A recent cover article in Time magazine lamented the reality that several high-profile political marriages had come spectacularly crashing to earth because men had committed adultery. Presidential dreams went into the tank, wives were devastated, and children left in shock. Even on this side of Calvary, sin still exacts a horrific price.
The Christian gospel is gloriously clear about the truth that our commandment-keeping can never save us. Gal. 2:16: By observing the law no one will be justified. Eph. 2:8, 9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast!
However, Paul goes on in the very next verse (10) to tell Christians that obedience is still beneficial. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Obedience leads to healthy, balanced living. It produces lasting, abundant marriages. It creates safe neighborhood and strong families. It appeals to the watching world. It gives a ringing testimony that the message of Jesus changes lives.
So the Law continues to serve two purposes. Its lofty and exacting demands create in us a realization that we need a Savior. Gal. 3;24: The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (KJV). Secondly, it is an eternal blueprint of God’s character and his Edenic ideal for our continued happiness.
Probably the hallmark verse which encourages obedience is stated by Jesus himself in his Sermon on the Mount. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven. When we are sober, quiet, gentle, cheerful citizens – and the neighbors never have to dial 911 on our behalf – it makes the kingdom of God appear to be a potent and living reality.
Lives of excellence and obedience also earn Christians the right to witness with persuasive integrity. In 1988, a devout ballplayer named Orel Hershiser pitched with such devastating excellence that he broke Don Drysdale’s scoreless inning streak. He took his team into the playoffs and was assigned to pitch Game Seven against the New York Mets. With a 6-0 lead in the ninth inning, he delivered one final strike to end the game . . . and then quietly knelt down on the mound in prayer while SI’s cameras flashed and satellite networks got a close-up shot. For just a moment he honored God (Matt. 5:16!) and a global audience of millions made the connection: Wow, God’s people sometimes actually do okay.