obedience at the beginning of each year? And then review at the end of the year?

I'd like to finish with a reflection on obedience from this book that I'm reading as I read through Joshua. It's reflecting on how God's people obeyed him in the fall of Jericho and other big events in the book of Joshua. But when it came to the long, hard work of fully settling the promised land, they struggled.

This is Dale Ralph Davis' comment:

‘We frequently and strangely prove faithful in the great crisis of faith …. yet lack the tenacity, the dogged endurance, the patient plodding often required in the prosaic affairs of believing life; we are often loath to be faithful in (what we regard) as little. (p116) …. No command of Yahweh is ever trivial, and, therefore, all obedience is both necessary and significant' (p120).

So let me encourage you this morning. Every little act of obeying God is a statement of trust in Christ. Every little act of obeying God grows you in knowing him. Every little act of obeying God is an act of love for God and most likely also others. These acts might seem very small. But the sum total of all these little acts makes us who we are as God's people.

Confession based around 1 John 1:8 – 2:2. This will be a brief time of confession but you can always spend more time by yourself with God later.

Friends, we've heard from 1 John this morning that:

1 John 1:8' If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.' That is our reality. But John also writes: 1 John 2:1 But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Knowing that Jesus, the perfect son, is our advocate, and that he has atoned for our sins, let's take a moment now to reflect and bring before God what we've done wrong, and what we've failed to do right.

As we've confessed to God, we remember his promise:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Merciful Lord, grant to your faithful people pardon and peace, that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

We're going to sing now, of God's Amazing Grace, and then Bella will lead us in prayer.

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