“What Do You Obey in Your Life?”
A sermon by Pastor Jane Jeuland
Today is Trinity Sunday when we come together with Christians around the world to celebrate one of the most fundamental beliefs in our tradition – that God is three in one. The Lord our God is one and at the same time the Lord our God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We find this theology of a triune God throughout scripture.
In creation, God the father calls all things into being through Jesus, the Son, and “a wind,” the Spirit of God, sweeps over the first waters of creation.
We find this theology of a triune God in our story of salvation.
In Ephesians we hear that God, the Father, chose us before he created the world “to be holy and blameless before him” and God the Father destined us for adoption into his heavenly realm, but it is not just God the Father who saves us. Our salvation comes to us in and through the saving work of Jesus, the Son of God. And this salvation that was given by God through Jesus is made a present reality through the Holy Spirit. God gives us salvation through Jesus and the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out.
Today on this Trinity Sunday, we find in our Gospel reading, Jesus commissioning his 11 disciples to go and make new disciples…and when he instructs his disciples on how to do this, Jesus gives them not one, not two, but yes you guessed it… three steps.
He tells them
first – go to all the nations
second – baptize people in the name of the triune God, and
third – teach believers to obey everything that I have commanded.
I think we are all quite familiar with the first two steps. None of us would be here if Jesus had not told his disciples to go make disciples in all the nations, and I do think if any one one of you needed to perform an emergency baptism you would baptize the person in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit. We know these first two steps quite well..
What we do not talk about as much is the third step that Jesus gave to his disciples. He told them to teach people to obey everything that he had commanded. The definition of obey is “to comply with the command of a person or law,” “to submit to the authority of a person or law.” We actually do this all day long. Whenever we drive, we obey the law. We stop – most of the time – at the stop sign. We obey the law because we know that if we turn left at a red light, we might get into a car accident. These laws are good, they protect us, and so we all follow and obey them.
However, in our modern American culture, I think the word “obey” and in particular the idea of obeying God can make many people uncomfortable. Some may be uneasy about the concept of obedience to God because submitting our lives to God and obeying everything that Jesus commanded feels too restrictive. We want our independence. We want to be free to do whatever we want. As Frank Sinatra sang, we want to “do it my way.” We don’t want someone or something else to tell us how to live our lives, we don’t want to obey anything else or be tied down, we want to do whatever we want however we want whenever we want. But here is the paradox… even if we do not submit to God, we still.. often times unknowingly.. submit to something.
Surely God made us to have free will. We are not God’s puppets and in our salvation we are set free. One of my favorite passages in scripture is Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.” God made us to be free, God set us free, but today Jesus reminds us that God also made us to obey.
So even if we do not believe in and obey God, we will believe in and obey something else. – that is how we were made. So whether we realize it or not we will have a tendency to submit ourselves to something… if it is not God perhaps we submit ourselves to the whims of the news, politics or social media, the constantly changing beauty and fashion industry, the stock market, materialism, science, medicine, sports, academia, the self-help and wellness industry, and at worst we submit ourselves to drugs or alcohol. And when we submit ourselves to these things, we follow all of its rules: buy this not that, trade this, not that, wear this not that. And when we submit our lives to these things, the arbitrary rules and norms that come with them can dictate and determine a lot of our lives. The irony here is that belief in many of these things most often reduces our freedom. We think we are free by not obeying God, but in fact when we find ourselves obeying any of these things, we become less free, more restricted in life. Most of the things we find ourselves obeying end up taking our money, stealing our time, and taking over our thought life. These things diminish our lives rather than lift them up. These things restrict rather than free us.
As our country moves more and more away from religion and belief in God, it will move more and more toward obedience to these things that can reduce quality of life and even at times destroy life all together.
So what does obedience to God look like… because if we are being honest even when we come to church every Sunday, we sometimes forget what it means to obey “everything that Jesus commanded.”
One of the first steps in obeying God is to look at what Jesus commanded us to do. Jesus asked us to do many things, so I’m going to list just a few things he told us to do during his short ministry on earth:
He warned us against false prophets and told us to guard what is sacred. He told us not to judge others, not to oppose or judge other Christian groups. He told us not to worry about tomorrow or about our needs. He said that we should not store up treasurers on earth, and we should not fast or give in order to be seen and acknowledged by others.
He also told us to have complete faith in God, to have childlike faith, to be born again of the spirit, and to celebrate the Lord’s supper so that we may remember what Jesus did for us. He told us to ask, seek and knock, to forgive and be merciful, to care for those in distress, to love our enemies, to give more than is asked of us, and he told us to let our light shine before all people.
Notice that none of the things Jesus told us to do are prescriptive. Jesus does not tell us wash our hands five times before opening our front door. Jesus’ commands are not prescriptive rules on how we should do life. No… instead all of Jesus’ commands are relational. All of Jesus commands encourage us to draw nearer to God and to one another.
Earlier in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus was asked:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,”
All of Jesus’ commands boil down to these two things… love God and love one another.
So obeying everything Jesus commanded, obeying and submitting our lives to God is quite open, quite free, and profoundly simple – love God and love one another. Obeying the volatile rules of day trading or the latest fashion trends is far more restrictive on our lives than obeying everything that Jesus commanded.
To obey everything that Jesus commanded is to love.
And isn’t this what the triune God represents to us mere humans… God is so full of love that we cannot begin to understand how God is both one and three at the same time. Our triune God, three in one, is relational at the core, loving at the core.
This is what is means to obey everything that Jesus commanded… it means that we submit our lives, we hand over our lives to our triune God who loves without condition, who loves entirely, fully, and completely. When we submit our lives to this beautiful, undulating triune God, we allow ourselves to get swept up into the mystery, the movement, the wind, the pure love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and in turn our lives are free, open and tinged with this vast, enduring love.
So friends today, this week, notice what you obey in your life.. Is what you obey protecting you, loving you, does it give you freedom or does it diminish and undermine your life? Let go of the things that are bringing you down and get caught up in the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Submit yourself and your lives to God. Obey our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.