Why Should Counselees Obey?
In our interest to guard the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, we can easily forget that obedience to God is an act of faith (Hebrews 11). On the flip side, disobedience flows from the lack of faith, also known as unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).
What is quite shocking, however, is that God rewards those acts of faith. Read this promise of Jesus as if it is your first time: If we practice our righteous acts in secret, such as giving, praying, and fasting, “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 6, and 18).
The Rewards of (Faith-Fueled) Obedience
What are the rewards God promises? Does He guarantee earthly prosperity, as many TV preachers claim? Let’s look at a few Scriptures and find out.
A Greater Experience of the Trinity’s Love and Presence
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21, 23)Clearly, our Lord expects Spirit-indwelt Christians loved by God to encounter His presence and love more intimately as they strive to love and obey Him with all their hearts. Click To Tweet
Jesus teaches us in these two verses that obedience flows from love for Him. However, He goes deeper. He promises to those who love and obey Him that He will “love” them and “manifest” Himself to them. Even further, they will experience His Father’s love and the Father’s and the Son’s presence. At first glance, the language of this passage sounds contrary to “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Also, according to verses like 1 Corinthians 3:16, isn’t God the Holy Spirit already present in us? If we interpret Scripture with Scripture, however, we see that John 14 refers to a more robust experience of God’s love and presence. The apostle Paul tells the church in Ephesus that he prays for God to cause them to know the love of God in all its dimensions so that Christ would “dwell in your hearts” and they may be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). Clearly, our Lord expects Spirit-indwelt Christians loved by God to encounter His presence and love more intimately as they strive to love and obey Him with all their hearts.
Jesus promised such experiences as we obey Him. Is such a reward based on our merits? No! This is a grace-based motivation to stir us up to further obedience. God empowers the love and obedience, then He rewards it with more grace! What a Savior!
This is good news because Jesus’ love and presence fuels our Christian life. We experience abounding joy in His presence, which gives us power and strength (Psalm 16:11; Nehemiah 8:10; Isaiah 41:10). Christ’s love compels us to sacrificially love Him and His people (2 Corinthians 5:13-15). God’s presence brings peaceful tranquility to our souls (Philippians 4:7, 9). Our hope increases when the Spirit pours His love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
Do you lack joy, power, peace, and love in your Christian life? Obey Jesus and experience His and the Father’s love and presence!
Progress in Sanctification
The apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 6-8 that God’s grace is not only necessary for justification, but sanctification also. One example of this is the principle found in Romans 6:16, 19, and 21-22. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on verse 19. Pay careful attention to the structure:
“Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.”
In sum, practicing sin leads to further sinning and its end, death (vv. 16, 21). Practicing righteousness leads to further righteousness, or its fruit, “sanctification and its end, eternal life” (v. 22).
What a glorious, hopeful, and transforming reality! You can flee enslaving sinful patterns of thought and behavior because of what you already are in Christ, dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). As wonderful as this news is, however, it gets even better. You can believe and cling to God’s promise that you will personally experience greater freedom as you die to sin and live to righteousness in your practice!
A Sufficient Motivation for Piety
Pastor John Piper in his book and teachings on Future Grace did the body of Christ a favor by pointing out the plethora of Scriptures giving us promises for obedience.1To access Piper’s teaching on future grace, you can read his book Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God. These teachings are also available in lecture form: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/future-grace-part-1 https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/future-grace-part-2 https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/future-grace-q-and-a Finally, to see how future grace works practically, see Piper’s “APTAT” method: https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/practical-steps-to-walk-by-faith The same God who gives us grace to obey His commands also promises future grace in response to that obedience! I will close with three benefits of using these promises in counseling.
First, these promises provide a stirring incentive to obedience. If our counselees are like us, they may struggle with dullness of heart towards the Lord and His Word. This often leads to sluggishness to obey biblical commands. The promise of reward will strengthen them in such a spiritual condition.God is exalted as the Promise-Keeper. The lesson we learn in these truths and examples is that God rewards faith. Click To Tweet
Second, acting on these promises keeps our counselees humble. Nothing drives a man to dependence on God more than knowing He is the rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Finally, God is exalted as the Promise-Keeper. The lesson we learn in these truths and examples is that God rewards faith. He delights to bless those who take Him at His word and act on it. When our counselees see this in reality, not just in the pages of Scripture, the Triune God is worshipped and glorified. Shouldn’t this be the goal of our counseling?