Why Obedience and Faith, Not Your Feelings, Matters to Christianity

John 6:61 – 69

61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

There’s no cute intro to this blog. No story. No little illustration as a means of connecting you to the following words about why obedience is important to the Christian faith. Let’s just go for it.

When it comes to the Christian faith, your feelings don’t matter. Say it out loud with me, “My feelings don’t matter.” And yes, I do see that this is antithetical to the way the gospel of Jesus has been presented in the 21st Century. To be clear, however, your feelings do not matter.

How you feel about Jesus’ teachings doesn’t matter.
How you feel about Jesus’ commands doesn’t matter.
How you feel about heaven or hell or repentance or forgiveness or salvation don’t matter.
No feeling you have has any affect on the Christian faith.

Our feelings don’t matter, but obedience does matter.

Jesus is the crux of the faith. He is the quintessential piece of our beliefs. He’s not just the cherry on the cake, he’s the cake and icing and whipped cream. He’s the silverware and the plate that holds the cake. He’s the home that hosts the party and he’s the host of the party. He’s the whole kit, bang and kaboodle. Jesus is EVERYTHING to Christianity.

Now don’t get me wrong, your feelings matter in the sense that if you get hurt people should apologize. And how you feel about the weather, or a sports teams, or how you like your steak cooked, while all incredibly insignificant, does matter.

But when faith and feelings get mixed up and interchanged and some sort of syncretized soup comes of it, Jesus ends up taking the back seat to feelings.

Dietrich Boenhoeffer’s book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” has a line that will not leave my troubled mind. He wrote, “Only the believing obey, only the obedient believe.” There are no feelings about it. If you believe Jesus you obey Jesus. If you obey Jesus you believe Jesus.

This is where I find that feelings on faith have no merit. Imagine a faith where if you feel like it you obey, and you obey if you feel like it. Let’s use a modern example of this. If you believe that there is a positive consequence for following traffic laws you will obey the traffic laws, and likewise you will obey the state mandated rules of the road because you believe there is a positive consequence. Now what happens if I don’t feel like obeying the law established by my government about vehicle use. This is fine, I can operate my car however I wish. There will be a negative reaction to my actions. Tickets, car accidents and death are all ways that I might find that my feelings about driving the speed limit bring me.

Now let’s talk about our feelings on the spiritual plane. If Jesus is who he says he is then there is a world around us we do not see and a world beyond us that is coming and we have yet to see it. If so, there is a real heaven and a real hell, real demons and real angels, and we interact with this invisible world based on our obedience or disobedience to Jesus.

As a Christian my, your, our job is to see Jesus in Scripture and take note of everything he said and did and attempt to obey and be little Christs. When he said, “Feed the hungry,” then our job is to feed the hungry. When he said, “In order to see the Kingdom of God you must be born again,” then we must be able to point to a conversion moment/process in which we were born again.

Our feelings on the matter do not matter. You may choose to say, “Well, Jesus was not talking to our society or our modern world, and therefore I do not need to obey if I do not feel like it,” then you are implying that the sovereign eternal Father God made a mistake in sending Jesus when He did and how He did and therefore Jesus cannot be a God or Savior.

It’s either all true or none of it’s true. If you feel that parts are true then that’s okay, but you may not call yourself a Christian. If you obey parts when you feel like it then you may be a well-to-do person, but you are not a Christian. This is not to say that we must forcibly swallow every word of the Bible and from pastors like ignorant sheep who do as we are told without time to process and doubt and wrestle with the reality of Immanuel. It does mean though that while we fight with who God is and unravel the layers of an infinite being we do not allow our topsy, turvy feelings to guide the ship. Imagine my feelings changing about gravity and jumping off a building. My feelings do not change the reality of gravity. Neither do our feelings change the reality of the Christ.

One of the most illuminating portions of Scripture is Peter’s revelation and proclamation of Jesus as Messiah. In Mark 8/Matthew 16, Jesus has just fed a horde of people and then a group of Pharisees comes to test Jesus and asks for a sign. Their feelings are evident. They hate Jesus, they want Him to slip up. Even if a sign was given and Jesus had turned a stone into bread right then, their hard hearts would have attempted to disprove the miracle (much like I tried to figure out every single illusion my brother did as a magician).

Jesus then asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am.” It’s a turning point in the relationship between a rabbi and his disciples. Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah then drew the line between his feelings and his acknowledgement of truth. No longer could Peter or the other disciples hide behind the mask of feelings on who Jesus was. Peter declared him Lord, King and Savior. The one who would restore the world.

I think it would be a healthy exercise for you to read Matthew 16 and insert your name and say out loud who Jesus is to you.

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16(Insert Name Here) answered, “(Insert Answer Here)”

Everything in your Christian faith hinges on that answer. Everything. If Jesus is only a good teacher then you are not a Christian. If Jesus is only a philosophical ideal then you are not a Christian. If Jesus is anything but the Son of God, the Messiah sent to save the world, then I’m sorry friend, you cannot count yourself among the followers of the Way.

This is harsh. This is reality check. This is Jesus saying, “unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh you have no life in you.” (John 6:53). I pray that we all respond as Peter did and say to Jesus, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69)

From that belief and knowledge the disciples obeyed Jesus and the church grew and spread across the face of the globe. Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome. This is not doom and gloom, but a message of hope that God has come, He cares, and he wants us to believe and obey. To be participators in the Kingdom of God, now.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Elizabeth Brown says:

    Read this at just the right moment. Good to be reminded. I follow Jesus not because it’s fun or I like to. I obey Him because He is God and I know it. I can no more cease to follow Jesus than cease to breathe. The results would be the same. No going back. The only real choice is to move forward. “To whom shall I go?” No escaping reality. No escaping God. There is no other way to be. Not once you know the Truth. I have thought about this a lot over the last couple years. There have been a couple times when I was so discouraged I wanted to quit. And then I realized…. What is quitting? You can’t quit at reality. You can’t quit Jesus. I mean, I suppose you could if you really wanted to be miserable and fail at life and eternity… but that’s just self-defeating.

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