My husband was almost out the door this morning, and on his way to work, before he turned back and called out to our daughter upstairs.
“Could you feed Mimi (our cat) before you leave for school?” he yelled.
“Sure!” she yelled back.
Apparently, she was unsure of his request; perhaps the shoving of things into her backpack drowned out his exact words.
But just as my husband’s foot crossed the threshold of the front door, she yelled: “WAIT! What did you say daddy?”
In seeking clarification, it was apparent in our daughter’s voice that she desired to get this right, like an Olympic gymnast who wants — no, needs — to stick her landing.
When acting on a request from daddy, our little 9-year-old understands that precision and accuracy matters.
Old Testament Instructions for Obedience
There’s something about God’s character as demonstrated in the Old Testament that reminded me of what transpired this morning between my husband and daughter.
And I got to wondering: Does God require obedience and precision in following the Bible?
The dictionary defines obedience as “the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance.” And though the word precision doesn’t appear in the Bible, the word “sin” in Greek means “failure, being in error, missing the mark.”
To that end, God has a way of being very exact in his expectations for his people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament.
Just read Leviticus if you want to get a taste of what I’m talking about.
In Leviticus, God gives specific directions for the kind of worship that would be pleasing to him.
The Lord offers instructions for the offerings, instructions for the priests, instructions for the people, and instructions for the altar.
He sets a standard for his people, those who would call on him to be saved, those who are “set apart” and “holy,” and those, in a very real and tangible way, are to be different from everyone else.
And though we no longer live under the old covenant, thanks to Jesus Christ, it got me wondering whether he expects the same level of obedience among today’s , New Testament-focused believers?
Sure, the Lord has provided a way of salvation and sanctification that depends on our trusting in Jesus, and not necessarily in our own feeble efforts to “be good.”
And of course there’s grace.
But if the Bible says go left, then why would we even think about going right?
And if Jesus sets the standard of living for modern-day Christians then why should our lives look much different from his?
The culture and standard of living is different from ancient history, to be sure, but the key tenets of sacrificial living, obedience, and humility that Jesus embodied should underpin our lives, too. Right?
Is it possible to wholly align our lives with the Bible?
To answer this question, the Spirt led me to 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 (NIV), in which the Apostle Paul writes to his protege Timothy:
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you though a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Let’s disregard for the time being that Bible scholars believe Timothy was in his 20s at the time of this writing, and that the term “young” applies to anyone under the age of 40.
During this era in which Apostle Paul pens this letter to Timothy, occurring some time after Timothy joined Apostle Paul in AD 50, society deemed young people as lacking self-control and less responsible, more violent, sexually promiscuous, reckless, etc. Could the same be said for people today in your part of the world?
The Apostle Paul here was admonishing Timothy to be and do the opposite of what society expected of someone his age.
Not only that, he called him to a higher standard as a follower of Christ, one that resisted the temptations of the world.
He told him to lead and to devote himself to Christ’s teaching.
Resist the temptation to cherry-pick scriptures to apply to your life, and know that this message to Timothy also applies to us today.
Hold Unswervingly to the Apostle’s Teachings
Getting back to my question, is it possible to live by the Bible, unswervingly, in today’s society?
Maybe a better question is: Can believers attempt to live by the Bible, unswervingly?
I say unequivocally yes!!
In Acts 2:42 (NIV), the Apostle Peter indicated that the new believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
That word “devoted.”
It means “to appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by a solemn or formal act; consecrate.”
What if we were that? DEVOTED. It’s such a great word.
It occurs in the English Standard Bible 66 times!
Look, we’re not going to be perfect. That’s a given.
We are, in fact, a fallible people.
But at the very least, we can try.
Try to be “devoted.”
Try to know the Bible. And to know it in context.
Try to live by God’s decrees.
Try to honor the Lord in everything we say, do and think.
And then don’t give up on trying.
Yes, living for God is a heart matter, but it’s also a matter of obedience.
And if we fail to align our “doctrine” with our life, as Paul suggested to Timothy, then we will also fail to save ourselves and those who hear our testimony.
The Bible Can Change Your Life
Look at it this way: The Bible is not just a book; it can change your life.
As John 8:32 says, knowing Jesus’ teaching is knowing the “truth and the truth will set you free.” (Who doesn’t want to be free?)
If you do in fact want to live a “good life,” then the Bible is useful for that, too.
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy3:16-17 (NIV)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the person who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1: 22-25 (NIV)
As for me, I want the heart of the ancient believers who wrote the following Psalms.
I’m not quite there yet, but I just love how they describe their affinity for God’s word:
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:16
…for I delight in your commands, which I love and I meditate on your decrees. Psalm 119:47
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97
All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. Psalm 18:22