Obedience is Freedom
There are many paradoxes when we dive into the realm of understanding the spiritual dynamics of life. Here is another one.
The other day at the beach there were two dogs reminding me of a valuable lesson in life; obedience is freedom.
The first one was playing catch with his owner running into the cool ocean waves and retrieving his favorite ball. Highly trained, he obeyed each command his owner gave. Running, jumping, leaping, bounding, wagging his tail, and grinning ear to ear, he was having the time of his life.
The second dog was on a short leash. Pulling so there was no give, he drove forward trying to escape the bondage – if only he could run free! He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t free, so he pulled and pulled. However, unbeknown to him, he would never have what he was striving for. He wasn’t in control despite his efforts – his owner was. With his arm about to come out of the socket, the owner pulled back. The dog went one way and he another. Frustration covered the owner’s face, shaded by disappointment. He wanted to let his dog off the leash, but he couldn’t – because he wouldn’t obey his voice. So the battle warred on, the dog pulling in one direction and the owner in the other as they plowed through the sand. No one looked happy about the arrangement. The owner’s eyes revealed his thoughts – if only his dog would listen, what freedom he would have.
In our relationship with God, we can be like either of these two dogs. We have the perfect owner, who is ready to teach and train us so we can live a life of freedom and enjoyment, but we chose either to listen and follow our Lord’s voice or not listen and push forward going nowhere. The first way leads to immense freedom, joy, and living as we desire. The second leads to limitations, frustrations and never obtaining what we long for. Like the dogs, we either run toward our Lord in freedom and delight or away in bondage and frustration.
Obedience brings freedom. Because the first dog listened to his owner and the owner could trust him to listen – he had immense liberties. He could run unleashed, frolic in the ocean, and play with his ball. When the owner called, the dog listened and followed. He was granted freedom because there was a bond of trust. The owner trusted him to listen and he trusted his owner to lead. As a result of his obedience, he lived the life he wanted to and enjoyed an incredible bond with his owner along the way.
But the second dog didn’t listen and chose to go his own way; therefore he didn’t have any true freedom. He thought he was moving closer to having his freedom by all that pulling, but it was leading nowhere. There was no trust on either end. Therefore, there was no deep bond, and the owner and the dog missed out enjoying a rich life together.
The gift and secret of obedience is that it’s really about desire. When you know that God truly wants your best and happiness then you can trust Him and follow where He leads. When the first owner walked down the beach – the dog followed close behind. The dog delighted in following his master because he knew it led to what he wanted – a rich close relationship with his owner, freedom, and enjoyment of life.
In the same way, when we trust God and know He desires our best, we want to follow Him. Our obedience is our desire. From past experiences, we have learned our ways lead to bondage and His ways to freedom. In choosing His way, we experience a close bond with God, freedom and enjoyments in life. On the other hand, if we don’t know and trust Him we won’t follow Him. We will believe we know better and as a result we won’t live in the freedom we could and we won’t have the life we could – the life we truly desire. The second dog has no idea the extent of what he is missing – and it is a great deal.
God is good. He delights in giving us good things and freedoms just like the first owner, who had a huge smile as he watched his dog have the time of his life. The only way to a rich abundant life is following Him and listening to God’s voice. Obedience is freedom.
Which dog are you? Are you enjoying a strong close bond with God playing with Him in the ocean waves, or are you pulling away thinking you know better, missing on a relationship with Him and suffering for it?
Proverbs 16:20 He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.
July 27, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Obedience to the law is the highest form of Liberty
July 27, 2009 at 8:51 pm
Racing swimmers, when given the “freedom” to choose any style they wish, choose the style which allows them to swim the fastest.
Likewise, Christians (those who are truly saved by grace through faith in Christ) are given freedom to run the Christian race in a variety of “styles.” “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)
The freedom we have in Christ is freedom both from the yoke of legalistic bondage, and from the slavery of sin. (Lamentations 1:14) But the Christian race is not a short “swim-sprint,” where the swimmer throws himself wildly into the water and violently writhes and thrashes his way to the other end of the pool, flopping out of the water and lying, chest heaving, exhausted and spent for the rest of the day. No, the Christian’s race is more like a long-distance swim, sometimes experiencing pounding waves, sometimes calm sea. One day carried along easily on the current, other times battling his way upstream. At times making progress through a violent storm, at other times treading in place, trying to keep his head above the surface.
The Holy Spirit commended, but also admonished, the Galatian believers in Chap. 5, verse 7: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” If you are a Christian, you are free to swim in any style permitted by Scripture. This is the freedom granted by Christ’s shed blood on the Cross. If, when you were first saved, you made a public profession, joined a church, were Scripturally baptized – if you read your Bible, prayed regularly, told others about the Lord Jesus – then you “did” swim well. But if you have stopped swimming well, you should ask the question, “What has hindered me?” Are you sinking because you are burdened with unnecessary worldly possessions or interests that weigh you down in the water? Are you being slowed down because you haven’t spent enough time training with your Instructor or studying your “Training Manual?” Are you in danger of drowning before reaching the finish line because you lacked physical discipline and enjoyed the pleasure of a heavy meal right before jumping into the pool?
Swimmers, set free from rules which require them to swim in a certain style, use the style which allows them to swim most excellently. Christians should recognize their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to strive for excellence, not mediocrity.
July 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm
Ministry Addict – An interesting analogy – thanks for sharing. I truly appreciate you coming by and sharing your comments. But I want to share with you something that is heavy on my heart as I read your thoughts. The contrast of “yoke of legalistic bondage” and then the sentence – “If, when you were first saved, you made a public profession, joined a church, were Scripturally baptized – if you read your Bible, prayed regularly, told others about the Lord Jesus – then you “did” swim well.” I see legalistic bondage in the previous sentence.
I want to just talk about a couple of things. . . God saves us. There is nothing more that we do to be right or good in His eyes. We are complete in Him, period. Colossians 2:10.
The profession that matters is the one done in our heart and often it is when we are alone with Him. Many publically profess Him but it is a fleeting moment of emotion – a true heart commitment can happen anywhere. There are no rules to when and where or how. Requiring a public profession that somehow suggests it does something to me is legalistic – it is grace alone.
When He saves us – He baptizes us in His spirit – which is the true baptism – all else is symbolic pointing to what is happening spiritually – requiring anything more is putting power to something where it shouldn’t belong. Matthew 3:11. In Christ, we are truly free. It is all His work, not ours.
As for Church – a rule or requirement to go to a church – keeps us from discernment when it is time to leave a church or the church system (not true temple of God). I feel the end upon us. The Bible’s prophecies speak powerfully about what will become of the church system. There will be a time to get out. (https://stirringthedeep.com/2009/03/09/leaving-the-sanctuary-verses/) If we have a rule that we have to be in church, then it can override our discernment when we need to get out because the enemy is taking over the sanctuary. I personally feel that time is now, but many are deaf to the call to come out because of the hard press rule you have to go to church. Again, it is saying if we do this we are adding to what Christ has already done.
We read the Bible to cultivate intimacy with our Husband. If we are God’s, then we truly love or want to love God and I believe we will want spend time in His Word. Not to earn merit or anything else but because it is the words of our God and we want to learn and draw near. We want to walk with Him in His wisdom so that we will be closer to Him, because we love Him. And the same is true with prayer. We pray because we want to commune, draw near. We want Him in our life because we love him – not because of obligation. John 14:23. There is no legalism here – only us loving Him and Him loving us.
God is so good. He has done it all so that in Him we have our eternal rest.
July 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm
July 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm
bobbygee – thanks for sharing your articles. Very interesting . . .
July 28, 2009 at 5:20 pm
I’m always astonished with people that to proove that god exist, they argue with the bible (a book that take for basement that god exist) : more generally, to show that something is black, they take for support that this thing is black!!!!!!!
that’s why, i think that all your post that is based on logic is not logic at all.
1) “the running dog is having the time of his life”. WRONG. The owner (human) thinks that his dog is enjoying the game”.
2) “First dog had immense liberties”. WRONG. first dog had only the liberty taht his owner permit to him. Non obedience, and he’ll probably be punished. He is the toy of his owner, sort of a slave if the dog was human.
3) Same things on the contrary to the second dog.
Finally : i don’t know if obedience to a god or another makes you happy. but you can not proove it with logical arguments. If you could do so, all the planet, would believe in your God.
French man walking around. (sorry for the english)
July 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm
Paul . . . I’m so glad that you stopped by and read my blog! I truly appreciate you taking the time and sharing your thoughts. The idea of what I’m addressing that obedience is freedom in God seems to be a paradox no doubt to our self-wills who want to be in control – and see that as the ultimate freedom. But understanding spiritual concepts, first starts with wanting to seek & know God and having a spirit connected to God. I’m assuming that you don’t believe in God or a god? Without that foundation no other truth related to God makes sense. Before I truly believed in God – I never really understood this concept – it is counter to our nature to want to be in control. But as the creation and not the creator and with our extremely limited point of view and experience, we can’t make the best decisions for our lives. Only God who created us and knows all can best direct us. And if we know and trust Him, He does and the contrast from doing it our way verses His is astounding as I have experienced.
Unfortunately religions and other people can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to drawing near or even wanting to know God. If there is any desire to know God you have to set that stuff aside, and focus on seeking God. For me to start really seeking, I had to come to a point of admitting and realizing that doing things my way (and I tried many ways) or what I thought best wasn’t working.
July 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm
I appreciate your comments. My remarks were not intended to suggest that rule-keeping saves us. The Bible is clear that it does not. However, God loves excellence, not mediocrity. “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;” (Philippians 1:10)
I am sorry that, in what appear to be these last days, that people are leaving their local congregations, and no longer consider assembling together in corporate worship, in person, at a place set aside for the worship of Christ, to be a sign of excellence. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
When God saves us, we are complete in Christ, as you said. However, a brand new Christian is a long way from having been completely transformed by the renewing of his/her mind into true Christ-likeness. That’s why most of the New Testament, after Acts, is more than just a long series of tests to see if we really are in the faith. It’s also chock-full of COMMANDS that God wants us to lovingly obey with our new, regenerated hearts that are capable – in FREEDOM – of obeying.
Joining a church, reading my Bible, making a public profession of my faith, sharing the Gospel, and praying, do not cease to be good works just because we enjoy them. Good works do not save souls. But saved folks are saved UNTO good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) Doing good works is not legalism. Doing good works in order to foolishly think that I can make God my debtor is legalism.
I regret that you see legalistic bondage in the idea that some Christians run the race of the Christian life more effectively than other Christians when they obey Christ’s commands, but that is not legalistic bondage.
Thank you for letting me comment.
July 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm
Ministry addict – I really appreciate your comments. I welcome open dialogue – it is a part of growing. It comes down to the heart. One person can do certain actions out of legalism, merit or proving their worthiness, etc. The other because it is their desire out of love of God. God cares about our hearts. And I know you agree. He desires us – all of us to be surrendered to Him and He is the one to work through us. Truly an amazing God.
July 29, 2009 at 8:01 am
((Hugz))) Thank you for your beautiful words you left on my blog. I was so bogged down with the why’s I could not focus on what he really wanted to reveal to me. So in prayer I said Lord speak to my heart and if what you say brings peace to my spirit, I will know that in time, may it be while I’m on this earth, or in heaven with you ..you will reveal it all to me oneday. I did have peace and I learned to trust him with my life as I continued to do his will. I know the enemy will use fear to make us stop what God wants us to continue doing.
I know he is the great physician and he has the final say in all things concerning me. I pray his will be done in my life, that he who began a great work in me, will bring it to completion.
Thank you my sister for being such an encouragement to me, I treasure your sisterness more than you know.
Love Ya Lorie
July 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm
Lorie, I so look forward to meeting you one day – here or there ; – ) You have such a sweet spirit. Above all God desires our trust and when we do there is a peace that overrides everything and anything we might face. I’m thankful that you have that peace and the bond of trust with God that delivers such a peace- it is a great gift.
I too treasure you.
July 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm
Awesome!!!! I am a minister of nearly 30 years and also a dog owner of 3. I have had dogs all growing up. I have trained dogs for many years and have often used training as a teaching illustration. Stubborness only leads to a horses bit, while obedience brings contentment, freedom and great joy!
Your comparison of each are absolutely beautful. Obedience in Christ is the only way a believer can find true happiness and freedom. Awesome simple awesome 🙂 keep up the great lessons of life !!!
Thank you for the sweet lesson:)
Many many blessings
July 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm
Rev Deb – Thanks for your encouraging words! It is funny how I never really got this truth in my younger years – but then a carnal mind can’t grasp how freedom can come from obedience, it is only our spirits connected to Him that can truly understand such a truth – it is a tremendous spiritual blessing!
July 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm
I love analogies but they have their limitations. The one you give is a good one. The dog with all of the freedom is still obedient. You point this out, rightly. Freedom in obedience is a biblical idea (Gal. 5:13).
However your response to a previous comment where you say “I want to just talk about a couple of things. . . God saves us. There is nothing more that we do to be right or good in His eyes. We are complete in Him, period. Colossians 2:10.” indicates a departure from your main point. True enough, Jesus’ death on the cross, through it God’s saving grace, is complete only if WE choose to walk in the light. God is impartial and desires that all be saved. But all are not saved. Not because God is withholding salvation from them. But all are not saved because they have not heard the Gospel and obeyed the Gospel. God did it all at Calvary, including extending the invitation for all men to repent (Acts 20:28ff). Without repentance and obedience to the Gospel, they remain lost.
I am commenting because your comment undermines the point you rightly made from the beginning. From the owner with the freed dog, there are always gentle cues to obey. The dog is showing his obedience. Without the obedience, there would be no freedom.
July 29, 2009 at 6:01 pm
Anonymous . . . thanks so much for your feedback! I think fundamentally we may disagree about who holds the power of salvation, which many do. I believe it is God alone who saves. I don’t think man in his reasoning or will decides to save himself. It is like being born. We didn’t choose to be physically born. We don’t chose to be spiritually born. I think we respond to a work that God does in our spirit when we “accept His salvation.” As for why some and not others, I believe is at God’s discretion – not theirs. Romans 9:14-23. I think His plan is much larger than we know – like Romans 9 suggests. I think we are too quick to assume we know the whole plan that God has for mankind, when we don’t.
As for obedience – a child is a parent’s child whether they obey or not. What changes with an obedient child is the nature of his relationship with his parents, his freedoms, his quality of life, his interactions with others, his behaviors, and so on. Obedience brings a better life for the child and a closer relationship with parents. The same is true with us. To what extent we walk in Gods ways and wisdom doesn’t change the fact that we are His child. What does change is the depth of our relationship with God and the quality of our life. John 10:10 The thing of obedience is that it enables us to walk closer with God in a more intimate relationship with Him – because we are listening to His words and experiencing the life He came to give us. And I think if we are truly His child, we have a desire to draw near to Him. Galatians 4:6
But our righteousness is Christ, period. We have no goodness of our own.
July 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm
July 29, 2009 at 8:50 pm
Rachel, your analogy in this message was great. It was so simple and yet filled with truth. Jesus told us that if we love him, we will obey him and keep his commandments and he will show himself to us. The only way to keep the commandments of God is to have a relationship with Christ and have the Holy Spirit live within us. And those who do well with what God gives will then be given more. The more of our will we surrender to Christ, the more freedom we have!
You gave great responses to the comments made here. The Spirit is definitely working in you!
July 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm
Marianne – thanks so much for sharing your insightful comments ; – ) So true without His Spirit we can do nothing. John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. ” And for your encouragement – I really appreciate it!
July 30, 2009 at 6:03 pm
Wonderful post and such clarity!!! I really enjoyed this and God seems to have us in the same mind set.
Love ya Rachel
July 31, 2009 at 4:10 pm
Pat – Thanks so much – Hope you have a blessed weekend.
August 15, 2009 at 6:08 am
Good word! So applicable to my life and struggles. I’m always reminded of Psalm 32 where it talks about not coming to God unless I’ve got a bit and bridle. I hate that (and am, in His strength, becoming less like that every day).
August 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm
Thanks Shawn. Great point. And the more we surrender to His way the less life is a struggle.
December 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm
Hey Rachel, this blog is without a doubt the best church I have ever attended! I know you have read the scripture from cover to cover because, you speak things that verse-hoppers cannot understand. However, I also know the words you speak are coming from God as you veiw a particular subject/”give no thought of what you will say, for God will give the words in that hour” —I train horses, which have a simulair personality to that of cats; if someone hurts them, it takes a tremendous amount of time to regain their confidence. Dogs &cows are more simliar in that they will take abuse &come straight back to a bribe of food. I know of at least two passages that says “dosen’t nature teachth” Nature was my first revealer that there has to be a power far greater than man.
December 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm
Hi Eldon, every true believer is the true church … when we gather with other seekers after the heart of God, it is amazing how He uses us together. How interesting that you train horses! My family has horses … beautiful animals. How true what you say about those precious creatures … nature truly is a tremendous teacher, often the perfection of the illustrations amaze me.